Tipping a guide...

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

  1. Starman77

    Starman77 Active Member

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    Well written and thoughtful post... When I first started using fly fishing guides some 20 years ago, I had no idea they expected or received tips, and thought much along the lines that Salmo posted above. Over time I discovered that some people do tip the guides, and some guides expect to be tipped. It seems that in recent times there has been more tipping of guides and more expectation that a tip is due. I agree that it is confusing to the consumer as to what the expectations are, and I guess I should clarify ahead of time with the guide what those tipping expectations are before going on a trip, so no one is surprised and everyone feels good about the deal. I also agree that a tip should not be based on how many fish are caught, or if that is what a tip is based on, then the client should let the guide know ahead of time what is expected so the guide can act accordingly. When I've used a guide and been skunked, I usually still feel it was worth the money because I learned a lot about the river/lake, learned how to better read the water, learned where the fish might hold at different water levels, learned different techniques, and so on. With fly fishing for steelhead, if my expectations were only for catching lots of fish, I'd sure be sorely disappointed on a lot of guided trips! With fly fishing for pink salmon or chums, you'll likely catch a lot of fish, but does that mean you should tip more than for a steelheading trip? Not to me... If it was up to me, we'd eliminate tipping and just have the guides charge what they think their service is worth, and then we can decide whether to use the guide or not. That way it is clear and upfront, like the "No Dicker Sticker" for auto purchases.

    Rex
     
  2. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Jergens,

    First, are you saying that a not-so-good fishing guide's service isn't much different than a plumber and electrician's?

    I sure hope to heck a fishing guide provides a much different service than the plumber or electrician. But just how is that difference relevant to the topic? The fishing guide is in the recreation/hospitality business, whereas the plumber and electrician are in the home construction/maintenance business. So is tipping more associated with recreation/hospitality? I think I can find some traction there since it's common to tip hotel staff along with the restaurant wait staff. But otherwise your comparison isn't cutting it for me. As an aside, the plumber did show me how to fix the pipe I'd accidentally driven a nail into, and it was a neat little trick. However, you're bringing into the equation the aspect of the guide as a teacher, when most plumbing and electrical services are just done for you, and they aren't expected to teach homeowners how to do it themselves.

    OK, so the guide is an instructor and provides parts from his tool box. Those are good examples, but seriously, what exactly does that have to do with tipping? The reasons I hire the guide in the first place are twofold: first is access; they provide a boat when I don't have one of my own, and that makes the difference in getting to where the fish are. The second is education. If I already knew everything about fishing an area new to me, I'd have only the first reason to hire a guide. So education about this specific fishery is one of my main expectations. I'd presume that's built into the fee, wouldn't you? And if not, why not? If the guide provides flies from his box that he tied on his time, why isn't that built into his fee?

    Partly because of PMs and partly because of posts like yours and partly for the entertainment of this topic, I'm driving it pretty hard. Maybe it's because I'm a jerk, but I'd prefer to to think it's because I'd like people to think harder and develop clearer understanding for their opinions, rather than saying they deserve tips because they work hard or because they have overhead expenses (so do the bad guides) or because a poster is an asshole if he tips based on how many fish he caught with that guide. As I've already indicated, I understand and accept that tipping guides is fairly customary, and in no way am I arguing that it isn't or that they shouldn't be tipped. However, I'm trying to be clear that of all the reasons given for tipping guides, the only ones that stand up to my critical analysis is that the tips are an expression of a client's appreciation and gratitude for a good trip. I can be persuaded that there are other reasons, but you'll need to make an effective case.

    One of the weak arguments is that some guides are not independent businessmen, and they work for outfitting services who set the prices. Just because that is true has no bearing on whether they deserve tips. All those guides will have personal business overhead in the form of boats, transportation, fishing gear and so forth, but some will be congenial guides who make their clients feel like they've had the fishing experience of a lifetime, and it's my guess that they take home more tip income than the guide who is late, has a boat or vehicle that's not entirely reliable, or who spends the day engaged in negative conversation about most anything. Both guides have the same expenses and need the additional income, but only one of them is going to get it. So deserving tips has nothing to do with it, but the quality of their service would seem to have everything to do with it. Just a few more thoughts on the matter.

    Sincerely,

    Salmo g.
     
  3. 100daysayear

    100daysayear One more victim of the never ending journey.

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    How'd this thread become about plumbers?

    When trying to justify tipping someone you just paid $350, it might help to ask yourself whether the fishing/teaching/lunch was to your standards. It might help more to ask whether this guide would turn down someone who they know doesn't tip. My guess is they would book the trip and guarantee themselves $350. I don't mean any of this to suggest you shouldn't tip, only that it's far from mandatory.


    Ryan
     
  4. sashjo

    sashjo Member

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    The last time that I treated my Dad to a float, I tipped the guide upfront. I told the guide to take care of my Dad and not worry about me as I gave him $100. At the end of the day, my Dad said he could not have imagined a better day of fishing.
     
  5. Kaari White

    Kaari White Active Member

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    Well, in my mind, you've shown plenty of reason to tip. 1) It's customary. 2) They're an expression of the clients appreciation. Why do you need other reasons?

    My objection was your comment in an early post about it being from clients who can AFFORD to tip. If you can't afford to tip appropriately (I'm not fool enough to get in to what that means..), you shouldn't have booked the trip in the first place.

    You brought up that guides make significantly more than waiters... Well, that might be true for SOME guides, but remember this is not a Monday through Friday job. Often there are weeks or even months that they might go without work. At the end of the day, most are probably not making much more than your average waiter. Yeah, it's a dream job for lots of people, but from what I've seen (I live with one), you won't get rich doing it.
     
  6. Chris Burley

    Chris Burley Guest

    "I don't tip because society says I
    gotta. I tip when somebody
    deserves a tip. When somebody
    really puts forth an effort, they
    deserve a little something extra.
    But this tipping automatically,
    that s%*t's for the birds. As far
    as I'm concerned, they're just
    doin their job." - Mr. Pink, Reservoir Dogs

    I couldn't resist...

    In a perfect world the guide should tip ME. He is getting paid to put folks into fish, wade and paddle around in beautiful rivers. How many of you go to work in waders? :)
     
  7. Derek Holmes

    Derek Holmes SageNGauge

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    My brother guides on the Kanetok in AK and he gets tipped around 25%. They company he is affilated with brings in high clientele who tip generously. It works well that way.
     
  8. Steelie Mike

    Steelie Mike Active Member

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    Damn good quote!
     
  9. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    How good do you cast???:cool:
     
  10. Jeremy Floyd

    Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

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    Guiding with multiple clients is like bird dogging.

    I am responsible for watching out for safety, success, and for paying attnetion to all of the little things and conditions that clients may not be aware of or may not have seen. If you arent tired at the end of the day it is because you werent doing your job well enough.
     
  11. Jonathan Gardner

    Jonathan Gardner Jon Gardner

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    I have enjoyed the conversation so far and appreciate all the input, esp. CWUGirl and Salmo_g. Very well presented thoughts. If I may get back to the original post, however... how much is actually coming out of your/their pocket? $20? $50? $100?

    When I went on my first (and only) guided trip, I was treated to a great day by a young man who knew what he was doing. We didn't catch a lot, but my wife and I learned a lot and really appreciated his effort. When I asked him about what a customary tip might be, he refused to say anything beyond something like "You don't have to give me a tip, but usually people pay based on how well they were treated". Not an exact quote, but you get the idea. Remember, this was my first experience. His answer was correct and it was diplomatic but it was not HELPFUL. I ended up paying him $40 and have wondered ever since how a person is supposed to know what "customary" is. That is what got me on to this train of thought. Even better than that would be knowing how much people REALLY pay in the real world, not in theory. :confused:
     
  12. Stonefish

    Stonefish Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater

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    I always tip the guide, but never based on numbers of fish caught. If a guide goes above and beyond what I would consider his or her normal effort, I'll tip even more.
    One of my best trips ever resulted in very few fish being caught, but the guide made the experience a great fishing memory.
    Brian
     
  13. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Derek,

    25% of what? Of what the client pays the lodge? That’s a very different figure than what the guide is paid. I’m trying to figure this one out as I’ve got a trip this month at a lodge, something I’ve never done before. The lodge has a cook and housekeeping service, so that’s like tipping typical hotel and wait staff. Then there is the fishing guide, one per two anglers. Gets pretty complicated since tipping staff is customary. However, a good part of the fee covers amortization of the lodge and profit for the owners. Is it customary to tip such things as mortgage and profit in addition to the labor of staff people? That flat out doesn’t make sense to me.

    Jonathan,

    I don't know how much other people tip their guides, so I developed my own rule of thumb, so to speak. As I explained above, I'm confused and befuddled about this notion of tipping fishing guides, but I accept that it is customary. I haven't hired many guided fishing trips, since I learned to fish on my own decades ago when I couldn't possibly afford a guide, and besides, there were no fly fishing guides in the PNW then anyway.

    I usually tip 10-15%, with 20% for a couple outstanding trips. What that pencils out to in cash varies because the cost of trips has varied from a discounted to $250/day up to $425/day for two or three anglers in the latter case. I don't know how much my fishing partners tipped, so I can only report for myself. Is it the right amount? It is for me because I feel comfortable doing it, and none of the guides has looked back at me like they were being short-changed, and each has indicated they would like me to keep them in mind if I need guide service in their area again.

    My point to you is that you should tip your guide if you feel like it, and you should choose an amount that you're comfortable with, and forget what anyone else thinks about it. It's about the business relationship between you and your guide. Everyone who lists a bunch of "oughts and ought nots" is making up stories because no one offers up any published account of social or etiquette rules on tipping fishing guides. All we have to go on is that it appears to be customary, at least in recent years, and that the % varies quite a bit. With that much info to go on, you're in good company whether you tip $40 or $80. Another way to look at it is this: if a guide turns down your request for a future booking, ask him if he'll be up front with you and tell you why. If he chooses not to tell you after you provide the perfect opportunity, then he owns the problem, not you.

    CWUGirl,

    I don’t need other reasons. The reasons I gave are the only valid ones in my opinion. I’m disputing those reasons that appear related to guides somehow “deserving” tips because their pay is too low (why not raise their rates if they’re independent?) or because they have business overhead expenses. Those reasons do not withstand a critical analysis. It’s a fact of life that some jobs pay less than others. No one twists a person’s arm and makes them become a fishing guide. They take that job because it’s what they want to do or because it’s the best occupational fit they can come up with. They know what they’re getting in to regarding compensation.

    Just because someone cannot afford a tip in no way means they shouldn’t book a guided fishing trip unless the guide forewarns the prospective client that he expects a tip. That’s sort of like an unwritten demand. I have no use for such indirect bullpucky; be direct or be quiet about it is how I play the game of life. I refuse to bear other people’s problems for them. If the guide books a trip and his client doesn’t tip him, the lack of a tip is the guide’s problem, not the client’s. If it’s that big of a deal, then the guide doesn’t have to book that client in the future.

    You mention that guiding isn’t a 5-day/week job and that guides go for periods of time without work. That’s true. That is called a part-time job. In no way is that my or other clients’ problem, and we do not owe guides a tip to tide them over during periods when they’re not working for criminy sake. Add that to one of the dumbest reasons for tipping.

    So we’re back to the only valid reasons I listed earlier: tipping’s customary, and it’s an expression of the client’s appreciation and gratitude for a good experience. Therefore whatever % or amount a client chooses to tip is the right amount.

    I’ve engaged in this discussion for my own curiosity and to learn what reasons might substantiate tipping fishing guides. In my estimation the additional reasons you added don’t make the cut, but since tipping is voluntary, you’re welcome to tip for those reasons.

    At least Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs makes the sort of sense that most anyone can understand.

    Sincerely,

    Salmo g.
     
  14. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    G-
    at big lodges you are talking about going to they typically share out whatever tip you give between guides, housestaff, etc... From what i know about the big lodges (having never been to one as a guest or guide) it is typical to tip based on the cost of the trip. i have a buddy who just got back from belize and he and his friend tipped 50 dollars per person per day, obviously what ever you do is up to you.

    As far as the tipping per fish it is frustrating as a guide to hear that because you cant control how many fish people catch, but like you said, its one's own decision.
     
  15. cj6530

    cj6530 Member

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    Tipping is customary for variable service....not because of how little or a lot the service provider makes. You don't tip waitstaff because they are paid min wage, instead you tip because the quality of your experience is dependant upon there effort. Same with guilding, the tipping process encourages a guild to work harder in order to earn higher comp. Without tipping, waiters and fishing guilds are only insentivised to work hard enough to ensure repeat bus (which in many cases would be simply "a good time". Plumbers, and other trades don't get tipped because there is next to no variable service that they can offer. Also, tipping based on the amount of fish caught is a bad idea because that simply insentives the guild to try to boat as many fish as possible without any thought to the overall experience. This is the case on many salmon fishing services where they bait the hook, let the line out and grab the rod from you when the fish is near the boat in order to ensure "high counts" for the end of the day.