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Old January 21st, 2007, 11:34 AM
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Default Mandatory service fees, who is geting the money?

I notice many people discussing the merits or otherwise of service fees over tips and the reasons this mode of “tipping� has come to pass. Some people believe that it is because too many passengers don’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 don’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 doesn’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.
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Old January 21st, 2007, 12:16 PM
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I have no direct knowledge of the system Costa uses, so can't comment at all on if your information is correct or not.

Though I'm surprised to see you say the base salaries are $1049 Euros per month. On most cruise lines in the mass market, those staff are paid $50 per month, and the balance of their incomes come from the tip pool.

So.. it could be that the tip pool is already considered in the $1049 amount.

I know I've talked to the crew about this pooling system on many of my cruises, and most I've spoken with prefer it. They say with the pool system they basically know what their income is going to be from week to week and month to month, without having to worry about people "stiffing them" (which before the implemenation there was about 18% passengers not tipping).

The other thing... on some lines, even before the "auto-tipping" was put in place, and passengers tipped directly, the staff were expected to turn in their tips, and the were pooled.

From what I understand now... if passengers tip over and above the auto tip, individual staff are now allowed to keep the extra $ for themselves.
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Old January 21st, 2007, 12:41 PM
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I can only speak from my experience on Costa in Europe and what I have been told by staff who work on board. I suppose that 1049 euro a month seems a lot compared to $50 but considering that they now receive no TIPS,were as in the past they could easily make over 2500 a month in tips alone that still does not explain where all of that extra money is going. From what I see we, the passengers are paying 100% of the salary and the company gets to keep the extra money collected from the passenger, so in effect they get to increase their profit without it effecting the advertised price of the cruise. I still say that this is taking money under false pretences as the passengers are under the impression that the staff are getting this money.
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Old January 29th, 2007, 09:42 AM
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From what I've managed to learn - cruises lines differ in their policies, and, onboard staff have 'different stories' they tell me. For instance, I've heard that the 15% gratuity added to every bar drink/dining room order does not go entirely to the serving staff, let alone the person who served you. Ok,you might think that the 15% gets distributed amongst the entire service staff, but, then you'll be told that it goes to those staff who were on duty at the time - or - that a percentage of the 15% goes to the ship, some to the person who served you and some to the entire service staff. And so it goes on. You can't even be sure that if you add an additional amount on to the chit you sign that that will go to......anybody in particular.

Seabourn (and the like) have risen above all of this and the question just does not arise. Nobody gets stiffed. Nobody has to wonder whether their mandatory service charge gets to the right person, additional gratuities......???

Which (next?) of the major lines is going to bite the bullet and come clean and just roll the whole price up and say 'We're done with tipping/service charges/gratuities and claim 'the price you pay is the price you pay'. Or, is there a pervading sense of 'We'll lose so so many customers if we don't apply these charges (at a later date)'.

Anyway, all that said, I'll make a bold statement. I think cruises have become too cheap.

Cruise lines are paying their staff peanut salaries, the crew don't like it (that much) the passengers are taken on a guilt trip, the cruise lines nickel and dime to extract the last cent from every passenger.

Ok. So wake up and pay staff a fair wage (regardless of their nationality)- make the staff feel valued and then (really) jobs on cruise ships will become the truly sought after position that will attract and retain those high calibre staff the passengers want.

Until then - it'll be cost cutting and penny pinching.

Take a Seaborn cruise -and try and say that the staff aren't 100% excellent and that you weren't sprung with 'additional charges'.

PS. I've never been on Seabourn - so it's not bias driving me.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 11:35 PM
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Can anyone tell me if Carnival cruise lines gives all the tips to the waiters and stewards that we are paying. Or do they have to split there tips with everyone. We pay with our cruise and dont have to worry about it later. But if we have such great service i like to leave money on the night stands each day and give extra to the waiters and such that gave us a extra attention. Can they keep this amount of the tip without splitting it? Thanks....
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Old April 4th, 2007, 06:37 PM
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Default Re: Mandatory service fees, who is geting the money?

Quote:
Originally Posted by knoxie2
.......I don’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?
It may not be moral, but it is legal. The company and staff have entered into a contract which as you pointed out in your post defines the salary process. It might not be fair but it is legal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by knoxie2
.......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.
This would work but I would even suggest a better way. Have folks refuse to work for Costa if this is how they actually treat their employees. If some or more employees would refuse to work for them then I can tell you for sure the wages will increase.

By the way I do leave my suggested tip, servcie charge, in place and I do tip additional.

Don
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Old June 2nd, 2007, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meercat
From what I've managed to learn - cruises lines differ in their policies, and, onboard staff have 'different stories' they tell me. For instance, I've heard that the 15% gratuity added to every bar drink/dining room order does not go entirely to the serving staff, let alone the person who served you.
I don't know how the other lines do it, but I think on HAL they assume many people will tip their favorite servers far more than the 15%. They will give them cash tips at the end of the cruise ... and those servers will be allowed to keep them. I believe this is the policy because HAL rotates the servers among the various bars and lounges, so that tips will be fairly distributed. I would imagine that maybe the staff in certain lounges tend to get tipped more ... probably the more intimate venues where passengers really get to know their servers ... and the line wants to ensure that all servers have the opportunity to work those venues and make more in tips that week.

If they weren't being permitted to keep these tips, then why bother rotating them?

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