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Old December 8th, 2013, 03:48 AM
Bruce Chafkin1 Bruce Chafkin1 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ibiza / Japan
Posts: 623

Originally Posted by green_rd View Post
I am curious about the state that general earnings are still down. Is the because the 70% who did tip paid on average more than the current auto tip amount! or because base wages remain mired in the past similar to minimum wage in the US? I know nothing is exactly simple, but am curious.
Actually both are correct.
The last time I was a tipped cruise ship employee was in the mid-1970s. In those days, almost everyone tipped - and the average guest tipped over $25 per day.
My actual salary in those days was the same salary we pay today - about $1 per day.
The $1 didn't matter then, and doesn't really matter today.

But as for the tips we received in the 1970s, $25 per day was quite a bit of money. Good service staff worked very long and hard - as they do today - but they were also well paid for their efforts.

Then in the 1990s the cruise lines started marketing to the masses. Many of our new passengers could barely afford to sail with us. When they found out that they were expected to tip at the end of the cruise, they simply could not afford it. These were the pax who mysteriously skipped the last evening's dinner, in order to stiff the wait staff without being embarrassed in public. By the turn of the century, we had lost most of our best service staff. They simply could not afford to work for us anymore. We still expected the staff to work as long and hard as before, but also needed them to serve people who had never eaten in a proper restaurant in their lives. To reward them for their efforts, their earnings were cut in half. They quickly realized that they could make more money at home, living with their families, with days off, and avoiding the abuse they had taken from North Americans for so many years.

That is the primary reason the cruise lines introduced "auto-tipping". We needed to shame passengers into tipping in order to stop the exodus of good staff; on one side we made it optional, but on the other side, we made it embarrassing and difficult to take the tips away.

So now with auto-tipping we are back up to 95% or so of passengers tipping again. But these passengers are mostly from the middle and lower classes. They cannot afford to tip $25 per day. So the cruise lines bumped the tips down to the $10-12 range, once again effectively reducing earnings by 50%.
But it goes farther than that.
A $25 tip in 1970 was quite a bit of money.
A $10-12 tip in 2013 is not so much.
Inflation has taken quite a toll.

Despite all our efforts, today's cruise ship waiter earns about 25% (in real money) of what I earned as a cruise ship waiter in the 1970s.
That kind of money is not going to buy us the best service people - and it doesn't.
Next time you wonder why your dining room waiter doesn't seem quite as sharp as the waiters on the RMS Titanic, it's all about the money.
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