Why you should book directly through a Massage Therapist rather than going to a gym spa.
I’m a Licensed Massage Therapist. I took out student loans and completed an intensive course of study to accomplish this. Our training is more than bodywork, ethics, and the history of massage. We acquire a detailed knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, and pathologies (musculoskeletal and otherwise). We’re skilled in medical terminology, have a basic understanding of pharmacology, and are able to provide medical documentation for our sessions. To be successful, we market our services. We run a business and better be good at advertising, accounting, pricing, customer relations, and everything else a business involves. Of course we also better be good at massage! It’s a physical job and the official recommendation is to not provide more than 20 hours of massage service per week in order to prevent self-injury.
Massage Therapy is a licensed profession. Of course, there are unlicensed practitioners out there. ‘Bodyworkers’ exist, unlicensed, practicing unregulated, and probably giving you a crappy massage (though not always, some are good). Licensure requires completion of an accredited program, a passing score on the board exam, a background check, and the formalities of the state licensing process. This costs hundreds of dollars and must be renewed, at your own expense, every two years. Twenty-four hours of approved continuing education units, averaging $25 – $50 per hour, are required for license renewal. We provide our own professional liability insurance. Massage Therapists can personally be sued and our documentation is our legal defense. There is a large amount of financial, physical, educational, and legal investment in this profession. We definitely command respect and have earned it. We are professionals and I by no means intend to suggest that we aren’t!
I have my own home spa as well as providing on call massage therapy to clients’ homes, performance venues, businesses, and festivals. I also work at a spa located within a luxury gym. I love performing massage. I’m usually feeling sour though when going to work for the spa though. Thankfully, once I start a massage session my spirit lifts. I’m lucky to have a profession that makes me feel refreshed, and also to work in an environment conducive to relaxation. So what would make me so sour about going to work as a Massage Therapist in a luxury gym spa?
The gym provides me with a room in which to perform massage, a massage table, sheets, oil/lotion, hot towels, and a hot pack. They set the rates, collect my payment, and reimburse me on a paycheck. The receptionist reminds the client that I’d appreciate a tip, and offers incentives for the client to rebook. Most importantly, I have access to their gym members as potential clients.
I don’t receive an hourly wage. The only compensation I get are the tips I’m given, and also a 30% commission on the services that I provide. I maintain my licensure, am self-insured and personally liable for any medical or ethical complaints, and actually perform the service. I bring my own essential oils, my own lotion holster, and go in (unpaid) an hour earlier than my first appointment in order to have the hot pack and towels warmed up. I’m given 15 minutes ‘recovery time’ between sessions to reset the massage table: This is, of course, also unpaid. If I’m not actively working on a client, I receive $0 as there is no hourly pay. If I want to take a day off, I need to get it covered and the spa can (and does) specify that the Massage Therapist covering for the shift be of the same sex as you. The reason the spa requires this is so they can honor walk-in clients, and people do often want to specify whether their Therapist is male or female. The spa doesn’t want to have to turn away a single client.
The gym is effectively charging more for the use of their room than a sublet on the same stretch of street in the same zipcode. They are making that rent AND profiting off the service we provide. In fact, if we don’t hit the revenue goals set by the gym, we are required to complete a specified number of ‘prospecting’ hours to maintain our employment. Prospecting involves setting up a massage chair in the lobby and offering free massage. The gym can also offer ‘free 30 minute massage consultations’ that we have to honor unpaid. Do you see where I’m going here?
This post isn’t meant to complain about my employer. My message to you is to have respect for the professionals that we Massage Therapists are. Book directly through a local massage therapist. Don’t go to a spa or use an agency. You will most definitely get a more coordinated service with more personality and probably more hands-on time. You will pay less and your Massage Therapist will make more profit. I can also assure you everyone involved will feel better, and isn’t that what massage is about?