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Massage and Tipping

June 5th, 2019 at 08:39 am

I purchased a Groupon for a massage and have booked it for the 12th. I found a deal for a 5-star rated local massage therapist for $45. And then I used a promo code that took $10 off. So, $35 was the purchase price. With a tip, it should be $45. Not bad for an hour of deep-tissue massage

Okay – please don’t roast me for this next bit: I don’t understand tipping. I grew up in a country where people don’t tip unless they are provided with extremely exceptional service, and then we only tip for certain things. People get paid a living wage and don’t depend on tips in order to make money or to purchase health insurance. I have spent almost all of my adult life in the US, but I still can’t get my brain around tipping in certain circumstances. I now tip 20% at restaurants automatically – regardless of the level of service because I know that often people depend on that money to make a living wage. I also tip taxi drivers, doormen, valet drivers, hotel room service staff, etc.

However, there are certain other circumstances when it boggles the mind that people tip or receive tips. For instance, I read a post by someone on Facebook yesterday – she’s an airline customer service representative who got tipped $50 for doing her job. I would have never even thought to tip an airline customer service person. Now I wonder if I am expected to tip in places that I don’t and am racking up negative karma for not doing so.

I am a healthcare worker, and am licensed in my profession. It is against my ethical principles to accept a tip from a patient. The idea is that all my patients get the same level of care, and that my performance is supposed to be standardized and not motivated even in the very least by the possibility of financial gain by providing a higher level of care to some and not to others. So, how I treat a pauper and a billionaire has to be exactly the same – the promise of a tip or the lack of it is not supposed to sway me. If I accepted a tip or gifts, I could lose my license! So, when I go to a licensed massage therapist and am expected to tip, I get incredibly uncomfortable. I do tip, but it still weirds me out. I actually can’t think of any other health care profession where a tip is the norm. If you can, please let me know. I don’t want to not be tipping when I am expected to.

Please understand I am not saying that we shouldn’t tip others. What I am saying is that there should be a way for people to earn a living without having to depend on the vagaries or generosity/miserliness of others.

8 Responses to “Massage and Tipping”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    I think massage therapists fall under the category of service workers, more than health care providers, although I will agree with you that there are health advantages to massages.

  2. fireandi Says:

    That's interesting. I never thought of them as service workers because licensed massage therapists can bill health insurance. I have crappy health insurance now and massages aren't covered in the plan that I picked, so I get Groupons or pay full price. But the health insurance that I had 6 years ago, I used to get two massages a month covered by my insurance with a 10% co-insurance. But, it's helpful to reframe and think of them as service workers rather than healthcare workers to help me not be weirded out by tipping them.

  3. CB in the City Says:

    The airline service worker must have done something very special for her customer. They do not ordinarily receive tips. My cousin was a flight attendant, and she once received a $50 tip -- I think she refused it, though -- but sometimes people just tip because they feel they've been treated so well. And sometimes they're showing off!

  4. LuckyRobin Says:

    My feelings on massage is that if you go to a spa or fancy hotel and get a massage, you tip. If you go to an airport massage bar, you tip. If you go to someone for medically necessary massage out of a chiropractor's office or the like, you don't. Those ones are health care workers.

  5. fireandi Says:

    I really like the way you put it LuckyRobin. They are all licensed by the same board, but perhaps the location that they practice is what can determine healthcare vs. not. Thanks. I am going to a massage therapist at a Chiropractor's office, and it is to help with my back pain rather than just for comfort/luxury. But, I am not paying full price because I got it through a Groupon, so I feel compelled to tip anyway.

    CB - I believe she said she didn't do anything out of the ordinary. She rebooked the person on a different flight and he tipped her. She said that then he asked her to come work for his business. The cynic in me thinks that the tip was a bribe meant to influence her. Like the idiots who give a generous tip that's disproportionate to the service and then expect that this is a free license to flirt with or hit on the customer service person because now they won't complain. I have a friend who's a blackjack dealer at a casino who says that this happens all the time. The people who tip her $1-$5 for a game are just tipping her because they value the service. The person who tips $25-$100 then starts to aggressively hit on her. She puts up with it for the tip and because she's behind a table of cards. But I shudder to think of what it's like for a server at a bar. I used to have a male friend who told me that he would tip much much more at a Hooters for a beer than at an Olive Garden for dinner because he wanted the servers there to pay attention to him. They didn't. But the disturbing fact is that he thought he could tip his way into the attention. Like I said, I USED to have this friend...

  6. Smallsteps Says:

    although licensed not ALL can accept insurance most of those who do accept insurance are with a chiropractic clinic or maybe an occupational therapy situation. Most store front massage groups do not and can not accept insurance. Most of that has to do with credentialing by the insurance company and many other hoops one has to do to be able to accept insurance. If I was going to one in medical type clinic I see no reason to tip.

    I see a therapist in a massage franchise type place and although he can do deep tissue and has knowledge to do therapeutic it is not an insurance covered thing.
    The whole idea of tipping has gotten way out of hand IMO. it used to be for good or great service not as a way to make up for low wage.
    You got better service when it was that way now people think you have to tip for bad service too so why bother with a personal touch etc.
    many servers I knew when people tipped based on the real quality service made a lot of money ...after the idea that you must tip regardless people often did not tip as well since it was some obligation instead of a way to say good job.

  7. mumof2 Says:

    I live in australia we don't for anything as people are paid wages so I'm always confused when we go to the US in what we are suppose to tip..how much and who to tip...I always have to ask the staff and explain why we are asking LOL

  8. Amber Says:

    Awesome find on the massage

    For me it depends on the service when it comes to tipping. I’ve gone to a location once where the service was so bad I had the manager remove the gratuity from my bill. And to be honest I’ve only done this once.

    Again it depends if a nurse or an air line rep went Beyond the call of duty, I’d get a gift card or tip. My dentist did once and I bought the office breakfast, I don’t know if this is considered a tip

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