Lately, it seems you can find a cheap massage practically everywhere. Discount sites offer them for rock-bottom rates; usually “half-off” their regular rate. Discount clubs/spas offer them for $39 or $49. Of course, many don’t understand the “gotchas” involved. And some consumers probably wonder why they should care; as long as they get the “great prices”. However, those “gotchas” have a LOT to do with what you are actually going to receive in exchange for those “great prices”.
Discount sites are used by many vendors to introduce their business to potential new customers. And IF they are priced correctly, they can be a win-win for both the customers and business. However, some are priced so low that they are SCARY. I have seen massages advertised on some of these sites for as low as $10 or $20. Great deal, huh?
Well, keep in mind that the discount sites usually take about HALF of the published “half-off” rate. This means the vendors are actually receiving only a QUARTER of the original price. In other words, the $100 Massage being sold for half off ($50) actually equates to about $25 for the business (not necessarily the person performing the service). That means, the ones advertised for $10 or $20 actually earns the business $5 or $10 for each unit sold.
As a business owner, I shudder to think of trying to pay my overhead with rates that low. Some people argue that money can be made from high volume. However, in my experience, high volume equates to INCREASED overhead. More expenses and less income are a dangerous combination; especially considering that some of those sites hold payments to the merchants for 30-90 days AFTER consumers purchase the vouchers.
Discount clubs offer massages for low rates, as well. However, their rates are usually contingent on whether or not a customer is willing to sign a contract AND allow them to automatically deduct monthly fees from their bank account or credit card. Although some of these businesses are reputable and allow customers to get out of these contracts, there are some that are not. In fact, one of the biggest has numerous NATIONWIDE complaints from consumers who continue to be billed even after cancelling their contracts. These complaints can be found on the website www.ripoffreport.com.
Also, because of the low margins that some operate on, their quality is not the highest. How can you possibly have the BEST therapists or products when you charge rock-bottom rates? That’s like advertising Filet Mignon or NY Strip on a .99 cents menu. And if I DID see one of those steaks for .99 cents, I don’t think I’d want to eat it. Also, if you do happen to be lucky enough to find a great therapist there, there is no guarantee they will be there for the duration of your contract. Those places tend to have high-turnover from therapists who get burned out; usually from dealing with low-pay and long hours. Keep that in mind because your contract is with the business; NOT THE THERAPIST. That means the business can give you the worst therapists in town and still fulfill their end of the contract.
As a business owner, there are only two ways I could see operating on rock-bottom rates:
1. “Cutting-corners” on service quality or level.
2. Hard-selling products or more expensive services on guests when they come in the door (“Bait-and-Switch”).
Neither of those options appeals to me. Cutting expenses would mean decreased service level and amenities. Despite popular opinion, massage is NOT a “pure profit” business. Remember, there are other business expenses that have to be met; some of which are fixed and can’t be cut. Rent, utilities, laundry (a MAJOR expense in a massage business), massage supplies, business and professional licensing, continuing education, insurance, etc. If a business has employees/contractors, payroll is an even LARGER expense. Unfortunately, because most massage businesses pay employees by commission, decreased ticket prices mean decreased pay. So if the BUSINESS is only making $5-10 per massage from running a Daily Deal, HOW MUCH IS THE THERAPIST EARNING? Personally – as a MT - I would be afraid to receive a massage from a MT working for that kind of money! Because there are very few MT’s going to work hard for that kind of money. Can we say “lotion rub”?
Hard Sells or “Bait-and-Switch” are not appealing options, either. Who really wants to go for a massage and have someone shove products or higher priced sessions in their face? In my experience, most customers do NOT like that kind of treatment and often develop negative feelings toward that business. Customers who feel like they are being harassed or manipulated by a business typically do NOT return – nor refer their friends - to that business. But when the business is only earning $5-10 per massage, they often don’t have much choice if they want to stay in business.
However, discount sites and clubs are NOT the only ways that consumers can save money on Massage Therapy. They are fine for consumers who just want to get a cheap massage – with emphasis on the word “cheap” - and aren’t picky about where or who they receive one from. However, for the consumer who is interested in having a regular DEDICATED PROFESSIONAL therapist who understands their body from constantly working on them, there are ways to save money and make your sessions more affordable. As an industry insider, five I suggest are:
Make no mistake…MT’s LOVE referrals; especially independent therapists with private practices! It says that our work is appreciated and that we must have done a good job. It is also great to receive new clients from existing clients because they can communicate the type of work a new client can expect from a client’s perspective. Sessions are always “iffy” with new, non-referred clients because you never know what kind of work they REALLY want or expect. Some massage customers are looking for the “spa pampering experience” and may not be happy with a therapist with a clinical background or practice; or vice versa. But if they have already conversed with someone who has already been there, they have had an opportunity to ask questions and ascertain whether this is the particular style for them. In appreciation for such referrals, most therapists are usually willing to offer discounted or complimentary sessions to the referring party. These Referral Policies differ from therapist to therapist and may even vary by client. Private Practice therapists are more likely to be more generous and flexible with such programs.
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC offers a Referral Rewards Program (http://www.rpmmuscleclinic.com/client-center/rpm-referral-rewards).
FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNTS (FSA) / HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (HSA)
Per IRS Publication #969 (Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p969.pdf), these are programs designed to give individuals tax advantages to offset health care costs.
A health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) allows employees to be reimbursed for medical expenses. FSAs are usually funded through voluntary salary reduction agreements with your employer. No employment or federal income taxes are deducted from your contribution. The employer may also contribute.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account that you set up with a qualified HSA trustee to pay or reimburse certain medical expenses you incur. FSA funds typically have to be used by December 31st of the year they are accrued. HSA funds rollover from year-to-year.
In order to use these accounts for Massage Therapy, one would need to FIRST receive a prescription from their physician/chiropractor for a documented medical condition. After the session, they may also need an itemized receipt from their MT detailing the work performed. In this instance, the work must be MEDICALLY NECESSARY in order to be reimbursed. Because most times the signature of a State Licensed Massage Therapist and various CPT codes are required on the itemized receipt, you may want to go to a private practice LMT. I would definitely NOT suggest going to the “beauty spa” or a business with a “spa-like” name because it will be hard to convince the insurance company that you received Trigger Point therapy at the “Rub-a-Dub-Dub Day Spa”.
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC accepts HSA and FSA cards and provides itemized receipts for processing (http://www.rpmmuscleclinic.com/client-center).
Series Packages are discounted rates offered by Therapists in exchange for clients purchasing a block of sessions in advance. In addition to receiving a lower per-session rate, clients also have the convenience of not having to bring a form of payment with them every time they come to the office. Additionally, unlike gift cards, the time purchased does not expire.
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC offers Series Packages with further discounts for cash purchases (http://www.rpmmuscleclinic.com/client-center/series-pricing).
A deal sponsored by a merchant is MUCH BETTER than one on a Daily Deal site because the merchant receives the deal value; instead of having to split it with a third-party. A Therapist who does not feel like they are being exploited will ALWAYS give better work; as will most people. A merchant better understands their expenses and knows how much they can afford to discount without having to resort to tricks. These deals and their terms will vary by business. Some of these specials may be public or run privately to select client groups.
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC offers public and private specials. Some are sent to clients via e-mail blasts and on the company website (http://www.rpmmuscleclinic.com/client-center/specials).
Association Discounts are discounts given to members of specific groups. These can be offered by massage businesses of all sizes and the affiliated groups can vary. These discounts are sometimes advertised by associated third-parties or by the discounting businesses. If there are not any published, ASK to be certain. Although larger businesses offer them, smaller private practices are more likely to be more flexible with them. Some of these discounts may be based on a related school affiliation, a professional organization, a sports league, etc. Sometimes, these discounts can make a difference of 10, 15, 20, or even 25 percent off a regular session rate.
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC offers various Association Discounts. Call for details. (404) 477-3254
Thank you for your time,
Raleigh McKeever LMT, MBA, NMT
Founder and Managing Director
RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC