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Tipping is in the culture


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#141 Steve Douglas

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 02:44 PM

Good point Eric. This trip was in 95 and I went solo in Dec. There were only 6 guests, including myself, aboard and they still ran low on food. We survived on soup most every lunch and dinner as I recall. Never the less, you are so right, there are always the crew that many guests never realize that are there. Since almost all tipping on liveaboards is spread out amongst all crew, that leaves the dive and deck crew who do interact with the guests as the ambassadors for the entire crew. That may not be completely fair but it is the way it is. When you tip at a restaurant, you tip the person you actually see, the waiter, when, perhaps, it should go to the chef.
Don't really have a good answer for you as your point is very well taken.
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#142 Mike L

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 02:56 PM

Eric makes some very valid points there. Liveaboards especially have many crew members that we never see or deal with, those of whom play a significant role in the enjoyment of our trip. DMs and boat crew generally interact with us the most, so it might be nice to tip them a bit more personally, but its important to NEVER forget all the Behind the Scenes staff and crew that ensure the operations run smoothly. I can not fathom how well a liveaboard trip would go if the engineer failed to keep the boat operational.

I always put my share in the tip jar, envelope etc....however I will say, being that I travel with several camera systems, I always make sure to give additional $$$ to those who personally help take care of the gear (carrying, rinsing, making sure they dont get banged around,etc) and they are always very grateful. I agree, many places have become accustomed to the tipping and when I feel its expected, I look down upon that...unless they really show they have earned it as well. Being Wetpixel members, we generally all have camera systems on trips, most worth well into the thousands...so when we show up in third world countries where the workers are making $1 an hour...or $5bucks a day, and we are each there with dive and camera gear worth 5, 10 or 50K, I always wonder what their thoughts are about us.

Ill never forget my first trip to Fiji. Hearing the stories of how much the dive and resort staff made, how little their villages had, and the fact that I was there diving, had a rebreather, OC dive gear, SLR and a Video system I felt guilty. Then we learned that the staff did not even except the tips, rather the tip money went directly to the childrens' school fund in the local village, that made our group of 36 even more willing to tip!

We host many group trips as well and have done so over the years. One thing I like is when we revisit places, we are always treated with utmost respect and the best treatment because these places have seen that our groups do reciprocate for excellent service. One of the reasons the employees are paid so poorly is because the owners know and understand most of the staff's income is made directly from tips and making sure the guests are treated well. The last thing any business or group wants is to be known for poor tipping, as that may very well end up with poor service from the get go...which although is not right, it is reality. One thing we always do with our group trips in the pamphlets and during pre-trip meetings is list a recommended budget for tips, based off of time, cost, etc...this way its known ahead of time that tips are not included, and so that customers can plan ahead to make sure they have the $$ to tip at the end of the trip. I have seen it too many times, where people fail to tip, or BARELY tip, even after having excellent service, because they fail to plan ahead, or they spend too much on themselves and are unable to.

I am all for NOT tipping or tipping small when the service is poor...but I think that is a very rare instance nowadays in this industry. The SCUBA industry as a whole is known as a SERVICE industry, especially in the travel portion.
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#143 MikeVeitch

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 04:33 PM

Thanks, Steve. Please let us know what you find out. The Deep Blue is my preferred liveaboard for Galapagos, but it has been a few years since I've been on it.

Also, had a tough situation here at Wetpixel once because we had a charter where the gratuities were the lowest EVER recorded for the operator. No-so-coincidentally, it happened to be a trip that was about 50% European guests. I don't want Wetpixel bookings to be known as being the trips where crew don't get tips, and after that experience, I even thought about pre-charging a minimum tip. I didn't do that, of course, but it did put me in an awkward situation.

Oh, on this trip, the crew were great. There was no reason to tip low.


Haha, maybe after your trip they implemented that rule only with Europeans? :)

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#144 Drew

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 02:11 AM

Actually Mike, you're right.
I believe the US agent for Deep Blue, based on the requests from the Deep Blue crew themselves, instituted a mandatory 10% gratuity prepayment since 2006, but only for UK and European based. It seems in Galapago, the US trait of the 10% rule has permeated through.
Anyhow, to ensure the crew get their 10%, they instituted the 10% prepayment for those who come from non-tipping cultures. Apparently Deep Blue charges less per day than their competitors who don't have the prepaid gratuity rule. See the irony in that? :)
Basically if they are still doing that, then they are just implementing the rules that some EU countries have anyway. In France, a gratuity is already included in your resto bill. The Deep Blue management does risk alienating other EU customers and really if they are competing through price and underpaying their staff, then to me that's poor management as it can limit their market. Seems better to raise prices and pay the crew more, even for the American market. I mean if you go after the budget market, you will normally get tighter budgets and thus lower "supplementary income" for the crew.
I think that the European ( that includes the UK, even if they deny it :)) traveller also needs to learn that there are cultures out there that REQUIRE leaving about 10% as customary gratuity. I usually slap my buddies on the head and make them give a good tip according to the local customs. Afterall, tipping should follow the local customs and not your own interpretation.

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#145 stewsmith

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 02:53 AM

Right I will try and be a bit more specific regarding the situation on the Deep Blue.

I paid for my trip on the DB through a UK booking agent called MST " Maldives Scuba Tours " paid my money went on the trip had great diving but the level of service was not very good. That included the food and the tour leader Jeff. I left a tip as did all of the other English, which was all of the guests on the boat. We all discussed what amount of tip should be left and the majority said, to leave nothing. As the discussion went on we thought about all the guys that worked the Skiffs/Pangas whatever they call them out there and agreed to all leave 100 each. Which we felt was a generous amount concindering the attitude of a few of the crew. Please be aware that on our trip the boat run dry of coke on day 3, they had only stocked it with 72 bottles for a 10 day trip. The food was not the best and if you were a veggie then i am afraid you would not have been happy at all. Ok not the end of the world but it was things like this that were happening on a daily basis. The boat itself is a great boat and I am glad that my diving was done from it, it is very comfortable, big and very fast. I wont go into great detail regarding the tour leader Jeff, but in a few words, Arrogant, selfish and not very friendly.

When we returned to the UK after the trip I knew another group that were going on to the DB a few months later. They were written to by MST and informed that they would have to pay their tip in advance as the crew on the DB do not think that the UK/Europeans tip enough. This obviously caused a bit of discussion as I told them that the level of service on my trip didnt warrant paying for " gratuity " up front. I had never heard of anything so crazy. A thread was opened up on scubaboard regarding this which is there for all to read. The owner of the DB joined in the discussion and said that he was asking for the tip money up front as the crew do not think the UK/Europeans tip enough. My reply was that for the level of service that I received I thought my tip was pretty good. He told me that my group did not get a very good standard of service because the group from the UK that were on the DB prior to us did not leave a good tip. This was an amazing statement to make from an owner of the DB on the www for all to see and read. Without even bringing a racist topic into the topic it is just totally unacceptable to think with this attitude. He then went on to say that the crew even ask for time off if they know the guest are going to be from the UK. I asked why he thought that the crew should be getting such a big tip in the first place and his response was that because they do not earn much wages. To me that is his and the crews problem and our tip money should not be relied on for their main source of income and that he should start to pay them a bit more if they are not getting what they think they deserve. After all the cost of the DB is not a few it is quite a cost. It might be cheaper than others but it is not cheap. If it doesnt cover the cost of the crews wages then he should put his prices up. At the time of my booking UK divers booking a trip on the DB were already paying $600 more for a 10 day trip than divers from the USA. Why this was I do not know.

So to summarise:

I booked on the DB and had below standard service and left a tip to suit.
Another group from the UK who had already booked were told to pay their tip money up front before they even left the UK or they would not be able to go.
The owner of the DB admitted we got below standard service because we were from the UK
The group paid their tip money up front and had their trip on the DB and had as bad service as me.

If you are happy to tip up front then fine, I am not and would not do it.

If you search scubaboard deep blue you will find all of the info there.

Again I would like to say that the boat is a great boat but my trip was tainted with bad attitude.

OK tipping may not be part of the UK culture, but when good service is provided i do tip very well indeed. The guys on the Undersea Hunter will vouch for that.

Stew

Edited by stewsmith, 13 August 2009 - 02:59 AM.

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#146 loftus

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 03:07 AM

In France, a gratuity is already included in your resto bill.

This irks me a whole lot more, when a gratuity is not really a gratuity and I have to pay it whether or not the service is good.
My rules are, poor service - no tip, good service good tip, great service - tip like crazy.
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#147 stewsmith

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 03:50 AM

To add. The suggested Gratuity is 10% of the trip price. Why is it this? Why should the tip be formed by what the trip costs. If you went on a trip that costs 5000 for 7 days diving why on earth would you leave a 500 tip. If there are 16 guests x 500 = 8000 divide by 10 crew then they get 800 per week for being a room boy on a boat, a waiter on a boat, or a DM. Lets get back to reality. If these guys worked back on land doing an average job in Ecuador they would not be earning no where near this amount, probably not even a month. I am sorry but this 10% tipping cost is just not right. I actually think that it is this kind of thought that has ruined parts of the world and made people greedy. Back to the Deep Blue, the guys that work on there are not American they are Ecuadorians and the cost of living in Ecuador is nothing like the cost of living in the USA. Most DM's and instructors that I know work in the industry because they enjoy it and not because they want to earn loads of money, they actually enjoy what they do and enjoy the way of life regardless if they get tipped well.

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#148 RedSeaDiver

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 03:50 AM

The worst part of tipping is when you get really good service from some and totally awful service from others within the same operation.

I had such a situation a couple of years ago in Bali. The level of organisation at the dive centre was hopeless - dives were organised each evening for the next day and then the next day some were cancelled because the manager forgot to organise the dives or forgot to organise the jukungs etc - drove me insane as like most underwater photographers I wanted to make the most of my time there. The advertised Nitrox hadn't been installed, one dive guide decided that he was bored on a dive and so left me while he still had over half a tank of air and went and sat on the beach while I finished my dive. Thankfully I had a different guide for my last two days of diving and he was brilliant - he knew how to find every critter imaginable, and he knew not to interrupt me while I was taking a photograph, but instead he would wait patiently for me to finish with one subject to lead me to the next critter that he had found. The sad thing is that when I went to find him the next day while I was packing I found out that he was on a day off and I didn't trust the manager to pass the tip on. Next time I am in Bali though I will find him and tip him well.
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#149 Drew

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 05:27 AM

This irks me a whole lot more, when a gratuity is not really a gratuity and I have to pay it whether or not the service is good.
My rules are, poor service - no tip, good service good tip, great service - tip like crazy.


I think it's fair to add a service charge as part of the bill, IF they say so before hand. I consider that part of the price of a meal but just itemized on the bill :). That way, anything else they do that is beyond basic service is tippable or I can leave with just a few euro at the table for the busboys. It also depends on the resto. My regular ones I tip the bus boys and waiters personally on top of the general tip. Most restaurants take out a percentage for the bus boys and kitchen staff as tip out. And the server has to pay it no matter what. This applies in many restaurants in North America.

That's why tipping directly as well is also a good thing. You choose to tip the guys who give you good service and forgo the ones who don't. If you return, you are remembered well. Leave no tip and I would not return without bearing gifts :)

As for the bad service due to nationalities issue, it's a vicious circle. I prefer a pricing structure that pays their staff so they don't depend on the supplementary income of gratuities. Then a tip becomes a tip and not a mandatory service charge.

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#150 Steve Douglas

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 08:34 AM

Well, still haven't heard back yet from DB.
Drew..I really have to disagree with you on "I think it's fair to add a service charge as part of the bill, IF they say so before hand. I consider that part of the price of a meal but just itemized on the bill"
The purpose of a tip is to show appreciation....it is voluntary. To have that automatically added, to me, is just plain wrong. We've all had a few negative experiences with some crews, but by and large, the majority are excellent. Some of us here have led many groups, some a few and some none. However, anyone who has lead trips has had the experience of guests approaching the trip leaders asking for the proper amount to tip. This says it all...it is a personal way to show appreciation for good service. If on one of these trips the service is not good, one should tip accordingly and not be forced to meet anyone else's requirement. Also, lets keep in mind what Eric said...'there are many crew members behind the scene who work in the kitchen, clean the cabins etc that we never really interact with and a tip accommodates them as well.
One last thing, as a trip leader, and thankfully this has not occurred too often, every once in a while you get a guest who is the epitome of arrogance, bad manners and spoiled diva. The few of these guests I've had, I refused to ever invite again no matter how desperately I needed to fill a space. It is the crew who has to deal with these types and do so with a smile. For that, a reward is just as justified. (Boy, could I tell a few antidotes on this, but that is for another thread I guess. :) )
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#151 DeanB

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 09:46 AM

As for the bad service due to nationalities issue, it's a vicious circle. I prefer a pricing structure that pays their staff so they don't depend on the supplementary income of gratuities. Then a tip becomes a tip and not a mandatory service charge.


Agreed... Its basically racism and just pure greed to isolate Europeans and us in the UK :) for extra charges... If you don't like your jobs wages go somewhere else, I know many probably cannot but you know the wage when you get the job... I dont expect a bloody tip everytime I do a job for someone but I do a good job (hopefully) and if I do get a tip then thanks...

I defo won't be using any boat/centre etc that charges a 'tip' before you get there... Cheeky sods... If I tried that I'd be out of work sharpish...

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#152 DeanB

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 09:48 AM

The worst part of tipping is when you get really good service from some and totally awful service from others within the same operation.

I had such a situation a couple of years ago in Bali. The level of organisation at the dive centre was hopeless


I know their in Lembeh now but tip Simon as he's getting married and Mikey is rich enough to go without ... :) :)

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#153 Drew

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 11:14 AM

Well, still haven't heard back yet from DB.
Drew..I really have to disagree with you on "I think it's fair to add a service charge as part of the bill, IF they say so before hand. I consider that part of the price of a meal but just itemized on the bill"
The purpose of a tip is to show appreciation....it is voluntary. To have that automatically added, to me, is just plain wrong.


Steve, perhaps I wasn't clear. Usually they list it as a service charge but it's basically you're paying for the labor but it's itemized on the bill vs pre-added as part of the cost said item. Stupid to separate it but it's part of the cost. There's no expectation for a tip anymore because they are compensated. Only if they go beyond their duties, would I give a tip. That's the way it should be.
If they list it separately, it's harder to stomach but that's the double edged sword... Include it in the price, it's higher and turns off potential customers... list it and it pisses off other people.

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#154 wizbowes

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 12:24 PM

What about the crew that you didn't see? The engineers, the cabin stewards, the second chef, etc?

The reason that I don't like selective tipping is that the ones who are most visible aren't necessarily the ones working the hardest.


But if tipping is based on the quality of service how do you judge the quality of service of the people you never see? How do you know if they're working hard or tossing it off? And if tipping is not based on quality of service but just on people being there doing their job, then why not just up the price of the trip and get rid of tipping?

#155 echeng

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 02:17 PM

And if tipping is not based on quality of service but just on people being there doing their job, then why not just up the price of the trip and get rid of tipping?

That's the issue here. Some industries just have a wage structure that includes relies on tipping. If it were different, I don't think we'd be having this conversation!
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#156 Balrog

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 03:02 PM

That's the issue here. Some industries just have a wage structure that includes relies on tipping.....!


But why??

I guess this is going to be unpopular on a predominantly US based forum but why do Americans think they are the ones in step. More than half the world has a culture where people are paid the rate for the job and tipping is a reward for excellent service beyond the call. I find it difficult to understand why it is necessary for things to be different.

The randomness of tipping can, at the end of the day, only be inequitable, give employers an excuse to under-pay and ultimately cause dissatisfaction - unless you're the "big guy" flashing the cash.

Please US citizens, don't pollute the rest of the world with this culture.

Edited by Balrog, 13 August 2009 - 03:06 PM.


#157 jeremypayne

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 03:16 PM

Please US citizens, don't pollute the rest of the world with this culture.

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that tipping was an English import into the colonies.

My understanding is that English taverns had no waiter and people served themselves ... but when rich folks would come around, people would "wait" around to see if the rich folk needed anything, and then would accept a "tip" when they would clear their plates or fill their glasses. Eventually, the inn and tavern-keepers hired such folk as "waiters" and paid them small wages ... wages that were supplemented by tips. The rest is history.

So blame yourself and your caste system.
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#158 Balrog

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 03:45 PM

...So blame yourself and your caste system.

Yes, there's a lot of history us Brits are not proud of :)

#159 scubamarli

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 06:11 PM

Usually they list it as a service charge but it's basically you're paying for the labor

This may be the case, but in many countries a government tax and "service" charge are added to the bill (up to 21%, for example in Indonesia), and I would be surprised if the individual employees actually see any of it. It's probable (Please correct me if I am wrong..it won't be the first time) that it's more of a Value Added Tax. Last year, whilst at an upmarket Lembeh resort, we were assured that service was included upon our orientation. (Frankly, I was surprised, as I had budgeted for tipping) Then, we were given an envelope upon checkout for tips, which seemed contradictory.
As a Canadian, contrary to popular belief, we do tip (not just our canoes), but probably not to the degree of Americans (but again, it varies like mad from individual to individual). I have just returned from Indonesia, and I again tipped,(but not individually, for the first time.) The guides, of course help me immensely! But, I thought what about the guy filling my Nitrox tank, or the lovely man that hauled my camera rig up the stairs to my room after the dive day, even though I tried to convince him not to? Or, (and this is why I don't like the guides getting the bulk of diver's tips, whilst leaving nothing else) what about the girl mopping the deck of the boat, cleaning the head or the equipment room after you're back enjoying a cocktail? I decided this time, I would give a tip to the hotel staff, kitchen staff and dive staff.
I really appreciated the tipping advice left at the last resort that I stayed (Black Sand, in Lembeh). They didn't push tipping, (although I wish that their wording had been a little more encouraging) They really thought that it should be up to the guest. The best part was that if you wanted to designate part of your tip to one person, so be it. I have never seen this, so I liked it a lot. It gave me the flexibility to reward good guiding, yet not ignore what was fine service from people I never even saw, like the staff that cleaned my room.
I am not a wealthy person; I am rich by the standards I see when I travel for diving. I abhor the "you should pay a certain percentage of the cost" attitude I have seen from many North American based liveaboards. I know that in some cases, the local staff do not ever see those tips; it ended up in the "western" liveaboard manager's or owner's pocket.
So, this thread will resurrect from time to time, because there are "no rules". Wouldn't it be nice if there were? (I'd rather there not be) Forgive me if I "spoil" it for someone that feels that by giving someone a month's salary's tip that may help them get access to health care that on their measly salary they could not afford will somehow "obligate them" on their holiday. $50 is the monthly salary for a dive guide in some parts of the world. I think we all need to put it into perspective. Instead of translating everything into the country's standards, i.e. based on their economy, try to think of it in perspective of your own existence. Maybe with a tip or two (and I'm not talking extravagant), you can help an employee send their child to school or nurse an ailing parent. When I unexpectedly ran into last year's guide at a different dive operation this year, I was given the warmest hug for my "month's salary" tip. It helped provide for his extended family the basics that we take for granted.

My 2 cents,
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#160 Drew

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 08:42 PM

Yes, there's a lot of history us Brits are not proud of :)

That's ok. "To Insure Promptitude" is an export but not your invention. There's evidence that tipping existed during the Roman Empire (damn the Romans for giving us togas and tipping!) :)
It's amazing that in the early 1900s, 7 states in the US banned tipping and even Mark Twain wrote against it.
Marli, "service charge included" to me means the staff is being paid already. So only when there's extraordinary service, like when one boat engineer spent the whole night fixing a part I was modding for a housing, on his own accord, when I'd given up, because he wanted to. He got a serious tip.
Marli's post actually reminded me one aspect I found in the various papers I read about tipping including NWU's Azar's paper on gratuity. There is a socio-economic element to it that is peculiar. We don't tip doctors, lawyers or anyone we deem are our socio-economic equals, but somehow, the laborers get the tip and it's obviously encouraged by the owners.
I've been guilty of that vein of thought when one of Eric's client tipped me for running the boat in South Africa. I felt insulted and outraged that someone would dare to tip me (he's a friend now and no longer dares to).
Regardless of the history and socio-economic underpinnings, it's obvious that many take advantage of such social norms. I think Eric Felten's article sums it up nicely:
The point of tipping

Drew
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"Journalism is what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations."

"I was born not knowing, and have only had a little time to change that here and there.