Do you tip a massage therapist?

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The client of a massage therapist is often faced with the quandary of whether or not to leave a tip. To help you determine whether a tip is appropriate for your massage therapist -- or not -- you will need to understand the different services that a massage therapist offers.

Then you can decide whether or not to offer a tip.

Medical setting

Massage therapy is commonly offered to patients in hospitals, rehab centres, medical clinics and physical therapy settings. The massage therapist is a valid licensed healthcare practitioner; therefore her services are considered part of the treatment provided by the facility, and she doesn't expect a tip, although there can be exceptions.

Spa setting

The environment within a spa setting is very different than in hospitals or other medical settings. Spa massage services centre on providing stress relief, relaxation, rejuvenation, and centring of the mind, body, and spirit. Within the spa setting, it is appropriate and acceptable to tip your massage therapist. Although tips are not required, they are appreciated. As with any tip, this decision, of course, is based on the quality of service received. Some spas automatically charge a gratuity for services, but keep in mind that your massage therapist does not always receive the full gratuity -- a portion of it is withheld. If you feel your massage experience was exceptional, additional tipping is acceptable.

Private practice

Many massage therapists work independently in their own private practice. The decision whether to tip your therapist for her services is entirely up to the you. Unlike the medical setting, the environment within a private practice setting is less stringent, and more of the esoteric relaxation and stress-relieving aspects of a massage session are available. Your massage therapist is free to work with you in a way that allows more communication and interaction. In this case, you will be more naturally compelled to want to tip your massage therapist.

Special events and out-calls

When you call for a massage therapist to come to your home, your office, or your hotel room, you are asking them to do much more work than is normally required of them. Because they must travel, and also transport their equipment, they appreciate good tips. This also applies to massage therapists who offer massages at sporting events, trade shows, and other outdoor events for the participants to benefit from. For these services tipping is acceptable.

Chair massage

Often you will see a massage therapist with a specially designed massage chair that allows a client to sit and relax by lying forward. These therapists are there to offer "mini" massages and are usually found in shopping centres, airports and various event settings. Tipping after this kind of massage is acceptable and appropriate. When your massage therapist goes above and beyond to make your day, make her day by doing the same -- give her a nice tip.