Being forced to pay a gratuity to serving staff seems unnatural for New Zealand travellers, writes Rod Pascoe.

For as long as the Earth revolves around the sun, I believe, New Zealanders and Australians will never be comfortable with the American cancer of tipping people just for doing their jobs.

In the cruise industry, the practice is entrenched, but for the most part, you at least know in advance what you're in for.

On my recent cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice, stateroom accounts were automatically levied at US$12 ($14) a person a day (that's US$336 a couple for a 14-day cruise) to tip the steward who cleans your cabin and the waiter and drinks stewards assigned to your table in the formal restaurant.

If you prefer to tip them directly, or not at all, it's possible to opt out of this system by telling the guest relations desk not to add the levy to your bill.


But I personally wouldn't hold back on making that particular tip, because you get so close to your assigned stewards during the voyage, and they really do go the extra mile to add to your enjoyment. (Everyone soon hears, from veteran voyagers, stories of how little they're paid. And they're away from their families for up to eight months of the year.)

Mr Pink, in Reservoir Dogs, summed it up well: "I don't tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I'll give them something, a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doing their job."

What really got up my nose on the cruise was the 15 per cent tip that is automatically added to the bill every time you buy a drink or service.

The cruise company cheekily tells you this is done for your convenience. What an abuse of the English language.

It gets worse, though. When you're presented with the bill to sign - with the 15 per cent gratuity already included; there's no way of getting out of paying this one - there's a section for you to write in an additional tip. God loves a trier!

I find it ridiculous that I'm expected to tip someone just for getting a can or bottle out of the fridge and handing it to me.

Or for selling me a pass to the fabulous Persian Garden relaxation zone.

In all but one case, I never even got a smile out of the bar or service staff. They weren't a happy lot. The compulsory 15 per cent tip is even added to the doctor's bill for Botox injections. Now that would surely cause a frown.

Rod Pascoe travelled as a guest of the Celebrity Solstice.
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