Tipping a guide...

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Jonathan Gardner, Jul 30, 2007.

  1. As a point of interest, I'd like to point a few things out. In Idaho, all guides must work for an outfitter. That outfitter owns a permit for fishing or rafting a certain section of river. Those permits have limited number of user days, restrictions regarding type of watercraft (power or float), and some even prohibit the use of watercraft. The permits are limited in number (new ones are rarely issued) and can cost upwards of $100k. Like any other business, outfitters have overhead such as advertising, lodge/office/shop costs, boat and gear replacement, shuttles, lunches, etc.

    Now, as a guide working for an outfitter, I guide both whitewater and fishing trips.

    First, I’ll address rafting trips. I’m up early fixing lunch and preparing the gear for the trip. During the day, I’ll negotiate class IV rapids, trying to keep the boat in the fun shit and out of the scary dangerous shit. In between rapids, I do everything from answer questions like “how fast are we going?” to giving short history lessons about the area. I know each rapid, at each different water level, and I have to adjust for skill levels ranging from “there’s no reason in hell that I should be out here” to “ I guide on the Class V Zambezi croc infested canyon and am here on vacation.” Through it all, I do everything in my power to keep my guests safe and entertained. At the end of the day, when you are sipping cold beers and watching the video, I am doing the lunch dishes and washing skunky wetsuits. Throughout the day, I’ve cooked your lunch and kept you safe in situations where you were oblivious to the danger. On a multi day trip, I do gourmet Dutch oven cooking, set up and break down camp, and entertain guests from sunup to well past sundown. During the day, we’ll fish our asses off, run some kickass (sometimes kick-your-ass) whitewater, and have a blast. At the end of the trip, as a client, you have to ask yourself, is 20% too much?

    As for fishing trips, I bring my own gear for you to use. It’s high quality and well cared for. I purchased it with mostly with tip money. I pay for the shuttle and for the fuel to get you to my favorite water. I pay for or tie my own flies, which I freely hand out for your use. I’ll be happy to teach you a skill or two, as long as you want to learn. I’m also the world’s best cheerleader and am excited to be there watching you catch fish. I bust my ass to make sure you have FUN.

    The bottom line is simple. We guides work in the service industry. Our job is to provide you with a pleasurable fishing/rafting experience. If you don’t get that experience because your guide is lazy, don’t tip. If your guide busts their ass, tip and tip well.
  2. yeah, I've rafted that croc-infested Class V Zambezi Canyon (my very 1st whitewater trip, 20 years ago) and, later, most of those Idaho Rivers as well :thumb:
  3. Caddis Skater,

    I don't understand how you formed your conclusion from my post that you quoted, which was a response to another post, but I'll accept that you did nonetheless. As far as I know however, you're the first person who's ever called me a cheap ass. Fortunately those who actually know me haven't, and I'll take some comfort in that.

    First, I don't stiff waitresses. I've known for as long as I can remember that tipping is normal in the restaraunt industry. I read that TIP was coined to mean "to insure promptness." Whether it does or doesn't, I tip because I know it to be the custom. Also I understand that not tipping when one receives poor service may not convey the proper message to the waitperson. They may think the customer forgot to leave a tip. I read that the best thing to do if one receives especially bad service, leaving a nickel clearly sends the message that you didn't forgot, but thought the service was particularly substandard. I've only done that once, but felt like doing it one other time.

    I don't take many guided fishing trips, but I have taken a few. I don't tip based on the number of fish caught and didn't say so if you read my post with any care. I simply maintain that since a tip is a gratuity, it is within the customer's wherewithal to base the tip on whatever he wants. That can be the number of fish caught if the customer so desires. Customers can tip based on whether they think the guide is good looking, has a clean boat, or whatever criteria they decide. It's his gratuity, so it's up to him and him alone, not you, nor me.

    I honestly didn't know fishing guides were routinely given tips by customers until I read about it on an internet fishing bulletin board. Fortunately I had never taken a guided fishing trip prior to reading that, or my behavior might have gotten me labled as a cheap ass before you did it. Because I believe that clear communication between people is preferable to guesswork, I've talked to some of the guides I've fished with about tips. None of them has said they think I'm a cheap ass or that any tip they get is too low. To a man, and one woman guide, they just say that they appreciate the tips they receive, and that they do sort of expect them because tipping is more common than not.

    You're free to think guides deserve a tip for a hard day's work, and I'm equally free to wonder what makes fishing guides so different from other service businesses. A plumbing contractor is installing the rough in plumbing this week in the house I'm building. He's an independent contractor and isn't expecting me to tip him for his work, and he works his ass off too. And what about the roofers who nailed the shingles? They aren't expecting tips either. Yet they work damn hard. And the four carpenters who framed my house work like gorillas toting heavy beams and posts and install them perfectly level and plumb. They work hard, are paid by the hour, and aren't expecting tips, although I'm thinking of giving them Christmas gifts, as a gratuity if you will, because I really appreciate the work they've done. However, personally I don't see what makes you or any fishing guide any more deserving of tips than these service trades I mentioned above.

    And if you're concerned about ending up with me as your cheap assed client, send me a PM, and I'll do you the favor of never hiring you. I guess I'd prefer to hire a guide who sees tips as a gratuity instead of an entitlement.


    Salmo g.
  4. I'm pretty sure this is where most of my tips come from. :rofl:


    I completely understand your reasoning for stating that you tip a guide when it is earned. i respect that, and think more people should follow that ideal rather than tipping based on the fishing.

    As far as your continuous comparison of a fishing guide to a carpenter, plumber or other "service industry" i think it is ridiculous. as i stated last time you brought about this argument, (see about half way down the first page), is your roofer teaching you how to roof so that your roofing skills will improve? is your plumber putting in a couple extra hours today because he thinks he didn't get enough done ( a good guide would if you haven't caught enough fish)? How much time did they put in off the clock to make your house better? Do you even know any of those guys first names? Do you think they know yours? I guess the difference between a plumber and a fishing guide is the personal connection, (and a plumber can probably afford to support a family) and it is definitely up to you whether this justifies a gratuity or not.

    as a close guide friend of mine says about tips "it's never expected and greatly appreciated."
  5. I agree completely Joe.. A tip is like an extra gift under the tree that you never expected.
  6. Believe it or not, Jergens, there were times when I was a tradesman that I did get tips or little freebies or a little extra money on a job. I was a framer, decker, mud stud, roofer, did lots of things for 20+ years.
    Usually this came from a homeowner who suddenly realized I was really putting out some good work at a great price, teaching them about the process, saving them money, and giving them hints and tips to preserve the work being done and preventing future problems. In other words, for truly outstanding service from the heart. Spontaneously given on their part.
    I was always surprised. I was always surprised. I was always surprised. Get it?
    If a guide gives you that kind of service, then tip away. But I say set the bar high. Making it a customary ritual or having to discuss the appropriateness of spontaneous giving in a 5- page thread....yeah, there's an air of entitlement about it. (yawn)

    I have to back the _G man here.
    I tip guides, but always somehow feel like it's because I'm supposed to. And that cheapens it.
    Maybe if they would accept a nice Hallmark card instead...
  7. Joe and Keven have it right. We could actually put our college degrees to use and get a job that is constant and make more money, but then we are off the river and loose our guiding "edge". I guide in hopes of giving my clients the same enjoyment that I get when fishing by myself and teaching techniques that will help them when they fish on there own.

    If you did not enjoy the trip or learn anything you should not tip. A fly fishing trip is the whole package from gear, food, and knowledge to spending a day on the river with good company. If your guide is a jerk, then they probably should not be guiding and they don't deserve a tip.

    I think the tip comes down to how well your experience on the river with your guide went. If they fulfilled your expectations and more, they probably deserve a tip.
  8. Yet the few very heartfelt "tips" or gracious gifts really stick in my mind because they were sincere. I was genuinely surprised by them because I had no expectation of a gift or tip when I was a professional carpenter.
    This is where "never expected, always appreciated" starts to get a little hollow sounding. No offense Joe I'm poking at the attitude, not at you personally.

    Five pages so far of "never expected....but expected. Kind of" and still running. (sigh)

    Very few people in construction (the ones who actually break a sweat while they work, not the bossmen) make a good wage, let alone a secure living. So Keven,you are talking out your ass, my friend, while the _G man is hitting the point hard. You should listen to him.
    And I say that in the most relaxed and collegial way.
    carpentry, plumbing and other trades compensate according to knowledge...up front, based on level of training/skills/performance/experience. Guides ought to emulate that. There's pride in that. PRIDE.

    Who's the real "service industry" when waitresses, doormen and guides get tips? Certainly not tradesmen.

    I do a job that saves lives and requires a degree and specialized skills to perform. Think I even consider accepting tips?

    grow up, boys. stop hanging off the gratuity titty, charge what you're worth without excuses, and be real pros. What will surprise you is, the sports will stop acting like you're their servant and they'll respect you more.
  9. Oh man I made a huge scene at boggans in October refusing a tip.. Not sure I would suggest that as it was more trouble than it was worth.

    I had a client tip me, and then after I had pocketed the money he asked me what I made per day in tips on average. I told him I would only tell him since he had already tipped me and the business transactions for the trip were over. It was pretty close to what he tipped but he reached for his wallet again. I objected and told him my honesty was not an attempt to chisel more money out of him and that I was going to leave any extra money on the table for the girls at Boggans, which I did with the extra 40 he set down there for me.

    That caused quite a scene..
  10. Well, I call B***SH** on this statement. I have never met a guide that work hard, goes the
    extra mile day after day, that when the day is done, and the client shakes his hand
    and walks away not leaving some kind of tip is not upset. :thumb: anyone more of you guides want to lie
    about there feelings on this subject some more.
  11. I tip before the trip and let the guide know we will be fishing until dark.
    I have never had a bad guided trip this way either. :ray1:
  12. Hi,

    I've guided for 8 years now and usually get a good $50 to $100 tip per trip, with the rare occasion that a $100+ tip is recieved, but I have also not received a tip (a handful of times out of hundreds of trips). I try to work hard for my cleints, but if I don't get a tip then I try to think back over the course of the day and identify areas where I can improve, then I hope to do a better job for the cleint the next time. I have given my best effort on guide trips when I did not recieve a tip, but was grateful for the booking. I do not work harder for big tippers vs those I know don't tip very well. I put forth an equal effort. I've had experiences when I know the customer only goes on a guide trip or two per year and really saves up. When that individual chips in an extra $20 or so, that makes a huge impression, as that seems like a sacrifice for them and they likely had a really good time. That's a pat on the back for the guide. I appreciate those moments, as I really enjoy the days I spend with cleints that are soaking up every minute, watching every knot I tie, taking mental notes on reading the water and becoming a better caster and angler as I instruct. I think of the day as a full experience with everything ranging from fish to the boat, fish to the fly, wildlife veiwing, good food and camaraderie. If your guide works hard for you and is really trying, than I do beleive a tip is appropriate, but it's not a given for a guide; it's an extra benefit. The amount doesn't have to be set, but will likely depend on the enjoyment of the experience for the cleint and his/her financial situation.

    Hope that makes since, and is helpful, thanks, David
  13. Jergens,

    I suspect that we both know life is unfair. My understanding is that good looking waitresses get more in tips than plain looking ones. So maybe you're right about why you get yours (jkg). You're not the first who's thought an analogy of fishing guides to tradesmen is rediculous. Nonetheless, the comparison still seems valid to me. The roofers aren't teaching me about roofing because that isn't part of the deal, but that's not why I didn't tip them. BTW, the waitress doesn't teach me how to wait tables, so be careful that your comparisons don't become too awkward. The various contractors I'm hiring are only putting in hours off the clock if they made an error in their bid proposals, and I paid them extra for tasks that weren't in their contract. And yes I do know their names. I'm my own general contractor for my house construction project.

    I'm not sure if the fact that my plumber is making a family wage and the guide is not meets the threshold qualification for tips as a custom or entitlement. People working at McDonalds don't make a family wage either. What I've learned in threads like this is that some guides are their own boss and that some obtain their guide work through lodges, outfitters, or fishing shops. There is a similarity among guides who work for others and don't get to set their own guide fees and wait staff who work for a restaraunt and don't get to set their own wage. But the guide who is an independent businessman can and does set his own fee. The rules of the marketplace say that he sets it at the level he believes his service is worth or whatever the market will bear. Of course, competition from other guides will also influence the fee he decides to charge. I guess I figured the independent guide is in a position similar to my plumber, and both set their fees according the the market concepts I just referenced.

    But not everyone is going to see it the same way, and that's just fine. By virtue of internet fishing bulletin boards I've learned that tips are customary and often expected in the guiding business, so I accept it at that. So I find myself tipping guides for two reasons. The first is that it is an accepted custom. The second is that some guides I've fished with have truly impressed me with their efforts, and I know that I personally can't afford to work for that little.

    BTW, I've done a little guiding in the past. It was fun. Met interesting people. Worked from 7 AM to 11 PM. I only did it because I had other income than guiding during that time. I truly couldn't afford to guide as a full time job. But that was me.


    I think you've captured the essence here. You, Joe, and Keven are foregoing higher incomes in order to guide because that is what you'd rather do. That is perfectly fine. It's great when people can do what they want to do. However, the fact that you voluntarily took a lower income job doesn't entitle you to tips. No matter how hard you work at guiding, no matter how many extra hours you put in, flies you tied for your clients, etc., none of that entitles you to tips. You took the job voluntarily, and you know what it pays. Tips are what you get from earning your client's gratitude such that he extends you the "gratuity" of a tip.

    I think Spaz is on the mark for pointing out that many of the guides express their opinions on the topic as though tips are an entitlement. I think the gratuity:entitlement concept is the difference with the distinction that spawns much of this debate.

    Caddis Skater,

    Looks like you're the poster child for the entitlement aspect of the tips for fishing guides discussion.


    Salmo g.
  14. Salmo,

    agree to disagree, im down with that. I do agree that tips are something extra, (and greatly appreciated by most guides), but i don't think i'll ever get the handyman/guide comparison, and thats cool too. I'm definitely happy being joe the fishing guide and not joe the plumber :thumb:
  15. Salmo,

    That is what I was saying. I am not "entitled" to tips, just as anyone else in a service industry.

    Now in the service industry in general, if the service was not so great do you tip? Or, if the service was wonderful, do you tip? This is up to the person receiving the service.
  16. I don’t have a problem tipping a good guide because it is customary and it is a nice thing to do, but the idea just doesn’t make sense to me to be honest, even after the explanations on here. What confuses me is that most of the people on this thread have stated that the reason you tip is because the guide is working hard, trying to keep you safe, teaching you things, sharing their expertise, making lunch, etc.... but isn't that what the initial $400 (or whatever) covers? I should hope a guide who I am paying good money does that for me. I pay for a guided trip, so that someone who knows more than me will guide me, hopefully keep me safe, work hard to give me a good experience, etc. Nobody pays me extra just because I do what is expected at my job.
    As a general rule, I think we should learn to be appreciative to others for who they are and what they do, and this often is expressed in every-day life by giving gifts, notes, pats on the back, words of appreciation etc; so if you look at it from that perspective I have much less trouble understanding tipping a guide that you have enjoyed or appreciate (since a hand shake doesn't go very far economically :eek:). I have a friend who guides and he has had clients tip him by giving him equipment from big to small. One client had been using a fly-rod that he had personally built and after my buddy casted it a few times at one point during the day he made an off-hand comment about how nicely it casted so after the trip the client handed it to him and said thanks. So as a show of appreciation I have no problem with tipping guides.
    I guess I just don’t understand people saying they should get a tip because they basically fulfilled their expected contract or because they were good at doing their job (kept the client safe, made lunch, worked hard). I thought that is what it meant to "guide" someone. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
  17. :thumb:wise man! maybe I'll try that ... naaaah, I can't afford even stated fees of $350/day or more, haven't had a guide in years, but I'm saving up

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