The Soul-Crushing Conundrum About Proper Tipping

Oh man, you want to tip us? Thank you.

Thank you.

While (hopefully) not dependent on tips in the way those in more servicey service industries are, I think we can all agree that extra money is not something to be sneezed at. However, as with literally everything that exists about massage therapy (except for the rule about not having sex with your clients), there is always room for discord and different opinions.

Let us now navigate the thorny mixed metaphorical waters of tipping in the massage industry.

What is a good tip? How little can you get away with while not looking cheap? How little can you get away with and don’t care about looking cheap? Can you not do it at all?

Well guess what!


(get used to hearing that phrase)

I’ve worked at a spa where tipping was verboten. Completely not allowed. Like ‘gets you fired if anyone finds out’ not allowed. This policy was on the website’s FAQs page. There was probably a discreet placard at the front desk stating this. Basically (this is what we the staff were told), the idea is that the client pays for their service/s up front and doesn’t have to worry about any ‘surprise’ additional charges when they were ready to leave in a cloud of blissful zombieism. What clients were also told is that we the staff got good enough wages that we didn’t need tips. (At the time we got paid a minimal wage for our non-massaging time, on the premise that we would be doing various chores around the spa.) Whether or not this latter excuse was true didn’t make a difference: tipping was right out and so help you if you left a little something in our rooms when you left. A couple times that happened, we brought it to the front desk and had them put the money on the client’s account, ’cause $20 is not worth our job. But thank you!

(Remind me to do a comic about the client who left me a Bible day planner as a ‘tip’.)


I’ve also interviewed at a hotel where tips (rather, gratuities, thank you) were added onto the service/s. Like 18%? Again, it was on their website. They would like your money, thank you, and they are going to be upfront about getting it. Which is cool! Oh man 18% on high-end hotel massage prices would be pretty nice.


Currently I’m working at a place that has no tipping policy. Which is to say, tips aren’t mandatory but we accept them anyway, because we have big ol’ accepting hearts.


This can cause confusion. Since we don’t have a policy, we don’t state our policy. WHAT TO DO?


Just ask. Never be embarrassed or ashamed to ask.

Is there money involved? Then yes, ask ask ask, very good idea to know what is expected.

Now, because I am a kind-hearted and sweet-tempered individual who would never ever wish to fleece the unknowing public, I’ma offer you a couple ways you can go about tipping that hopefully leaves everyone, client and therapist, satisfied.

First, you can go by percentage. I tell people to do whatever they do at a restaurant (while adding off-hand that that’s in the 10%-15% range, because I know some of you have no regard for waitstaff).

Second, the $2.50-per-15 rule, which I made up, so don’t expect to find it referenced anywhere else. What this means is, for every 15 minutes of massage, add a $2.50 tip. Getting a half hour massage? That’s a $5 tip. 90 minute massage? $15 tip. 45 minutes? $7.50. When clients ask me though, I tend to say $5 per half hour and hope for the best. It’s the same thing, but $5 is easier to parse in a hurry than $2.50.

Third – you can not tip, too, and that’s okay! That’s why there’s the little NO option beside the YES option on the POS machine. (Or, as I invariably call it, the money-taking machine. I have a highly technical mind.)

“WHAT!” I hear you yell, outraged. “NO tipping? AT ALL? These people!”

Well, quite frankly, while I super do love extra money and like it when people show their appreciation and gratitude for a job well done with cold hard cash, the thing is, if shit ain’t mandatory, you can’t really complain when you ask for volunteers and no one steps up.

Alternately, I’ve heard a couple RMTs says that they don’t accept tips as a personal thing anyway, because massage therapy should be seen as equal with things like doctoring and dentistry, and THOSE professions don’t sully themselves with taking filthy unearned extra lucre, and if you take tips then aren’t you worried that the clients will be worried that you’ll treat them differently and give different goodness of skill of massage during their treatments and isn’t it shameful how tipping equates us with such ‘professions’ as waitstaff and aestheticians and-




sounds like you could use a massage

Now, even though I love me some free money, there are definitely ways you can give someone free money and still come off as douchey and insulting. (Remarkable, ain’t it?) Like, say, if you get an hour massage whose total comes to, like, $97 and you give the RMT a hundred-dollar bill and winsomely tell them to “keep the change”.


can you spare it

If you do wish to tip (which you don’t have to!) (unless it’s stated you do!), at the very least, throw in $5. If that seems like too much effort, or hey, if you super don’t have the extra money and this is all through insurance or WHATEVERRRRRRRRR. then… just don’t tip.

I mean, I’m going to take your money regardless. It’s mine now. That 8 cents? You’re not getting it back. You gave it to me. hsss, fffft.

(Yes seriously $0.08 on debit, plus $3 cash for an hour massage. No I do not understand the thought process there either.)

So that’s how to tip! Don’t! Or, preferably, do! Or, ask!

Money etiquette, amirite??

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