Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2011

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visit THE TIPPING POINT Where Do You Stand on Receiving Gratuities? Few issues can incite as much dispute on massage therapy Internet forums as a discussion about tipping. The ABMP- owned-but-open-to-all website www.massageprofessionals. com is a regular meeting place for thousands of massage therapists, and at any given time there are a half dozen different threads going on about gratuities. There are almost as many differences of opinion as there are therapists. More often than not, the decision of whether or not to accept tips hinges on several things: how therapists view themselves in the paradigms of health- care provider versus service provider, whether one is self-employed or working for a company that may have a stated tipping policy, and the therapist's own financial needs and wants. IF A TIP IS EXPECTED, IS IT STILL A TIP? Even the very term tip is open to interpretation. The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary defines it as "a gift or a usually small sum of money tendered in payment or often in excess of prescribed or suitable payment for a service performed or anticipated."1 In some situations, such as certain restaurants, the tip is automatically added on to the bill no matter how the service is. (I once pitched a fit in an expensive restaurant, where the 20 percent tip was added on, because my family all sat there with empty glasses that were never refilled, never received our dinner rolls in spite of the waitress saying she would be right back with them, and never saw the waitress again after she deposited our food at the table. I objected to paying 20 percent of a pricey bill for the terrible service we received, and the management removed the tip.) Adding a gratuity to the bill is standard practice in many spas, salons, and resorts, and on cruise ships. I was a little taken aback a few days ago when I was on a discussion board; a therapist wanted to know how to word a sign to let her clients know that a tip is "expected." The majority of therapists participating in the discussion suggested that she just raise her fees instead of expecting a tip from every client. MEDICAL OR NOT? Judging from the comments I've observed on these forums, many of the therapists who view themselves as medical professionals don't accept gratuities. Their logic is that you don't tip a doctor or a chiropractor, so why would you tip someone else who is in a licensed health-care position? Even that attitude, though, seems closely related to the work situation of the therapist. One who works in a chiropractic office may not receive tips, while a therapist doing the same "medical" work in a private office may feel fine about accepting them. Another therapist commented that even if you're doing massage in a medical setting, comparing a doctor receiving a tip to a therapist receiving one was like comparing apples and oranges. She pointed out that a doctor attends school for eight years, sees more clients per day, has a lot of support staff, and charges a lot more money than a massage therapist for his or her services, all of which is true. tune in to your practice at ABMPtv 21

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