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Steve Douglas

Tipping is in the culture

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So What would be an adequate tip for a week of diving in the Caymans. 17 Dives during the whole week? I'm just curious?

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Crap...this thread just too the fun away from my dive trip to the Caribbean and the US...... Funnily enough, it was a trip to Miami that saw me get my OW cert.....

 

I will tip probably 10% on my upcoming trip....... However, I feel that to pay 15% on a day trip out on a boat where the guides earn it is a lot more fair than paying a percentage of my accomodations value which the guides/staff did not earn...

 

I have no doubt that the guides work hard.....but how is it that the guy that works on a cheap liaveaboard gets paid far less in tips than one living on a luxury boat? I would think that the staff on a cheaper liveaboard would have to go through more hardship than the better boat! The guy on the $1200pp boat works harder and lives in less desirable surroundings for $180 from me....but the one on a $4000 boat gets $600??? The percentage system is wrong IMHO.

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Stu, you're spoiling the market in PI :(

While I'm sure many people in all parts of the world won't say no to more money, it is still more than just what you feel is good. I dive with many Pinoy and they don't like it when I tip way beyond what they would do in PI.

 

Hey Drew,

 

$50 for 22 dives in one week? He found us critters galore and froze his butt off hanging out with my buddy and I for the 90+ minute dives we'd do. He had to borrow another suit from the dive shop to keep going! ;)

 

But, he was VERY happy with the tip. I've known him for a long time and it goes a long way towards helping out his family.

 

Just this Easter, my family was charged far "Services and Gratuities fee" for the wait staff at my Dad's country club...for a buffet meal! Where's the fairness in that. All for giving me a glass of water and taking my..uhm...2nd plate! :D .

 

Stu

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The last two written issues of Undercurrent have a two-part tipping article, much of what's been covered here, but excellent reading as too.

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I just read this....well after the fact and couldn't agree more. As a dive pro, itis a welcome thank you that makes up the salary (some of which have not changed here in 15 years). However going to work expecting a tip is not going to get you anything. You do a good job, and hopefully you will recieve a gratuity.

 

The other side of this coin is the lovely cruise ship crowd. want everything from you and beyond, hold their hand as they have not dived in 15 years, yet expect to be able to jump in on a "certified diver dive", and stiff you on a regular basis. Yet they are told the waiter will receive $10 per person per meal per day from your table, and the room service is to expect $10 per day... do we or do we not keep you alive, show you wonders and schlep all your stuff around?

 

The Europeans as a rule don't tip as it is supposed to be included in the price, thankfully it is now changing. When I travel I try to leave a tip every day, dependent upon service. its a little but adds up through the duration of the holiday. I know it is appreciated as I busted my behind to make it.

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Here is my take on things.

Americans tip a lot because it is ingrained into our culture. We think it's the best way to show appreciation for good service. It's appropriate that many American invaded places like Mexico, the Carribbean etc expect good tips.

However the world at large do not have as big a tipping culture as the US. For eg in the Philippines or Thailand (where I've been going to both places for over 15 years and spent a year as a kid in Manila), the culture is decidedly different. Sure $5 is nothing to most US tourists but think of the local culture. Tipping too much not only creates tension (as Nick pointed out) but also disrespects the locals who most probably cannot tip like the tourists do. By spoiling the market as it were, we as US tourists garner the better service, food etc while the ones who tip less get crappier service. It's human nature to want more money.

It is imho, distasteful and disrespectful of the local cultures to assume 10% of the costs is "standard". There are 2 prices in the philippines, local and gringo. I don't know about others but giving a guy triple his salary for doing his job is just not right. As for thinking of compensating for that particular person's social plight, there are many much more worthwhile charities that do a lot more work that affect a lot more people for that $20.

A well travelled friend once said "I can't give a guy 400% of his salary as a dm, a doctor makes less in this country." The social and cultural implications of generous gratuities are a little more complicated than just getting rid of change, imho. Money isn't always the only way to show appreciation. One of the guys who has travelled with me actually helps carry all the equipment back etc and yaks with the crew all day, always treating them as equals. I think he was definitely more liked than the other guy who smiles and throws a C note as a thank you.

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Here's a story that might be of interest. My partner, Bruce, and I were on a fam trip covering many of the safari camps throughout Kenya and Tanzania. Our last stop was on the island of Pemba, north of Zanzibar, where we dove only a few times as the diving wasn't worth the effort during that time of year(July). We were at a place called, if I recall correctly, the Manta Lodge. The young man behind the bar worked about 16 hours a day and always had a smile, friendly demeanor and our rum and cokes at the ready. For this he was paid $1.00 a day.

He was married and had a couple of children. We were told by the manager that before our arrival the bartender's 2 yr old daughter had died. He went to the manager and asked permission to take a couple of hours off of work to attend his daughter's funeral. Imagine the desperate need for a $1 a day job and having to request only 2 hours off to go to his own family's funeral. Fortunately, his boss, an expat from the UK, told him to take a couple of weeks off if he needed. At any rate, Bruce and I tipped him several months salary and were happy to do so.

 

I have been on numerous live aboard boats and several resorts over the years. I don't mind tipping for the good service I get. I do mind,however, the assumption that I will tip no matter what, as if it was mandatory and expected. The crews work hard and it is my privilege to reward them for their efforts. The only time I had an extraordinarily lazy crew was back in '95 on the Galapagos Aggressor. At the end of the trip, I told the one crewman who actually did try, to meet me down by my cabin and I tipped him personally. Damn if I was going to tip the rest of that lazy crew.

 

Another side of this has been my 3 experiences on the Nautilus Explorer going to the Socorro Islands, Alaska and the Great Whites of Guadalupe Island. At the end of the trip, when everyone settles their account, we are then handed envelopes to put our tips in. That's ok I guess, but it feels very awkward when you want to use your credit card to make the tip and the girl say's, in front of everyone else in the salon, 'How much of a tip do you want to put on the card?

Steve

Edited by steve

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Hi folks,

 

I would definately tip when its deserved...absolutely.....and again be mindful of the local customs and climate.

 

Personally, the worst place for tipping I have ever experienced...was Cancun, Mexico....when I visited there in 1997

I found that....by and large..nearly every individual I met....even down to the ten year olds packing groceries at the check outs...were very greedy.... and in some cases...downright belligerent ...when it came to tipping (no manners, hand out, scowling faces etc etc.) I knew one couple who were chased into the street by an angry waiter cause they didn't tip enough!

 

I even remember doing a 'tourist' cave dive there...and was even told jokingly by the guides...that if we didn't tip..... we would be left in there!

 

Needless to say...I wont be going back.

 

Enjoyed the diving tho'....by and large....and I fully admit this was just my own experiences.

Wonder what its like now in 2009?

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If you book a trip from the UK on the Deep Blue in the Galapagos you have to pay your tip at the time of booking. How EFFING mad is that. We are not talking £30 or £40 either we are talking £300 per person. I am not saying that I would not tip a crew £300 as I have done so before, the Undersea Hunter crew had that kind of tip from me and from my wife. What eats my goat is that the crew on the Deep Blue ( Antonio wasnt on there for my trip ) were rude, selfish, lazy and did not deserve a tip at all, let alone a tip that is as much as a doctor in Ecuador earns.

 

Stew

Edited by stewsmith

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So much for ever booking the Deep Blue...I never heard of something so preposterous. Tipping before hand? Now that's getting a bit crazy.

Steve

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If you book a trip from the UK on the Deep Blue in the Galapagos you have to pay your tip at the time of booking. How EFFING mad is that. We are not talking £30 or £40 either we are talking £300 per person. I am not saying that I would not tip a crew £300 as I have done so before, the Undersea Hunter crew had that kind of tip from me and from my wife. What eats my goat is that the crew on the Deep Blue ( Antonio wasnt on there for my trip ) were rude, selfish, lazy and did not deserve a tip at all, let alone a tip that is as much as a doctor in Ecuador earns.

 

Stew

 

That is why it is called and should be considered a gratuity (from wiktionary : A reward, service, or payment provided freely, without obligation.). If the service is substandard, then leave then a “tip”; a few pence and an understanding that if they want a gratuity, they need to provide good service.

 

Bob

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Before we all avoid Deep Blue, let's clear up whether this is a Deep Blue policy or Stew's booking agent 'acting' for Deep Blue. I couldn't find any info on the website about that or pricing for that matter.

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You're right Drew. I just sent them an inquiry and will report back if and when I hear from them.

Steve

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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.

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The crews work hard and it is my privilege to reward them for their efforts. The only time I had an extraordinarily lazy crew was back in '95 on the Galapagos Aggressor. At the end of the trip, I told the one crewman who actually did try, to meet me down by my cabin and I tipped him personally. Damn if I was going to tip the rest of that lazy crew.

 

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.

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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.

Steve

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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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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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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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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

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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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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.

 

Stew

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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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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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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. :) )

Steve

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