How do I handle tipping for spa treatments?

Tipping for Spa Treatments

How do I know which of the day spa staff personnel to tip, and how much do I tip each of them? Salon and spa treatments are a luxury I must budget for myself; I don’t want to go home with an empty wallet, but I don’t want to embarrass myself by slighting anyone, either. Speaking of which, do you have to carry around cash discretely and hand it out immediately after you are attended to by each staff person?  It seems so awkward, but I don’t see any standard practice.

Mary B

Ft Lauderdale, Florida

A: Tipping etiquette in any service-oriented industry (domestic services, hair and nail salon services, restaurants, and day spas) remains fairly standard.  If you received good service from your provider, budget a 15-20% tip for good to very good service.  A full 20% is the norm in high-end facilities where you are just a little bit in love with the over-the-top pampering you experienced.  This may mean you have to save a few more dollars before you schedule your next treatment, but both you and the spa provider will appreciate the benefits.  You’ll receive increasingly personal service on successive visits from a provider who gets the chance to know you, and knows that you appreciate the care given you reflected by your appropriate tipping.

Don’t hesitate to inquire of the spa staff in advance, when you book your appointment, about tipping policies.  Truly, they appreciate your concern and interest and are pleased to educate you.  In fact, they may tell  you that gratuities are not accepted at all (we know several spas with a no-tipping policy), or included in the spa package, or, automatically added to your credit card, or, that you may or may not include tips as part of the charge on your credit card (some permit it, some do not).  

As for the cash, most common, in larger day spas, small tipping envelopes are left at the front reception counter, which you may use at the end of your visit.    The only time we would recommend keeping some dollar bills tucked into your spa robe, is for coat-check, shower-check and beverage attendants. Slipping a few dollars to someone who hands you fresh towels, gives you back your clothes, makes you feel really cared for, or just notices you need fresh cold water, is appreciated by the attendant.   That said, when we spend a full day at a spa which has a “circuit” for instance, we often bring a handful of small white envelopes with us, with currency stashed inside, stashed in a robe pocket in case we need them.   

What about tipping the owner of the spa or salon?  For years the rule of thumb has been “don’t tip the owner of a salon or spa — they get 100% of the service revenue and a cut from all the other employees.”    This is a tough point, because opinions vary wildly and have changed.   Many spa and salon owners will graciously turn away a tip, but many accept them. Ultimately, this is a scenario where you must rely on your instincts and point of view.   

For us, it comes down to two things.   Did we have a relationship with the owner as a provider before he or she became an owner, and did we already have a tipping relationship?  If so, we continue it.    Or, is this a new relationship with a spa or salon owner, and we’ve paid a premium rate for the owner’s services?   Many salon and spa owners’ services are charged at a significantly higher rate to compensate for their increased level of service and ability.  If so, we may just extend a warm thanks and book another visit. No matter which situation, however, we ask ourselves if the owner accommodated any special requests, stayed late, came in early, or did an extraordinary favor just for us (and not to remedy a problem on a prior visit or by another employee).  If so, that deserves a tip.

Finally, don’t forget the Hotel or Resort Concierge, or Spa Concierge.  A particularly helpful front desk person who always manages to slip you in with the therapist you like, or handles your last minute needs, or just makes your visit more pleasant, would welcome a tip as well.  A concierge spends a great deal of work making the guests’ stay more pleasant and they are often overlooked since they do not render the treatment. — Spa Index

Also see:  Tipping Hot Tub Attendants


Updated and Reprinted from our Spa Etiquette Blog Post 08-29-2008
May 7, 2016 | | Tags:

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