Mark Dirks

Keeping it Real

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Captain Dan said, “Yeah Mon’, keeping it real” after a snorkeling excursion at Grand Turk while my family was on vacation.He said this after asking everyone if they had a good time, after promising a great trip, after setting high expectations and after he praised his great crew. The 25 people on his small small boat responded to his question with a resounding “Yes!” and I loved his response, “Yeah mon, keeping it real” in his Jamaican tongue.

During the 7-day cruise, I continually heard a common question from various members of the staff, “Am I exceeding your expectations?” Huh??Think about it.What does this mean?It smells like a tip reference, right?I don’t want you to think that I’m a cheap skate, so before I get too far into this, there’s something you should know.The cruise line charges $10 per person PER DAY for gratuities.Do the math for a family of four.

As I mentioned in my last post, expenses can add up fast, but the question still stumps me.ARE they exceeding my expectations? Hmmm…If so, do I just smile more because I made a good vacation choice…or reach deeper in my pocket?What if they are MEETING my expectations?Isn’t that still good?Should I feel bad if I respond, “No, but you are definitely MEETING all of my expectations.Thank you so much!”?This is my first cruise.I have no idea what to expect.I just want some R&R with my family.So if I get this, should I offer to pay more?Should I even be made to feel like I should pay more?I just don’t know.

Now, if I’m “keeping it real”, to me, tipping is simply a compensation/revenue model chosen by a business owner to control cost & profit by separating customer satisfaction between the product and the service(s).You pay the business owner for the product and let the staff “earn” or “determine” its ultimate compensation.In theory, good staff will earn more on their own by going the extra mile (or in some cases, taking the easier road by reminding customers that tipping is allowed…or even expected).I don’t mind tipping, but it drives me crazy when I’m asked for it, even more so when I’ve already prepaid a good sum specifically earmarked for gratuities.

There’s a much deeper debate here, but I’m just returning from vacation, so let’s hold that for another day (or better yet, maybe we should skip it altogether).I’m just saying, doesn’t every business nowadays depend on customer service?So why doesn’t every business put out the tip jar?I know.I know.“It’s how it’s always been done,” in some industries.Who am I to rock the boat?However, it would be interesting to see the reaction if one of my project teams carried a tip jar to every client meeting.But that’s not how we do business.My “tip” is repeat business or a nice referral.But isn’t this the ultimate goal of most all businesses, especially those that expect tips?

Personally, I believe gratuity should be triggered by an emotional reaction to exceptional service and it should never be expected nor requested.It just happens.

What’s my point?First and foremost, it was a great day with my family in Grand Turk, snorkeling along “the wall” (a 7000 foot cliff that drops straight down into complete blackness).Captain Dan’s crew got into the water, showing the marine life directly to us, including an up close look at a 4 foot nurse shark that passed through our area unexpectedly.Exceptional service was part of a great memory for me.

It was genuinely important to Captain Dan to deliver something special.Sitting near him, I heard him say softly to his crew, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” after everyone proclaimed it a good day.A tip was “No problem, mon”.That’s keeping it real.

grand turk