Just the tip
The service industry is a confusing place. Who should I tip, how should I tip, how much should I tip? Why the heck should I tip?
Have you ever had a nice night out with friends, sat around for hours entertaining yourselves, whilst bar staff kept the night going by keeping you topped up with scrumptious snacks and boozy beverages along the way, and walked off without leaving a generous gratuity?
Or gotten out of your cab after the night out and taken all your change with you?
How about your hairdresser or masseuse? Do we show our gratitude to those that make us feel good?
Or the guy at the gas station that put fuel in your car so that you didn't have to do it yourself and get your hands dirty?
Then there was that nice lady that brought your pizza to your doorstep the next day because you were too lazy and hungover to leave your house?
How about a day on the water where a crew of people catered to your every whim and made sure that you saw that microscopic sea hare only visible to the trained eye, while also keeping you alive 100 feet below the surface?
I was once advised that if you're in doubt, to tip anyone who does anything for you in the amount that you would want to be paid if you did it yourself.
Ahhhh, it is indeed a perplexing topic.
So it's not surprising that some people are completely oblivious to the fact that tipping your dive guide or instructor is a "thing". It's an odd and slightly awkward topic to approach, especially coming from the other side of the planet where the custom is not as traditional.
But a lot of people often ask - what is customary to tip in the diving industry? A good rule of thumb to go by is that tipping your dive crew is a lot like tipping a server. The custom is obviously different dependant on your locality. Which is, in fact, the dictionary definition of the word. However, 15 to 20 percent of your bill is fairly standard this side of the world, which most often that equates to around $15 to $20 a day for boat trips, or $5 - $10 per tank. Gratuity is divided differently, dependant on the operator. Some operators split on the boat, some keep their individual tips, some split between the entire crew - land and water. If in doubt, the best thing to do is to ask at your dive shop and they will be happy to fill you in on their way of doing things fairly. Obviously if your guide sucked, you are well within your right to make them sing for it. Maybe do a little dance in their speedos while they're at it. Or just tell them, you suck. Ruin their day, and walk away with a few extra dollars in your pocket to spend on sweets.
Remember though the day your dive instructor helped you nail that frustrating skill you were struggling to master? It took a bit more time and work than cracking open a quick beer bottle, didn't it? Although, there is a lot to be said about cracking open beer bottles whilst juggling 24 other tasks and entertaining drunk people. But that's another story.
It's hardly a well hidden secret that the scuba industry is not an extremely lucrative business to be in. It costs a lot of time and money to become an experienced dive professional, with not a large monetary return.
I know it's cliché, but it's true... We all do it because we love the job, but that's not to say the days aren't long and tiresome. On top of all the fun swimming with the fishies stuff; tanks have to be lugged and filled, boats have to be maintained, gear has to be serviced, dive bags have to be carried, smiles have to be smiled even when you don't feel like smiling, floors have to be mopped, dive centre toilets have to be cleaned (and let me tell you, that can be a full time job in itself), and that's not to mention those lives that have to be saved. It's all in an honest day's work.
It's a flooded and competitive industry and you will notice the costs don't rise with inflation to keep it affordable for customers, while the increasing bills still have to be paid.
As the old quip goes - What's the difference between a large pizza and a scuba instructor? A large pizza can feed a family of four.
Although I've been privy to plenty of parties involving scuba instructors and free pizza, and the ratio of large pizzas consumed by instructors is a lot less than 4:1.
This article isn't intended to be a call out or a woe is us. Just an informative piece on a frequently asked question, for those not in the know and for those too shy to ask. Obviously, like every industry, gratuities are not mandatory and if the practice goes against your religion - there is no judgement here. Though if you deem the service rendered worthy, they are very well received and much appreciated.
It might just be the tip for you, but it could be someone else's whole day..