A Tale of Money and Ethics

Curious and strange behaviors often happen around money.  Somehow our ethics and demeanor can change when money enters the equation.  Recently a friend who is a Massage Therapist shared a fascinating story with me.  As part of the process of renewing his certification, he is required to attend an Ethics Class every four years. Two of the topics the instructor covered were Hugging’ and ‘Tipping’. The way they were approached during this class was very intriguing to me.  Let’s start with ‘Hugging’.

According to the curriculum, the ethical standard is to discourage a client from hugging their masseur.  This logic seems bizarre to me personally, however, my friend explained they spent a great deal of time on the avoidance of hugging. Including coming up with solutions, like telling the client “I just don’t feel like a hug today” as a way to dissuade hugging after the massage.  My friend has the perspective that if a client wants to hug him as a warm friendly thank you for a job well done, he’s all for it.

The ethics class then made a rather odd turn to the discussion of how to encourage tipping.  Clever things like a tip jar, and even saying “I appreciate it when you tip me.”  My friend was pretty shocked by this.  He considers what he does as a massage therapist to be a healing art. We don’t tip doctors, dentists, chiropractors or acupuncturists – so why should we tip our massage person?   My sense is that we tip the people who are not getting fully compensated for their work, like ones who live on tips. My friend chalks it up to greed on the side of his colleagues.

Either way, it seems pretty odd that hugging is bad yet, tipping is good, doesn’t it?  But then tipping is about money, and things tend to get pretty wonky there, don’t they?

Personally, I get a kick out of watching a few of the ‘Judge’ TV shows.  Every single case brought forward is about money and how wacky people get with it!  Common threads include ideas like “I shouldn’t have to pay back the loan, because I got fired, I don’t make enough, I want to buy a house…” on and on it goes.  One of the most frequent causes of these suits that end up on television is that people’s emotions overrun their original reason for getting money into the mix via a gift or loan.

We all know what can happen in families when money is involved, right?  The same sibling or parent who would probably jump in front of a bus to save your life is likely the same person who will never pay you back for that no-interest loan you gave them.  Similarly, if you don’t spend the money a family member gave you in a way they approve of, they might possibly sue you in court to get it back.

If it’s a stranger that someone hired to do something for them somehow people feel entitled to not pay them if the vendor calls you, or shows up at your door and asks for money. They consider it harassment to be asked to pay for the services.

I think the reason these practices are such a mess, from the tipping to the lending, to the gifting is that people are still so confused about money.  To my thinking, Money is a tool to tell us what we are up to.  Money says in clear terms that we made this much and spent that much.  Money doesn’t have an opinion about whether that decision to spend or save was smart, good, or even ethical.  That’s not its job.  But we use money as if it was its job.  We have judgments about money all the time, or more precisely what those around us did or didn’t do with it!

So for my part, I hug my massage person, not my doctor, and tip the food server.  Oh, and I try not to let money get in the middle of my relationships, be they routed in the personal or professional.  How about you?  What’s your take on this tale of money and ethics?


Shell Tain, the Untangler

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Money and Ethics

  1. Nancy Gsrber

    Shell, this is a great article. I just had my monthly massage yesterday and I have always tipped her. My reasoning could be deemed as self-serving but I want to thank her for all the extra information regarding how my body would respond to a certain stretching exercise, how muscles do or don’t respond and what I think is information she may not share with all her clients. Yes, she is paid for the hour I am on the table but I want her to continue teaching me about my aching body. Oops, did I just illustrate how money talks? Certainly not my intention. I want to show my deep appreciation for helping me. Oh, and we do not exchange hugs at her studio. But something tells me if we were to meet outside the workplace there may be a “happy to see you” hug.

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