This is a question that plagues many first time massage goers and even some who have been receiving regular massage. In my own experience as a massage therapist I am asked this question at least 3 times a week. So to save yourself from asking the dreaded question the next time you receive a massage, see below for some helpful hints...
Although it is not mandatory to tip your massage therapist you must consider the following:
1) If your massage therapist works for a company, such as Massage Envy, Massage Green, etc...be aware that they are paid only a small portion of what the massage actually costs. Massage Therapists who work for companies such as these are usually there for one reason and one reason only; the steady clientele base. Like a food service worker they rely on the tips from their clients.
2) If your massage therapist is self employed, keep in mind that they are responsible for purchasing all of their own products needed to give a proper massage, such as oils and lotions, table linens and towels, laundry costs, rent, and even music. At the same time they must price their services to be in the same range as other massage businesses in the area for competitive purposes (which more than likely does not cover the cost of their supplies).
3) Massage Therapists are in the customer service industry. They are providing a service to the public.
4) If your Massage Therapist has done a good job with the massage it is a kind gesture to show your appreciation by leaving them a little something extra.
As I said earlier it is not mandatory to tip. If you do decide to leave a tip however, the proper percentage to tip is about 20% of the price of the massage. For example, if you receive an hour massage that costs $65 the proper percentage to tip would be between $12-$15, a bit more if they exceeded your expectations or a bit less if they did not.
I hope that this answers some of your questions regarding massage tipping etiquette.