Friday, June 13, 2008

Paying Commissions

“A fee paid to an agent or employee for transacting a piece of business or performing a service” is a definition of 'commission' in my dictionary. My father made his living as a commissioned salesman for the same chemical company until he retired. He was an employee who received an agreed upon percentage of the sales that he generated rather than a monthly salary. He always said that working on commission was like owning the company; it was challenging and rewarding.

My experience with paying commissions, or more precisely, not paying commissions, happened when I operated a small gift shop in our hotel in Jerusalem. Occasionally a guide would ask me for a commission from sales to people in the group he was escorting. I refused because the guide hadn’t performed any service for me. I had no agreement with him because the group was composed of guests staying in our hotel. I suggested that he bring people to my shop who were not our hotel guests, and then I would consider paying a commission. Not once in 18 years did this happen.

When I read the complaints in the Jordan Times last week from the owners of souvenir shops on Artisan Street in Madaba about the pressure on them to pay commissions to guides, I felt sorry for them. A 35% commission to a tourist guide is a rather steep price to pay to someone for doing nothing but allowing the group in your charge to shop. I believe tour groups world wide have always relied on guides to facilitate their shopping, and will continue to do so even when they know that the guide is getting a hefty commission. Although this phenomenon verges on the dishonest, it is firmly in place, and I don’t know what one can do about it. Maybe the shop owners in Madaba could try some different marketing techniques and possibly diversify their investment in the travel business. They might consider urging a son or daughter to become a tour guide. Regardless, it is a frustrating state of affairs.



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