JUNE 29, 2020

TIPS are NOT the Answer; Neither is Free Labor.

I always laugh, then cry, followed by drying my eyes with a scuba tank in the loudest place possible when professionals scream for tips. They are basically saying, “I have no idea how to value myself, pay me whatever.”

I am a dive professional. I run a dive business. I watch professionals day in and day-out complain about not making enough money in this industry. Who’s fault is it? The professional? The employer? I’ve even heard people complain and say it is the customers fault. The responsibility lies on the professional; period. If you want to earn a living wage in this industry, then you have to know your worth.




It is okay if you do not have a degree in Business. However, it may put you behind others unless your experience can match. Education is key whether in the form of traditional schools, self-learning, success through failure, or a combination. People typically don’t care that you teach “because you love it.” If you want to stay in this industry, you must be educated. 


The Dunning Kruger Effect runs rampant in many industries. let’s use the analogy ‘learning to dive is like learning to drive.’ This is basically saying a person who completed their driver’s license exam is ready to take their CDL (Commercial Driver License – Big Rigs, 18-Wheels, etc) a week later. My point being, get QUALITY experience and education first. Drive a few hundred thousand miles first, towing a trailer, and get a feel for the road—or, several hundred dives in a variety of environments.


With Technology at your fingertips you can always be ‘in the know.’ Just do a quick search on YouTube for “How to Market Myself” (@RobertoBrake, awesome content and young entrepreneur); or, check out these courses on Udemy to learn business skills.


 TYPICAL Areas that the majority of professionals need more knowledge/experience in:


Marketing – “I work on referrals…” saying is about as useful as split fins in current. Sure there is some merit, but only if you can command it in a saturated market. Any true successful entrepreneur will tell you, no matter how good a product/service you offer, it’s value is ZERO if people can’t find you.


Sales – “I can sell anything…as long as my dive shop carries it.” Part of selling, is also knowing how to offer service when your place of employment a) refuses to carry an item; b) is out of stock, or have an alternative; c) you know where to get something even if this means sending business elsewhere. Truth be told, having hundreds of conversations monthly professionals, they only know what is within the four walls of the operator they work for. They do NOT venture out and learn about different systems. Guess What? Most brands knock each other off, and are all made within one of five different factories.


Training – “But, I am an instructor…….” Yah, nobody cares. We all are. How do you differentiate yourself in the sea full of Zero to Heroes with less than 6 months of experience carrying the same title as you: Instructor/ DiveMaster. Do you know current theory with regard to decompression algorithms? Are you taking advanced training beyond what your shop offers? Do you know how to find a great mentor? (see this article for finding a proper Mentor: Lost Art of Mentoring) How about manual gas planning? Best travel destination trends for the year? New equipment and alternatives to what you dive? New techniques? List goes on and on. Facebook is full of diving groups where people spout things they have “heard” from their instructor, and it becomes a game of Telephone from IDC to IDC. “My Instructor Said this…” “I am a Master Diver….” “I am a tech diver…” “I am ….” –You get the point. Nobody cares. Prove yourself. Let others talk about who you are through expertise.


Zero to Hero – Will sum this up quickly. You are not marketable. The operator took your hard earned money, promised you a future, but yet they have no room to hire you back on. Yes, you were likely cheated. Unfortunately in these type of programs, You [highly likely] have failed to master any specific aspect of diving with any kind of authority. You are the status quo, and will likely be out of the industry within 2 years complaining how hard it is to find work. If you do decide to stay, you can join the thousands of “Heroes” that post daily looking for work with a thread titled: “Will work for room and food.”


Remember, not all hope is lost. What you need to do at this point is invest in proper instruction, find a great mentor, study business, and gain industry experience. If you want to work in this industry, find your value, and don’t complain. Otherwise, it’s not for you.


You can become a Captain of a boat, or work as a deckhand. You can be paid doing guided dives, or sell your photography? You can even blog online and do videos for affiliate revenue. GET CREATIVE!




I get asked weekly the same question: “Ryan, how do I make more money if I don’t ask for tips? It’s what we rely on and my manager won’t give me a raise.”

Answer is quite simple: Find another operator, or SELL YOUR SERVICES. Nobody is preventing you from marketing yourself!

Check out this article to understand how to calculate your earnings, and cost per student.  

Case Study

PUBLIX EMPLOYEES are ONLY allowed to collect tip if a customer becomes insistent beyond reasonable doubt. The name tags the employees wear literally say they do not accept tips. Why?  Publix’s approach is to pay an honest wage and have equal employment opportunities among their staff. As a consumer, you don’t walk into the grocery store, approach the manager, and demand a cashier/baggers get a raise. After all, they are bagging your items, ensuring you weren’t overcharged, ensuring you found everything you needed, etc.


As Posted on the Publix Facebook Page, customer Susan Walters asked: 

“What is the Publix policy regarding tipping the bag boy or girl that takes your groceries to the car for you? I always tip the person and they always accept it. Yet now I am reading on another blog that the Publix employees can get fired for accepting the tip. Is this true?”

Publix Replied: 

“Hi, Susan. At Publix, carry out is just another service we offer to our customers to help make their shopping experience a pleasant one. In fact, we feel it’s one of our services that really sets us apart! 🙂 To answer your question, our associates wear pins on their uniforms that indicate “No Tipping Please” to show that we offer this service as a courtesy. The next time you visit your store, please know that you are not expected to tip and there is no need. Carrying out your order is our pleasure. 🙂 I hope this helps, please let me know if you have any further questions. Thanks for shopping with us and have a wonderful day!”

Remember, you are getting paid for your service. The amount YOU AGREED TO is your wage.

Asking for Tips is petty in our opinion. If you have performed a good service, people will recognize it. If they insist, politely accept the gesture as they felt YOU EARNED IT, not because it was expected. Use the tip money to invest in yourself, or go celebrate knowing you did a fantastic job.

Anything in addition is gratitude for a job well done; not an expectation. If you don’t like the way the dive business operates, find another one. If you don’t like how cheap the industry has become then demand a higher wage for yourself, or find another job. It really is that simple. 

There are numerous ways to make money in this industry and they all take time (and effort) to ensure you are offering a quality service. If you are new, or lost how to do it, feel free to private message, or send an email. There is no reason why you can’t make it in an industry you love; however, sometimes we just need guidance.

Ryan Custureri

Continuing Education

Check out these posts to continue learning how to become a true scuba dive professional. Our discussions range from exploring teaching techniques, to operating a dive business, becoming a full-time instructor, or planning events and more. 

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