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I have been bothered for some time regarding the deterioration of our standards i.e pay scales and expectations of employers. Places like Massage Envy have turned what we offer into a Mc Donalds massage, exploiting new grads and those challenged by marketing, and or unaffiliated to stand for a decent rate of pay in a tight economy. As a primarily chair therapist i have seen a growing number of massage companies lower their rates from $40-50 an hour to $25-30. Spas and gyms expect us to hang out and wash showers etc. if we have no customers. The other day a referred employer told me they had just hired a chair therapist. She added, "what we particularly like is she doesn't mind if there are a lot of gaps in the schedule. She just brings a book." I wanted to say, if you ordered a pizza, then just took 4 slices... would you expect the pizza company to not charge for the food he prepared, delivered and then could not sell? That is our time people! If we don't place a value on it... why should anyone else?

I don't know what to do about this. but i think the first thing is to request reasonable rates and turn down a job here and there. Talk to each other. Support each other in taking this stand. Right articles. A damn well make sure we are worth it when we do work.

Gary

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Very much what I've been thinking. Besides massage franchises, there are people in my area who are financially secure and doing on-site as a 'hobby' for $30-$45/hour. I am repeatedly asked why I charge 'so much compared to so-and-so.' 'so much' is $45/hour within city limits, $55/hour within 45 minutes drive, so not even market rate, let alone an exhorbinant amount. I have yet to find an answer other than "I charge what my time and services are worth." that doesn't sound snarky or discredit the other therapists.
Judith. thank you for your response. first whatever it is we are doing... it's my first time. Yes, i'm on facebook and have no idea how it works... nor for the most part, understand why people use it instead of e-mailing.

The price thing will always be an issue. Even good business dictates underselling the competition as one means to get business. In the face of that one must educate the potential client as to the value of your service. I think the best way to do that is start by asking "What is it are you looking for in a massage?" Your price vs. value response then should be a lot clearer. You can then add, tell you what... book a massage at my rate, and I'll throw in an extra 15 mins. If you still prefer so and so... then you should stay with her. (Or words to that effect.) I always like giving more time rather then less money. (I'm there anyway, whats another 15 minutes if it retains a client?)

Where are you located?

Gary
Hello just my thoughts when I go to work at my YMCA I set my prices and stick to them.Now I am currently building my clientele and I will admit I will have day specials where I will offer free chair massages for MEMBERS and l do charge the average rate for nonmembers.I love doing it.But I am all for collecting my normal rates and sleep well at night.
Travis... thanks and, I'm confused about the free rates for members?

G



Travis Alligood said:
Hello just my thoughts when I go to work at my YMCA I set my prices and stick to them.Now I am currently building my clientele and I will admit I will have day specials where I will offer free chair massages for MEMBERS and l do charge the average rate for nonmembers.I love doing it.But I am all for collecting my normal rates and sleep well at night.
I agrre with you Gary. We do have to stop taking any job that is offered and start declining some opportunities for the better of the profession. My wife and I usually work around tourist and charge $80 and hour for massage. WE often get people asking us to lower the rate for them. We have to tell them no, because they are paying for our service, and just like any other profession we need to make a living. We have to explain the difference between our fares and others and the quality of work they are going to recieve.

We also do chair massage and charge companies by the hour. We had one company ofeten the both of $10 an hour (apiece) to perform chair massage for a five hour period. WE smiled and happily declined the offer.

Great post
Thank you.

Gary



Quincy Brown said:
I agrre with you Gary. We do have to stop taking any job that is offered and start declining some opportunities for the better of the profession. My wife and I usually work around tourist and charge $80 and hour for massage. WE often get people asking us to lower the rate for them. We have to tell them no, because they are paying for our service, and just like any other profession we need to make a living. We have to explain the difference between our fares and others and the quality of work they are going to recieve.

We also do chair massage and charge companies by the hour. We had one company ofeten the both of $10 an hour (apiece) to perform chair massage for a five hour period. WE smiled and happily declined the offer.

Great post
Hi Gary. I do not work for Massage Envy but one like them. I have been with them since their inception, about 5 yrs. I go back and forth on my opinion of these membership based centers. On one hand it is a great place for me simply because I am not a "go-getter". They provide the rooms, supplies, advertising, and clients. On the other hand, I do sit around alot, make a paultry commission, (some days it turns out to less than minimum wage) and am expected to keep rooms stocked, fold laundry, etc. I am passionate about massage and love that I can do it everyday but where I am I can not make a living. I am 52 yrs old and have been an MT for 14 yrs and I cannot make a living doing what I love to do. Very frustrating. The Massage industry is changing. Thanks Sheri
In my clinic, I charge what the market will bear, which in my small town (and very economically depressed, 2nd highest unemployment rate in NC) is 60.00 an hour, out of which my therapists get to keep anywhere from $36-45 an hour, depending on the service provided. I know the going rate is much more in bigger towns and other geographic areas, but I am actually the most expensive place in our town. I do have a Rolfer on my staff who charges 100. a session, out of which he keeps $80 and I take $20; he comes from out of town to provide that service here so I don't have a problem with only taking 20%. I'm grateful for his presence (and so is my own body!)

I am an author of business and marketing books and articles (Business Side, my column, appears in Massage & Bodywork Magazine) and I regularly hear complaints about massage franchises. The other side of that is that many people are not cut out to be in business for themselves; these places provide them with insurance and benefits, and many recent grads are grateful to have the job. And the fact is, some people don't turn down those jobs because they need whatever money they can get, and it beats minimum wage at McDonald's.

It is not only the franchises that don't pay enough; my latest hire was working for a chiropractor making $20 an hour when she came to my place for $36 an hour. My staff does not scrub the shower, do laundry, or any other activities other than massage and bodywork. When I handed over her first paycheck last week, she burst into tears and hugged me, and then jumped back and apologized for "getting in my space," but she was just so grateful to be getting the money she deserved.

I know there are other places where the going rate is $100 or more an hour, and the therapist still isn't paid any better. Some of the ritzy spas that charge $100-120 for a massage are still only giving the therapist $25 plus whatever they get in tips, and some places, they have to split those tips with the "towel attendant" or something equally ridiculous.

I also frown on therapists who undercut others' prices in an attempt to steal business. If you are serving the poor, or you have made the choice for example to only work on senior citizens or disabled people with a limited income, then charge 20 bucks if you want to, and don't listen to any naysayers. But if the going rate in your area is $75 and you are charging half that just to try to get business away from other therapists, shame on you. Another business opened close to mine a few months ago with a big sign advertising $40 massage and they haven't done diddly squat. Yes, a few of my clients went there and tried it out, and quickly came right on back to the $60 massage at my place. You get what you pay for. When therapists value themselves and the work they do, that is obvious to the client. People will pay for a quality experience.
When people ask me why I charge so much, I smile and say...

“When you are hungry, you have choices; McDonalds or Ruth Chris. I’m like the Ruth Chris of massage therapists."

I love food metaphors – they get that you can go for quality over price.
Sherri,

Thank you for your reply.

And, even though I didn't hear anything defended about your letter... I want to be quick to assure you that neither was I judging or attacking people such as yourself. The statement i was trying to make is a fine line.

Perhaps there are things you can do other than grin and bear it. Can you organize the therapists at your shop for better pay and less non-massage duties? (I hate when straight-out exploitation is dressed in a "We are all one big happy family-so just pitch in" dressing.) And...Don't just say..."I'm not good at marketing." Start talking to people who are. Join a chamber. Ask your massage school to get somebody in there to do a marketing class. I always thought i was bad at business... but I discovered I'm great at it. I'm just a terrible accountant!!! The worst. So learn to market... which is no more than being aware of what you have to offer and be listening to and asking people about their needs.

Best,

Gary



Sheri Stout said:
Hi Gary. I do not work for Massage Envy but one like them. I have been with them since their inception, about 5 yrs. I go back and forth on my opinion of these membership based centers. On one hand it is a great place for me simply because I am not a "go-getter". They provide the rooms, supplies, advertising, and clients. On the other hand, I do sit around alot, make a paultry commission, (some days it turns out to less than minimum wage) and am expected to keep rooms stocked, fold laundry, etc. I am passionate about massage and love that I can do it everyday but where I am I can not make a living. I am 52 yrs old and have been an MT for 14 yrs and I cannot make a living doing what I love to do. Very frustrating. The Massage industry is changing. Thanks Sheri
Susan. thank you for your reply. Where are you from? I've moved to Sonoma County in California... but lived and worked in LA for many years. the reason I'm asking is... i used to use the exact same metaphor...with Ruth's. though i also knew the original one in New Orleans.

I also say/ask..."what are you looking for in a massage? If I can totally fulfill it, isn't that worth more than someone who has a pleasant touch here and there with a lot of pain and ambiguous motion but charges less?"

Best,

Gary



Susan G. Salvo said:
When people ask me why I charge so much, I smile and say...

“When you are hungry, you have choices; McDonalds or Ruth Chris. I’m like the Ruth Chris of massage therapists."

I love food metaphors – they get that you can go for quality over price.
Laura,

Thank you. I think a good start is each of us encouraging each other to maintain these standards. And clearly what needs to be included in every massage magazine is strong marketing advice.

Best,

Gary



Laura Allen said:
In my clinic, I charge what the market will bear, which in my small town (and very economically depressed, 2nd highest unemployment rate in NC) is 60.00 an hour, out of which my therapists get to keep anywhere from $36-45 an hour, depending on the service provided. I know the going rate is much more in bigger towns and other geographic areas, but I am actually the most expensive place in our town. I do have a Rolfer on my staff who charges 100. a session, out of which he keeps $80 and I take $20; he comes from out of town to provide that service here so I don't have a problem with only taking 20%. I'm grateful for his presence (and so is my own body!)

I am an author of business and marketing books and articles (Business Side, my column, appears in Massage & Bodywork Magazine) and I regularly hear complaints about massage franchises. The other side of that is that many people are not cut out to be in business for themselves; these places provide them with insurance and benefits, and many recent grads are grateful to have the job. And the fact is, some people don't turn down those jobs because they need whatever money they can get, and it beats minimum wage at McDonald's.

It is not only the franchises that don't pay enough; my latest hire was working for a chiropractor making $20 an hour when she came to my place for $36 an hour. My staff does not scrub the shower, do laundry, or any other activities other than massage and bodywork. When I handed over her first paycheck last week, she burst into tears and hugged me, and then jumped back and apologized for "getting in my space," but she was just so grateful to be getting the money she deserved.

I know there are other places where the going rate is $100 or more an hour, and the therapist still isn't paid any better. Some of the ritzy spas that charge $100-120 for a massage are still only giving the therapist $25 plus whatever they get in tips, and some places, they have to split those tips with the "towel attendant" or something equally ridiculous.

I also frown on therapists who undercut others' prices in an attempt to steal business. If you are serving the poor, or you have made the choice for example to only work on senior citizens or disabled people with a limited income, then charge 20 bucks if you want to, and don't listen to any naysayers. But if the going rate in your area is $75 and you are charging half that just to try to get business away from other therapists, shame on you. Another business opened close to mine a few months ago with a big sign advertising $40 massage and they haven't done diddly squat. Yes, a few of my clients went there and tried it out, and quickly came right on back to the $60 massage at my place. You get what you pay for. When therapists value themselves and the work they do, that is obvious to the client. People will pay for a quality experience.

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