Many of you are being played. Here is the game.
- Some Massage Therapy Schools require Federal Financial Aid in order to entice students to attend and thus have the tuition income needed to survive.
- In order for a school to qualify to offer Federal Financial Aid, the school must demonstrate that a certain percentage of their graduates will have job placement.
- Many of these Schools will partner with huge chains of Massage Franchises to fulfill this job placement requirement.
- Those Franchises then hire the graduates and pay the therapists substandard wages, claiming they are “green” and need experience.
- The Franchises pay their therapists $12-$17 per hour (plus tips) to provide YOUR MASSAGE. The rest of the money you paid goes to “overhead” which includes large executive salaries, big parties, huge conferences, and massive advertising campaigns that have little to no benefit to the therapist who gave you YOUR MASSAGE.
- You pay about $50 for the massage, but you are getting a $12-$17 massage value.
- The massage therapists can be overworked in order to make ends meet working for these substandard wages, can burn out and this can have a negative impact on the quality of the massage you receive.
- If you are lucky enough to work with someone at one of these places who HAS gone to a school that cares, and who HAS been in practice for a while, you are still getting a$12-$17 massage.
- If it makes you feel better about the arrangement, you can add on the $10-$20 tip you are paying. So… you are paying $60 – $70 per hour for a $22- $37 massage.
Your massage therapist is ONLY going to give you what they earn. They have to pace themselves. They might have to do 6 massages a day working in this atmosphere just to start to pay the rent, AND many must have another job.
Be a Discriminating Massage Therapy Client! You are paying for a service, you are making yourself vulnerable and you have options!
- Work with Amazing Independent Massage Therapists! If you are looking for one in your region, let me know!
- If you DO prefer the spa environment, please avoid the HUGE Corporate McMassage Chains that are notorious for exploiting massage therapists, and have incalculable client complaints. There are many wonderful locally owned Spas that will take care of you AND their Therapists!
As for the Groupons, Specials, and Contract Arrangements…when it comes to giving someone permission to touch your body and your whole life do you REALLY want a bargain?
And one final thought… Until you have the opportunity to build a long term relationship with a Therapist who you have seen over and over again, you really have not experienced the true benefit of this amazing therapeutic relationship and the work that can only happen once that deeper rapport has been established.
Receive the unlimited benefits of Massage Therapy, and… Don’t be a chump!
Chris Hunt said:
This post paints a pretty bleak picture. I’m assuming Massage Envy is one of the targets. Fact is, I’ve had a total of three massages at two different ME locations. Each one was great–not merely good. One therapist had had 6 years total experience and had worked at ME for about one yr and was persuasively satisfied with her job. It’s not one-sided like you’re painting it.
I’ve been a massage therapist for 12 years and worked at a franchise for 5. Each of my clients got a fantastic massage. I was certainly not satisfied with my job (anemic paycheck/insufficient administrative support/lack of care), but my clients would never hear that from me. Over those 5 years, the price of membership increased by $20.99/month — from $49 to $69.99. Know how much the corporate cap on therapists’ pay per hour went up? Exactly $0. How satisfied do you think a therapist would be to work somewhere that raised prices by over 40% in the course of 5 years and didn’t get see an increase in pay?
Chris D. said:
I have to say I think this is a very biased and I would say somewhat inaccurate article. Is it true that there are massage therapists that are under paid, over worked and unhappy and just trying to make money working at these places? Yes. But for every one of those people there is a passionate, qualified, skilled and happy person working at these places. I personally know these people, I have had amazing massages from these people. And there are just as many unhappy, underpaid, unskilled people in practice for themselves. I truly believe there is enough massage to go around! Have you ever met a person that doesn’t need a massage? I hate the idea that there small business is the only answer. These places marketed and educated to a larger audience than I could afford to reach as an independent practitioner and truth be known their public education and awareness only helped build my business! I am so tired of people demonizing these companies and degrading the people who chose to work for them. Just because a small practice works better for one person doesn’t mean it is right for others. Can’t we all just get along???
Although a lot of what you say is true, there are still a lot of therapist that work for the franchise places. They have their advantages for the client and the therapist. The franchise is “owned” by someone local who put out a BOATLOAD of money to have that franchise. Although part of the $ that comes in each month goes to the higher ups, a lot of it goes to keep that person from loosing the 500 thousand it cost them to open the thing.
Personally I have my own office where I do Myofascial trigger point therapy and massage. It took me years to get to the point that I felt I could safely step out of the group office situation. It can be scary, most people will never do it.
It was to the point for me that it was a “no brainer” and not all that risky, but I am lucky to have worked in the safe place of paying for the space by the hour for 9 years to build my business. Again, most will never even keep doing massage that long. I have been supporting myself since 1999 with bodywork and quite proud of it.
The figures are pretty correct, the members of the places really should tip well since the massage is low priced and the therapist is not paid well. Many leave to find other work being lied to by the school, thinking they were going to make some real money.
I will not do Groupons! Say I normally charge $80, so the special is half, then goupon keeps half that, so I get paid $20 for the massage. It would be worth it if I got clients out of it, but it seldom happens… people who use them, usually only get a massage if they can use a groupon… nope, i will pass. I want clients that appreciate what I do and come back BECAUSE they need/like what I do, not because I am just another cheep massage. Offering Groupons does not mean the therapist is not giving a good massage, it was supposed to be a good way to advertise and they quickly find out it is more like a way to over work them selves for very little.
There is room for all of us here. Each therapist makes a choice how to work.
The point about seeking out the independent is really the best point! When you buy anything from the MicroBusiness owner, you are directly paying to keep that person in business and provide all the necessities of life! As the owner/operator I care about my clients and I thank them every time they come in for allowing me to provide the skill I do best.
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Alice Sanvito said:
Jill, thanks for helping to educate the public about what goes on behind the scenes in many spas and franchises.
For those who don’t believe that massage therapists are exploited, this blog post was written in response to a communication received by the author from a spa that started their MTs at $8/hr. and their top pay is $12.50/hr. This means that their starting therapists earn barely over the minimum wage and even their top therapists are not earning a living wage.
In my city, even the franchises pay $15/hr.
While some MTs are compensated fairly by their employers, many are exploited. There is a reason why there is a high turnover in some businesses that offer massage. Clients often find a therapist they like, only to find that the next time the book an appointment, their favorite therapist is gone.
Massage therapy is physically demanding work. I have read that the average lifespan of an MT’s career is about 7 years. Most businesses do not provide benefits such as health insurance, vacation pay, or contributions to a retirement fund; the massage therapists have to provide that for themselves. We do not get paid sick leave. In fact, for most of us, if we are not booked, we don’t get paid. Some franchises claim they pay their MTs for unbooked time but, in fact, they don’t. They may also claim they provide benefits but most of their employees either do not stay long enough or work enough hours to qualify.
When I began my career as an MT in 1991, most spas and salons paid their MTs a minimum of 50% and some as much as 70%. Today, that rate has dropped to 30% or less. A business that is charging $70 for a massage and pays the MT $8 is paying the MT barely over 10%.
Massage therapists invest thousands of dollars in their training, are required to pay state and local licensing fees, and are required to invest in continuing education. It is no wonder that as many as 70% of those who attend massage therapy school drop out within three years of graduating.
I love being a massage therapist and, while I pay a price for being an independent practitioner, my clients can be assured that whatever working conditions I have are ones I create for myself.
Business owners need to make a profit or else they will not stay in business. However, too many massage business have become to think of their massage employees as disposable. An exploited employee is not a happy employee and a therapist who is unhappy and resentful is not going to be able to be fully present to the client.
It is in the best interest of the client, the massage therapist, and, ultimately, the business for massage therapists to be fairly compensated. Clients who use the services of massage therapists would be wise to seek out independent therapists or inquire as to how fairly MTs are compensated in the businesses they patronize so that they can feel confident that their therapist is happy in their work and fairly paid.
Kelly Sanders said:
I have worked for an M E lasted about a week. Now I work for myself and cater primarily to the elderly and disabled.; whom I charge $35. an hour. I work from my home by appt only and I do some work for a salon in the Donelson community of Nashville, TN where I get a 60% me-40%salon owner split of anything I do which works out on avg to be about $25. an hour. I no longer do outcalls because the cost on me and my body is too high and has never been seemingly appreciated as in I only once got a tip.