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Tipping is in the culture


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#41 echeng

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 02:51 PM

Moved to Dive Destinations forum.
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#42 belizediversity

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 06:47 PM

Being originally English I used to be more reluctant to tip than I am now. It was not that I was being mean, just it never really crossed my mind unless I received exceptional service or it was a memorable experience.

Now I work in the service sector of diving tourism the boot is on the other foot and my atitude has changed. I nearly always leave a tip unless the service is so terrible I leave vowing never to return again! I even tipped the guy servicing my truck the other day because he went out of his way whilst doing the job.

The DMs that work for us get about US$40 per day which is a good rate of pay for Belize but they do appreciate being tipped and will work hard to try an earn that tip. Often I hear complaints from them about this or that nationality never tipping but I try to remind them that it is a gratuity and should not be expected every time.

Most usually we get US$20 per couple for a days diving which is split between captain and DM. There is never any tension about it so long as it all kept up front and no one is seen to be hoarding the tips.

We used to service a cruise ship visited this area once a week. The tipping was low to non existant, once one of the guests actually tipped me 5 mexcan pesos (about $0.50)! I was quite suprised to recieve foreign currency (we have Bze $ here) and the value was almost an insult but I smiled and said thanks. We often relive the moment at the end of a day over a beer!

One final thing, I recomend tipping to be in cash (US$ or local currency), adding it to the bill and putting it on your credit card usually means the intended recipient will not get it. It's not that the operator or hotel is trying to steal the money it's just an accounting nightmare to make sure it all goes to the correct person.
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#43 Graham Abbott

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 08:23 PM

I am British and grew up with a real no tipping policy, I changed my attitude once I started to travel, then even more when I was in the service industry myself.

Many of the places divers go to, are places where the dive crews rarely get a decent wage for the work and time they put in for servicing divers. Consider the amount of hours that a crew puts in a live aboard dive vessel. There are always crew on hand to help, well always on the boats that I work with anyway! These live aboard crews really do work hard. What I say, is if the boat you are on, resort you at, is clean, the service you receive is good, like no need lifting of your own dive gear etc, if you have a very helpful crew, then the tipping should be worth what you think it is worth, there should never be any set tipping fee. I mean what if the service is bad, why should you feel you should tip - simple don't tip at all - tell the manager, cruise director or who ever you need to that you are not tipping due to the poor service, no problem! I would never be offended if a group had a valid issue over not being serviced well enough! If it was on one my trips I would quickly realise that things have been slack and need to get my act together and fast. I fact I have even recommended that a group give little tips as a result of a really poor crew I once led a trip on, I told the crew why they would not be receiving a good tip as well.

Tipping is something that is personal, something which shows your gratitude for the service you have had. Your tip should be based on the quality of the service given to you on that particular trip. For me, if the crew I am working with work well, I am happy, if I am happy the guests are always happy. This shows, as the groups I have taken have always tipped the crews very well indeed. I have been told by local crews in Indonesia, that they too enjoy my trips, because we all have fun and yes the divers who join tip well because they have just had a fantastic well serviced dive trip.

So what is good tip for an Asian dive crew? This should never be based on their monthly wage, this is just keeping the locals down, the live aboard industry over here is already trying to set dive crew wage standards and this really bugs me. I know many operators over here who will not even give their top local dive guides a fair wage for what he does. If we all have this really shit attitude towards Asian people they are never going to progress. I think it is often the Great White Warrior, colonialist attitudes that hold back many Asians from progressing. I think if you get great service on your trip, then depending on what you paid for your trip $10/day or 10% of your trip price sounds like an OK tip, more is obviously great!

Here is a note to some of the pro’s and divers who go free of charge out there, “you too should be tipping”! Yes I have seen professionals not leaving a tip at all, even some who went along for free, had the same service as other guests and never left anything at all -- very sad indeed! Gladly this has not happened on any trips of mine recently, these incidents happened while I was working for other operators. And please don’t promise to send things as a tip for the crew if you don’t actually plan on doing it. How many times I have heard that one, I too have been told I was going to be sent books in return for my service tip… I’d prefer be given a brief letter of thanks, or even just nice comments in the comments book rather than bullshit! Now I have my own business I don’t need or expect tips. When I lead trips with local guides, I ask that the guide tip is given to the guides and not to me!

I also think that there are many times when the guide should be tipped separately, especially if the guide stays with you during dives, finds you and brings you to see his latest find, educates you after dives and helps with general service as well. Why should the office person receive your tips as well, why should the owner be taking your tips? Yes! I know for a fact that this happens over here. I know it is a team, though I think the reason you just had great diving was mainly due to the guide who showed you all that cool stuff. If the food was outstanding mention it and maybe tell the cruise director you want to give the chef a separate tip. If there is one crew member who you think was outstanding at service -- not just the one who sat and chatted with you most – ask about giving them a separate tip!

Next time you go diving, ask about the tipping policy, do the owners or office staff take part of your tip? I know this happens, no names mentioned, though just ask where your tip is going before you hand it over! I know of groups who have gone against the usual tipping policy and gave tips direct to the crew as they found out about poor tipping policies.

I definitely agree not to tip with your credit card, the crew will probably never see this tip!

#44 buddy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 02:04 AM

a reasonnable tip is ok if service provided is within the expectation or better. but the "Amercian-Percentage-Tipping-Policy" is rather awkward IMHO, especially on a liveaboard trip. I recently was on a 10 day palau trip for $3000 and a tip of $450 (15%) is way out of realism and none of the guests did so. I never pay a tip of 15% e.g. on a Hilton or other hotel charge, except for the service provided during eating in the restaurant.
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#45 loftus

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 07:46 AM

But then you're swiss. :D
I think $450 for 10 days of good service, whether it's 10%, 15% or whatever, is a bargain.
I assume it's divided up between 4-6 people at least - wow, $75 -$100 per person for good or great service for 10 days, maybe adding $7-10 per day per person (less than a dollar an hour), quite reasonable I think, even if there are 12-16 passengers on the trip.
In general service industry folks are paid less than those in retail etc, and retail folks usually have an opportunity to earn commissions.
I'm all for others earning as much money as possible as long as I got my value in return.
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#46 davidrodkeller

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:50 PM

I am British and grew up with a real no tipping policy, I changed my attitude once I started to travel, then even more when I was in the service industry myself.

Graham, I went back and read this entire thread so I had some idea of it's origins as well as evolution. I hate to be the one who tells you this but according to some who have posted here, you my man, are inciting the systematic breakdown and eventual total destruction of Indonesian society. You should be quartered for even suggesting that an expression of gratitude, premised in currency, could in any way be, in terms of cultural integrity,......nominal.
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#47 echeng

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 01:17 PM

This is a really interesting thread. I grew up American, and thus I tip 15% in restaurants and 10% on dive boats, but I really hate the fact that a tip is not really a tip, and if you tip less than whatever the expected % is, then you're marked as "cheap."

There are some more issues that I like to think about:

1) in some countries, employees are actually paid for their hard work. they work hard, even though they don't get a tip.

2) some week-long trips cost $1500, and some cost $4500. is the crew of a $4500 trip working harder than the crew of a $1500 trip? maybe. maybe not. why do I tip the first crew $150 and the second $450?

3) on many boats, the crew gets really nice on the last 2 days of the charter. it's obvious that they're sucking up for tips, but i don't like this because it's transparent.

#2 in particular is a big issue. Tipping $450 for a 1-week trip is ridiculous, in my opinion, unless you managed to bag that amazing shot that is going to make you famous. I tend to tip around 10%, but I push tips on lower-cost trips up and tips on higher-cost trips down. It's difficult for me to tip more than $300 on a 1-week trip. That is about max for me, and it has to be an excellent trip for me to tip that much.

I'm basing this on 1-week trips, and it has to be scaled for shorter and longer trips, obviously.

I'd much rather have crew paid for their hard work by the people who run the operation. You know how hard your crew is working. Why push the burden onto your clients, most of whom are just out to have a good time? You're stressing everyone out. That last day, everyone is asking, "how much do I tip??". Some operators put in working like, "we suggest a 15% tip," but I've even seen this on trips that cost $4000 for a week, and 15% of that is ridiculous.
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#48 MikeVeitch

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 02:38 PM

liveaboard i used to work on had a note that we would give to guests suggesting a 5-10% tip.

Costs on the boats ranged from $2300 to $2600 per week on the different locations.

A good tip was $200, an average tip was $150, a low end was $100, a really good tip that made everyone happy was $250 or more.

A European typically left $50 or less... :D not pointing that out to be rude, but as the title states, its in the culture and thats the way it was.

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#49 Scuba_SI

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:58 PM

3) on many boats, the crew gets really nice on the last 2 days of the charter. it's obvious that they're sucking up for tips, but i don't like this because it's transparent.


As a former liveaboard crew member i think (and hope) that this is not true in the majority of cases. Firstly, in my experience what often happens is on the last night of a charter the crew have a few drinks with the guests, and a few more with the rest of the crew after the guest have gone to bed, and if the vessel runs back to back they usually start the next charter with a sore head and a lot of cleaning to do! :D

I also think in a lot of cases that the crew are more sociable at around halfway through the week because they are adapting to the dynamics of different groups- week 1 might be a bunch of British divers, week 2 Russian, week 3 American. Also, iit can often be quite difficult to change gears from an older, quiet group who have travelled together for 5-10 years to group of enthusiastic photographers who have just met for the first time the next.

Crew members who don't take pictures underwater may not have a clue what we're talking about between dives, especially if there's a bunch of photogs - they might just leave you to it for the first few days and then try to get to know you after the ice has been broken over meals etc. I know for sure that when i go on diving trips these days i am messing about changing lenses and stuff between dives, so i look very busy all day, much to the amusement of the crew.

That said, if a specific crew member didn't make any effort to eat with the guests, talk to them between dives or do anything remotely service oriented and they suddenly appear start to be your best friend on the last day then there is clearly something wrong there.

We all have bad days/weeks in the office due to lots of varying circumstances, but i think overall the dive guides out there love their jobs, and meeting new and interesting people, and certainly don't do the job for the tips.

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#50 echeng

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 05:04 PM

As a former liveaboard crew member i think (and hope) that this is not true in the majority of cases.

Yes, you're right, of course, and I'm not trying to generalize across the entire industry. I was only trying to say that I've seen it happen, and it would all be much easier if it didn't have to be the case that tips were so important in the lives of crew...
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#51 Graham Abbott

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 05:10 PM

I can't believe that everyone here seems to be talking in terms of percentages. I really believe that a tip is only based on service and should never be a set amount that some cruise director or boat owner tells you you are expected to pay. Next time think about the amount of service you get, think about how much work you ahd to do on your holiday, if you ahve to carry your bags and do your schlepping then the tip should not a hueg one. However if you don't really have to lift a finger and have crew there to help at all times, then to tip should be a decent one.

It is very apparent that people from different countries and different age groups tip totally different. Americans as a general rule are the best tippers, though for all your Americans out there, tipping is not a "must do" in the rest of the world, don't feel obliged to leave a tip of any set %, give what you feel that particular trip as worth.

#52 Graham Abbott

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 05:16 PM

Good, I am glad this thread came back to life, it looks like it died for a few months there...

DRK, come on I'm only a poorly educated dive guide, please put that in terms I can understand!

By going through this thread it sort of sounds like 5-10% of the trip rate works out to be a a sort of rough estimate for a tip. Though once more and I strongly believe in this -- any tip should only be based on service recieved, great service = great tip, poor service = poor tip, really bad or no service = no tip, we should never feel obliged to tip!

And Eric - at long last - well done! What ever you have done, its great to see that Wetpixel is now working quicker for those of us with very poor connection speeds.

#53 Scuba_SI

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 05:30 PM

Yes, you're right, of course, and I'm not trying to generalize across the entire industry. I was only trying to say that I've seen it happen, and it would all be much easier if it didn't have to be the case that tips were so important in the lives of crew...


Yes, i agree - as i've worked for a few liveaboard companies i can hopefully say this without dropping anyone in it, but i once posed the same question about salary vs tips to a member of staff from higher up, to be met with the reply:

"you make enough to get a ticket out of here, if you dont like it, leave" Which is a valid point, but is not really conducive to getting people to work for the love of it! :D

Diving on British run boats on the Red Sea as a guest over christmas was a different and new experience for me, they said £5 per person per day, and the expat crew didn't want a part of the tips as they didn't do anything other than dive.

On the liveaboard owners side, these boats are getting more and more expensive to run, and to be quite honest this is probably the only way they can save some money as some crew are willing to work in the more glamorous locations, even if if they get a smaller salary.

But yes, it would be a much nicer experience for everyone, workers and pleasure seekers if the staff were taken care of by the company rather than the guests.

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#54 MikeVeitch

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 06:14 PM

Graham, i think we can all agree that tipping is definitely based on performance, it should not be a mandatory part of things at all. Same in restaurants, if i get a rude/obnoxious server they are def not getting much of a tip.

But, you must admit you probably get asked the "how much do i tip" question thousands of times on the liveaboards, i know i did. the 5-10% is a nice place to start as quite often people really are not sure and are just looking for an idea of where to start.

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#55 Graham Abbott

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 07:05 PM

Mike, I get asked this on just about every trip. I’m actually working on a package to go in the cabins which will cover this matter.

I always try and make a final speech the evening before departure so I usually go this issue so everyone hears the same thing, I tell everyone what I thought of the crew, if the crew were slack I don't say much regarding them, if they worked great and the chef worked cooked up great food, I say so, plus I usually go over some other stuff in there too, is all depends on the group, every trip is different and that is what is great about diving, it is adventure, we should go out diving with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Having said all that I do usually say 10% of the set trip rate is a good tip, however it is up to them. To me no one even has to know who tips what! I don't ask for names to be put on envelopes, I don't check who tips what, if someone wants to remain anonymous with what they tip then that’s OK with me, if you want to add your name so people know who tips what -- great! I don’t judge people by what they tip, if people tip low, it’s up to them, if I know a bad tipper I’m not going to give them bad service, everyone gets the same from me whether you are Joe Bloggs first time on the boat, first time diver or David Doubilet.

Interesting one for ya – I worked at one place where one of the owners would constantly go on about this person joining who is staying at this high end resort, paying X amount of bucks or this person is a very influential person. I’d be told the same thing “you really have to look after these as they are balh blah balh or what ever”! Me, I gave the same answer always, “everyone gets the same service with me”, why should someone with more cash get a better service than some guy who may have worked much harder, saved up all his pennies to go on this very special and often very expensive dive trip? I kind of treat everyone the same, if Samuel Jackson comes over here to dive with me he gets treated the same, I am what I am and you are what you, we should all be there to have a good time!

#56 MikeVeitch

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:01 PM

you betcha Graham, and that is key.

Everyone gets treated with the same level of top service no matter who they are. (and of course my unique brand of sarcasm...)

We even sent Wyland out into Papeete one night at 1130pm to look for beer as we were out.. hahahah

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#57 DeanB

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 03:58 AM

Well done Graham..good words.

I was met with a 'sarcastic tip' when I finished a job a few years a go from an ex sergeant major..

He looked at me while signing the check and grinned.."Don't eat yellow snow, my boy"..

Advice better than any other cash bonus :D

I will tip if I think the jobs done right.. Or if exceptionally well, a large tip

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#58 bartusderidder

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 05:43 AM

I thought a "tip" was "something extra" and not a way to compensate for the avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary.

I tip as a sign of appreciation because someone did something out of the ordinary, something extra without me specifically having asked for it. Example:
-I remember "Jinky" (she was a diveguide at Sipadan in Febr 2004) putting my name and those of a couple on the whiteboard for a dusk dive. We hadn't asked for it, but she wanted to show us something extra.
-Dhon (diveguide at Kapalai in Febr 2004) took me and that same couple apart to go watch the mating Mandarinfish.

On the other hand I don't think one should pay extra for the "standard" service offered (after all isn't that what you're paying for?). It's true that standard service differs from place to place: I remember that in the Seychelles I had to set up my gear, carry all of my gear to and back from the boat, ...I never complained. On the other hand at Lembeh Resort or Froggies Divers, everything is being done for you, I never complained either. It wasn't my decision to determine what the "standard service" was going to be like. That's the manager's job and I'm sure he/she'll will put a price on the level of service delivered. And if the manager doesn't want to share his profits/earnings in a fair way, then I wonder who has to solve it....? Some of us divers aren't loaded with money and have to work hard too to earn their little euros/dollars.

From my side I also put something in: respect for and interest in the local staff. Have a talk with them, joke with them. Sofar I've always been responded to with a smile and then tipping comes natural.

#59 Graham Abbott

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 09:52 PM

I thought a "tip" was "something extra" and not a way to compensate for the avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary.


Sorry there - I have to disagree with this comment... I see tipping as a way of showing your appreciation for the service given. It's just a sad fact that employee's in Asia will not give a worthy salary to locals. The worst part is that will give a westerner a big salary, though not locals, some of whom do a much better job. There are actually set salaries for locals, westerners and locals trained abroad. I have always believed that people should be rewarded according to the performance or service she/he does and not based on standard practices, this drives me nuts, hence I started to struggle working for others and now I could no longer work for someone else with this attitude towards salaries.

#60 bartusderidder

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 03:27 AM

I thought a "tip" was "something extra" and not a way to compensate for the avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary.


Sorry there - I have to disagree with this comment... I see tipping as a way of showing your appreciation for the service given. It's just a sad fact that employee's in Asia will not give a worthy salary to locals. The worst part is that will give a westerner a big salary, though not locals, some of whom do a much better job. There are actually set salaries for locals, westerners and locals trained abroad. I have always believed that people should be rewarded according to the performance or service she/he does and not based on standard practices, this drives me nuts, hence I started to struggle working for others and now I could no longer work for someone else with this attitude towards salaries.


Hi Graham,

I'm sorry but I think you have to read my comment again because I think what I'm saying doesn't differ much from your opinion:

-you don't agree with the fact that locals don't get a worthy salary....that's exactly what I meant with "avarice of dive center managers and liveaboard operators who are too lousy to pay their staff a decent salary"


When I used "standard service" I meant something else than your "standard practice" that sets out the local salaries for a particular job in a certain area.

With "standard service" I mean is what the dive center manager or liveaboard operator decided to offer you in return of your money. As I mentioned, this differs from country to country, operator to operator. Let's say one dive costs 50 $. In one place this means you get a diveguide, a tank, weightbelt and boat ride, whereas in other places you also get people setting up your gear, carrying it to and back from the boat. But again it's the manager or operator or whoever employes the staff who sets out their job description of what they should do or not do for their salary.
From that point of view I don't get it that one should tip extra for the "standard service" that you've already paid for when you booked your trip. I will and I do tip when someone does something out of the "standard service". (see examples in my previous post)
When local staff gets paid peanuts, then where lies the problem?...If I'm not mistaken, it lies with the big (and/or smaller) bosses within the (diving) industry. The question arises then who should solve that problem? To my opinion it's the employer's duty to change the system and the burden should not be pushed onto the tourists to compensate for the low salary the employer is paying the staff.
Otherwise, how do we know when we book a trip what's included in the price: accommodation? diving? staff's salaries?.....

There are actually set salaries for locals, westerners and locals trained abroad. I have always believed that people should be rewarded according to the performance or service she/he does and not based on standard practices, this drives me nuts, hence I started to struggle working for others and now I could no longer work for someone else with this attitude towards salaries.


Again...the problem you are addressing here is something from within the diving industry. Who's to solve it: is it the greedy operators who need a change of mentality(who on the one hand charge "Western" prices to their customers and on the other hand only pay the local staff local salaries) OR are the tourists to pay for that issue.
I can tell you that not everywhere in the world that distinction between salaries for locals and westerners is made. I once had a job offer to work as a doctor in the Maldives and I would have got 1000$/month, which is the local pay for a hospital doc in the Maldives. On the other hand, that very luxurious resort was charging their guest "Western" rates...

As for a "tip": in dutch it's called "drinkgeld" (money that will buy you a drink)......if a "tip" means making sure local staff get a proper salary after all, then we'd probably need to start using another word and probably the diversity of opinions on how much one should tip would be less great.

For what it's worth anyway...