A bellhop is a person who helps hotel patrons with their luggage, possibly porting these to the front desk or the hotel room. He or she may also call cabs, help a person check out from a hotel, or open doors for patrons of the hotel. This person may also be called a bellperson, bellboy, a pageboy, doorman or doorperson or porter. Bellhop and porter are often the preferred terms since they are not masculine or feminine.
The term is short for "bellhopper" and derives from a time when many hotels had bells a patron would ring in order to get service. Naturally, good service was implied if a bellhop leaped to the task of assisting the patron. One often sees these service people today waiting outside the hotel doors to welcome guests and assist them in bringing luggage into the hotels. Frequently, he or she wears a fairly fancy uniform, which makes him or her easily distinguishable from other personnel.
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In some cases, a bellhop may also function as an errand runner for guests. This can include simple errands like fetching stamps or a toothbrush from the hotel guest store. Alternately, in full service hotels, the person might run more specific errands like picking up dry cleaning.
In the United States, it is customary to give a tip to bellhop who performs a service. This is usually a $1 to $5 US Dollar (USD) tip, depending on the amount of service provided. When a bellhop greatly assists in carrying luggage upstairs or downstairs and answers questions about the hotel, tips should be in the larger amount. However, if he or she merely signals a cab for someone, this might be rewarded with $1 USD.
It is a good idea to check with local customs in other countries regarding tipping the bellhop. In some countries a tip may be welcome, but in others, it is considered an insult.
The bellhop may also perform services like giving basic directions, but most often, he or she works for the purpose of helping customers enter or exit a hotel with luggage. Often, the front desk is a better place to get directions or information about an area than is the bellhop, who may be quite busy, especially when large numbers of guests are checking in or out.
From a historical perspective, very young men often held bellhop positions in hotels before moving into positions of greater responsibility and service. The same does not hold true today. Many of these positions are held by women, and by both men and women who have been performing the same work for a very long time. Generally, better service comes from the more experienced employee.