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Kickbacks added on invoices, common practice?
Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008 3:22 PM
Joined: 23/11/2008
Posts: 42

over the past few months, i've had two separate contractors offering to jack up an invoice or estimate so that i could "get a cut".   I was surprised and find the practice unethical / plain wrong; as a captain i feel it's my job to defend the owner's interest when managing the boat but with two such "offers" i wonder if it's not a common practice.

is it common practice or were these two contractors just plain sleazeballs?  (i didn't pick them but not just for this reason)
Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 4:00 PM
Kick backs are illegal.  I have never taken them!  I am paid by the boss to look out for him not the vendors.  I have never been offered one but I know it happens.
Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 4:09 PM
Being a vendor I abhor, and never engage, in the practice but I am shocked at the number of times I am asked to provide this "service" in exchange for the business. This is a small pond and word gets around. Your word and reputation are the most valuable thing you possess and it is never worth a few bucks.
Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 4:36 PM
That happens a lot. Palma is known as the 10% Island. The problem is on both sides. Captains/Officers that say you will get the job but they want their share and contractors offering the deal to Captains and Officers. I dont you will ever be able to stop it.

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 5:59 PM

dear pascal,

"kickbacks" are (or were, at least) common practice in the med, especially in palma.  many captains use (or used) certain suppliers BECAUSE of the kickbacks they received.  for example, one captain on a large Feadship, used to get $18,000 extra, which equated to 10% of his paint job.  he also got 10% of all the varnish & supplies he ordered.  i think HE is also a sleazeball.

i don't know that kickbacks are illegal, but i certainly believe they are immoral.  if a captain or another crewmember on a yacht gets offered 10% off the service or purchase price, that money SHOULD go to the owner of the vessel.  how would you feel if the situation were reversed?  would you expect your employees to charge you 10% more than they should and pocket the difference?

when we were running a powerboat in Palma, we point blank refused to have anything to do with the companies that offered 10% and two invoices, whether they offered them to us personally or not.  as a result, we were ostracized and blackballed. 

these days, we may not have a house in the neighbourhoods that our boss can afford (as those 10% captains do), but our conscience remains clear.  i know which person i'd rather be.

my advice to others who have been offered this option?  don't do it.  pascal is right!  these guys are sleazeballs. 

surround yourself with aboveboard, honest companies, that will look after your best interests, not theirs. 

just say NO to the companies that are offering this sort of service!  if, as we called them, the "10% crowd" are trying get your permission to rip off your boss, you can bet they will not think twice to rip you off...just as soon as they get the chance!

and which person would YOU rather be?


Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 6:09 PM

I have had it happen in the south of france they called it the captains invoice I believe, took me while to figure out what exactly that was....when I did I wasn´t impressed not at all cool, I believe it was the boat yards angle to try to get repeat business which considering their level of workmanship no wonder they are trying to bribe captains!!  Have also had it happen many times as a chef and have been asked what "price" they would like me to put on the invoice.......I completely disagree with the practice we are all paid well and should have the owners best interest at heart....lets face it that is our job!!

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 6:44 PM
Grow up!!!!Stop being so sanctimonious! Want to see if you'll say the same nice things about your owner &/or capt when they get rid of you like an old shirt!!!!!
Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 8:26 PM
Remember once you engage in the practice, you give up power to that vendor. If the service or products you purchase are not to your satisfaction you will soon find that you will have little or no recourse to remedy the situation. Your screwed! You should be compensated well enough to resist the temptation. You are the owners Captain after all. And if you feel you are not being treated right by him you should move on. Your name is all you have.
Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 12:22 AM

I am so happy to see so many honest people posting, to complain/and deny the temptation of a kickback,and just to think that there are people out there that rip off the guy with the money, thats sick. Just think if you were in that situation,and if that could be you with owning even a smaller boat just think if your friend/crewmemeber did that to you how would you feel, so I ask why would you bite that hand that feeds you even if there is the smallest chance that you get fired.


Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 10:35 AM
Happens a lot, and I have even refused suppliers and contractors simply because if this is their level of honesty I can not trust them. Often the reward is offered in the form of a gift, and I know several Captains that find this acceptable whereas they would refuse cash, can only say "a whore is a whore regardless of the price..... " Be professional!!
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2008 8:05 PM
As a Vendor in the US, I have had chefs and captains ask for it "I have a little room to work with" or "can you make an adjustment for me here?".  We have seen this in other parts of our industry, not just the yacht side, but lately this is where it has cropped up the most.

It is, as everyone says, unethical, but the real problem is at what point are you servicing the people who pay you?  The bills aren't being paid by the captain or chef or stew, they are being paid by the owner or management company.

If you lose the business of the captain or officer because you wont pay him, oh well, that crew member wont last long with that kind of mindset anyways.

Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008 5:47 PM

Hi All,

I was very interested to read all your comments about so called kickbacks. This is a very common practice in all aspects of industry whatevever that industry is. Prior to making the transition from commercial to the yachting industry the pitch was " and what is your percentage" and I have found that it is endemic even in this industry.

I firmly believe that when you "as we are " paid a handsome salary for what we do we should protect the interests of our owner and not succumb to short term gain and greed.

Best regards,

Ian Walker,



Ian Walker
Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008 6:13 PM
Joined: 20/11/2008
Posts: 4

Hi All,

The practice of offering a Ch.Eng. or any other person in authority a percentage of the final bill has to my knowledge been around as long as I have ie, 35 years and obviously long before.

You will never eliminate this practice as there will allways be the unpricibled individual that will take the short term gain over loyalty to the owner. We are paid a considerable salary to do what we do and to protect the interests of the owner any body that capitalizes on thier position to make a few extra bucks shouldnt be there.

Ian Walker


Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008 6:16 PM
Anonymous wrote:
Grow up!!!!Stop being so sanctimonious! Want to see if you'll say the same nice things about your owner &/or capt when they get rid of you like an old shirt!!!!!

It seems somebody has a guilty conscience. 

Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 12:20 AM
Joined: 18/05/2008
Posts: 9

Sadly it's been common practice in this industry for decades.

Sometimes when you see captains on the take driving their new car or motorcycle into the yard and you make a point of not taking, you wonder who's the fool in this picture. But in the end you're the one who has to look you're self in the mirror ever morning.

What's the old saying in this business, "Refit a Feadship and buy a house, project manage a new Feadship build and retire."

In some ways it's hard to blame the venders. If there weren't people with their hands out they wouldn't have to offer kickbacks just to get the business and stay in business.


Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 2:35 AM
Sad but true. How about the Captain on the Swedeship (remember them?) who had the gall, when they were initially outfitting the yacht with china and linens etc... to have one set sent to his new condo, the other to the yacht... He certainly ended up with a well appointed condo, but karma being what it is he didn't live long to enjoy it.
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 3:01 AM

I am absolutely shocked and horrififed that there could be such 'goings on' in our clean, green, wonderful, lovely industry. I am relatively new, comming from a church background ( lead choir boy) , and where i came from this is certainly labeled as a 'sin'.  To make matters worse i have just heard of someone that may have been doing drugs while employed on a boat,( is this legal?)  now to be fair it wasn't clarifed if they had actually inhaled or not so this may have been ok. Also to keep ranting on here i have just also heard of  a practice in the industry, that if you have a charter that you may actually get a 10% tip at the end of the charter in CASH  if your've been good!!! ( is this legal?)  This is incredible, the poor charter guests have to front up with a major amount of money for there holiday stay,  get 'pressured' into some sort of scam tip when we all know its not our boat and we are getting well paid, just unbelievable, you won't catch me out on that scam. Any way i hope all you good girls and boys get something nice and fluffy from santa soon, and you 'others' there's still time to mend you wicked ways. Must be off now the captain has asked me to go to the bank and get a bag full of large denomination , unmarked bills. Apparently we're off to St Tropez for christmas, have no idea why he needs a bag full of cash?  Probably to give to the poor and needy. Keep smileing, good sailing and Merry Christmas!

Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 3:34 AM
Ha Ha Ha ha ha, havn't had a good laugh like that since the recession started!  Least there's one person out there who knows what they are talking about, keep up the good blog.
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 4:18 AM
Oh Yeah, and i noticed that the anonymous blogger on the 3rd Dec mentioned that there maybe even "whores" involved in this kickback scheme,  ( is this legal?) absolutely disgusting, would anyone know what boat this is on?
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 6:29 PM
Interesting. On paper at least it appears that everyone is in agreement (or nearly everyone) that accepting "kickbacks" is wrong. How about the other way around. We all know of certain in demand marinas that will not have room for your boat unless you are known to "tip" well. So, it's wrong to accept but not to give? What does the MCA say about that?
Captain Mark Drewelow - C2C inc San Diego
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 7:58 PM
Joined: 07/12/2008
Posts: 68

Common in other parts of the world yes.  Here on the West Coast, uncommon.


Posted: Monday, December 8, 2008 9:27 PM

Some very funny yachties out there. When I first came into this industry, not so very many moons ago (but enough), I heard about kicks. I am one of those ethical people (lots of us exist) who believes we are paid from our bosses to do the job of looking out for their assets. That includes invoices being correct- paying for the product or service provided.

Yes, we are well paid for what we do. Our owners trust us. That is what we do. Trust is a huge thing. Would you cheat on your wife/ husband? And if you feel that the owner will speak poorly of you when you get tossed out like an old shirt, well then, you may be getting tossed out for several reasons, one of which would be ripping them off!

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008 4:17 PM
Sabotage fees easily run to 50% in Palma

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008 9:25 PM
You are paid already to look afer the owners interests and save them money.  So no, it is not common or ethical.
Posted: Monday, January 26, 2009 11:46 AM
Would it be helpful if I issue a list of the boats/captains that have had 10% from my company over the last 15 years Palma
Posted: Monday, January 26, 2009 1:26 PM

Kickbacks, captains and crooks are as old as the yachting it the US or Europe, it makes no difference.  Just commissioned some paintwork on the yacht, in a major port that I know very well from 30 years of yachting.  To keep myself educated as to what the REAL cost of goods and services are, I always go for several estimates. For this job I got three estimates. One came in LOW, one in the middle and one was just astronomical.     Double price.   I had used the company that provided the low estimate before, good work, on time so I went with him.  Word travels fast, the company that submitted the over the top estimate calls me up and pleads with me....We can do a deal thats good for both of us !!!!! This company does plenty of work on the superyachts......

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