To tip, or not to tip… that is the question

28 Oct

Well, I haven’t blogged in a while and I wasn’t sure what to write about. Not that things haven’t been happening here. In fact, in the last 3 weeks we’ve had 3 birthdays! Chris had his birthday on the 7th, Stu’s was on the 17th, and Abbey’s was yesterday. Phew. I guess when it is cold in England (Jan/Feb time) there isn’t much to do but make babies 😉

We’ve been diving, of course… In fact I’ve had some great dives. I went on a discover scuba dive with Patrick from Philly and it was like he was a secret agent from PADI coming to check up on me. I say this because he was so awesome in the water. I gave him my usual briefing, but unless I am the best instructor in the world (which is possible) he was a secret instructor from PADI making sure that I am doing my job correctly. I wonder which one it is?

Sometimes my blogs actually have useful information in them (I know it is rare) and I thought I would make this a useful one as well. People are often asking me whether or not they should tip their diving instructor and boat captain. In the PADI Open Water Manual they do cover some diving etiquette, like not being late for the dive boat and how to be a good dive buddy, but there is no section on tipping.

Chris and I have worked all over the world and the tips do vary from country to country and from diving center to diving center. Some places put a little tip jar out, or a sign on the boat saying “tips are greatly appreciated.” I know what my dad would say to this, he would say “Here’s a good tip. Never pee into a strong wind!” However, as when I finally donned my cap and gown for my graduation from university this tip seemed wanting… and I think on a dive boat the instructors may feel the same.

We don’t like to put a tip jar out, or have a sign on the boat as I feel that this is a little trashy… but that’s just me.

Tipping of course, is completely optional. It depends on the experience. I am a New Yorker, and I fully endorse and support the tipping culture. When I walk into a restaurant the server is going to try and give me a great experience, so I tip well. There is nothing that bothers me more than bills that come at the end of a meal with the tip included. You should beware of this in St. Maarten, (only on the Dutch side though). Many restaurants on the Dutch side are now including a 15% tip in the bill. If you aren’t looking, (or you had too many Margarita’s), you may end up tipping twice, so please take care. I detest this. And you can refuse to pay the tip. I also know from many friends that work in the restaurant industry on the island that the servers are not getting that whole 15% tip. The owners are taking half of that for things like “breakage of restaurant materials” “staff drinks” and other obsolete fines that they are making up. Unfortunately a lot of the restaurant staff in St. Maarten are working illegally, so there isn’t much they can do about it. The best thing is to tip in cash, directly to the server.

However, what about the diving industry? Tipping servers in a restaurant is normal, should you tip your dive guide? Again, I would say that it is totally up to you. Our staff is so great that they do get tips quite a bit, and it is normally about 10% of the cost of the diving, or $10 for a two tank dive. However, some people tip more and some less and some not at all. We do seem to get a lot of alcohol as thanks for our services. Not sure why, perhaps because when people are leaving they decide to drop off any extra wine or beer to the dive shop. Also, I should add that we don’t provide a great service to get tips, we provide a great service because we love what we do. And I’ve never heard anyone curse any divers that didn’t tip, it’s just a nice added bonus when they do.

We had a really nice tip from one of our favorite divers (Tony Darst) when he left us a gift certificate to a restaurant in Grand Case, Le Ti Provencial. That was really nice. Also had a really nice tip from some snorkelers the other day who brought me two bags of Jolly Ranchers. The one’s that Lisa Wightman bought for me are almost gone…! But for Chris and I, a great review on Tripadvisor.com or just a nice email is enough.

So, there are some little tips about tipping in the diving industry.

(Sally wrote this blog 🙂 )

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