To Tip Or Not To Tip …your massage therapist

Over the years I have encountered confusion over whether a client should leave me a tip or not. Frankly, I love it when someone honestly asks “What do I do? What are the rules?”

Tipping etiquette is tricky business because the guidelines vary greatly from service to service. So, should one leave tip for a private massage practitioner? The answer is No.

It’s expected that massage practitioners who own their own businesses have calculated their overhead, and have set their prices accordingly– hopefully at reasonably competitive rates that will ensure sustainability. In short, your rate is your rate, and you needn’t tack on extra dollars out of obligation. We in the private practice business want, above all, regular clients. If you are pleased with your session, re-booking for another session is preferred over extra dough. We want our clients to be able to fit regular massage sessions into their budgets so they can continue getting bodywork. This is a win-win for everyone.

In my private practice, I look at tips as pure bonus. But the truly satisfying vote of confidence is when a client re-books, and in time, begins to entrust me to do a job that has become part of lifestyle.

But… should one tip at a spa, physical therapy, or chiropractic office? YES.

Your massage therapist in this sort of setting is puts in the same intense hours of manual labor as with a private practice, but gets paid only a portion of the fee. And while he or she is spared the expense of rent, utilities, administration and staff, often times he/she still must provide her own linens, pay laundering expenses and purchase one’s own products. All this cuts into income earned. The average spa or medical office massage worker is hired as an independent contractor, and average pay is $25 or lower per hour session worked, with between session time unpaid all together. Some spas pay an hourly wage which is lower than most skilled laborer pay, about $15 per hour, and in these instances, the massage practitioner puts in almost double the hours of an independent contractor. So, in these cases a tip of $7 to $12 can make an enormous difference to the take home income for these workers.

Know your business, and simply tip accordingly.