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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection


by Ed
April 2007

Last month's poll was so successful, we have decided to include a topic you can vote on as a regular feature. See the results for last month's vote below this month's list of titles (or at the end of this article) and please feel free to give us some suggestions. Thank you Charles and Diane, for giving us the idea for this article.

Any charter broker who has attended a 'round table' discussion between brokers and crews at a boat show knows that tipping is a popular and often inflammatory topic!

Tips can make up a large portion of a crew's pay. By keeping it as a separate item, the charterer can reward a crew that has done a fabulous job and a crew can feel that if they go the extra mile, they have a chance of getting a bonus for their extra efforts.

There are two disadvantages to this concept:

Some charterers take advantage of the system. They write copious, glowing notes in the yacht's log book and even on the post charter form they send to us when they return home, yet they walk off the boat without leaving a cent. In our case, this is never due to a client not being informed. We take care to mention the gratuity at the very beginning of the booking process, so that charterers know about this cost when selecting a boat in their price range. When we send them a summary of costs with the contract, for them to look over before they confirm, the gratuity is clearly shown under costs, including a suggested range depending on service received.

Another problem often mentioned by brokers is that the tipping concept can negatively affect sales. Most charterers like the all inclusive approach and some would rather not bother (or feel awkward) with adding a tip. Some see tipping as an unnecessary and annoying expense. This is particularly true if a broker has only brought up the subject after the charter is confirmed. Most brokers are thoroughly reputable, but like any industry, there are a few that twist the rules.

Brokers can help the situation by really being up-front with the concept and explaining that crews do many of the things you would normally tip for, from making the beds to serving your meals and entertaining you. Whether a boat could increase bookings by saying a 15% gratuity is included is uncertain - they actually might.

For crews, it is especially difficult, because they are at the mercy of other people. There is nothing worse however, than a crew that drops hints about the tip during the charter. Even mentioning it in an introductory letter to guests, really starts the charter off the wrong way. Providing the charter was booked through a broker, it is better for the crew to ask the broker before the charter if he/she is sure their guests know the charter fee does not include the customary tip. Many crews have no idea how comments on tips can turn off guests, even if said in jest. Charterers may not say anything or laugh it off, but believe me, we hear all about it after the charter. We even had a captain that followed guests down the dock saying their 10% tip was not enough. The charterer was so furious that when he booked again the next year, he stipulated that we did not send him that boat, even though everything else about the charter had been perfect. Again, most crews are professionals and accept that some people will be more generous than others.

So how much should a charterer give. We say, for The Caribbean, the range is 10 to 20 percent of the charter fee. If the charter fee does not include meals, the tip should be based on just the boat fee.

If you felt the crew had done a good job, 15% is a good tip - by giving 10%, you are telling the crew that things were OK but not perfect.

We are often asked if these guidelines are the same for owner operators. The answer is yes! Many of these owners work hard to cover the cost of the cruising lifestyle they have chosen and don't have the funds of an absentee owner who might have invested in a boat just for personal vacations. There are of course exceptions - not all absentee owners are wealthy or owner/operators broke, but the same rules apply regarding gratuities!

Checks can be difficult to cash, particularly for a boat cruising in a different area, and every bank charges fees for checks drawn on an overseas account. It is therefore much nicer to give the tip in cash or travellers checks. Leave it in an envelope, perhaps with a nice card or note. Unless you have strong opinions, give just one gratuity, which the crew will divide up between themselves. For enormous charters, where the tip can run well into five figures, it is obviously impractical to use cash and tips are often prepaid or wired to the boat at the end of the charter.

So, what do you think? Should boats increase the charter fee by 15% and include the tip so you don't have to deal with it, or do you like the idea of rewarding a crew based on the performance received? Is the European system practical here, where 10% is included and you can add more for exceptional service? We will publish the results as received, along with some examples of your comments (all quotes will be anonymous, but let us know if you don't want your comments mentioned!)

Prospective and past charterers, boat crews, boat companies, other brokers - let's hear from you!
CLICK HERE TO CAST YOUR VOTE (yes or no - add comments if you wish!)

View the results for this and past Newsletter Polls

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  Ed Hamilton & Company
24B US Route 1, Edgecomb, ME 04556

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