This is a really interesting thread. Yes, of course, hotels SHOULD pay their housekeeping staff properly but, in most countries they just pay the minimum that they can get away with, often below the legal minimum. Hotels are among the more frequent culprits for violation of minimum wage legislation in Europe and housekeeping staff, whether direct or agency employed, are frequently those who suffer as a result. In 1997 in the UK when the minimum wage debate was raised by the new Government, it was the hotel sector that squealed the loudest about the cost. As customers, we may think we pay alot for our rooms but frequently little of this finds its way to the staff who do the worst and most demeaning jobs.
I am currently in Hong Kong where there is a minimum wage debate raging at the moment. The media view is that it will be fixed (next year) at HK$30-33 per hour. The hotel sector is already complaining that anything over $20 per hour would be damaging to their businesses. Currently, many businesses actually pay less than that! Given living costs in Hong Kong, is that sort of pay appropriate and can employees be expected to deliver good service to customers if they are treated in this way?
If time and schedule allow, I try to search out my regular housekeeper on the floor and give a tip to her/ him directly, thus avoiding the “who actually gets it” problem.