First off, I want to say that this isn't a post about chastising people who don't tip. This isn't a post that tells you on what and how much to tip. There's enough articles on the internet that do that. I wanted to write this for anyone getting a massage wondering if they should tip or not. I've been frequently asked in my own practice about tipping. I will address it not only for my own practice, but covering the massage industry as a whole in the US.
My massage practice is more on the medical side of things. Most of my clients see me for muscle rehabilitation and pain relief. If any of them would like to tip me, I'll happily accept as it shows they enjoy the work that I do. But I always say the best tip my clients can give me is letting their friends, families, co-workers, or even the mail man know about the work that I do. Letting others know about my massage essentially helps me as I work for myself, and it keeps my practice going.
Another great tip is to write your therapist an online review on Google, or other review sites. That helps because it will make your massage therapist more visible on search engines. People can also read about your experience before making an informed choice to book an appointment.
So, instead of a cash tip, your referrals and reviews are the best tip a private practitioner could receive. I know many therapists who own their own business that feel the same way. Since I focus more on healthcare in my practice, tips are never an expectation for me. Do you tip your doctor or physical therapist? Tips are always appreciated though if my clients insist.
However, there is a flip side to this. Many massage therapists do work in the service industry. Anytime you go to a massage franchise such as Massage Envy, spa/salon, or the therapist is an employee of someone else, most likely they are living off of tips. Working for myself in my own practice, I get to keep whatever I charge for a massage (hence tips are not as vital for my livelihood).
For a time when I worked at Massage Envy, I was getting paid $15 per hour of massage. While most people would consider that decent pay per hour, it's not really the best for massage therapists, as most can only do 4-6 massages a day (that's even if there are that many on the schedule). For a day that has two appointments on the schedule, a therapist would only earn $30 as base pay for an entire 6-8 hour schedule.
Tips were a significant amount of the paycheck when working at Massage Envy. That is why if you ever get a massage at a franchise, they will encourage you to tip between $10-$20 per hour to supplement the therapists income. That way, the therapist can make a decent living working at the franchise. Therapists will only get a portion of that $100+ massage you got a spa as well. If you see envelopes in your massage room, that's where your tips go . So in the service industry, tips will be expected (and very appreciated).
So hopefully that gives you a better idea. Still unsure? Ask your therapist anyway on what their tipping policy is. Some therapists will accept tips while others will not. Now I have a little tip for you; go out there and get yourself a massage!