I had an interesting experience the other day. One that made me want to share it somehow. After giving the experience a good deal of thought I realized that this situation or the feeling it left me with could be replicated in many arenas; for example at the Lodge. Rather than flashing off a nasty review on some social media platform based on one experience I thought I would flesh it out here.
Basically the problem is about tipping protocol. I was purchasing take-out, which I am wont to do about once a month. I, being a creature of habit, usually order the same meal from the same restaurant. I go pick up the meal, pay then and leave a tip with the server. It has bothered me excessively though what is appropriate to leave. It isn’t like I am using up space inside a building, creating dishes, needing constant checking, having water refilled, having anything much done for me. I just drive up, grab my goods, and go. I understand tipping and what it is for and I am a generous client if I have been well treated, even for take-out. Still this isn’t the issue, just the screen upon which the story is played.
This time I was having someone else run in to grab the meal. Being the erstwhile and responsible hostess I decided to call the restaurant to see if I could pay in advance. I could. The uninterested voice on the phone asked me if I wanted to leave a tip. I said I would leave that to the person picking up the meal to pay. The now authoritative voice said “but if you do that I won’t get my tip.” Realizing this is a great opportunity to address my ongoing curiosity about appropriate tipping and foolishly making the assumption that tipping was a recognition of something special or extra or even indicative of some kind of service, I asked the loaded question: “Maybe you can help me. I know that take-out doesn’t get the same service as in house and I have always wondered how the tip should differ for take out as compared to restaurant service. Can you tell me?” His very quick answer was “It doesn’t. It is the same.”
OK. I was a bit surprised. I explained that I thought the tip should be tied to service, and asked then how would the server who took care of making sure the meal is done on time and delivered to my car would be taken care of. He said they wouldn’t and neither would the kitchen. His shift was over at 4:30 and he wouldn’t get anything if I didn’t pay then. So I asked him in that case what was he going do to deserve a tip. His answer was that he was going to ring it into the till. He explained that he was the bartender after all. I was not sure why that made any difference. That was when I told him I would call back after 4:30 to pay off the invoice so that those who did something for me would receive something return. He was not amused. But such entitlement was offensive.
I hung up and realized that I had just been held hostage by some nameless, lazy, disinterested and entitled employee. The owner/manager of the restaurant would never know and I would be far less likely to go there again (not because of bad food as it is always excellent) but because I had been basically panhandled by someone who could care less about me and expected a gift for breathing. In the back of my mind was a niggling thought “what would he do to my order?” Ohhhh I could get started on people who want to be paid for breathing…but I digress. How on earth does this relate to fishing and Quatsino Lodge you ask? When folks call me to book I often am asked about appropriate tipping. There is a number of folks who come to me upon arrival at the lodge and ask me then. There are still more who ask as they are making final payment and then there are those who take matters into their own hands.
The thing is, a tip according to the online dictionary is: "a sum of money customarily given by a client or customer to certain service sector workers for the service they have performed, in addition to the basic price of the service." So it is for SERVICE that is IN ADDITION. In my world a tip is a gift and a thank you for a great experience, for something special and it should only be made in comfort and if the giver is feeling like giving. Yes I have to admit that a tip is generally expected and this is partially a cultural construct and partly not. We are culturally trained to give a gift of thanks and it is a wonderful thing and feels good when the recipient has earned it. Some people depend on tips to make ends meet. I get that. But tips must be earned. They are not simply obligatory. But when one is left feeling that nothing more was received other than what was originally agreed upon then the tip becomes a toll and leaves a bad taste after you leave. It is subtle but there. When I am asked I always say the same thing. A gratuity is a gift, not a tax, and is up to the guest. I explain that everyone comes from a different financial and cultural experience and that each needs to feel comfortable with the amount they leave. Then I give a range of options for people to help them decide what they are comfortable with. I also stress that if someone is not happy with their trip they should first come to me and let me know and then do not feel obligated to leave a tip for a poor experience or a specific person (you can exclude people from the gift).
And at the lodge we as a staff have come to an arrangement because what we offer is an experience that depends on multiple people in order for the trip to go well for the guest. It is easiest for the staff if tips are left with the person that is paid for the trip at the end. This person will disperse the tips 75% to the guide and pool the other 25% for the dock and house staff. No, your tip doesn’t go to supplement another guide nor does it go to the lodge manager. It goes to your personal guide so guide portions are not pooled. Just the house/dock. It doesn’t matter what amount you leave, this is how it is handled and this way no-one is forgotten. Having said this, if someone is mentioned specifically as having done a poor job or done something less than outstanding, problematic even, their portion of the tip may be affected. Sometimes guests want to leave a specific directed amount for the house or for the guide. No problem. This will be taken care of as the guest has requested. But most importantly the guest should feel comfortable with their gift. Never should you feel that you have been held for ransom. Never should a worker come to the idea that they deserve “my tip” or “my portion” without earning it. Earning it means going the extra mile. Everyone is paid already to do the basic job, much as the restaurant employee is paid to answer the phone and run the till.
And never should a guest ever feel the way I felt on the phone with my restaurant employee. It should be the goal to make guests feel comfortable, not uncomfortable, whether at the Lodge or in a restaurant. There really isn’t any difference other than scale. I guess I need to call the restaurant’s manager and explain what happened so that they can either deal with the problem or enlighten me, the client. I hope that my guests will feel comfortable doing so with me. I feel uncomfortable doing so but it is what I would want for the Lodge. The old maxim “If you are happy tell others. If you are unhappy tell us” definitely applies. But be assured we want to hear if you are happy too. We revel in your stories and share them amongst ourselves. We love our guests and love the environment we attempt to create. Our Lodge family is a team who works together to give you the best possible experience. We appreciate you and are grateful you choose to come fishing with us. The tip is nice but the visit is even nicer. Thank you to all our fishing family.