As a massage therapist, I love receiving tips, it’s like an added thank you after giving my heart & soul into a session. But this story is about receiving a tip from my massage client, and the value being more than just money.
It was Christmas Eve 2004 and I was up doing massage at a clients house in Deer Valley, a posh ski resort in Park City, Utah. I was 2 years into being a professional massage therapist and it had been a little over 1 year since I opened my day spa Align Spa inside the Shadow Ridge Hotel at the base of Park City Mountain Resort. It was a time when I was working all day every day and on holidays, because that’s what you do when you have a new business that you want to succeed. My clients’ house was unlike anything I’d ever seen; it had at least 9 bedrooms, an indoor tennis court, a game room, and an indoor pool. I’d been working with these clients for about a year at that point and had gotten the job because another client of mine was their private chef.
These clients lived in Northern California most of the time and they came to Park City on weekends and holidays on their private jet to enjoy the snow. I didn’t know much about them or how or why they had this extravagant house or lifestyle, but I enjoyed myself every time I went up there because I’d get snacks from my friend, I’d see ski instructors and locals they’d invited up there, and I’d always get into thoughtful discussions about life and business with the husband and wife when they were on the massage table. They appreciated that I owned a business and worked hard, and that I gave them my cell phone to book their sessions, so they didn’t have to call the spa. That was a time when I could often be up at their home within 1-2 hours notice, sometimes with another massage therapist or two when they had company staying in the extra 8 bedrooms.
The previous winter, when I’d just met them, I remember sitting on the couch at my then fiancé’s house watching the show “60 Minutes” and I was shocked to see my clients face on the tv screen. The news was talking about the India Institite of Technology and all the noteworthy ideas coming from the graduates, and my client was being interviewed as an alumni. Seeing a client or anyone I knew personally on “60 Minutes” was a first for me, but I never brought it up to him in our sessions, but it made me feel special to have this ongoing relationship with them.
On this particular Christmas Eve, it was late morning and I was up at their house solo, because no one else would work that day, and I was doing 4 massages. I’d finished 3 of the 4 massages and was in their living room taking a break and having a snack, when I overheard the wife expressing some frustration that she’d called every hair dresser in town, and no one could or would get her in that day no matter how much money she threw at them. She had a holiday party and wanted to do a refresher on her color to cover some of her grey hair. I totally knew where she was coming from, because I’d been going grey in a little patch of hair front and center of my head since I was 18, so I got my hair colored every 3-4 weeks in exchange for massage. Trading hair and massage was one of my favorite benefits of being a massage therapist.
Listening to her express her frustration I wondered if I could help by making a special request to my hair dresser. Before I went into my last massage, I called and txted my hair dresser who was local, to see if she could be available, and the wife asked where she worked, and when I answered she said she’d already called that salon and was told they didn’t have any openings.
“Yeah but I haven’t called to ask her.” Was my answer. And I could see my words twisting around in the rich wife’s brain to be understood. Was I saying that I could have more pull by having an existing relationship than she could have with her money? Yes I was saying that, so we’d see how it worked out.
When I came out of my last session and checked my phone, I learned she’d opened 1 more hair spot for the day and she’d stay an hour later cause I asked. I was thrilled with the news and communicated this to the wife, who couldn’t have been more visibly shocked and grateful. After I was done packing up my table and supplies into my truck, I returned to the house for payment and to say goodbye. The wife handed me payment and 20% gratuity for 4 massages, and then handed me another stack of cash and said, “thank you for booking that hair appointment for me.”
“Sure, no problem, Merry Christmas” and I stuck the cash in my pocket and left. When I got to the car I took out the wad of cash and my eyes widened as I counted the bills. She’d given me a $500 tip for booking her that hair appointment that she didn’t have access to. I was blown away not only by the money, but by what the money said about my work. That the relationships I build through my work and life are invaluable and the benefits of connection show up in ways that money can’t buy.