Tip or No Tip

If I go to a bagel shop or a Starbucks, there is typically a jar so I can leave my change for a tip. However, if I go to a McDonald's or other fast food restaurant, that’s not an option. Some restaurants, like the chain Noodles & Company, specifically ask diners to NOT leave a tip. If I go to a nicer, sit-down restaurant, there is an expectation of a tip. If I happen to bring a large group of friends, a tip may be added automatically (potentially causing someone—not mentioning any names—to inadvertently double tip after hitting the bar). How is a guy in his early 40s supposed to make sense of all this? When I get a haircut, I tip the barber/stylist (if you’ve seen my hair, you understand). If I order a beer, I tip the bartender. When I visit the doctor, I don’t tip. I haven’t been to the chiropractor in a while, but I don’t remember tipping him. I recently had eight sessions with a physical therapist. No tip for him, either. I got a massage the other day, and had a decision to make—do I leave a tip? I did. Actually I can’t think of a situation where I haven’t left a tip for my massage therapist. Our ABMP Member Survey indicates the following:
  • Therapists who practice in spas/salons receive tips from 90% of their clients.
  • Therapists who practice in a massage-only clinic receive tips from 80% of their clients.
  • Therapists who work in medical offices report receiving tips from 10% of their clients.
Some places where I have received massage encouraged tipping the therapist and suggest an amount; that's my decision, not theirs. When I was completing my student clinic work, I received tips, and I know this probably sounds funny, but that was awesome. Many of you know I had no expectations of a flourishing massage career when I embarked on my massage training; getting a tip from a client was not financially material (although it bought a few lunches), but it validated me and my work. It underscored to me that I was providing value to my client. And that feeling meant more than the $5. Some of this discussion is trivial and certainly subjective, but I think the topic also addresses a larger issue for some people—are we a service profession? Service professionals in many cases receive tips; in most cases, health professionals do not. If you consider yourself a health professional, does receiving a tip marginalize you in any way? How about you? If you are paying for a massage, do you tip your therapist? In your practice, do you accept tips? If so, how do you feel about them? Digging deeper, do you declare your tips as income? And perhaps the most important question—what’s a decent tip for an hour massage?