Why Do Spas Require Cash Tips?

Many spas won’t let you put a gratuity on your credit card. Here’s why. Plus—advice on how much to tip.

By: Sherri Dalphonse

You’ve just had a terrific massage. At the front desk, you pay for the treatment with a credit card but are surprised that the tip must be in cash.

If there’s a frequent complaint among spa-goers, the policy of not being able to put tips on a credit card is it.

Spa owners who prefer cash gratuities say it’s because they pay a transaction fee based on the total amount charged—and folding in a tip eats into the spa’s bottom line. Another reason: When tips are put on credit cards, employees are taxed on that income.

Some salons have installed ATMs to make it easier for clients to tip in cash. But some customers see that as extra effort—plus restaurants have the same issues but don’t insist on cash.

Says Calvert Thompson, owner of Calvert Rejuvenations in Herndon, a spa that does allow tips on charge slips: “We do tips on credit cards because it’s a matter of convenience—people don’t carry cash anymore. It does mean a few extra steps for us when it comes to doing payroll, but it’s such a mild inconvenience, we’re happy to do it.”

What to Tip

As at restaurants, a 20-percent tip is the norm, says Thompson. The exception? When the therapist is the owner, either in a solo practice or in a spa. In those cases, tipping isn’t expected.

“If the service price is higher to be with the owner, you don’t have to worry about gratuity,” Thompson says. If the owner charges the same as the spa’s other practitioners, a tip would be in order, she says.

Some spas, such as Tulsi Holistic Living in Georgetown, have found one solution to the tipping quagmire—a no-tipping policy.

“There’s no awkwardness,” says Tulsi director Mayuri Sobti. “It’s a more relaxed place.”

Day Spas 2013 ››