Should you tip your Massage Therapist?
This is an ongoing debate among both clients and massage therapists. Massage therapists get paid a decent wage but it’s also an extremely physically demanding job so do they really get paid enough for the wear and tear on their bodies? But also tipping culture is a whole other issue. So when should you tip your massage therapist?
Places where tipping is more common:
Places where tipping is less common:
This should be deciding factor number one. Here’s an example:
“Bob has really bad sciatic pain that has put him out of work. He has seen his doctor and the doctor recommended physiotherapy and regular massage therapy treatment. Bob does have benefits but won’t cover more than a few treatments”
Bob, don’t tip. Bob, don’t even explain why you’re not tipping. You don’t owe a reason or excuse as to why you don’t tip. Your massage therapist is never going to ask you why and you are still going to get the same quality treatment as the next person.
Maybe you have great massage therapy coverage, or maybe you’ve been fortunate enough in life to tip all service workers. The same scenario for Bob applies here as well. You may tip if you want but if you don’t you’re still going to get the same quality treatment as everyone else, without question.
Do some businesses require that you tip the massage therapist? None that I’ve seen. There are definitely places in the world that enforce tipping, not just for massage therapy but for a variety of services. In Canada, I have never seen a business force a tip on clients. In my opinion this is very unprofessional and I wouldn’t trust the quality of the treatment you are about to receive. Some clinics and spas do make it very obvious that they want you to tip. I once went for a massage at a very big spa in Winnipeg and after the treatment I was given an envelope. I think it may have been awkward for the RMT because I didn’t understand what the envelope was for at first. I was told to drop it into a mailbox.
Most payment terminals automatically include a tip option. Some of these terminals can make it a bit challenging to opt out of a tip or set the percentages at a very high rate. To be transparent, my Square terminal is great at giving a tip option, there is a percentage, custom tip, or no tip option that is easy to see. I don’t believe in trapping or guilting people into a tip, even if it doesn’t seem obvious.
Your massage therapist is going to recommend a treatment plan for you based on your specific goals are treatment. This is not a contract! You have the right to ask for a different treatment plan, frequency, length of treatments. We will work together to find the best plan.
As massage therapists, we value more your regular visits over a large tip. If you’re a new client, get surprised by the cost of the massage, feel a social obligation to leave a tip, then never come back …well this situation doesn’t benefit you or the massage therapist. At the end of the day, your massage therapist wants to see you’re functional and feeling less pain in the long run.
So, if you’re coming in once every 7 days, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, then you’re officially a “regular”!! You’re getting the treatment you feel is valuable for your body and your massage therapist is getting a regular wage. You may tip if you can, but you also don’t need to!
I want to tip! What is a customary tip?
You asked for it… math.
Let’s say a 60min massage costs $85. Here’s a tip percentage breakdown:
60min Massage $85
5% = $4.25
10% = $8.50
15% = $12.75
20% = $17.00
This a big range of numbers here, but personally I have been tipped much less and much more than these numbers. It depends on the person and the treatment. This is only specific to me, but my average tip (for those that choose to tip) is about $10.00. On average, the lower tips are about $5.00 and the higher tips are about $20.00. This is in my own experience only, and only for those clients that do choose to tip.
Societal rules have stuck to around 10% tips for services workers. Lately has gone up to 15% tips and most recently service workers in the food industry have been seeing 20% tips!
Here’s a quick flow chart to make your tipping easier:
Do you want to tip?
Are you getting regular treatment? Ok, no problem.
Do you have insurance? If it’s within your budget:
↓ ↓ 10%, 15%, or 20%
If it’s within your budget: If it’s within your budget:
10%, 15%, or 20% 5%, 10%, or 15%
To summarize, massage is more expensive for those that have an insurance plan so you may choose to tip less based on the overall long-term cost of your treatments. I can’t say this enough, 0% tip is always an option! Keep in mind when you select a tip percentage on the payment terminal, it may only be applied to your insurance co-pay. In this case you may have intended to leave a $10.00 tip but in actuality you only left $0.10. Do not worry, your massage therapist usually sees these types of errors with processing insurance, we don’t take it personally.
Where does my tip go?
At Mint Massage Therapy, tips are given directly to the RMT, in full. There is no division of tips or sharing of tips. Your massage therapist will get 100% of the tip you leave (excluding government income tax of course). COVID has definitely changed the handling of tips, where people have less and less cash on hand. I’ve heard of some businesses refusing all cash tips and only accepting card processed tips. This is understandable when cash was already so germy before. You can always ask your massage therapist what they prefer if it’s an option for you.
What else can I do instead of tipping?
If you feel like you want to leave a tip but it isn’t an option for you, there are some things you can do to support the business and the massage therapist. I recommend to do these actions or any local small business to help them thrive!
The great debate among Massage Therapists
Tipping is an area that no two massage therapists can agree on. There are two sides to the debate:
Massage therapists are healthcare and you do not tip healthcare professionals.
Massage Therapists work very hard and we provide a service that deserves tips.
I can truly see a point on both sides of this argument. A lot of massage therapists in Manitoba seek provincial regulation since we currently do not have any. Most of these therapists would like to be included more under the healthcare umbrella and thus would refuse tips. This is a good argument because if massage therapists were regulated healthcare we may see more treatment coverage for clients under insurance plans such as MPI and Manitoba Health. The other side of this argument is that massage therapists, whether regulated or not, will continue to work in spas and personal service venues (such as nail salons, or hair salons). These types of businesses are quite customary to tipping. So a massage therapist with the same education, same experience, and same pay will get tipped in one business and not the other. Is this fair? Arguably yes, and no.
Who thought there would be so much politics around tipping???
So what’s the final verdict:
If you want to tip, then do it! The average tip (for myself) is $10 for 60min massage treatments.
If you don’t want to tip, then don’t! You’re not going to be asked about it and you’ll receive the same treatment.