Do I really need to tip my massage therapist?
This article along with the other article about how to tip your massage therapist, which I wrote about 15 years ago when I was working with other massage therapists who worked with and for Balance Point, will clarify and help cover all the aspects of tipping in our industry.
In short, it is good to tip your massage therapist. When I went to school 20 years ago there was never such a thing as a career in massage therapy, It was more of owning your own business. As practitioners we all want to help everyone that is in need. Although we provide a very highly skilled art form, pricing our services was not only based on the current market but also keeping our prices affordable. This was done because we know that not everyone can afford massage therapy. This might be true for those who really need it.
So we kept our prices lower and relied on tipping to help adjust for other peoples inability to pay higher prices. It is like having a sliding scale but rather than utilizing that model we leave it up to you, our clients to decide. However, this was 20 years ago and after the ups and downs of the economy and current market trends, it is my belief that as massage therapy has become more mainstream that prices are more profit driven by the larger massage establishments. Of course, everyone knows of massage envy who offered "spa type massage and services" to the general public for cheap. However, you get what you pay for when you visit these places. They are best for "relaxing" Swedish massages.
For those who seek massage and bodywork that gets more longer lasting results you visit smaller more specialized places like ours where we focus on more therapeutic work. In these cases, the rates are more expensive and rightly so. I had someone asked me at a massage clinic that I used to give to educate runners about the benefits of the therapy how I competed with the places that charge $40 for an hour massage. My answer, "I don't". I don't do what they do. I offer massage and bodywork that is at a higher level of quality and skill than they do so my rates reflect that.
Now, we all know that this isn't always the case. We know you can pay hundreds of dollars for a "spa" massage at a fancy hotel or resort and you could have got that at a massage envy in your local neighborhood. I recently paid over a hundred dollars for an hour of therapeutic work they said would be outstanding. It was substandard at best and the value wasn't there. Like all things we want to find value. Which is paying a fair amount for quality work or craftsmanship.
So, with that said, another aspect of tipping is the actual hourly m
assage rate. It is common when offering more therapeutic work to charge a higher rate and in addition the perception is that the work is more along the lines of "medical massage" or the realm of healthcare. This is true, and because of this it becomes questionable to "tip" your therapist. After all, you don't tip your doctors or nurses. However, those professionals earn a pretty good living without the tips and they can work more hours than an excellent massage therapist.
I think the best way to gauge any tipping is that you understand the value of the work that you are receiving. There are times when I have literally saved people from having surgeries or gotten rid of pain they had for years which changed the quality of their lives. It is hard to place a value on these kind of results. For the most part though, you can judge where you feel the value of the massage therapy is for you and depending on the rate and budget determine what works for you. The main thing is find a good balance of what works for you and know that you are compensating your therapist with all things considered.
So in summary, tipping your massage therapist is greatly appreciated. I cannot speak for other massage therapists but I will say that if the therapist does have a higher rate and your budget is tight that it is ok to not tip as much. Maybe 10% if you can swing it. For those who earn more than the average person, they can afford to tip a bit more as long as they feel the value is there. Remember that is the key. That you feel you get a great value for your money.