massage and bodywork professionals

a community of practitioners

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

Views: 680

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Lake Charles (closer to TX).

Hard core Cajuns in LA don’t even call LC Cajun Country – we are east Texas to them.

You’ve been to the original Ruth Chris?

I’m so jealous.

Thanks for sharing – I enjoyed reading your perspective.


Gary tharler said:
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.
My father in law was Mike Brener. He owned universal furniture. you might be too young to remember him. He died in 1995. Universal was famous for the guy dressed as a chair called "the Chairman." He was a great and gnenerous man. On more that a couple of occasions when there had been devistating floods, he took out full page ads in the Piqiunnne(?) forgiving any money owed on furniture ruined in the flood.

He lived at Jackson and St Charles. He took us to Chris' many times. I miss him and N.O.

G
Some interesting comments.
It's funny that I read this today because recently I have had several conversations on this topic w/ people who have worked in these types of establishments. It seems even qualified & talented therapists are not able to practice to the best of their abilities because of certian work conditions- being booked a client every hour, only having 50 min (or less) to complete a full body massage, being given a certian routine that they have to perform, etc. I certianly could not work under such conditions. What else is a shame is that people are coming to think that this is what massage is all about. They are not exposed to the therapeutic benefits that massage has to offer.

I work w/ an acupuncturist & the laundry is done, apoointments are booked, the place is cleaned by other staff, we all get along very well & are a family, the energy is great & conducive to healing, & we are paid 50% commission. I am good at what I do & would never expect to get treated any less.
Lauren,

I completely agree. I am so lucky to have just been hired by a gorgeous, Japanese style spa. We have 75 an 90 minute sessions with 15 minutes in between. I get about 40% with a great tipping clientelle. And i sent a polite letter to a chair massage company that was paying me $30 per hour, that i just could not justify working for less than $40. I have not worked with them in 7 months... but i think it is worth it to the industry to take that stand.

Gary



Lauren said:
It's funny that I read this today because recently I have had several conversations on this topic w/ people who have worked in these types of establishments. It seems even qualified & talented therapists are not able to practice to the best of their abilities because of certian work conditions- being booked a client every hour, only having 50 min (or less) to complete a full body massage, being given a certian routine that they have to perform, etc. I certianly could not work under such conditions. What else is a shame is that people are coming to think that this is what massage is all about. They are not exposed to the therapeutic benefits that massage has to offer.

I work w/ an acupuncturist & the laundry is done, apoointments are booked, the place is cleaned by other staff, we all get along very well & are a family, the energy is great & conducive to healing, & we are paid 50% commission. I am good at what I do & would never expect to get treated any less.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Gary. It is nice to hear and read about other MT professional opinions of such things that we face in the business world. I found myself faced with a situation this summer that challenged my thoughts on these very exact standards. I was given the chance to work at a Spa in Cape Cod for the summer, a place that has been a vacation destination of mine for many years. However, little by little, I began to discover that the package (45% plus tips on massages that ranged in price from $85-135) that had been presented to me was not the one I was going to experience. That is a very nice deal when there are massages scheduled to do. But instead of doing the craft that I have come to love, I spent several hours sitting and waiting for the phone to ring, folding laundry, cleaning rooms or checking supplies just to fill the down time. None of which I was getting paid to do. So after much thought, and consultation with other friends who are massage professionals, I handed in my resignation. Bottom line for me...my time is very valuable. I am a professional MT licensed in NY and MA. I had friends and family asking me when I will be returning to my home base so they can get scheduled for their next massage. Well now they don't have to ask any longer. I have returned to my home, after a very long vacation, and have already gotten massages lined up. I am back doing what I love to do. I have learned a great deal from this experience...about myself and about doing business.
What an interesting discussion! I love what I do, and in the chirporactic realm where I've stationed myself for about 5 years now, people come for all sorts of reasons: either needing real therapeutic work, or sometimes, just to relax. I feel so lucky that my skills are utilized in so many ways and every day is different. The office where I work as an ic has had to drop their fees considerably because of the economy (this is near Detroit, after all) but for the moment, I think it's worth it just to give the people what is most needed now; PLUS, there is a new franchise just down the street giving me price competition! So... it's part of my usual "continuing ed" to get massages from local therapists who I hear people raving about, partly to see what the buzz is about as well as pick up a few more tools for my own toolbox. I booked an appointment at the franchise (Massage Envy) and spent 55 minutes getting poked by a new graduate who then tried to sell me their promotional package. Poor thing had to start somewhere, but she also mentioned that most of the therapists there were right out of school. With massage schools suddenly popping up in every small town around here, somebody has hit a markting goldmine, but it does nothing to promote our profession. I love the food analogy, and intend to use it! I guess the burden is on me to show 'em why steak is better.;o)
Marilyn,

This is my first time doing, and initiating a... what is this actually?

So, thank you for your response. I think we all need to work on supporting each other, lovingly guiding newbies away from exploitive companies and spas. We all need to help each other market other values besides less cost.

Take care,

Gary
This is a topic I've seen addressed on several forums, with good reason. Unfortunatley, the popularly known ME isn't the only place that does this. I've worked at two different locations in my career before branching out on my own and I had similar complaints regarding both: expectations of clean-up, sitting for hours between sessions, low compensation for time spent only doing massages.

Although the first place compensated my services well and I understand the need to wash the sheets that were used, it was aggravating how often the secretaries thought nothing of placing 5 or more hour gaps between clients without even attempting to offer the second-scheduled person a time closer than the one already in the books. This was followed by open/in-front-of-me suggestions to see another therapist without attempting to offer the loyal client(s) another time that I was available. The second place offered low compensation out of an already low-rate price, didn't keep organized filing of clients, and also thought nothing of sceduling hours long gap between clients. I often found myself working an entire day for less than minimum wage and often without tips to make up the difference.

Since being on my own, I've been requested to offer chair massages at various events but the one I just had to turn down was last Holiday season: The host was charging $50 to set up and had requested several area massage businesses to set up. I bluntly asked which ones where going to be available knowing full well one of the well-known businesses would not charge for their service. Once my suspicion was confirmed, I turned down the offer and stated I couldn't see spending that much money for 'getting my name out there' when other service providers, ie nail technitians, would be charging a small fee.

I feel it's ridiculous some of the requests that get made, but I stand by what I offer and at the price I offer. Those who truly appreciate the personalized service I give continue to come back and refer their family and friends. What more could I ask for?

BTW, Susan G. Salvo, love your food metaphor. I might have to use that one some day.
Oh, great topic! I agree. Franchises and other establishments that offer super low-rate sessions paint a meager picture of our profession, not really placing value on, and seemingly demeaning the healing work that we offer. When I moved out of state several years ago I bounced from one establishment to the next because I was expected to do so much more for no extra pay... things that had nothing to do with massage/bodywork whatsoever. I was told what to wear, what to say to clients, and in some cases, how to do my sessions with people. That was NOT what I had gone to school for, NOT what I got my national certification for. I did not feel valued at all for what I had to offer. Luckily, I've been working at a place for a few years now that completely respects what I do, allows me to do what I need to do to provide the best services, is supportive in my marketing, and encourages me to charge what I am really worth! I do offer discounts and promotions, but I never sell myself out. And you wanna know what the good thing is about that whole ugly side of how some places operate? I have several regular clients who won't go to those places anymore because they see the difference in the quality of service and expertise. Hmmmm..... maybe it's because I love where I work, and because I'm not taken for granted there!

Schools should be better about preparing new grads for the "real world". And yes, as therapists, we really SHOULD take a stand as far as what we will and will not allow. It does require being "choosy" about where you work. I didn't pursue this profession to please employers. I pursued this profession because I wanted to help people through my skills and abilities in the healing arts. I am WORTH what I charge, and I accept nothing less. Such an important thing to remember, and something I would support any fellow therapist in!
This is indeed a popular subject, and I have my 2 cents to add to the other great comments on this thread.

I have never worked as an employee, but I did work one place where I was treated like one, even though I was an independent contractor. I made 30%, when I got paid (my payments were based on the chiropractic office's collections, and, well, that's another story), and the upside of it was that I was busy, and, when I got paid, my checks were nice.

On the other hand, I was not allowed to deviate from what I felt were excessive treatments and charges, which made me uncomfortable, ethically, so I left. Not everyone feels they have the financial freedom to leave a situation like this.

Before that, I had a very nice situation in a spa, where I quickly worked my way up to earning 45% on the going rate in my area. I chose my own hours (like an I.C. should be able to), I was able to turn away clients I wasn't comfortable with, and I didn't have to do laundry. I did, however, sit around a lot, act as a receptionist, and clean tubs and showers (after my clients used them). The relative autonomy and built in clientele was a nice trade off for me, though.

Now I run my own business. I *do* charge the going rate. I also offer specials, and, in a satellite location (a shared room in a salon in a neighboring town) we have a discounted "intro rate". I'm ambivalent about the intro rate, as I don't think it attracts the clients I want. I think it attracts bargain shoppers who move from therapist to therapist instead of clients who truly appreciate me and the professional relationship we build. (Building relationships with regular clients is one thing I miss from the chiro. office.)

So in charging the going rate, I make $65-$75 per billable hour. I would hate to think what my actual hourly wage is, since I spend a lot of unpaid time doing marketing, bookkeeping, laundry, cleaning, upkeep on my decor, networking, etc... I actually laughed when a nurse friend of mine said "You make more money than any of us!" I can only assume she was going by the $65/hour price for a Swedish Massage.

My point is (and I've never been an hourly massage employee, so I'm making an assumption) that, if you don't want to do all the "business running" things, and you don't mind that someone else is in charge of your work life, is making $20/hour (assuming you're getting paid every hour you are on the premises) really being underpaid?

That being said, it is too bad there is a lot of undercutting going on by therapists who feel that is the only way to get clients, but my feeling on that is, again, you are attracting bargain shoppers. Is that who you really want as a client?

On the other hand, I always feel a little skeptical about the therapist offering an extremely low rate. I have seen 1 hour massages advertised for $35, and I wonder if the therapist is really on the up & up, or if they are just out of school (and we all have to start somewhere, and have our awkward sessions, but still...). And I felt this way even before I became a therapist.

If you truly feel that the going rate is out of reach for the segment of the population you want to reach, offer a sliding scale or a specific discount for members of that population (students & seniors, for example).

So that was probably way over 2 cents, but I wondered if other self-employed people thought about what our "true" hourly wage is.

Still, I wouldn't trade in my own business for an hourly job, and I plan to do all I can to make a decent living serving others through touch! :)
Marie makes some great points here. (Thanks for the IRS link, too, Marie.) An ic makes even less than "the percentage" if one also factors in the time spent doing laundry, keeping records & equipment maintained & stocked, etc. For every massage I do, I may get paid for an hour, but I actually work almost 2.5 sometimes. At the end of the day, having work I love (or work, period!) is a good thing, and even if I end up netting "only" $35 per session hour after taxes & actual time spent,

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2022   Created by ABMP.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service