The first scene in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Reservoir Dogs introduces a very interesting debate: Why do we tip in certain places and not in others? To have some context, keep in mind that the action takes place in the United States, where tipping is not only a standardized practice almost everywhere and in all activities but also a cultural matter. In this scene, one of the main characters, the great Steve Buscemi, refuses to contribute with the tip, considering that the service received at the dinner where he and his colleagues are — a gang of thieves about to execute a robbery ̶— wasn’t as good as he expected. We are not going to tell anything else about the plot, but this scene is perfect to set us into a topic that can be quite controversial, even in the world of expeditions: the tip.
To begin with, we should clarify that there is no general consensus on the “etiquette” of the expeditions’ tipping around the world, since there are countries in which the percentage is fixed in advance, and others where the tip is not something usual, as in France, where giving it is something more like a gesture than an obligation, unlike the United States, where not giving it is closer to an insult. And if we add that each country has its reasons and its activities to reward with money, the matter becomes more complex. In any case, expedition members usually want to reward the entire chain of people who provide them with excellent service, one that made them feel cared for and treated in a special way.
But let’s get to Aconcagua, where this topic is quite organized among the members of our expeditions. To begin with, it must be clarified that the tip is not mandatory, meaning that our working teams (guides, camp staff, porters, etc.) are not going to claim it in any way, which does not mean that they are not expecting it, since they work really hard to earn it during the four months that the climbing season lasts, and that extra money helps them in their yearly finances.
The amount of an appropriate tip can also vary widely. In general, the guides act as intermediaries by collecting the money to deliver it to whomever the clients want to reward, and then they give it to the basecamp manager or the porters manager, who distributes it equally among all the members of the group. Something to note, at least for us in AMG, is that the tip received reaches everyone equally. This healthy democracy means that each person involved in the service is rewarded, since in the mountain everyone works the same, even if the client does not see it directly.
Another way to tip, especially in the case of porters — who are all students of the mountain guide career — is to sell equipment not needed for another expedition at a cheap price. This highly accepted and recommended option works perfectly fine for customers who don’t want to take some of their gear back to their country, especially if that means to pay for excess baggage, which in some cases could be more than the cost of the equipment itself. This option, and depending on the elements in question, also applies to basecamp staff and guides. There are also cases in which some expedition members give away items as a recompense for a task that exceeded expectations by far.
In the end, perhaps, tipping in the expedition is another way for the passenger to acknowledge the effort made by the staff to make them feel at home, even when they are thousands of miles from their countries. Our teams are experts in achieving that. They give it all, and always a little more, and we love to see our clients show to them how well and comfortable they have felt.
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