Tipping in Private clubs

By Norm Spitzig, MCM

Personally, I always thought that "tipping" in the private club environment was a "straw man" issue; a lot of strong opinions and heated arguments both for and against something that, in the pecking order of private club issues, is a relatively inconsequential one. What's far more important is having a tipping policy that is right and appropriate for your club's history, culture and traditions. Having said this, I'll vote for tipping over no tipping almost any day of the week.

Those who object to tipping as "unclub-like" argue that those who tip will get better service from the club staff. Well, duh, of course they will. That's human nature - and why people tip in the first place! I know it's hard to believe, but those in the "non-tipping camp" include most of the cheapies who probably shouldn't be club members in the first place. All their pontificating about how tipping is "inappropriate" at clubs is illogical at best - and often a disingenuous ruse by marginal members who can't - or don't want to - afford the club.

So, their old argument continues, let's eliminate tipping so all members get the same level of service. More often than anyone cares to admit, these clubs get exactly what they ask for - the same mediocre, lethargic service from everyone on the staff. "Why should I give great service if the person working with me gives lesser quality service and gets paid the same?" It reminds me of the current, politically correct trend for public schools to eliminate programs for gifted students and/or offer incentive pay for teachers who objectively perform as "unfair to everyone." The reality of the matter is that, in both of these cases, everyone descends to the same level of mediocrity. Wonderful, just wonderful.

Worse yet, there are a good number of clubs that practice the overt hypocrisy of allowing some employs to be tipped and others not to be. The logic for this double standard includes patently hollow arguments like "It's always been that way." or "The bag room, locker room and valet people just expect to be tipped." And good waiters and waitresses don't? I can assure you that good General Managers have a tough time buying such superficial logic and, tougher yet, "selling" it to everyone on their staff. Presuming that the people who work on your behalf are stupid isn't a very smart idea. I can assure you that everyone on a club staff know exactly who is getting tipped - and who isn't!

So, if you must eliminate tipping - because you are one of the relatively few clubs who, for honorable reasons, truly believes that it is "just inappropriate in the private club environment" - do it. I have no argument with such clubs at all. Just be sure that you eliminate tipping everywhere and have sanctions for both members and employees who ignore the rule - and also make up 100% of the lost income from tips so you can keep great employees at your club by paying them a fair and competitive wage. Better yet, empower your club's management team with the authority to develop and implement procedures to insure that the best members of the club staff have an opportunity to substantially outearn those who are not. A "pat on the back" is always nice - truly, but more money for better performance actually produces better performance - and also pays the employees' bills.




Norm Spitzig, MCM is internationally recognized as an eloquent and visionary spokesman for the private club industry. His groundbreaking book Perspectives on Club Management – now almost 20 years old - continues to inspire and challenge club directors, managers and students around the world.



          Norm is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College and holds a Masters Degree from Ohio State University. His professional career began at the renowned Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, and led to successful general manager positions for nearly three decades at prestigious private clubs in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and Florida.



Norm’s leadership and professional contributions to the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) have been varied and significant. Elected a National Director of CMAA in 1989, he served as National President in 1995 – the same year he became one of the six original general managers to earn the prestigious lifetime Master Club Manager (MCM) designation.



Norm currently serves as a Principal & Senior Partner in Master Club Advisors, publisher of the premier newsletters for leaders in the worldwide private club industry - Club Management Perspectives - and now regarded by more and more leaders in the private club industry as the “general manager executive search firm of choice”. Norm’s professional development programs, Board Leadership Orientations and Strategic Planning Sessions have been very well received by individual private clubs, CMAA Chapters, BMI students, and international club managers associations on four continents.



Norm, his wife Cody and their chocolate Labrador Lucy reside near Orlando, Florida, in the antiquing town of Mount Dora.

Norm Spitzig, MCM* 
Principal & Senior Partner 
Master Club Advisors
"Providing General Manager Search Expertise, Board Leadership Seminars, Motivational Speaking and Operational Consulting to individual private clubs and club management associations in the United States and around the World" 
6251 Beauclair Avenue
Mount Dora, Florida 32757
352-735-5693 (office)
561-762-7195 (cell)
* The "MCM" Designation stands for "Master Club Manager". Norm Spitzig is one of only fifteen in the worldwide private club industry.

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