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Aloha. I've been working as a professional massage therapist in a day spa for about five months. During that time I became aware of a preference male and female clients have for female therapists. Here I am raising two questions:

 

First, what is the question your receptionist asks to determine the client's gender preference if at all and how she approaches this matter?

In our spa the receptionist asks, "Do you prefer a male or a female therapist?" or "Do you have a gender preference?" One time I heard her asking "Are you OK with a male therapist?" I believe that all the questions above put male therapist in a great disadvantage and in my opinion they are as ridiculous as the questions: "Do you prefer a tall or a short therapist? Do you have a religioun preference for your therapist? Are you OK with a Jewish therapist? You get the idea.

 

Second, what is the booking procedure in your place of work that insures fair work load distribution between male and female therapists? What is your booking procedure?

In our spa, assignments are booked using a booking order rather than seniority. The opener that has a few morning shores comes earlier and gets the first appointment. Of course, if the opener is male, between female requests and specific requests for therapists, he may not get anything that day…and I am speaking from experience.

 

I’d love to hear some ideas so I can go to management with specific solutions rather than only complaints. Thanks in advance.

 

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Ok, I don't know how legal everything was, but here's how it worked at one place I was at:

  • Receptionist asked if there was a gender preference. If there was none, the booking when to the male. Reason, females tend to be requested more. We had a good team, so no female therapist cared about this "rule", though I suppose it could be illegal.
  • The spa did not book by seniority, if the therapist was requested that's who the client got.
  • We had 10 massage therapists, three were male. Very rarely did I see them not busy. They were great massage therapist and were able to retain. Our front desk was really good about rebooking.

You might want to ask the front desk to better frame their questions "You will have a male therapist, is that ok?" to "you're going to be booked with Bob, he's a fantastic therapist. Is it ok to confirm this appointment?". That way 1) the client knows they are booked with a male (unless someone has a gender neutral name like "Chris") 2) the front desk is confirming that you're a good therapist 3) it still gives the client to gracefully back out and ask for a female therapist.No harm, no foul.

As for asking about a gender preference, I think it's a fair question. Some clients don't feel comfortable being massage by a male (regardless of their own sex), they may have issues with it. These could vary from religious to emotional. When a client would call the spa the new client always asks if I can do "real" deep tissue. It is an assumption that because I'm a woman I can't bring the pressure. Which is fair, because I'm not paying someone $90 to pet me when I need serious DT work.

Hope that helps. Good luck in solving your problem.

Thanks Joyce for your reply.

I like very much the way you framed the receptionist’s reply when booking a massage session with a male therapist, and I wouldn't even go to a gender question. When receptionist says: "he is a fantastic therapist" she basically mentions the therapist's gender without putting the emphasis on it, which makes sense to me, since gender doesn’t say anything about the skills and abilities of the therapist.

And by the way, in our spa there is a female therapist who is a bit smaller than me (I am 6'2" 210 lbsz) and provides as deep if not deeper bodywork than I do. So I totally don’t support the assumption that female therapists are not able to provide as deep pressure as male therapists. Isn’t it a matter of technique after all? 

I found it most effective when I owned a day spa to not mention gender unless the client does until the end of the call, similar to what was said above "Great Mrs. Jones, we have you booked at 2 with Mike, he is a great therapist, see you at 2."

I have also found that if someone is uncomfortable, that can quite often be helped. Something you might say to an unsure client "Mike has been here for a long time, I think you will be very comfortable, our clients are always very happy with their massage with Mike." I have found that with staying positive and reassuring about half of unsure clients will "try" a guy. So basically book clients (non-request) by time and massage type. Only get into gender discussion if the client brings it up at the end of the call. Act a little surprised if they don't want a male therapist, try to reassure them, then reschedule with a female if still necessary. 

Yes!! Thank you so much Gael. After I get a few more responds and new ideas, I'll take them to management and see how it goes from there.

When the receptionist talks as if scheduling with a male therapist could be a problem I think it MAKES it a problem. I know that when I have scheduled appointments they usually say something along the lines of " so we have you down for a massage at 11 with Mike". HE will see you then. Or "mike is available for deep tissue massage at 11. Is that time good for you?" Okay, HE will see you Tuesday at 11.

I think by just confirming the time and who the appointment is with should be enough. If the client prefers a female therapist they have the opportunity to request it at that time.

Thanks Jimswife. Because of booking order and walk-in's we are never sure whether Mike will be the one to perform that particular service. It may be assigned to another therapist on that day or even an hour before the starting time. A service that was assigned to Melinda may move to Mike,  and Mike's service may go to Sarah. This is the reality in our spa, how would you handle it when talking to the client?

That needs to be explained to the client when they book, as a spa policy it shouldn't be the therapists job to deal with that. That said, it seems like it could lead to a lot of confusion and unhappy clients. Please update on your situation when you can. :)

Ilan Lagnado said:

Thanks Jimswife. Because of booking order and walk-in's we are never sure whether Mike will be the one to perform that particular service. It may be assigned to another therapist on that day or even an hour before the starting time. A service that was assigned to Melinda may move to Mike,  and Mike's service may go to Sarah. This is the reality in our spa, how would you handle it when talking to the client?

Aloha and thank you so much for showing interest in my challenge and supplying so many smart professional suggestions. So, I wrote a three page letter to the lead therapist who forwarded it to the spa owner. The owner told me the next day that the receptionist will say at the end of a conversation to a client who didn’t mention a therapist gender preference and is going to be booked with a male therapist:

"You will be booked with David, our male therapist"

I think this one put the focus back on therapist’s gender where it should not be. Focus should be on the therapist strongest massage modality or experience or the experience of clients with his services. The above reply, in my opinion, is as informative and useful to a client as this one:

“You will be booked with David, our tallest therapist”

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if any of you have a desire to read my letter, I can email it to you, and would love you to unveil your thoughts and feelings about it.

Thanks again for empathizing with me here and letting me blow out some steam.

Ilan.

I agree with you. If the receptionist would not say "You will be booked with Susan, our female therapist" then they should not say "You will be booked with David, our male therapist." It adds nothing, except to put the idea in the client's mind that this is something unusual.

If the therapist's name is really David or a similar, very common, obviously male name, then just saying "You will be booked with David" is enough to indicate to the client that this is a man. Then, if the client has a problem with that, they can choose to say something at that point.

I would only specifically mention the therapist's gender if their name is not obviously male or female, or if their name is more commonly associated with the other gender and could cause confusion.



Ilan Lagnado said:

Aloha and thank you so much for showing interest in my challenge and supplying so many smart professional suggestions. So, I wrote a three page letter to the lead therapist who forwarded it to the spa owner. The owner told me the next day that the receptionist will say at the end of a conversation to a client who didn’t mention a therapist gender preference and is going to be booked with a male therapist:

"You will be booked with David, our male therapist"

I think this one put the focus back on therapist’s gender where it should not be. Focus should be on the therapist strongest massage modality or experience or the experience of clients with his services. The above reply, in my opinion, is as informative and useful to a client as this one:

“You will be booked with David, our tallest therapist”

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if any of you have a desire to read my letter, I can email it to you, and would love you to unveil your thoughts and feelings about it.

Thanks again for empathizing with me here and letting me blow out some steam.

Ilan.

I agree 100% that does not solve the problem, just moves it to another location in the conversation. :(

Carrie Patrick said:

I agree with you. If the receptionist would not say "You will be booked with Susan, our female therapist" then they should not say "You will be booked with David, our male therapist." It adds nothing, except to put the idea in the client's mind that this is something unusual.

If the therapist's name is really David or a similar, very common, obviously male name, then just saying "You will be booked with David" is enough to indicate to the client that this is a man. Then, if the client has a problem with that, they can choose to say something at that point.

I would only specifically mention the therapist's gender if their name is not obviously male or female, or if their name is more commonly associated with the other gender and could cause confusion.



Ilan Lagnado said:

Aloha and thank you so much for showing interest in my challenge and supplying so many smart professional suggestions. So, I wrote a three page letter to the lead therapist who forwarded it to the spa owner. The owner told me the next day that the receptionist will say at the end of a conversation to a client who didn’t mention a therapist gender preference and is going to be booked with a male therapist:

"You will be booked with David, our male therapist"

I think this one put the focus back on therapist’s gender where it should not be. Focus should be on the therapist strongest massage modality or experience or the experience of clients with his services. The above reply, in my opinion, is as informative and useful to a client as this one:

“You will be booked with David, our tallest therapist”

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if any of you have a desire to read my letter, I can email it to you, and would love you to unveil your thoughts and feelings about it.

Thanks again for empathizing with me here and letting me blow out some steam.

Ilan.

I have experienced the same issues. I have found that in smaller towns I have had more difficulty with this problem as opposed to bigger areas I've worked in the past and it was never an issue. I think everyone here has hit the nail on the head. The receptionist should say something to the effect of, "Mike is available at that time and he gives a great massage" or in my case, my name is Chris, the owners name is Christina so the receptionist has to word it, " I have Chris available at that time and HE gives a great massage". If people are asked if they would prefer a male or female in the small area I practice in, 75% of the time they state they would prefer a female. Try and get them to take the gender question out of the appointment setting process.

I have also had clients come in before when their appointment was scheduled, the client thought they were getting Christina our owner, thinking that Chris was short for Christina. I've had that happen several times. After sitting down with the client and explaining to them the process of massage, draping procedures, even demonstrating it for them, I haven't had anyone say No.

I hope these recommendations help!

What preference for female therapists?

 

Almost exactly 50% of our clients have no preference on the gender of their therapist or request a male.

 

We know this because anyone who asks a client anything other than "Do you prefer a male, female or does it not matter the gender of your therapist?" gets beaten about the head-and-shoulders with an axe handle.

 

"do you prefer a male or female" = WRONG. If you just lay out the two choices, you are still making the client choose one or the other and put the burden on the client to volunteer "does not matter".

 

If you offer Door # 3 -- "no preference" -- nearly 50% will choose it, where as if you just give the two options, only about 20% will come back with "it does not matter to me"

 

one of my former managers just could not help himself and kept saying "I can do that time if you are OK with a Male therapist"  A major reason for his departure -- lazy language and did not listen or take instructon well.

 

The proper answer when only a male is available is "I have John available at 4 or 5" No other comment required, and 99% of any other possible commentary is detrimental to the conversation.

 

Having no preference on the gender of the therapist gives the business the maximum flexibility in generating the most number of appointments -- keeps the bottom line happy and the employees. Any business not offering the "no preference" language to every guest is doing everyone -- including the clients who can't get appointments -- a dis-service.

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