Crew Tipping - from One Crew Member's Perspective

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Posted by Second Fiddle on September 17, 2004 at 09:40:59:

My perspective on tipping comes from having worked (anywhere from one day to over two years)on nearly every major dive boat in the Los Angeles area during the last 10 years. I also have been a paying passenger on numerous local trips and several non-local live aboard and land based trips. I strongly believe that tipping, or not tipping, is and should be strickly the diver's choice.

My limited records indicate that the "normal" expected tips range from $3 - $8 per day per paying passenger. I've seen significantly more and significantly less. Sometimes the abnormal tip level is "justified" but usually it is not - the general service level and effort stays about the same. Frequently tips are better when the diving is good - unfortunately the crew has little control over that. "Good Diving" is generally good visibility, calm seas, lots of game for those taking game, and good dive sites (frequently selected by a non-tip-sharing Captain/Owner). We get rewarded or penalized for factors beyond our control - fact is, our work is harder in the worst conditions. When it is raining, cold, windy, rough seas, etc. - who is out on the back deck / swim step then entire time?

Ken Kurtis recently made remarks about the great service on the Encore and the "resort" style service that they received. The implication was that the tips rewarded that level of service. According to Reef Seeker's website the trip sold for about $300. Total tips $400 - $500 for 25 passengers = $8 - $10 per person per day. Or another way - a tip of approximately 5.3% to 6.7% of the cost of the trip. From a purely economics point of view - I would far rather work two - one day Catalina trips than a two day trip that requires a mid-night departure, night time deck watches, 10+ dives and limited sleep.

As for the comments comparing restuarant tips to dive boat trips - remember - the waiter/waitress is receiving a legal MINIMUM WAGE plus tips. Dive boat crew members are not covered by the minimum wage laws. A basic "deck hand" is working 12 - 18 hours per day and earns something in the neighborhood of $75 / day (less taxes).

You and I are free to tip what ever we want. For those that do not tip or tip poorly - feel reasonably comfortable in knowing that rarely does the crew know how a specific individual tips - even repeat customers. However, dive shops and clubs do develop a "reputation" (either positive or negative) regarding diving skills, general attitude, and tipping. Does that impact the service you receive? I honestly don't think so. Do I give better service to some people? Sure. But it is primarily based upon my personal knowledge of their personal preferences regarding service levels ("I would rather do it myself" versus "sure, I would love some extra help"). Being a regular customer is the best way to get the level of service you want.

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