One of my coffee cronies and I were bragging this week about our beach vacations. I and my wife had just returned from a glorious week in Cancun; he and his wife had been there for a stupendous vacation a few months ago.
Our all-inclusive resort was the best ever; theirs was simply amazing. By the time we moved on to other topics, it was a tossup as to who deserved bragging rights for having discovered the best getaway in history.
During this exercise in one-upmanship, the subject of tipping came up. On this point, we were in agreement that tipping in Mexico is quite the experience. Who to tip, when to tip and, most of all, how much to tip — all of it is an acquired skill.
Someone had suggested that it’s advisable to tip “generously” at these places, even though tipping is theoretically unnecessary at an all-inclusive resort. So there we were, first timers on the Mayan Riviera wondering what “generously” was but trying to do the right thing.
Thing is, when you’re onsite you don’t know how much anything is worth in local currency because it never shows up on a bill. And if it did, should you be tipping 15 per cent of what it would cost back home, or what it costs there?
If I’d had the foresight to Google it beforehand, I would have discovered that the average wage for a resort worker in Mexico is about $4 per day. And that appropriate tips for various services range from a few pesos to a few dollars.
So, this resort greenhorn found himself laying a couple of American dollars on the table the first day or so but feeling chintzy about it and upping the ante as time went on. I’m not sure if I ever got it right — some staff were probably happy to see the last of the cheapskate Canadian; others might have thought I was trying to be some sort of big spender.
If you’re wondering why you should be at all interested in what Mel did on his vacation, or what my coffee buddy did on his, there’s a point to this.
And that point is — tipping at a Mexican resort actually gets you something for the investment. I tipped our concierge a few bucks our first day and her face lit up like sunshine. She couldn’t do enough for us the rest of the time we were there. Reservations, information, help with transportation, you name it, she was on it. And checking back later to see if everything went okay.
The maid was over the moon to find a tip on the table on day two when she arrived to tidy up, and came out to the balcony (where we were relaxing like royalty with a couple of cervezas), to thank us profusely and give us two thumbs up. That suite was immaculate the rest of the stay.
Waiters — same result.
Here at home, a 15-per-cent tip is accepted as an entitlement. It’s just another tax. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, or that there aren’t exceptions; it’s just part of our system.
But it is a treat anywhere when a tip gets you true value, and that the little extra acknowledgement of good service is visibly appreciated.