I was lucky enough to spend a few days last month on the beautiful island of St Lucia. This was such a lovely trip as although we went quite often to the Caribbean many years ago before we got married, I’ve only been there once since. Not for any particular reason but when we moved away from the South East, time just passed by and the opportunity to return just didn’t arise until now.

I had always marvelled at the customer service we received in resorts across the islands. It was always second to none with such attention to detail; greeted warmly on arrival and showed to our table, water poured and menu presented within seconds of sitting and then orders promptly taken. My Lady Janey glass, whether it be of water or wine, was never empty for long as staff were always quick to replenish and at the rate I drink wine, this was no mean feat.

Sometimes food didn’t necessarily appear at the speed of light, such is the laid back approach in the Caribbean, but it was always beautifully and thoughtfully served. I remember thinking how amazing it was to be in these restaurants and experience such fabulous customer service.

Some of you may have read my recent post about the grey area of tips and service charges in the UK. If not, then it’s definitely worth a look. Here we give tips to reward and recognise good service but it is always best to check the bill first to see if a service charge has already been added as it’s not common practice everywhere and it’s not usually even compulsory. If a service charge has been included, then very rarely do we then also leave a tip.

It suddenly dawned on me halfway through our stay that for all previous trips to the Caribbean, we have always stayed, bar one time in Barbados, in all inclusive resorts. This meant that we had no real idea how much we were being charged for our meals and more significantly, how much of a service charge was being factored into the cost. it’s the first time in years that we’ve stayed in a resort on a kind of ‘pay as you go’ basis.

In the Caribbean, a 10% service charge is always included on a bill. It’s not the done thing to question it so with an unbelievably great deal of Lady Janey restraint, I didn’t.

When I got home, I did a little more reading about what to do and what not to do in St Lucia and it appears that service charges are not usually passed on to employees so any extra tips on top of the service charge are always very much appreciated. A service charge and then a tip! I almost had heart failure at the thought. Prices had been high enough as it was without forking out for a tip on top.

However, had I realised at the time, I would maybe have given that bit extra as I think if a service charge is levied in an establishment, then it should definitely find its way into the pockets of the employees, not the employers.

My strong belief is still that if people are just doing their job, albeit very well, then the choice as to whether that merits extra monetary recognition or not should be the decision of the customer and the customer alone and not enforced through any kind of obligatory service charge.

However, as I love the Caribbean and do not wish to be blacklisted, my mantra must then be, when in Rome, do as in Rome and when not, then don’t.

Customer Service, Caribbean Style

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