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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

To Tip, Or Not To Tip Your Massage Therapist?

I recently had a client come in for a massage who admitted that she hasn’t really had many massages before. She asked “Is this like a haircut where there is one price listed and then I’m expected to pay a tip on top of that price?” It was an interesting way to put it, but I do get asked this question frequently by clients. Tipping is often something that many people aren’t sure what exactly the protocol is when it comes to massage because massage exists in so many different forms and is used for so many different reasons.

According to Wikipedia, “A gratuity (also called a tip) is a sum of money customarily given by a client or customer to a service worker in addition to the basic price.“ Many times when we hear the term ”service worker” or “service industry” we immediately think of restaurant servers, taxi/Uber drivers, or hairdressers. We tend to view massage therapists in mainly one of two ways: spa employees or health care professionals. This creates an odd divide for individuals who do relatively the same thing. You usually wouldn’t think twice about tipping your hairdresser (service industry) but would never dream of tipping your doctor (health care industry). But ultimately, massage therapists can fall into both categories. They provide a service to individuals, so they qualify as members of the service industry, however they are also responsible for improving your health, so they are also members of the health care industry.

Two big things also help make tipping confusion stronger; Environment and purpose. If someone is an employee in a spa, it seems like a no-brainer that, like a hairdresser, you give them a tip. However, if someone providing the same service in a doctor’s office, tipping may not seem as natural. Likewise, the purpose or reasons a person receives a massage can change the perspective as well. Some people get massage purely as a relaxing treat, while others get massage for therapeutic or medical reasons. This can change their perspectives on if a tip is warranted. This is probably the reason I get this question. I work out of a chiropractors office, but I am self employed and my rate doesn’t include gratuity built in. Plus, I may be in a health care setting, but, (at least in the state of Pennsylvania) every massage therapist, even those that work exclusively in a spa setting, has to have a license to practice just like medical professionals.

So I guess this whole article is a very long-winded roundabout of a very simple question and answer: should you tip your massage therapist? The answer that I give to anyone who asks me is: A gratuity is never required, however it is always appreciated. Bottom line, massage therapists are members of the service industry. They provide you a service - making you feel good. They also are members of the health care field - so it is their job to make your health and well-being a priority. If you choose to and you feel it is appropriate to tip your therapist (unless their employer or organization specifically forbids it), it is never required but always appreciated. There is no right or wrong answer, it is all in how you view your therapist and the care that you get from them.

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