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Massage therapists should get paid more: They should not have to depend on tips

Aloha: I am one of the owners of Hawaiian Experience Spa and first became a licensed massage therapist in 2006. Ever since I attended massage school at Rainstar University in Scottsdale, AZ I always questioned why massage therapists where tipped. Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciated tips and needed them as part of my income. However, in school they always emphasized that massage therapy is a medical service, not a hospitality service – yet somehow it was a tipped position. Not only was it a tipped position, tips where often over half of the total pay.

I worked within this tipping framework like everyone else for 13 years, never really comfortable with it, but never able to do without it either. When I opened our spa I first hired a few friends as massage therapists and we all took, appreciated and needed our tips; while at the same time writing SOAP notes, wearing scrubs and doing our best to help our clients with their pain and other medical conditions, like any medical professional. The challenges of getting out of a tipping environment seemed insurmountable.

Each year Hawaiian Experience Spa continued to grow, adding thousands of happy new guests. We pressed guests for a 20% tip each time and would not allow a guest to return to the spa if they did not tip a reasonable amount (barring some extraordinary circumstance). While this policy helped our LMT’s get a higher consistent wage, it is not the same as getting paid more from your employer. I always felt that the tipping environment diminished us as licensed therapists in the eyes of the world, making us appear as hospitality workers rather than medical professionals. It is also a way for businesses to appear to charge less while using “expected tips” as part of the therapists’ compensation.

Finally, after 13 years in business, three Phoenix area spa locations and over 70 employees we decided we had enough credibility and customer loyalty to make the move. So on January 1, 2020 we raised our prices and our massage therapists’ pay (along with our estheticians’ pay) and instituted an all-inclusive system with no tips required or expected policy for our guests (This is not a “no tipping” policy so anyone at our spa can still accept tips or other gifts if offered). We believe this combination of factors makes guests value therapists more as true health care providers while making sure they always get paid a living wage for each service! These higher wages make it easier to qualify for a mortgage, improve social security benefits, 401k, worker’s compensation, etc.

If you are a Phoenix, area licensed massage therapists and support this system we would like to speak with you. Please get more information about Employment Opportunities here.

About Hawaiian Experience Spa

With three Phoenix area day spa locations (Scottsdale, Chandler and Goodyear, Arizona), Hawaiian Experience Spa has been spreading the spirit of aloha in Arizona since 2007. The founders lived in Hawaii for many years and studied Hawaiian lomi lomi massage on Maui. As a family, the spa owners have a strong connection to Hawaii and strive to make your Hawaiian experience authentic and genuine. Each spa is designed and decorated with real bamboo elements, fine art Hawaii photography, island furniture and much more – all to make your stay as similar to a trip to Hawaii as possible.

Hawaiian Experience Spa offers an array of massages, facials, couples’ experiences and body treatments using organic and natural products. Many of our services are inspired by Hawaiian cultural practices and philosophies. We have over 80 treatments to choose from ranging from the traditional to the exotic.

Each spa is over 2,400 square feet and has private locker rooms, luxurious multi-head showers big enough to use as a couple if you come in together, an infrared sauna, private rest rooms and a beautiful lounge. We provide robes and slippers and have a complimentary tiki bar. Most importantly, our ‘ohana is dedicated to providing you, our guest, with an exceptional relaxation or therapeutic spa experience each and every time. Aloha!



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