Monday, August 19, 2013

Gratuities - Think Before You Thank

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the custom of tipping.  It seems like standard procedure to do so, when receiving a service.  These days, with “tip” jars on every coffee shop counter, and services like Massage Therapy gaining in popularity, it bears review. 
The practice of leaving a gratuity for service seems to have begun in 16th century England.  Houseguests would leave something for the “help”, since they had extra duties while they visited.  It was a way to compensate underpaid workers, and this is why it can be considered faux pas to tip the owner of a business.  The general custom of tipping did not begin in the US until after the Civil War, when travel abroad exposed us to that culture, and we brought it back.
Since it’s opening in September 2008, Mindful Massage has had a zero gratuities policy.  There is a little sign in my studio that reflects this fact, and I am very comfortable with the decision.  Regular clients have grown accustomed.  I do, however, get asked about it quite frequently – even by colleagues.  Here are my top reasons, and darned good ones if I do say so myself.
1.       As the business owner, as mentioned above, gratuities should not be accepted.  Many people still tip their hair stylists, even if they own the salon.  Salons have much higher overhead than I do, and different atmosphere, so a case could be made.   Massage Therapists working within a salon/spa setting depend on tips, since they only make a fraction of the fee charged. 
2.       I see Massage Therapy as a necessity of good health for many.  As I have said, “you do not tip your physical therapist, personal trainer or dental hygienist, do you?”  It is a way that I bring the healthcare element to my industry.
3.       As a Massage Therapy client myself, I know that I spend the last minutes of the massage at a new place wondering how much I should leave.  The very idea that anyone on my table would spend one second calculating a tip is cringe-worthy!  Add to this the fact that many clients know each other and may wonder how they compare as a “tipper”.  Ugh!
4.       I intensely dislike the implication of a bigger tip yielding better future service. 
5.       When you buy a massage as a gift, wouldn’t it be nice not to require the recipient to pay for gratuity out of pocket?
6.       It’s simply a better value and easier to budget monthly when the price is just the price.
What I hope to accomplish with all of this is to spur more thought on this gratuity thing, which should be commensurate with quality of service.   It is meant as a “thank you”.  We all work hard for our money, and it should not be a perfunctory duty to leave extra every time you turn around.  Reward the good ones generously, but do not feel compelled to give 20% extra for passionless work!
And next time you see “tip jar” on the cashier’s counter, put a scrap of paper in that says “don’t smoke in bed”. 
I dare you.

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