I notice many people discussing the merits or otherwise of service fees over tips and the reasons this mode of â€śtippingâ€? has come to pass. Some people believe that it is because too many passengers donâ€™t leave tips and I suppose that could be true in some cases. In the case of one company in particular though it is because of an entirely different reason. It is so that passengers will not only off set the cost of salaries to staff, but also a way of putting their hands into the pockets of its staff and legally taking money that is given to them by the unsuspecting public.
I have many friends working aboard Costa Cruise Line. Recently Costa has brought in the service fee in lieu of tips, like many of the other cruise companies. This fee is a mandatory 6 euro per day for every passenger. Passengers are told that this money is for the waiter, bus boy and cabin Stewards Etc that serve them during the cruise and that tips are no longer collected by the individual wait staff. But did you know that not ALL of this money goes to the staff?
I have seen the new contract that the staff have been given, it states that waiters and Cabin Stewards, for instance will receive a basic wage of 1049 euro per month, they then will receive a further 400 euro hotel incentive bonus (other service personnel such as bus boys etc receive less) but only if certain requirements are met. A. that the comment forms filled out by the passengers are favourable and B that the ship is 100% full. If these two requirements are not met then the staff will receive less (how much less is not stated in the contract). According to the people I spoke with the waiters are now worse off that they were before the mandatory service fee came into force.
My question is this. If the requirements stated by the Company are not met, who gets the monies already paid by the passenger? Will Costa contact each passenger and return the money to them? I donâ€™t think so How can this be legal? It is certainly not morally right that monies collected by the company as service fee for the staff should be then kept by the company. Is this not taking money under false pretences?
I made a few calculations and if you take a ship such as the Magica for instance which carries 3500 passengers, and say the ship during a month takes only 3000 passengers, times this figure by 6 euro per day and the company is taking in 540,000 euro a month. If you then divide this amount by the amount of waiters, bus boys and cabin Stewards and others that are part of the service fee program(around 200 staff)
you will see that Costa is taking more money in service fees than it is paying out to its staff. By my calculation the Company is keeping at least 20% of the money, making at least 110,000 euro per month from money that is paid by its passengers supposedly for gratuities to the waiters etc. This amount doesnâ€™t include the money made by Costa in interest. The staff are paid at the end of the month, so the company gets to keep all of the money for at least a month thereby making interest on the whole amount.
So with this Service fee the passengers not only pay the full salary for the staff but Costa gets to put its hand in the pocket of its workers as well.
The next time you are on a Costa cruise and you want to show your appreciation for good service to the staff, I suggest you let the company know how you feel about this Mandatory service fee and ask them how your tip is distributed. Maybe if enough people complain, the staff will have a better chance of getting the money that we the cruising public leave for them.