The Chef is Spitting in Your Soup
Etiquette on liveaboards and at diving resorts
By Ridlon Kiphart
I’ve seen both sides of dive travel all over the world – both as a guest and for 20 years on the service/professional side working as a dive instructor, running dive operations and finally owning my own dive expedition company. And during that time I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of extremely cool people but I’ve also met some not so cool people. I am currently working with a 5 star luxury cruise line and recently saw something I’ve never seen before:
Guests were confined to their quarters and then removed from the ship because of inappropriate behavior towards crew members. Wow.
And while this is on the extreme side, there’s a great lesson here. And no, I’m not talking about learning how to not get thrown out of a resort or off a ship – I hope we’ve all got that figured out. I’m talking about being a good guest and reaping all the rewards and benefits of being one.
How Do You Act at a Friend’s House?
All of us need to remember that a guest has responsibilities and as a guest there are certain things that are and are not appropriate for us to say and do. We don’t just go over to a friend’s or neighbor’s place and act like an idiot. Being a guest doesn’t give us carte blanche to act any way we want. In the least, we should be cordial and appreciative of our host’s efforts – and we always offer them our thanks. So why is it so different on the service side of the travel industry? Maybe it’s because we’ve paid for a vacation so we feel we’re owed or even entitled? And judging by the recent event I witnessed, I have to ask; has this gone too far? Are we all in need of a little Emily Post reminder?
Fist Pounding 101
A while back, fist pounding became popular. That’s when we literally or figuratively pound our fist on the front desk of a hotel/resort/dive shop and get pissed off and raise our voice so we can get what we want. Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people brag about what they have been able to achieve using this technique and I see people still do it all the time – now more so than ever. It has become “the” thing to do and I believe part of the fault lies with the service industry for giving in to the squeaky wheel and thus encouraging this type of behavior. But things are changing and changing fast. Fist pounding has become so prevalent that anyone doing it now is more often than not getting tuned out.
There’s never an excuse for crappy service. And maybe it’s because crappy service is the norm across many industries today that people are frustrated and fed up. Anybody who has ever had to deal with a cell phone or computer company over a service issue has felt this acutely. But there is something different about being on a vacation – an expectation. And often that expectation is that everything is going to be absolutely perfect. After all, someone may have saved for years, waited to dive somewhere for years and wants it to be perfect – we all do. The problem is that this has gone way overboard; way, way overboard. One thing we should all understand about travel is that it rarely looks exactly a certain way. That’s the serendipitous nature of travel: flights are delayed, bags are lost, dive sites are too rough to dive, the one fish we wanted to see isn’t seen, the hammerheads aren’t here this week, the visibility is lower than usual, the water is colder than usual, one of the dive boats breaks down and our strobe stops working right as we are about to take that award winning shot. Some of these things are people’s fault and some of them are not. But being pissed off and certainly acting like an ass isn’t going to help us. In fact it’s hurting us and we don’t even know it. Want to know why?
Try not to throw a temper tantrum! Photo by mulmatsherm.
Because the Chef is Spitting in Your Soup
Service staff at resorts, hotels, dive operators & liveaboards are fed up. They are tired of being yelled at for the last decade because someone’s vacation was ruined when their steak was over cooked one night (true story – in fact it’s happened twice!) They are tired of being beaten up when they are only the messengers. They are tired of explaining that they don’t control the weather. And most of all, they are tired of how little thanks they get because so many people on vacation today feel entitled. And today, because it happens so often, service staff can usually see the troublemakers coming a mile away. And guess what? They don’t go the extra mile for those people.
Don't let a burnt steak ruin your dive trip! Photo by elbragon
Divemasters, instructors, boat captains, dive shop managers, bartenders, waiters, front desk personnel and hotel managers generally have a fair amount of latitude in their roles. What I’ve witnessed time and again are service personnel doing the minimum required for demanding and unappreciative guests, on occasion sabotaging nasty guests and often doing amazing things for nice guests. So the big question is, how do you want to be treated?
Through the years, I’ve bent over backwards to help good people and I’ve seen people do it for me time and again. I’ve been given upgrades and taken to secret dive spots. I’ve been invited on crew only dives and been given private beach dinners. I’ve had divemasters work harder to find me that special fish, captains work harder to get me to the best sites and give me extra bottom time and resorts give me those special touches and work to accommodate my special requests.
People are willing to work harder for us when we are good to them and that translates directly into a more amazing vacation.
So What Do We Need to Do to be a Great Guest?
1. Show gratitude by saying thank you often. It’s simple but seldom done. Do we say thanks everyday when we get off the dive boat? Do we thank our bartenders and wait staff? Everyday? Are we appreciative of the efforts being made on our behalf? Are we being a good guest?
2. Remember that there is never a reason to be abusive to any staff members. Ever.
3. Remember that most staff members really want us to have a great vacation. They want to be on our side.
4. Remember that while they may have a great job in a fabulous setting, they are working long hours to help make our experience great.
5. And mostly, remember that at the end of the day, we are solely responsible for creating our own experience. Things aren’t always going to be perfect. We don’t have any control over an 8-hour flight delay but we have complete control over how we react to it. My suggestion is to grab a margarita and finish that book you’ve been putting off forever.
If you do have an issue, here are some guidelines that will help you get it resolved:
1. Find the person who has the authority to fix your issue – don’t waste time and effort talking to someone that doesn’t have the ability to do what you need.
2. Don’t get upset, yell or fist pound; instead, tell them you need their help. “Hi, I need your help with something.” Most people like to help.
3. State your issue factually – without embellishment or drama. Don’t make it a three-ring circus because it probably isn’t.
4. State what you want to be done and in what timeframe. This is about setting correct expectations in a level manner.
5. Be reasonable. If you need to move rooms/cabins because of an AC problem, don’t expect a free vacation. A bottle of wine, though not mandatory, would be a nice gesture.
6. Let them know you hold them accountable for fixing the problem and you appreciate their prompt attention. “Thanks for taking care of this. When will you follow up with me?”
The Golden Rule
It’s simple, really. Treat people with gratitude and respect and they will do the same for you. Staff members want to be on your side and want you to have an awesome vacation. Help them do more for you by being a great guest.
This editorial does not necessarily represent the view of the Underwater Photography Guide. I must say that Ridlon does have a lot of experience dealing with guests and demands. But what is the customer's point of view? What is your point of view? We'd love to hear it! Leave your comments below please - Scott