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Spa tipping: A recession-friendly guide to gratuities

How much to tip at the spa can be fraught with anxiety, which kinda defeats the purpose of going. So we took the guesswork out of the gratuity line by interviewing Sandra Sadowski, the spa director at the high-falutin Ritz Carlton Central Park, which practically wrote the book on etiquette. These are Sadowski’s refreshing suggestions for tipping on a spa service. Stay tuned for our guide to salon tipping and gratuities for solo practitioners.

How much, on average, do people tip on a spa service?
The standard is 18-20 percent. That said, we think of gratuity as an optional thank-you gift. My therapists receive generous salaries; they are not living on tips. Still, service providers expect a gratuity, and if they don’t receive one they question their level of service.

Do therapists get offended if someone tips less than 15%?
It all depends on the spirit in which the tip is left. We have a guest who comes in for a 90-minute massage every few weeks. The service is $260 and he always tips $20 [less than 10 percent]. But he’s the nicest man, and he’s extremely loyal so his therapists don’t care.

Sandra Sadowski

With all the expensive add-ons that happen—whether it’s a collagen mask or a special peel—are customers expected to tip on the base price or final price?
From a professional standpoint you should tip on a service delivered. If you’re up-sold in a treatment room, the therapist is already getting a commission on that from the spa. It’s perfectly fine to tip on the base price of the service.

Anything else you think people should know about spa tipping?
Tip however much or however little you feel comfortable, especially in this economy. If treating yourself only falls within a certain budget and a 20 percent gratuity isn’t part of that budget, don’t worry! In this industry, we’re focused on taking care of guests, and not what the guests give us.