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Shopaholic Stew
Crew Confessor
Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:53 PM
Joined: 20/11/2008
Posts: 94

Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 3:10 AM
Dear Crew Confessor, My chief stew is a shop-a-holic. She may even be a border-line hoarder. My chief stew is home for some time off, and while tackling a project which required removing some back panels from cabinets, we found bags of napkin rings, table linens, candles, designer soaps and such stashed inside the cabinets and even some behind the cabinets. These bags were all full of brand new stuff with price tags still on. When I asked my second stew what was up with the stash, she gave me a cross look and said, “Follow me.” In a void underneath the master bed and stashed in other hiding places all over the boat, there were more bags of stuff. All new. All spendy. All paid for with boat credit cards. Everyone assumed I knew about my chief stew’s spending problem and just chose to ignore it to keep her happy. Looking back, it does seem like she “needs go shopping” often, but I really have no idea how quickly we use up these things. The chef has to get more stuff after a long trip, I guess I figured the stew did too. I have asked my second stew to inventory all the surplus. It is A LOT. There are thousands of dollars worth of stuff in these bags. For example, one bag had two dozen napkins that were 30 euros each. I asked a friend if he had ever encountered such a thing and very non-sussed he says to me that most stews have a shopping addiction. I wonder how much my inattention has needlessly cost the owners, and just what I should do next. She’s a great stew, but if you saw the amount of stuff she has stashed throughout the boat, it does not take a shrink to tell that she has a problem. And now that I know about it, I have a problem. What next?
Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 7:15 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1024

Perhaps she is a great stewardess. A stewardess's job is to make the boat look good and keep it that way. If you left this job up to me, the whole yacht would soon have the ambiance of a guys college dorm room . Great stewardess's are natural " shoppers ". They always have a mental list of items that are needed, will be needed or would be nice to have , then instinctively scan shop windows, like a hawk hunting mice from a power cable, seeking them . Yachts are absolutely packed with elegant details like napkins, beach towels, toilet brushes, soap dispensers ,pillows, table accessories .......If the yacht travels a lot an inventory of this kind of "stuff " is critical. I remember two years ago the stewardess spotted a very elegant tea kettle while shopping , bought it even thought ours was perfectly good and stored it under the settee cushion. Last week the electric element in our trusty kettle bit the dust and presto, I simply opened the settee and retrieved the new , up market, " youre not gonna buy one on this island" designer kettle she bought years ago. Id say you have a thinking stewardess. The best kind, as opposed to the brain dead stewardess who sits around, mouth agape, twirling hair with a finger ,using gear till it fails then in a panic goes to the nearest shop and replaces it with any piece of junk that will get the job done, gradually running down the elegance of the yacht . I notice a brand new Miele vacuum cleaner, still boxed , complete with an extra box of bags, under the owners bed next to a plastic bag with three nice bean bag ash trays and a box of 8 bright red coffee mugs. That stuff was purchased by a great stewardess.
Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 7:02 PM
Junior she is off the map and we don't charter. It is not practical stuff. It's the fru-fru and there is enough of it to supply every yacht in Monaco with enough goods to do the entire boat show and never have to have to do a load of wash or light the same candle twice or wash your hands with the same scent of soap. What concerns me is what appears to be an attempt to hide what she's bought. She has pulled the back panels off of cabinets to conceal things she's bought. She has taken apart every guest bunk and filled in the voids behind the drawers. At this point, my instinct tells me to have the second stew do a full inventory and then when my chief stew gets back ask her to do the same. If she neglects to mention all the other stuff, then I am going to need to think long and hard about what to do next.
Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 7:59 PM
Joined: 23/11/2008
Posts: 42

you have TWO problems!

First, the stew.  the fact that she hides things around the boat tells you these are not "regular" supplies, she may be stashing them up to get them off the boat when she gets a chance for her own use...

If thousands of dollars were spent on unused items and nobody noticed, you also have an accounting problem!

it may be the tip of the iceberg... review her expenses now!

Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 8:13 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1024

You might be right. Who knows. Over spending, consumerism and debt are a widespread modern phenomenon. Many times I believe stewardesss shop simply to blow off stress. I find it difficult to let anyone loose with a ships credit card and prefer to use the purse full of cash method. Crew must justify expenses at the end of the month. Its also a bit strange to hide or not inventory supplies bought. As standard practice once a year everything that moves on this yacht is removed, repackaged, cleaned up , inventoried re stored or thrown out Now that the season is winding down , as you suggest, its a good time to ask your stewardess to "out with the old, in with the new " , inventory the yacht. Perhaps once she realizes that the yacht is beginning to bulge with gear she has purchased she will be embarrassed and switch the yachts credit card cannon from full automatic to single shot and conserve ammo.
Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 9:13 PM
These types of things occur on and off boats; my wife had a serious shopping issue that I allowed to gain momentum. I unknowingly enabled my wife to develop her addiction to the mall by freely providing her the resources to do so, which in turn created more problems. Turning off the tap and reducing the resources to go shop was not pleasant at all, because the cycle of habitually shopping and then feeling anxiety or depression about purchasing nonsense stuff deeply affects peoples esteem and puts then on the defensive whenever odd or excessive purchases are questioned. The standard rebuffs from a shopaholic are: I got it on sale. – I’ve had it for ages – I’ve been looking one like this forever – They gave me a free pair of knickers – It would be good for Christmas decorations – It was a gift – We needed it – There was only two left and on and on. People trapped in the cycle of binge shopping, returning items, justifying purchases with nonsense excuses and/or throwing temper tantrums to avoid dealing with the deeper behavioral problems are extremely difficult to deal with; consequently it becomes easier to just keep providing the resources to go shop. Most shopping nuts only get out of control when they have a financial windfall, serious pay hike or are given access to another person’s money. My advice is this, cut off the means to shop to excess immediately, be prepared to justify the action and stand your ground (this is the Captains role in this instance). My wife blew through all our savings, the credit cards and created a big hole in our financial world. It was only after I sought marriage guidance, physiological counseling and threatened divorce and offered her the chance to have absolute control of her life and money did she snap out of her mental haze, the problem occasionally goes into relapse and requires continuous monitoring. I love my wife and we deal with the issue daily, weekly and monthly because that is the only practical way to manage the addiction. There is no real way to fix this type of behavior, believe me I’ve tried. Long story short, set a budget monitor it and be prepared to discharge her from the yacht when she fails to conform, three strikes and you out I am afraid. I and my wife turned things aroung as a team, if you think she is worth the effort you can give it a crack but the only way see this lassie sorting herself out will be after she hits the bricks and no longer can support her habit with other people’s money. The owners money is the domain of the owner and it is up to the captain manage the boat and the crew.
Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 9:30 AM
Please tell me how a crew member can have the ability to shop like this and the Captain does not have a handle on what is being spent? The Stew just has free spending and the access to funds to just go buy without any discussion with the captain who is responsible for watching out for the owners money? Sounds to me like the bigger problem for the Owner who has to pay all these bills is the captain who doesnt have any idea what is going on around him on the boat he is in charge of. The stew is spending like a fool because no one is monitoring her spending. Does no one look at her receipts when she returns from shopping? I.E. the Captain? Sounds like a bigger issue here then just a stew who loves to shop....
Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 9:43 AM
Joined: 20/09/2009
Posts: 6

Oh dear, this does sound like a mess. The first thing I would suggest is to get a hold of the receipts. If you and/or the second stewardess get in touch with the shops, you might be able to return some of the unnecessary items (and it sounds like there might be a lot of them). If you explain the situation to the managers of the shops, they might allow you to return the items especially since many items still have the price tag on them. The second thing you need to do it talk calmly to her about the shopping problem. As Junior says, it is the responsibility of the chief stew to make sure there is back up of certain interior items etc etc. But if she is pulling the boat apart to 'hide' things then, maybe there might be a bigger problem. If you try and trick her by asking her to complete an inventory after the second has done one, then there could be all sorts of problems. Talking to her is the best suggestion. But as with many of these posts, how has she not had to submit her accounts at the end of every month? If she has never had to, perhaps the problem has escalated when she realised that she could get away with it. I must say as a final comment that needlessly wasting the boss's money is not a suitable way for any crew member to blow off stress. Good luck!
Capt Kaj
Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 11:34 AM
Joined: 05/08/2008
Posts: 83

Firstly cancel the Credit Card as she maybe shopping on holiday! Do an inventory whilst she is away of the $value and the list of items. My God, fancy her hiding items behind walls, that immediately sends me alarm bells clanging in both ears that perhaps there might be an alterior motive beind these large stashes otherwise why whould she hide them?

Regardless of this little scenario I suggest you should have an inventory of everything onboard anyway and where it is stored. There was a good suggestion to try and return the items to various shops especially if they are regular suppliers to the yacht, it is in their best interests to take some or all of the items back.

Then find another Chief Stew´ because her behaviour is totally unacceptable and unprofessional .

You say she is a good Stew´, however a good Stew´wouldn´t have done what she has done, unless somewhere she has been given the wrong information about her job description and role.

Before you start the new Chief Stew´ set up a new set of guidelines which will go for all crew. I suggest put in your crew contracts that no purchases are to be made without the prior permission from the Captain.

Then NEVER give a Stew´or any other crew member a boat credit card. Cash is good, or go with the crew member and pay for it by credit card yourself. Or you could set up a system whereby the crew member asks permission for items over a certain amount, or they have to apply in writing to you for what they want to provision, it maybe painful and a little longer winded, but saves situations like this.

I spent over €2m last winter and I never had one issue with any of my crew over spending or buying items that were useless, mind you I haven´t looked behind any wall panels recently. I had 15 crew at times buying items, all either went through me or the head of departments who were on strict guidelines and instructions from me.

I´d be interested to hear her arguements as to why she:-

1/. bought the items

2/. as to why she hid them and

3/. has anyone done a search of her flat, apartment or even cabin?

Sadly crew are devious. I had one Engineer stash 6 bottles of hard liquor in the Oil Spill Kit to avoid detection, these were "borrowed" from a charter and the owner! They were found during a Flag State survey!

Capt Kaj

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 2:05 PM
Joined: 27/07/2008
Posts: 96

Well here we go again, Capt. Kaj quite rightly says all his expenditure is approved by either himself or his department heads, unfortunately in this case it was the dept. head who had been overspending. All the Captain-haters will be coming out and calling the op. incompetent & stupid whilst already having made other posts complaining about Captains telling them how to do their job and allways questioning their actions, well maybe this is why. I don't think this collection of interior equipment was accumulated overnight so the extra expenditure, whilst unjustified in total, may not have  appeared unjustified at the time. Refer back to Juniors first post and we see that there is a fine line between the stew who is prepared for any eventuality and the stew that practices retail therapy. Good luck working this one out.

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 2:11 PM
Oh, I knew how much my stew was spending. We're on a big boat. We spend lots of money every month, so 5 or 6 thousand euros over a year does not exactly set off alarm bells. She is not on the brink of bankrupting the owners. I have a boat to run. If she told me she needed to resupply the interior, I believed her. I have no problem confronting her about her wastefulness (hoarding?) and if she lies to me about it, then I might be forced to replace her. But I also realize that replacing her may cost the boss more money than she is blowing feeding her shopping habit. Getting a new stew is not like checking out a new book at the library. I've had such a bad go at finding a chief stew who did not chase every junior stew away. My chief stew does a good job and gets on well with the owners and the crew, that's a miracle if you ask me. I would rather not fire her, and I think the whole crew feels like that. But if this is going to be something I have to constantly worry about, then I'm really not sure what to do about it. Is this an ethics violation that demands termination? Is this just how all stews are? Does my stew need therapy? If I tell her she can't shop anymore, is she going to turn on the crew? Will it be like forcing a member of the crew to stop smoking? The behavior is so strange, there has to be something mental about it. Is it fixable? After reading a couple posts here, thats the real question, and I just know.
Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 2:18 PM
Until she gets back and does her version of the inventory, I still don't know if she was hiding her purchases or if she had just run out of room to store all the stuff without it being in the way. So right now, I don't know why she put the stuff in such strange places.
Captain Scott
Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 5:08 PM
Joined: 22/09/2008
Posts: 7

Had same problem,  but addressed it immediately and suspended her shopping ....she went anyway so I fired her....

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 6:25 PM
There’s more than one urban legend related to the abuse of boat credit cards. I once heard of a Chef that used to pick receipts from the floor in Carfour in Antibes and used them to justify irregular purchases made with petty cash, obviously the Captain would need to pretty naïve for this one to work, and nevertheless it proves that cash does not assure purchases are legitimate. The other urban legend I hear is about a Chief Stew that purchased items from the English shop beside the Blue Lady in Antibes, each time she bought stuff for the boat she took the time to drop off excess items at her apartment. Catching people out is virtually impossible and this is precisely why so many on this forum talk about control of credit cards etc.
Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 7:00 PM
Joined: 25/06/2009
Posts: 277



I should think that a department specific, pre-paid (weekly or monthly), debit card would be more convenient and provide better accounting and accountability than credit cards, petty cash or micro-managing? (assuming you'all do a years worth of weekly or monthly budgets - especially on yachts worth more than $20M ;o))




Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:14 AM
I give out a weekly budget, they bring back receipts to match, no questions, no stealing and no hassles. An organized dept head knows what they need for supplies before they need them and can requisition for it. A good captain knows how much per person a week it takes to run a boat, and that is your budget. No one gets accused of anything and your boat runs smooth and you never run out of anything. The capt can then provide any documentation to the owner in case he gets audited or you are accused of stealing.
Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 3:29 AM
Really? You know just how much a decent napkin is supposed to cost and just how often they need to be replaced? You know just how much hand soap is needed on the boat? Or how many sets of napkin rings is enough. You must be one knowledgable captain. I have no idea how much flour my chef uses or is supposed to use or how much meat needs to be on board before a charter. Or how many bath towels are supposed to be on board. As long as the bills don't send up red flags, how can you know? We're talking about $600 or $1000 here and there. I know the owners can spend twice that amount on wine for a long stay. The whole point is that I trusted my crew to know what they need and buy it. Now that the trust has been betrayed, I am looking for some reasonable advice on how to proceed. If you have some special formula for all this stuff, please do share because I am SURE I am not the only captain who has better things to do than create a pro-forma to micro-manage the linen cabinet.
Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 3:47 AM
Well. good luck with that. What do tell the owner when he asks where his money went. I can give him photocopied receipts for to account for every penny. The originals go with the month end all balanced to the bean counters. Cover your ass instead of having to cover your mouth when your chin drops in a situation. If you have no accounting background you can easily set up an easy system on Quicken.
Capt Kaj
Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 11:29 AM
Joined: 05/08/2008
Posts: 83

Well obviously all will be revealed once she is back. Don´t worry about the fact that the other Stew´s will get into trouble by finding the hoards of stuff she has for some bizarre reason, hidden in far away places onboard. That is not the issue, if you are really worried about that, say that you found the items. As I mentioned, stop the credit card. Meter out cash when needed and go through the receipts at the end of the week or month. She needs to be put on notice that she is under investigation for wasting the bosses money on items that are gathering dust and silver fish. It is obviously a concern to you and needs to be sorted. By giving her these warnings, and giving her just enough cash to buy essentials, then her little retail therapy stinits are over. Ask her, when she wants to go shopping, what is she going to buy?? Any what I call Improvements to the yacht such as table cloths, knapkin rings, glass vases are Material items, not just paper knapkins or Pringles chips and therefore they need to be sactioned by you from now on, until at least you can trust her again. You have onbviously lost your trust in her for now, especially as she hides the items. It is not necessarily the $dollar value, just the wierd way she has gone about her job. Often when the money is not the crews, they can tend to go wild especially if there are no limits or strict guidelines in place. You have to set these up as part of her job description, maybe she didn´t know that when she started?

Good luck.

Capt Kaj

Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 3:04 PM
Those are all normal stew storage spaces on a yacht, nothing weird about it at all.
Posted: Saturday, September 4, 2010 4:32 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061

" Those are all normal stew storage spaces on a yacht, nothing weird about it at all."..... Agreed, the boat I am on especially so as we have next to no storage space. If it is not in "immediate use" and is a backup item, then it has to go into a spot where it is out of the way. Most yachts have in the name of design many small difficult to get to "wasted" spaces. These are the spaces we use to store items that we need to have in spare but don't know when we'll use.
Crew Confessor
Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 10:52 PM
Joined: 20/11/2008
Posts: 94

Dear Captain Concerned,

At first glance this appears to be the not unusual behavior of a chief stewardess who is thinking ahead to the upcoming winter season and simply stocking up.  Let's face it if you are going directly to the Caribbean after your Med season there aren't a lot of places there to buy the sorts of things a well appointed needs.  And stowing gear in out of the places is -- well, it's the way it is on most yachts.  To be fair things like linen napkins need to be replaced on a regular basis and there are many items that any good stew knows it is best to have in multiples. 

Your follow up where you elaborated  and described the attitude of the second stew and your description of the great pains she has taken to hide this stuff rings the alarm bells.  Storing things behind panels sounds a bit extreme, as does the sheer volume of stuff. 

If you have been very happy with her work and she gets on well with the owners/guests and the rest of the crew AND your gut tells you this was not a case of theft then this is what I suggest you do:

When she returns have a private meeting with her.  Explain what you have found and inventoried.  Ask her if there is any more stuff stashed that perhaps the other stew didn't even know about.  Retrieve the credit card from her.  Explain that perhaps on her previous yachts they kept vast inventories but this is truly over the top and you are very disappointed in her.  Acknowledge that she may have a problem.  Wait for her explanation.  IF it is satisfactory to you explain hence forward that she will be required to personally account for every item she purchases for the boat on a weekly if not daily basis.  Put her on "probation."  As has been suggested you may attempt to return some of the items but that might not be possible.  You may just need to clean house and make sure anything worn gets rotated out and start using the new stuff.  Watch her spending like a hawk.  Do not permit her to have any vendor accounts.  Handle it all as privately as possible.  Learn your lesson and be more aware of where the money is going on your boat!


When she returns retrieve the yacht's credit card and demand an explanation.  Then fire her. 

Bear in mind that when you explain to the Owner what happened and why you fired her, he may think you are at fault for not recognizing the problem sooner, and this could come back to bite you in your posterior.  You have to judge how this will go over.  I'd hate to see you lose your job, but in the end you have a fiduciary duty to your Owner and you failed in that duty.  If you're not careful you could find yourself on the dock too. 

Fair Seas,

Your Crew Confessor

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