While I can’t complain in general, today something irked me enough to bump itself to the top of my list.  I paid $185 for a massage treatment today, and when paying, the cashier informed me that an 18% gratuity is the norm.  Huh?

As an ex-waitress, I appreciate tipping.  And while my massage was very good, I have to ask: when did we start tipping skilled labor 18%?  Tipping, in my humble opinion, is reserved for unskilled labor, to “make up” for the fact that they earn minimum wages.  (Yes, I know most people think it is “to insure priority” treatment, but that has long gone by the wayside.   See Wikipedia for more on that.)

I don’t mind tipping SOMETHING to say “gosh it’s been great and thanks a lot”….but I am not about to pay an extra $33 for that privilege.  Is the establishment really paying an experienced, licensed masseuse minimum wages?  If so, then something is wrong with that establishment’s pay structure.

Even my hairdresser, God bless his soul, only gets a paltry percentage tip (for crying out loud, he charges me $300 a sitting, which I am willing to shell out, but not an extra 10-20% on top of that).  It’s not customary to tip nurses, yet their extra TLC is vital. No one tips bus drivers, but the care they take is vital.  So since when did tipping waiters 10-20% move into tipping a skilled labor force an equal amount?  Frankly, I think the Spa employer should shell out a professional salary, and not count on its customers to subsidize its wages.  The employer, in this case, is shifting the burden of its wages to me, the customer.  Heck, if an employer can’t pay decent wages, they need to raise prices and simpy decline tips. What a relief to you the customer, to actually know you are paying a fair fee and not have to wrestle with your conscience whether you have tipped “enough”.

What’s that?  If they raise prices they can’t be competitive?  Well, as we have learned, if they are a price-taker, they will have to manage costs better or find another business.  If they are a price-setter, they will be just fine.

On another note, the other item I wanted to mention today was along the lines of the economy. Barron’s pointed out that while the unemployment rate leaped from 8.9% to 9.4%, “if we look at the category we feel gives a more accurate picture – the so-called U-6 tally…” which includes the rate of people who have stopped looking (given up) and the rate of people accepting part-time work because they can’t find full-time work, we see that it has grown, which means that unemployment has shot up to 16.4%.  Be careful about the numbers being tossed around….

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