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?


I am a fellow massage therapist, in PA.  I do accept tips and 90% of my clientele do tip.  I rely on my tips... This being said - most of my clients tip via my express pay program or in their check and on Square.  Very few if any will give a cash tip if paying these ways.  It's funny but my cash paying clients are the biggest cash tippers... go figure...  I do declare my tips as income as I really have no choice when it is included on a card payment.  


I do tip my therapist for a job well done....  common courtesy I suppose - unless I receive a massage at my doctors...

I think a good tip depends on the type of therapy and it's cost. Most of the time a $10 tip is average but I do a good job and exceed expectations when I get tips. 

Most people like to tip after the massage is over based on how great they feel. If they don't feel so great usually less tip. Also if they came with a gift certificate usually they don't think about the tip. So I find it is good to offer the giver of the gift certificate a tip prepayment option so that then everything is covered. 

Its an interesting topic to bring up considering the healthcare side of things. Something to think about on my end. I want to be considered more health oriented but no tips would not be a good thing. I do consider tipping optional and not required like you would your waiter because they make money because of tipping. 

I think it is a gesture from your client to show how much they liked their session and if they return I think it is to make sure to continue to have great sessions because you know they tip well, however I think you should never do better because of a tip and you should always give the best massage regardless because it shows consistent performance. You never know what word of mouth can do and maybe someone that is a horrible client that loves your work will refer the best client you have ever had.

Also I do report tipping on taxes because you kinda can't avoid it when it shows up one the receipt from the credit card.

I work in both a salon setting and chiropractic setting. I accept tips in both locations, although I receive tips

from a high percentage of people at the salon and for a greater amount. I accept tips at the chiropractic office when

offered only because I charge a lower rate than the salon as to not discourage people.. Clients often tell me that they

paid more at a salon but felt that I was worth the extra in the form of a tip.

I'm firmly in the "no tip" camp.  I'm a professional in business for myself, I price my service fairly, and I don't believe in tipping for a professional service.  My clients receive a copy of my practice guidelines, and it includes the line:  "...And tipping is not necessary.  I price my service fairly and encourage you to put any money for tipping toward your next appointment."  My clients have said that they appreciate my stating this clearly.



Marion Rosen (founder of the Rosen Method) said that she never took tips. She would say things like "I cannot help them if I am trying to get a client to like me". She did not want to be tempted by the lure of working for a tip - she wanted to be directly honest for the client's healing as top priority.

Ginny H has it right! If you are self employed and "own" your own business, you should not be receiving tips. You are not an employee receiving minimum wage. Tips are for employees; not employers! If you need the extra cash you should price your service higher to begin with. Tipping an owner feels slimy to me - as though s/he has her greedy hands out. An employee making much less than the going hourly rate the public pays deserves and relies on tips. I also am firmly in the no tip camp. It shows you are in command of your business and not desperate for the extra dollars. Start thinking of yourself as an executive; not an employee and you'll see what we mean by this.

I am self employed and I do accept tips but I tell customers that if they wish to tip we will gladly accept that tip but that it is never required and that all of our clients receive the same quality of work regardless of whether we are tipped or not.   Tipping is not a "should".  It is a person's way of showing additional appreciation for what we do.  

And, yes, I certainly WOULD tip  my doctor or chiropractor if I thought they either needed it or if they gave me a fabulous visit experience.  My tips are based on my experience.  Some get lots, some get nothing and some get a little.  It has nothing to do with THEIR expectations; it has to do with my expectations, their pricing and MY experience.

 On the reverse side of tipping,  I also offer discounts to those whom I know or think might have a problem paying full price for their massage. I have even given away free sessions to clients who have lost jobs, or othrwise have been in financial straits. To me, This is all the beauty of being self employed.  We can treat people as individuals instead of one size or one"rule" fits all.  

This is my opinion.  I cannot say what is right for each individual out there and I don't think any one of us can say what is right for others.  I personally do not want to be considered part of health care.  What got me into this was my dis-satisfaction with health care.  Many of my clients are the same and consider my services (and yes, PT and chiro are services too!) alternative to mainstream health care.

We don't have to fit into their mold to be professional.  We need to make our own mold so to speak.

I can afford to be idealistic about this, since I'm a hobbyist and don't depend on massage for income, but the "professional" argument resonates with me. I think it's the better path to this profession getting its due respect. 
I might give a teacher, architect, contractor, or veterinarian a bottle of wine, or chocolates, but it would be weird to tip them.

Here's an interesting NPR podcast on the issue from the restaurant point of view: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/danny-meyer/

Interesting that you don't consider a bottle of wine a tip!  Anything above the price you agreed to pay for the service, in my opinion, is a tip.  think about it  :o)

I don't expect tips in my private practice, and when my clients ask, I explain the healthcare viewpoint. That being said, I used to moonlight in a spa where the management expected tips to make up 50% of our income, and I would hate to see my spa colleagues lose this necessary portion of their pay. I've laid out my full thoughts in a blog of my own....

I work in a chiropractic office and consider myself to be a health professional. I do not accept tips because : 1) It doesn't seem appropriate for this setting. I'm working with people in pain, not pampering them; 2) I am self-employed and set my own prices; 3) I hate the way tipping messes with people's minds (my own included). From the client's point of view, they're unsure if they've given enough. From mine, if the tip was less than other times, I wonder what I did wrong; if more than usual, my ego gets in the way and I expect that amount next time, too. 4) I'm beginning to do insurance work now, and there is no provision for tipping in those cases.

I usually trade with other therapists for my own body work, so there is no tipping.

My above comment aside, some of my clients bring me things -- produce from their garden, a plate of cookies, a dozen farm-fresh eggs, a hand-crocheted potholder, a cutting off a plant . . . much more meaningful than a $10 tip, wouldn't you agree?

If an employer expects their employees to be tipped and pays them at a rate that takes tips into consideration, the employers are knowingly paying their therapists less than they are worth.  Tips don't supplement an income - they make up the difference of devaluation.  For example, if an employer thinks a therapist's work is worth $40/hour, but expects them to generate an average of $15/hour in tips, they will pay them $25/h.  Instead of being a bonus for excellent service, tips are a subsidy for underpaid labor.

You don't tip your chiropractor, dental hygienist, or radiologist, because they are all considered professional healthcare providers.  If you are a therapist who considers yourself a healthcare provider and who provides healthcare-oriented services, you should be paid according to your actual worth and skill level and not expect to rely on the casual generosity of clients.  However, until hospitality massage and therapeutic massage split ways and become separate fields, I don't think many salaried massage therapist positions will be offered outside of private practices.

When a client tips you, it says something. Usually regarding her or his satisfaction with you as a massage therapist. The tip is a way of showing their appreciation, on top of saying thank you, that was a great massage, etc. She or he leaves you with something extra.  Regardless of whether you consider yourself in the healthcare massage or relaxation massage a tip from your client is two sided. It gives the client a way to express themselves without words. And it gives the therapist something to remember about the particular client. I like to keep my rates a little lower so that the client is more inclined to add a tip. If your clients feel like they're getting something extra, most of the time they will give something extra. For employees who depend on tips for income, they will nonetheless be more comfortable with a tipping client. They will remember the client's generosity and they will subconsciously perform a better massage. To deny a client from tipping seems disrespectful to me, no matter how big or small it would be. Anyway, I guess the client-practitioner relationship has many ways of evolving.

I had a funny experience with getting tipped - Last winter I started with pre-pay option online that was paired with my booking system. Although I loved being free of this duty the problem was that almost no one tipped. Once I turned that feature off and resumed handling payments myself I started getting tips again - from both cash and credit card customers. I always tell people that it's not required and always thank them. I appreciate the gesture and depend on this income when offered.

As a customer I always tip my massage therapist. I feel that it's a physically strenuous service to provide and I want them to know how much I appreciate it.

Thanks for asking~