HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 570:29 June 2011

To tip or not to tip?

Has the time come to allow tourists to tip locals for service rendered?
The Cook Islands has always had a policy of not encouraging tipping although, unlike Tahiti, this is not reinforced by legislation. Tourists who offer to tip for service they consider excellent, are advised that tipping is not encouraged in the Cook Islands.
So why change?
One local who works in the tourism industry says that wages have not kept pace with increases in prices so tips would be a welcome boost to incomes.
He says the advice printed in the tourist brochures discouraging tipping, should be removed and the tourist be allowed to decide. Alternatively, the brochures could be reworded to say, “While tipping is not encouraged or expected in the Cook Islands, visitors may exercise their right to reward locals for service considered excellent.”
The local man says he has been offered tips on many occasions and has declined them in support of the policy. However, because his wages have not kept pace with increases in the cost of living, he is having second thoughts and he is not alone.
The advent of “5 Star” hotels may change the approach to tipping. This is because such hotels would attract a higher class of visitor who spends more and who comes from countries (USA, Europe) where tipping is the norm. These visitors will tip and local staff working in such hotels will be trained to a higher level. This will create an uneven playing field in the industry.
If and when completed, the hotel at Vaimaanga will be in the five star bracket.
In other countries, tipping varies according to type of workplace and service industry.
NZ restaurant legend Bob Sell is against allowing tipping but says that in other countries where tipping is practiced, in bars and restaurants tips may be put into a pool then at the end of the night, shared out with the most senior staff such as the Chief Cook and Head Waiter receiving the bigger portion. Alternatively, diners may have 15% added to their bill for tips. For some occupations, such as doorman, driver or room attendant, tips may be given directly to the employee.
Tips given directly to staff should only be done in recognition of excellent service and there should be no tipping for instance in retail shops or market places.

The topic of tipping was the subject of a talkback on radio Cook Islands on Tuesday morning. Of 11 callers, seven said tipping should be encouraged. Reasons being staff may have given good service, worked hard, were friendly and made the whole experience of dining out enjoyable.
Those against felt it would make other staff members envious, make us reliant on tipping as a form of income, jealousy among staff who were not tipped, rudeness could develop, good tippers may be pestered and tipping was not part of the culture it was a foreign practice.
Another reason for not tipping was there would not be any differentiation from the rest of the world when we are trying to attract tourists through our unique friendliness.
Also some tourists have said they enjoy their visit because there is no tipping.
One caller against said when we go out for a meal we pay for the food not the service, because that is the staff’s job.
A staff member who called from the Tourism Corporation said it should be left up to the tourist. This view was also expressed by the Minister for Tourism Teina Bishop as his personal view not an official government view.
While tipping may be acceptable to some tourists, locals attending the same restaurants may find the practice objectionable given their wages are also lagging behind the cost of living.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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