I, too, have been confused about tipping as I understood from all RS literature and from a previous trip that all tipping was included in the trip price, a feature that makes RS trips very attractive. On the last trip that I was on, some participants started asking others about tipping our leaders. I referred to the RS policy and they seemed surprised and told me that they "always tip". This felt awkward. I decided to ask the group leader if he was aware of RS including tips in the trip cost as he had done an an excellent job and I did not want him to think that I and perhaps others did not recognize this. He said he had never heard anything about tipping already being included in the trip expenses sent to his organization. I suggested that he might want to review that policy with them and they in turn with Road Scholar.
The RS advice that "It's not necessary to tip the group leader or anyone else on the program" is inadequate advice. For any tour and cruise with any company, it is not necessary to tip--it…
I recently had exactly the same experience others have described: a couple of participants who were new to RS handed out envelopes and invited us all to tip our Group Leader. (We had already treated him…
I recently had exactly the same experience others have described: a couple of participants who were new to RS handed out envelopes and invited us all to tip our Group Leader. (We had already treated him to dinner one night!) When I told them that was not what we usually did on RS trips, they said they had looked on the Internet for advice on tipping travel staff.
I really wish RS would bite the bullet and make an unambiguous statement that program staff are not allowed to receive tips from participants. Either they are highly trained professionals and are appropriately compensated, or they are not. Would you tip your college professors? your dentist? your financial advisor?
If these trips become just like the ones offered by other companies, I will be less inclined to choose Road Scholar.
This is absurd. How can one compare the services and compensation of a professor, dentist or financial advisor to that of a tour leader or guide? Completely different stories and absolutely different spectrum of compensation. Tour leaders are on-call with a group 24 hours a day, handling emergencies, logistics, budgets as well as aiding guides in cultural discussions and putting out fires just so we travelers can have the best, stress-free experience possible. These teams (leaders, guides, drivers) work very hard and are with the groups typically from breakfast to beyond dinner, sacrificing personal lives of their own to ensure participants are having the smooth experience that they signed up for. The pettiness I see on this chat board regarding tipping is ludicrous.
While RS does claim to include “customary” gratuities for its program in their costs, remember that RS also contracts with other third-party operators who may not pass that budget item on to their leaders. To try and sabotage tips being passed along to leaders is completely inconsiderate. One would think that participants are intelligible enough to make their own decision on the matter without the need to be influenced by others. Participants should always do what they think is right as well as what makes their heart feel full. These leaders are not on “vacation” themselves and truly believe in the value of the programming being delivered and thus accept low wages from tour companies to continue in this line of work. Any gratuity, in any shape or form, has a huge impact on the esteem of the leader and thus will motivate and encourage continued top-notch service for future programs. This is a hospitality industry and even if the company says tips are included, I know the “staff” always appreciates that little bit extra. Is it an obligation? Of course not. However if you truly enjoyed your experience that you’ve already shelled out a thousand plus dollars for, is an extra cherry on top going to ruin your own economic status? Probably not, but it could go a long way in ensuring the quality and consistency of future programs and may make a significant economic impact for the person receiving that little bit extra. Some of these leaders make less than baby-sitters and seeing all of this banter about anti-tipping is really disappointing. If you, as an individual don’t want to tip, that’s your prerogative. You don’t have to tip in restaurants either, but people tend to do so even for bad service. So if you have an exceptional experience and are not inclined to leave a tip, that’s on your own conscience. But let’s not use this message board to influence others to follow your lead. If anything, we should want to encourage and support our leaders and guides in any way possible…that is if you truly believe in the mission of these programs.
I for one will continue to defend and support guides, leaders and drivers, especially in this post-pandemic period when many of these people have been out of for work for a few years. We as “Road Scholars” should be setting a positive example. If you’re only fixated on your wallet when signing up for these programs, then you’ve missed the point of the program from the beginning. While not required, I encourage people to do what they feel is right, on an individual basis without pressuring others in the group to follow any lead. That way you’re still abiding by the RS policy and not torpedoing the possibility for someone who deserves a gratuity to receive one.
I think the real problem here is the expectations vs. reality. The guide’s tip included by Road Scholar is $5/per person per night of the trip, which means for a 7 day, 6 night trip the total included tip is $30 per person. But consider this, as a guide I typically work 12 hours a day, sometimes up to 15 hours and that doesn’t include the extra time I spend in my room looking things up and doing research on questions that come up during the day. But say for simplicity’s sake that I average 10 hours of work a day, we’re talking about a tip of 50 cents for an hour of effort. That’s fairly stingy by any metric, especially considering that most people are willing to drop a dollar or two just for a coffee or a beer. But let me add another layer: Most trips have either a second guide or a driver and so that money is divided in half and occasionally into thirds.
When I calculate my hourly wage, and this includes the money allocated by RS, I make between $15-18/per hour. Because I do work a lot of hours the paychecks are okay but it’s barely a living wage for the areas in which I work. The additional tips that some passengers send our way often make a huge difference. But either way we are not making the same type of money a dentist or accountant or other “professional” is making. Plus the nature of the work is different. The expertise we have in our fields is important but it is not the fundamental competency of the work. Make no mistake this is a service industry.
Now I understand the frustration people feel at being told one thing in the RS literature only to be met with a changed expectation on arrival. And that is an issue with RS and how they market their product. I would actually prefer a Rick Steves model where tips are completely off the table. But Rick Steves guides get paid more and their trips cost more. That’s the reality.
One final addendum. Whether or not you choose to tip an additional amount, a short note of thanks with a specific example of what you enjoyed is appreciated more than you know. Guides, like all people, have different motivations, but most of us pour our hearts into this. Many trips run smoothly but others involve difficult logistics, difficult expectations and difficult personalities, often dealt with behind the scenes. A personalized note or a firm handshake can go a long way in making that effort worthwhile.