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Tall Drink of Nerd: Tips For Touching

Listen, I’m a good tipper. I nearly always tip 20% wherever I go. At restaurants and bars, figuring out the tip is easy.  Good service – 20%, adequate service – 15%, crappy service – 10%.  I can’t go without tipping, it feels wrong and I’d rather err on the side of being to too nice than too cheap.

When it comes to massages and haircuts, standard tipping gets iffy.  Do I tip more because they are touching me? To gin up more confusion, my local massage office (it’s an office, not a spa, because it is just small rooms off a hallway with no other amenities) posted a note in the treatment room that made my eyebrows go roller-coastering.

This past Saturday, I set up a much-needed 60 minute Swedish massage.  In the massage room, as I was stripping all my clothes off, down to my skivvies, I noticed a sign on the door just below the clothes hangers.  It said (I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t have photographic memory): ‘Because we offer high quality for such value, if you appreciate your massage today, please tip your therapist.  Your tip will ensure they can earn enough to continue working here.’ Then the sign had bolded, large font amounts you should tip –

60 min massage (which is $47) – Tip $15 – $25
90 min massage – I didn’t look at this sign because I was only getting a 60 min massage.

Is it fair, or even ethical, to request a 32% – 53% tip?  Most people are going to this store because they can’t afford anything more.  Add 53% to that price and it decreases the ‘value’ of the massage and stops folks from getting a treatment.  I felt especially vulnerable to be reading this request with my pants off and my lady lumps exposed to the incense filled breeze.

This was my second trip to that massage business.  The sign wasn’t up the first time. That first day, I got a phenomenal massage and gave a 25% tip, thinking that it was equal to the service I received. Now I feel guilty for only tipping 25%. Did my therapist feel slighted?

Just so you know, I have been on the other side of this issue.  I’ve been a waitress and a massage therapist, so I know the wages aren’t great for the hours worked and labor involved.  Being a good therapist, there was usually 15%-20% waiting for me after in that little tip envelope, but any amount was appreciated.  It usually determined what I bought for lunch that day.  But my expectations were low, or perhaps appropriate.  I knew that people would give what they could or felt okay with.

The sign stuck in my craw so much that I told Seen about it when I got home.  He thought it was a tad outrageous too.  Since the company advertises at a value rate, marketing themselves around affordability, it seemed sneaky.  This company was asking me to subsidize their employee’s wages.  If they felt their employees deserved more, they should charge more up front.

So am I a cheapskate?  Shaaa, No!  I was on unemployment when I tipped this woman 25%.  It was the best I could do.

Because I like back up opinions, I searched the internets to see what was the common etiquette on tipping for massage.  Most sites state that 10%-20% tip for massage is the norm. Some even said tipping was not expected, at all. That if a tip is given, the therapist should write a thank you note to the client!  I don’t agree with that last bit, but just so ya know, it’s a theory out there.

So did I under tip?  Is the spa helping their therapists or irritating their customers by hanging these signs? How do you feel about tipping?  How do you handle organized/requested tipping?  Am I the only one who is mildly flummoxed by this issue?  Give me your tips on how to handle this in the comments.

Just a few sites that agree with me: