A massage is supposed to be a relaxing experience, but you won’t enjoy it if you’re worrying about how much to tip your therapist. Fortunately, there are a few simple rules that will always steer you in the right direction.
Tipping in a spa or salon
If you have a massage in a spa or on cruise ship, tipping is expected. These therapists are not self-employed. According to massage therapist Grace Boateng, they are usually paid low hourly wages. Tips can make the difference between a livable and non-viable wage packet. A spa may occasionally have a “no tipping” policy but this is the exception, not the rule.
How much should you pay?
According to etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, you should provide a 15%-20% tip if you were happy with the service. Come prepared – bring some cash to give the therapist immediately after the session.
Some spas operate an envelope system whereby you can choose to put a tip in an envelope. You then write the therapist’s name on the front and hand it in at reception.
What if you are using a coupon?
You should still use the full price in your calculation when working out how much to tip the therapist. The therapist still had to put in the same level of effort, even though you managed to get a discount. Therefore, they should receive the same tip. This also applies if you are using a gift certificate.
What if you are staying at an all-inclusive spa?
Some spa bills include tips (or “gratuities”) in the bill. It’s best to read the small print on their website or in their brochure before your stay. If in doubt, ask a receptionist or therapist to explain the tipping policy. You should never tip the manager or owner unless they personally gave you a massage.
What if you are seeing a private therapist?
Not all therapists work in spas or salons. Some work from their homes or other private settings. In general, tipping is not expected in these cases because the therapist should set their prices to cover their costs.
If you are seeing a massage therapist who presents themselves as a medical professional, do not tip them. In this case, they are in the same category as a chiropractor or doctor. The same principle applies if you have booked a massage treatment for a specific health condition.
Remember that tipping practices vary by country
If you are getting a massage abroad, bear in mind that the local etiquette might be different. For example, you should tip around 15% in Thailand but tipping is not generally expected in China. In India, massage therapists will not expect a tip but leaving behind a few coins is seen as a nice gesture.
A bit of research beforehand can save embarrassment. Consult a travel guide or respected online source like TripAdvisor before leaving for your trip.
What if the service was terrible?
Unless your massage therapist acted in a highly inappropriate manner, you should still tip. It’s only acceptable to withhold a tip if the service was so bad that you don’t want to pay at all. In this case, you should see the spa manager as soon as possible and explain the situation.
Don’t forget to give verbal feedback!
A generous tip is always welcomed, but therapists also like to hear that they’ve made you feel good. Giving a massage can be hard work and everyone wants to be appreciated for their work. If you’ve had an exceptional experience, recommend the therapist to your friends – and let them know that you’ll pass on their name.