I have a very good friend who (until recently) worked on HAL for 6 years, and indicated that while tips were often pooled, sometimes they were not..it was up to the MD. So tips are not ALWAYS pooled, just most of the time.
With decades of experience in the casino industry both as a dealers and table games mgrs of varying degrees, my wife and I can shed a little light about what pooling tips does to a service industry, AND how a customer might choose to deal with it.
Fact: Pooling tips lowers the incentive for individuals to provide the best service possible at all times.
Fact: You cannot put together a staff that can operate at their 100% best ever, but the staff will be less encouraged without this direct monetary incentive. If a group of service providers are keeping the tips they receive, the service will be (on the whole) better.
So here is what happens. John Doe steward is having a tough time this week. All though he usually gives great service and receives good tips, this week his girlfriend dumped him and he feels bad. Oh well, he thinks, this will effect about .02% of my overall income, so why try...I'll do the bare minimum so as not to get in trouble with my boss.
In a different section of the ship a pax who normally tips well has found out that pooling occurs. Because of this, his/her tips decrease. The steward who is used to receiving better for this level of service feels dejected, and as it happens more and more, the steward assumes the 'level' of pax's has deteriorated...and is also (naturally) less motivated to go the extra mile.
A negative cycle.
Now the flip side.
Even though the tips are pooled, every service provider enjoys receiving large tips. (Dealers in a casino, or waiters on a ship) This adds to their feeling of job satisfaction, professional image, and how their co-workers and managers feel about them.
A pax (like myself) who is disappointed that pooling occurs, still tips good for good service because the passenger knows that the cash is only a part of the reward (ok, a major part) and the tip will create other benefits for the receiver of the tip.
A positive cycle.
Conclusion, without the direct relationship to service vs salary there will (and maybe always has been) a lowering standard of service. There are also many more things that will move a service provider from a positive cycle to a negaive one...but as a pax, one should know that tipping well for good service still provides direct benefits of some kind to that individual, even if they have to pool the cash.
A final note about cruise employees who post here.
Although getting the word out about how things are done, and what is most appreciated is nice...I have seen some very RUDE ways of doing it here. For example..
Quote " By the way, telephone cards and $2 bills are very cute, but I really need
cash to support my family. Plain old dollars are the best tip for any steward."
Call me a moron but I thought $2 bills were cash. And maybe it shoud have been worded like this:
" All ship staff appreciates your tips and generous offerings for our service,
but please keep in mind that while gifts and phone cards are always nice,
cash is always the best. Thank you!"
In the long run, if people assume you keep the tip, it is better for you. I don't suggest hiding the truth, but I wouldn't be running around with a megaphone telling people tips are pooled. When they inquire, giving them kind and respectful comments about the best appreciated practices is definatly appropriate, but be careful not to lecture...it is can have some negative consequences.
P.S. I ALWAYS tip well for good service!!!
If you are going to run with the big dogs, you had better learn to pee in the tall grass!
You raised some very valid and thoughtful points. This subject obviously means a lot to you and I for one appreciate your input.
Tips are NOT ALWAYS pooled on cruise ships, but they are pooled on most of the mass market ships where about 95% of all cruisers go.
Pooling tips DOES(by itself) lower incentive for individuals to do their best all the time. But pooling tips - and then combining it with identifying (in front of his peers and supervisors) the individual who performs poorly, is better known as the "sugar and whip" method. Nothing better focuses an individual's attention to his job like the thought of losing his job instantly ( and being forced to pay for a very expensive air ticket back home) for poor performance.
I worked in casinos ( in America, Europe, and Asia) for many years as well. Casino operations and Ship operations could not be more dissimilar. The rules and systems that work in one rarely work in the other.
You said "If a group of service providers are keeping the tips they receive, the service will be (on the whole) better." This may be true in a casino, but on ships it doesn't work. If the cabin stewards who service the Suites or the Waiters who serve in the upscale restaurants get to keep their much higher tips, all the others are jealous and the team suffers. When we tried this idea, the service in the lesser cabins and restaurants suffered dramatically.
If waiter John Doe's girlfriend dumps him and he decides to slack off for a day or so, at least one guest will complain about him or remove some of the auto tip. If this happens, poor John will be quickly unemployed - or if he is lucky, he can sort garbage (with no tips) for a few weeks. How is that for incentive to do a good job and support the tip pool??
I will not call you a moron. You seem very smart to me. But please bear in mind that a US $2 Bill is "cash" only in a very few countries. If you try to exchange it in the Philippines, China or in Europe, you are out of luck. Banks there have never seen them before and suspect that they are counterfeit. You should see a waiter trying to "dump" his $2 bills the day before he signs off to go home. Nobody - including many US Businesses - will take them.
One of the reasons why the general cruising public was never aware of Tip Pooling is that the tipped staff are all too aware that the very idea discourages generous individual tipping. Most cruise ship staff will not admit to any passenger that tips are pooled.
One of the reasons why people like me are talking about pooled tips is the pervasive idea that the recent auto-tipping and pooling of tips in some of the more progressive cruise lines has caused a general decline in service levels onboard ships.
I am the first to agree that service levels on cruise ships have declined over the past decade. But I will also be the first to point out that the decline is NOT due to the pooling or auto-tipping.
Even a decade ago, most of the guests on a ship were well traveled, educated, had manners, and dressed well. Today we see more of the Simpsons, the Griswolds, and Joe Six-pack. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is quite a change. These people have generally reduced expectations. Cruise ship service staff are usually very good at meeting a guest's expectations. If the guest doesn't know what to expect - or doesn't expect very much - that is what he is going to get. Unfortunately, that is now the pervasive style on most mass-market ships.
By the way, you should be aware that with "traditional tipping" (the envelope at the end of the cruise) an average 15% of the guests tipped nothing at all.
The new auto-tipping system makes it more difficult and potentially embarrassing for the Cheap Charlies to get out of tipping the staff. The average number of guests who remove the auto-tip and leave nothing at all has shrunk to 1% or 2 %. This means that the average waiter or steward working with auto-tipping is getting a bigger lump sum from the tipping pool.
Finally, we see more proof every week that American don't read amymore. The actual number of cruisers who will read this information is so miniscule that it really won't matter.
Wow...a wonderfully thought out reply on a message board that was longer than 3 lines!
You make some very interesting points. I must say I stand corrected on a few. I knew that $2 bills couldn't spend in some ports, but why I didn't connect that to crew members having trouble spending them I don't know. Is there some mechanism the cruise lines offer to convert cash to be sent home or transferred into banks? But still, your point is well taken.
You mentioned that when a guest complains or removes auto tipping the waiter (or whomever) could be fired for poor performance. When an envelope system is in place, doesn't someone track the envelopes turned in? I am assuming this incentive is not unique to auto tipping, but yes, I can see where keeping your own would make it impossible to track bad apples...although I assume they would leave eventually because they are broke. Am I incorrect in assuming that it would take more than one bad week (unless there was a specific event) to constitute someone being fired.
In the only casino I am directly familiar with that let you 'go for your own' they had instituted a complicated rotation system that allowed every dealer opportunities at high limit action over time. Yes I could see where this causes dissention, but my other experience is that a good dealer can make good tips on a $5 craps table as well as a $100 black jack table. ($5 players will tip more often, but obviously in smaller amounts) But again, point taken.
As to service levels declining...I am not to judge, but I fear I am closer to Joe Six-pack than to a more elegant cruiser of old. I am in my late 30's (not traditional), wear tuxes only when I am 'in' someone's wedding (and on a cruise). I am a mid-western corn fed beef and potato eater, and I fear much of the cuisine is lost on me. (I read a post on these forums that said if I couldn't appreciate 5 star cuisine I shouldn't be cruising?), and although we are not poor, I do have to limit other expenses for months to save up to afford a cruise. That said, I wouldn't dream of not leaving a tip for service, and an exceptional tip for exceptional service. My requirements are simple, but I don't know if that equates to "not expecting very much"...maybe it does.
But if there has been a decline in the 'level' of the overall cruise passenger, that is clearly a product of the cruise lines and the number of ships in the water. Yes, I suspect that it is a change for the long standing cruise staffer, but I wonder how many new poeple are employed in the industry because of it. If I run a company with 5 employees, I can pick 5 that have great work ethics...but that is impossible with 500. Cruise lines have also decided to target a more average american. (to fill all those cabins in the water) So, you see a lot more people who don't go to the symphony, or theater, who work 60 hours a week, and who are generally tighter with there money. (And in many cases its because they have less of it) I think you probably agree with me on this.
Now, as to the Cheap Charlies...well my experience is they exist in all socio-economic levels. So if auto-tipping is increasing wages, I suspect it is stamping out more ignorance than anything else. The misers I know would have no problem having auto tips removed saying they 'would prefer to do it personally' and then disappear the last night.
Careful on the statement about Americans not reading. This is a smothered topic on many venues of this and other cruise forums, and in a relatively obscure thread.(ok, not a main one anyway) It also seems to because average cruisers are still a more mature set, only a portion of them post or read here to say of spend anytime on the internet. Heck, my mother (69), an incredibly bright and capable woman just started emailing last year. She just didn't grow up with it, so it naturally took her time to get comfortable with it.
Well Bruce, sorry if this is too long, but thanks for the insightful input and I look forward to your reply, even if we are the only 2 reading this!!!
If you are going to run with the big dogs, you had better learn to pee in the tall grass!
There's more to cruising than the Amercian Market.
Whilst I would agree that the American Market is by far the largest market in the world, the next largest market is Europe, with the UK leading the Europeans followed by Germany and France.
The reason I bring this point to the surface is because tipping is MUCH less prevalent in Europe than it is in the US.
People in Europe can and do take great exception to being told that they MUST tip. People expect service to be included in 'the price'.
In restaurants, rarely, there is clearly marked on the menu '12% service charge will be added' - and then that's it.......... as far as the customer is concerned - they've paid for the meal AND the service and they're not paying any more (in the form of a tip).
Otherwise, people in Europe EXPECT that employees in restaurants are paid a fair salary. Indeed, most European countries have a minimum wage for employees - including wait staff.
Ok - but we're talking cruise ships and the possibility that the line is not bound by local employment laws and therefore they employ staff on a negligible salary. Often Filipino - or other nationalities that have poor home economies which makes it neccessary (desireable?) for the nationals to seek work overseas (litteraly!!).
A $1 in the US has a different purchasing power to (say) in Cambodia or India.
What a lot of people in Europe are very aware of is that nationals from other countries seek employment in Europe - working in Hotels etc - and the money they earn is sent home to support not just their own immediate family but also uncles, aunts, cousins - you name it. Therefore when guests are considering giving a tip - they think to not give as much as they would if it was going to a person supporting a family in Europe. ie. I can give them $10 instead of $100 because in India $10 is worth what a $100 is in France.
In addition, people tipping CAN take umbridge over the fact that money is not going to support their local economy but is being exported to bolster the economy of another country,
Crew on ships have (almost) no expenses. Food and lodging is taken care of. They MAY ask another crew member to help with laundry etc. I learnt recently on a voyage from an East German bar tender that he paid one of the Filipino crew members $10 a week to do ALL his washing, ironing and room cleaning. Ask yourself...... does the Filipino do it because he is broke or because that $10 makes a worthwhile earning?
The latter I suspect.
So, (I'm getting to my point.......!!!!) should cruise lines be paying their staff a salary comensurate with their needs and not rely on guests to be God?
If they did - then would incentive to provide excellent service go out the window?
I am sorry to have found this thread so late after its appearance. Both of you gentlemen have given me an education on the subject of tipping. It makes reading other threads on the subject a moot point. Alas, I would have to say that because of human nature, the level of service would decrease even more if tipping was replaced by salary; totally. It is not a pefect world, and therefore, no one solution will eliminate all problems forever.
I am so glad that i stumbled upon this thread, very interesting points of view and no one got slammed or yelled at for voicing their opinions! I still haven't made up my mind about the whole auto-tipping deal. I believe that amount I tip is directly related to the level of service I receive. ie: great service=great tip, less than stellar service= slightly less tip. I would never "stiff" and employee. I would tip a bit less and inform his/her superior.
I'm afraid Mr. Chafkin that you're sorely mistaken. I really don't know where you get the idea that Americans are not reading much these days. Book clubs and newspapers are booming,and I frankly find your remark insulting. You seem to feel that you are superior in some way and I find that telling.
You and Tutti obviously read this, so there are still a few readers out there.
I could be sorely mistaken. You might be correct.
I read quite a lot. The last time I read info on the Gallup Poll (a few months ago), their findings showed that the AVERAGE American reads 0.1 books per year. I guess - if true - that this does NOT mean that Americans don` t read anymore. But it does indicate - if true - that most Americans read very little.
Since I don`t see hundreds or thousands of replies to this thread, I suspect that I (and the Gallup Organization) might be correct.
I hardly think that posts to a message board are proof that Americans do not read, and as to the poll. Polls are becoming less and less reliable since the average American has caller i.d. so as not to waste their valuable time.