August 12, 2021

Should I Tip on a Massage?

I had quite a few folks ask me about the new pricing structure- namely the elimination of gratuity. This is something I've been thinking about for a while, and closing then reopening gave me the unique opportunity to adjust my policies.

Massage therapy straddles worlds. Is it a luxury personal service to pamper or is healthcare to relieve pain and manage mental health? Sometimes one or the other. Sometimes both. Are you receiving your massage in a spa? a chiropractor's office? someone's home? a hospital? a large chain? the beach?

Honestly, I kind of like that it's both. It allows for more focus on care, responsibility, and evidence-based education on the healthcare side, but this intangible human softness centered around creating an experience on the personal service/hospitality side.

What a beautiful combination.

Living between those two worlds, however, can clash with payment expectations. We are accustomed to tipping many of our service providers, but paying a flat fee to our healthcare partners. Questioning whether or not to tip on a massage can lead to awkwardness and uncertainty in an environment that is supposed to feel relaxing.

In many environments, the therapists depend on tips as a large portion of their income. This can be due to businesses using the tipping expectation as a way to pay lower wages to their employees, or a therapist setting their own prices to be "competitive" and counting on tips to make it "livable". (I will not get up on my soapbox to rant about how tipped professions are a trap promising 'more' and how everyone deserves a living wage for their labor... right now).

As a business owner, I have the power to set my own prices, and I can make sure I am paid/paying a fair and sustainable wage. Is it really a show of appreciation if it also feels like an obligation? And if it's an expectation in the price, why not just set it that way?

I've still had clients ask to tip anyway, and I've continued to turn it down. As a practice that bills itself as "trauma informed", it is important to me to have consistent policies that are clearly communicated to set expectations and maintain trust.

I worked in a tipped profession for a long time before this (restaurants), and that's one of the many reasons I wanted to move on from that field. Between the hassle of budgeting this nebulous extra amount(for both consumer and provider) and the complex power dynamics at play, it felt so much simpler to just take this out of the equation.

All that being said- it means the world to me to be appreciated. Kind words, reviews, and referrals go a long way.

I also like cookies.