The premise of this article is a comparison between the nature of a massage job when you work at a medical facility as opposed to a spa type facility where the clientele profile can be a drastically different.
Many patients who go to medical facilities to get a massage typically are interested in the healing effects of massage. These patients normally require techniques like Swedish and Deep Tissue. While tipping is acceptable at medical facilities, it is not heavily publicized or encouraged. We will discuss why later.
Those who go to spa like massage facilities are likely more interested in reflexology and relaxation type techniques. Tipping is normal and highly encouraged in such facilities. In fact, tips can be significant at these facilities, often making up for a lower wage a massage therapist gets paid relative to what they would get paid at a medical massage facility. You can read more about the specific differences between the two types of facilities here.
The question on hand is: What would you rather have, referrals and repeat business or larger tips? Ideally the answer is both, but let’s examine what generally happens in reality.
In reality, those that go to spa like massage facilities go to enjoy their massage. The mindset is of relaxation, enjoyment and luxury. After their massage they often offer tips to their massage therapist in exchange for the pleasure derive from the service.
Those who go to medical massage type facilities often to go resolve a problem, or symptoms they may be experiencing. They expect their therapists to listen to their problems and provide medical care that would make them feel better.
After the massage, the patient often leaves without tipping. Many massage therapists who work in these facilities would likely appreciate referrals and repeat business more so than tips. Why? Because massage therapists who work in medical massage type facilities are often get paid more per massage or per hour than those that work in spa type facilities. Thus, for a medical facility therapist to continue to thrive in their career, referrals and repeat business mean more to them than tips do.
There is also an ethical component to this psychology. Many medical massage practitioners do not feel it is right to accept tips in exchange of providing good medical care and pain relief to their patients. The psyche of the patient is also different, in that the patient feels that they are paying for medical care and often times medical care does not involve tips.
This is not to say that medical massage therapists cannot provide relaxing massages, or that one cannot get a good fix or a nice deep tissue massage at a spa. At the end of the day, the type and quality of the service offered all depends on the massage therapist. The facility however dictates the psychology both massage therapists and their patients/clients adapt.
In both cases, patients or clients may or may not refer more business to the massage therapist. This depends on the relationship and rapport they have with the practitioner. This also depends on the satisfaction they walked away with after getting a massage.
As an aspiring massage therapists, which do you prefer and why? Where do you see yourself thrive? We hope this article has given you some food for thought as you continue to contemplate where you end up after massage school.