Mandatory Gratuities -Oxymoron

images (18)I was settling up with a new client when she asked “And what is the recommended gratuity?” I explained that “while I appreciate the thought it was not necessary”. She was very surprised and commented that the last few places (both spa and private practice) she went to had a mandatory gratuity policy. This really drives me crazy.

The definition of mandatory is: containing or constituting a command: obligatory
The definition of a gratuity is: something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service; generally in the form of a tip.

A gratuity is just that. When a person is happy with a service that has been provided for them and wish to show their appreciation. So, would someone please explain to me how demanding a client be grateful for the service they have paid you to perform, whether or not they actually did appreciate it, acceptable? Especially to the point of requiring they give more money on top of the already established fee?

Now I am not saying one should not accept a gratuity. I believe it is a personal choice. It is up to the individual as to whether or not they wish offer a gratuity and to accept one. As I mentioned earlier I always tell my clients it is not necessary but if they insist I will accept because of what the offering means to them. I usually put the tip in a draw and then make a donation somewhere down the road with it, my way of paying it forward. But, again this is my choice there is nothing wrong if another therapist decided to keep the offering. The therapist performed a service to the best of his/her ability and were rewarded for the effort.

I know that there are a few points of view out there in regard to the Massage Profession. The first is we are a service industry and that there is no reason why we should not accept tips. The second is that we are healthcare providers, the same as doctors and physical therapists, and it is unprofessional to accept tips. We are all in service in one way or another from the doctor to therapist to contractors to the waitress at the local dinner. It is always uplifting when one is complimented or thanked for a job well done. Where the distinction falls as to who should or should not receive a gratuity it is commonly left up to proper social etiquette. What most fail to see is that if we follow proper etiquette everyone receives a tip. – hospitals are giving grants, doctors receive the fruit basket or bottle of wine at the holidays. We leave holiday bonuses for the mailman and the garbage collectors. We leave the tip on the table at the end of the meal for the waitress. How much we give, if at all, is a personal choice. While society likes to comment on the end results it is no one else’s business and it is certainly no one else right to demand that their way of doing something be adhered to.

There is also the unwarranted distinction of whether or not the therapist is working for themselves or on staff at a spa. In other words, it is required to tip the therapist at a spa because the house is taking a cut and the therapist makes less. First off the therapist chooses to work for the spa and that alone does not make them worthy of a gratuity. If the client is really pleased with the service then by all means have at it, however, the client should not be required to do so. It is a bad habit of some spas to make gratuities mandatory to make up for the low wages they pay the therapist. So in other words, the Spa is demanding the client not only pay them for the service but also share the cost of paying the salary of the therapist as well. If a spa wants quality staff then pay a decent wage.

A client once told me how she went to a spa where the staff was rude, she waited 20 minutes past her appointment time and the massage was just o.k. In spite of all of this when she paid for her treatment, she included a tip as etiquette required and she was promptly informed out loud “that is not how we do it here your tip is not enough”. She felt so embarrassed she gave them more money and fled. Granted this is not the norm but what is the incentive, for those who need one, to do a good job if they are already guaranteed a bonus no matter how they perform?

As far as not tipping a therapist in private practice because all of the money goes to them- well please, the therapist is paying their own overhead and has bills like everyone else. Either way if the client is pleased with the massage there is no reason not to express their appreciation and it is up to the therapist to choose to accept it. That’s all I am saying.

4 thoughts on “Mandatory Gratuities -Oxymoron

  1. I completely disagree with your feelings about gratuities. I work part-time for a spa. I receive $18 per massage, and $3 extra if I am requested by a client. Generally, speaking, I do well. I have built up my practice to help me financially meet some of my bills. It is easy to say that gratuities should not be mandatory. Ours are not. However, the people who own this chain of spas train their front desk staff to not say “Would you like to leave a gratutity?”, but rather “How do you want to leave your gratuity?” I appreciate this. Previously, I worked at a gym for 2 years as a massage therapist. I busted my butt to give excellent massages. Most of my clients had issues galore and understood the value of a good, therapeutic massage and the massage therapists who worked on them. They always left tips. Other people simply walked out the door without tipping because they could, but they made sure they came back every month for their massage. I had a good reputation there as a good therapist. However, even I got tired of the same clients over and over again who received a massage, then didn’t leave a tip. After awhile, I quit. The manager finally raised the prices of the massages at the gym to compensate. I NEVER ask for a tip no matter where I work, and in my private practice. However, at the spa I currently work at, I have also received clients who complain about needing a massage because they have so many problems. I work for at least an hour to help them. At the end of the session, they say things like “Thanks! That was wonderful!” Then, they walk out the door without leaving a tip. Most of the time, they skirt right by the front desk staff altogether. After awhile I realized that some customers are just plain, cheap-minded. Period. For them, I have no time anymore. They don’t value their massage and just want “fixed”. Tips are important. They signify an understanding that the service received is valuable. Perhaps in a perfect world, tips would not be needed. However, I put my clients first, and sincerely appreciate every tip I get…because I need it to live.

    • Thank you for sharing your view. I am sure you are an excellent therapist and that you put your heart and energy into your sessions. But to be honest, and this is purely my opinion and you have every right to disagree, the client is paying for you to do just that. They are not required to thank you in anyway including monetarily. If you feel you are not receiving enough for your services then you need to take that up with your employer not your clients. The fact that you helped them with their issues and were payed for your efforts is the agreed upon understanding of your exchange.

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