The Canyon Ranch Tip Off
I've never been to Canyon Ranch out in the Berkshires, but I'm certainly - if vaguely - aware of it.
For starters, there's that peculiar name: Canyon Ranch. I guess it's a good enough brand, but I still have to wonder why they insist on calling it "ranch" when it's in Lenox, Massachusetts? Oh, well, there aren't really any canyons in Lenox, either.
I guess we're just supposed to accept the brand and not actually think about the fact that a name the works in Tucson may not travel so well.
For those unfamiliar with the brand or the concept, Canyon Ranch is a luxury health getaway: gourmet, nutrition-minded, portion-controlled, calorie-counted meals (with no cosmos before, wine during, or liqueur after - this is a no alcohol resort, unless you want to drive yourself silly in your room); fitness stuff; spa stuff. And, I'm sure, the requisite 10,000 thread sheets and organic toiletries. It runs about $1K a night per person, but that includes an allowance that will cover some of the spa treatments, etc.
The focal point of the property is a 100+ year old mansion:
...a replica of Le Petit Trianon, Louis XV's Versailles chateau. Today it’s the architectural centerpiece of Canyon Ranch, a setting of casual elegance where you'll feel right at home. This is where you'll dine on award-winning cuisine, attend workshops and meet with an amazing variety of health experts all in one building.
Not exactly the Bonanza's Ponderosa, let alone the dirt-poor, unnamed ranch on The Rifleman.
But I digress.
Canyon Ranch is in the news this week because they've been found to have been a bit duplicitous with respect to their tipping policy, as I learned from an article in today's Globe.
Canyon Ranch, as their web site lets us know, "is a no-tipping resort."
Instead of allowing tips, they've incorporated an 18 percent service charge.
Problem was, the service charge didn't find its way into the employees' metaphorical pockets - those yoga instructors probably don't have any pockets.
And when they asked management about the fate of the money, the employees claimed in a lawsuit that they were "met with overt hostility" and told it was "none of their business."
Well, hell hath no fury like a yoga instructor, nutritionist, or waiter scorned, and a bunch of them went after Canyon Ranch under a Massachusetts law that prohibits bars, restaurants, and similar from cadging tips meant for "the help."
This week, they reached a settlement. 600 employees who worked as ranch hands from 2004-2007 will be divvying up $14.75M - or whatever that comes to when you tip the lawyers. In any case, it will turn out to be a nice bit of coin in the tip jar.
While Canyon settled, they haven't admitted that they did anything wrong. Head office - at the Ranch-ranch in Tucson - released a statement that said:
..."was never intended to be a significant part of the employees' compensation plan" and that "any confusion or misunderstanding created by its use of the term 'service charge' was unintentional."
This sounds a bit like depending on what the definition of is is, doesn't it?
I mean, when you've seen a service charge and a no tipping policy, haven't you assumed that the money some way, some how, went to those providing services that you would, under normal circumstances, tip for?
Workers alleged in the suit that they "feared that they would lose their jobs if they pursued their inquiries or pressed for payment of the tips."
At the same time, Canyon Ranch went out of its way to discourage guests from giving extra gratuities, enforcing its message that all tips are included in the 18 percent service charge, according to the suit. If guests insisted on tipping extra, employees could accept them only after first declining. Even then, the suit said, employees could not accept the money personally but had to direct guests to a designated area of the spa, where the guests had to complete a form or enclose cash in an envelope - something relatively few ended up doing.
Well, the 18 percent service charge is now gone. The Ranch has substituted something called a "resort amenities fee", without implying it has anything to do with tips, which they will continue to forbid, believing that a no tipping policy is "'consistent with the stress-free environment that Canyon Ranch guests have come to expect.'"
Well, stress-free for the guests, if not for the workers.
Some judge still has to okay the settlement, but it looks like the wranglers and cowpokes at Canyon Ranch are finally going to get to keep the change.