Bellhops and bellboys were standard fixtures in American hotels in the early to mid-1900s. Today, bell service is usually reserved for upscale or high-end hotels and resorts that want to cater to their customers. Formal education is less important in a bell service job then being organized, intelligent and physically capable, as a bellman can have a wide variety of duties and must be prepared to be a jack-of-all-trades.
A bell service staff is composed of bellmen, also known as bellhops, bellboys, valets or baggage porters. In larger hotels, a bell captain will oversee the bellmen. They are a part of the front desk or front office team along with the concierge, receptionist, front desk clerks, customer service representatives and others.
The bell service staff is of critical importance to a hotel, as they are the first and the last people on the hotel's staff that a customer interacts with. The bellman's job is to greet customers, direct them to the check-in desk, carry the customers' baggage to and from their cars, and educate guests on the contents and features of their hotel rooms. They also store guests' luggage after they have checked out if they are not leaving immediately as well as arrange for local transportation when requested. Depending on the size of the hotel or resort, additional duties may be assigned as needed.
Three job positions in addition to the bellman may be present in a bell service staff. If more than one bellman is on the staff, a bell captain is required to manage the team. A baggage porter gets the guests and their baggage to and from their rooms. Valets are responsible for parking and retrieving guests' cars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for a baggage porter or bellman is approximately $10 per hour. If they execute their jobs properly, bellmen also receive gratuities from satisfied guests, which drive their overall wages up and help make these jobs very popular.
A bell captain is paid more than his team, but wages vary widely from hotel to hotel. Bell captains’ jobs generally experience low turnover, as they become fairly lucrative and high-paying over time.
“Bellhop” was a name that was given because a bell was often used to summon the bellboy, and he was supposed to hop into action when he heard it. “Bellboy” came from the fact that these jobs were most often filled by young boys. They were sometimes also called “pages” if their job duties included paging guests.