Many people ask how they should tip their massage therapist. This is an interesting topic as some people know that tipping is pretty standard in the massage industry, whereas others do not understand why and how to tip their therapist. So I think a little bit of background might suffice as to how and why tipping your massage therapist came about.
Like most services, tipping is customary as a way of compensating the person for delivering a high level of service. In the restaurant or hospitality industry a person typically tips their waiter or waitress when they demonstrate any degree of service. 10% is given as a rule of thumb just because in California we all know that waiters and waitresses only make minimum wage and they rely on their tips to be able to survive. A 15% tip is given when they give really good service and are on top of things. A 20% or more is given when they do an exceptional job and go above and beyond.
The same rule applies for your massage therapist. Most therapists earn a base amount for the massage as the rest goes to cover the costs associated in maintaining the business they are representing. Depending on where you go to get your massage will depend on how much they actually pay the therapists. Although tips are not expected they are appreciated as they help the therapist earn more for the hard work they put into giving a massage.
In my experience, a 1 hour massage usually equates to 2 or 3 hours of regular work. Therefore, although the therapist can earn a higher hourly rate they can only work half or a third as much. Therefore, to earn a living performing massage means they cannot realistically work as many hours as a regular job. For this reason, as well as the fact that this is a highly skilled profession, we charge a higher hourly rate.
If you feel so inclined you can use the typical standard of tipping to massage therapists as you do at a restaurant. I would tip at least 10% as a rule and then if you feel the therapist did a good job then give them 15% and if they exceeded your expectations, listened and addressed your needs, and basically gave you one of the best massages you have had, give them 20%. There are times I may tip greater than 20%. This is usually when I am paying the massage therapist a lower rate than what I may have paid previously or would pay at another place offering the same service and the work they provided was outstanding.
I know in these cases I am paying a fair amount while getting a great value as well as recognizing the quality of work that the therapist has provided me. Usually I am saving money and getting a great massage while at the same time showing my appreciation to the therapist for such good work
Of course, when tipping I always take into consideration a few things:
1) How often I may receive a massage
2) What my budget allows based on this
If I am on a tight budget and would like to come more often I may tip 15 - 20% so that I can continue to come regularly. This is especially true if the rates are on the high side. That is they are a little more than I am accustomed to and financially a little bit of a challenge.
If I don't come that regularly then just tip according to the service and quality of massage your received. It is that simple! Lastly, if tipping means I cannot afford to come get a good massage on a regular basis then don't tip. It is okay. I cannot speak for others but I would rather you come and get a massage than worry about tipping me. I appreciate your business either way and you won't receive any less of a service just because you are unable to tip.