This week I will talk about how much to tip a massage therapist from a massage therapist point of view and from a consumer point of view.
In the United States tipping is customary for personal services like haircut, waiting a table, driving, and massage. Customary means it’s been practiced over time. It’s not required but it’s expected.
As a massage therapist who has worked at different massage places tipping is very much appreciated. In fact it’s something we depend on. Maybe not so much for a private practice but when you go to a chain massage place and let’s say you pay $100 for 50-minute or 60-minute massage, how much do you think a massage therapist gets paid? I often find people think we get $60 or $70 and that’s why you don’t have to tip. I wish that’s the case but it’s not. It is safe to assume that a massage therapist is getting paid about 15-20% of what you pay at the front. Of course it varies by the establishment with completely different pay systems, and types of service, etc. It’s just how it works because they have to do all the upkeep of the place, amenities, take care of showers, saunas and spas if they have them, and pay the rent, and do all the marketing and sales.
To determine how much to tip it’s really up to you depending on your experience but I would say you cannot go wrong with 15-20%. Maybe a little more if the service was good or less if the service was bad.
For a 50-min or 60-min massage the average tip I get is $20, sometimes more sometimes less. Occasionally more than $30 or even $40 and those are good days. Supposedly there are some legendary clients that would leave $100 tip every time but I haven’t met them yet.
As a consumer, since I know massage I’m very picky about the quality of massage I get. But I also know the reality of how much they depend on the tip income, my starting tip is at least 20% even if the massage isn’t so great. I just won’t go back to that person. If the massage is great I would tip 25-30% and I would go back to that therapist which can be a challenge because such therapist is very popular and very hard to book. There is an exception though. No matter how good the massage techniques were I would tip less if I feel that I wasn’t treated with respect and sincerity and attention to my request. So that’s something I keep in mind when I’m the service provider.
Tip with cash or credit card? Cash tip is preferred because if you leave it on the credit card it gets taxed before we get paid although of course we report every single dollar in cash income too. If the massage place has a tip envelope like this for cash tip with To and From and often the word Thank You, here’s a suggestion. Write more than just names to bring a smile to the massage therapist. It can be simply writing thank you, add some hearts, smiley face, or comment. This one says amazing massage. This one says the best hands in the west. You rock! Since my name is very different I get a kick out of misspelling too like Yosako, Wasko, and Yaxco. Personally a thick tip envelope scares me because it’s usually bunch of $1 bills inside and you can’t put many in this tiny envelope.
When you book your massage appointment please include a tip in your budget. When you give a gift certificate you can pre-pay the gratuity on the gift certificate or you can let the recipient decide at the time of service. If you receive a gift certificate it’s a good idea to check with the service provider if the gratuity was pre-paid or not.
One time I massaged this rich lady. After the massage she wanted to give me a tip but she said she forgot her wallet in her car which was parked right outside. She reached down to the bottom of her expensive purse and pulled out this crumbled granola bar and gave it to me saying “Here. This is better. You need this.” That was her tip. People have food allergies, restrictions and preferences. So please don’t do that.
How much do YOU tip? Do you have a different basis? I would love to hear your opinions.