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Tipping for carriage tours

Columbia, South...
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1,143 posts
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Tipping for carriage tours

I was in Savannah several months ago and had an interesting experience with one of their carriage tours. I don't remember exactly the dollar amounts in question, but you will get the idea. I had booked an evening carriage tour for my husband and me for about $25 per person, for which we brought just enough cash along with us when we went for that ride, plus some extra dollars to tip the driver. When we arrived to check in for the tour, the girl taking our money told us it would be $30 each. I told her we had reserved for the $25 rate, and we were then informed that it was $5 extra per person for the tip! She said we could pay her then or give it to the driver/tour guide later, but that most people paid all at once and that it was $5 for each additional person. It was not "recommended"; it was EXPECTED that everyone paid an additional $5 per person.

I was shocked by the principle of this, the assumption that we were expected to go ahead and pay $10 extra up front (which we were not informed of during booking) simply to "tip" the driver for a tour we had not even taken yet! We didn't give it to the girl because we didn't have an extra ten with us, and we ended up not giving any to the driver, because what we were planning to tip was less than ten dollars and we figured we would've offended him with that (and he didn't know already who paid up front and who didn't). Maybe we were wrong not to tip at all, but I was frustrated and somewhat offended at this point that anyone would even put their customers in that position. We were already paying $50 for less than an hour of his time (not to mention the money from all of the other people on the tour with us). If the carriage tour company does not feel they're paying their drivers well enough, why not just raise their rates to $30 each and state the gratuity is included? That would've been fine with me if they had done that; it was the surprise of being pressured to pay more than what was agreed upon that bothered me (and the fact that someone was basically demanding no less than a 20% tip).

Is this the standard with the carriage tours, or is it becoming the standard in general? Or is this a Savannah thing? I've traveled quite a bit, but for me this was a new encounter. Yes, I do realize I'm talking about 10 bucks and that to many people, it's not worth fooling with, but it's the expectation that bothered me. Anyone have any experience or thoughts on this?

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1. Re: Tipping for carriage tours

The carriage tour company was less than professional in their handling of a guide gratuity. I wold love to know which outfit this is because I refer visiting friends to take a carriage ride when they see Savannah. There are 3 carriage companies in Savannah and only ONE will I recommend since they take extreme care of their horses.

However, you were rude to have stiffed the guide out of his or her tip. Carriage tour guides are paid only a bit above minimum wage. A gratuity of $10 for a carriage tour would be the minimum when it's for 2 people. Guides who handle the horses and conduct a fully narrated tour while maneuvering traffic deserve a gratuity. In fact, that goes for ALL tour guides in Savannah whether they drive a vehicle (trolley, mini-bus, carriage) or give a walking tour. Savannah's guides are licensed professionals, not just someone hired off the street. But sadly they are not paid a living wage in many instances. The tip goes a long way to pay the rent.

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115 posts
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2. Re: Tipping for carriage tours

The carriage tour company was less than professional in their handling of a guide gratuity. I wold love to know which outfit this is because I refer visiting friends to take a carriage ride when they see Savannah. There are 3 carriage companies in Savannah and only ONE will I recommend since they take extreme care of their horses.

However, you were rude to have stiffed the guide out of his or her tip. Carriage tour guides are paid only a bit above minimum wage. A gratuity of $10 for a carriage tour would be the minimum when it's for 2 people. Guides who handle the horses and conduct a fully narrated tour while maneuvering traffic deserve a gratuity. In fact, that goes for ALL tour guides in Savannah whether they drive a vehicle (trolley, mini-bus, carriage) or give a walking tour. Savannah's guides are licensed professionals, not just someone hired off the street. But sadly they are not paid a living wage in many instances. The tip goes a long way to pay the rent.

Columbia, South...
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3. Re: Tipping for carriage tours

I wish I could remember the name of the tour company. It was an evening ghost story tour, and we departed from a circular drive on the street in front of one of the riverfront hotels.

In most cases I would agree that it's "rude" to not give a service person a tip, however if someone is rudely demanding that I must give one AND they stipulate how much they feel they deserve, I feel no obligation to give them any more than absolutely necessary. That is a very rare situation to find myself in. And yes, the carriage driver was also reminding us at the end of the tour about the gratuity! Where's the southern graciousness in that?!? We were prepared to give 15%, which is a very fair amount for where I come from. I didn't appreciate them making me, as a customer, feel pressured when the whole point of the ride was to have a good time and escape for awhile. If they balk at what I have offered, if it's not good enough, then they must not need it that badly. That's relevant in any situation. People who are truly grateful simply aren't picky when receiving a gift. And people forget... that is what a tip is. It's a thank-you gift for good service given from the customer.

Never mind that this driver worked part-time (he told us that), and he was pulling in approximately 30-40 dollars an hour in tips, along with whatever he was getting paid additionally through the company. I'm sure his job required quite a bit of knowledge and skill. However, mine requires a lot as well, and he's still making more than I am... so I'm not too concerned that he wasn't going to get dinner that night. I understand how it is to be scraping by like a lot of service workers are, but I also had the sense to know how to treat my customers so that I honestly earned every dollar, too.

Dylan's mom - which company is the one you'd recommend?

Savannah, GA
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4. Re: Tipping for carriage tours

"Tip Talk" before, during or after a tour is inexcusable from cashier or a guide.

I have been a walking tour guide in Savannah for many years and I am paid quite well by my employer. A tip at the end of a tour is bonus for me.

The excuse that a Savannah tour guide can not make a living wage is silly. I have friends who are carriage guides who have been giving tours for years and would never switch to walking tours or buses. They do it for the love of the city, its guests and horses. Tips are a bonus.

A tip should be given at the end of a tour only if you enjoyed your time with the guide. Tipping is not manditory.

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5. Re: Tipping for carriage tours

The carriage guide who requested a tip was unprofessional. No one should ever make a verbal request for a gratuity.

I still stand by my assertion that the average hourly wage of a tour guide is not enough to live on, not after taxes & other fees are removed. The guides that I know all have a secondary source of income from a working spouse, a second job, a retirement, etc.