massage and bodywork professionals

a community of practitioners

I had to experience it first hand. MT's are feeling pretty passionate about how it's affected the industry and I wanted to experience it for myself before creating my own opinion.

So here's what I experienced:

1) I booked a Sports Massage. What I got was a weak Swedish massage that neglected to address my low back, glutes, shoulders, occiput and head entirely. The strokes and technique used indicated a complete lack of understanding of muscle anatomy and/physiology. ( 1 out of 5 stars)

2) Massage lube came from a well used tube. Cross contamination was assured.

3) The environment was spartan, but comfortable and clean. Good mood and professional.

4) "Prescription" for massage 2x month was given to me with solid push to join their membership program after the massage. Prescription was baloney and clearly used to set up the sales pitch on the exit. I could tell the therapist was just going through the motions in writing it up and didn't really believe in it herself. Weak.

5) Shared with the Assistant mgr. my disappointment in the massage. She seemed genuinely surprised, stating that the MT who worked on me was "one of their popular" ones. She gave me a coupon for a free massage. Nice touch.

6) Paid $49 + $10 tip for a total of $59. More on this in a later post.

My thoughts:

I learned that MT's get paid $17/hour of massage, nothing if they don't have any clients, and $20/hr if they do more than 20hours of massage a week. I'll share more in a future post when I discuss pay rates for MT's, but clearly this level of compenstation isn't going to attract and/or maintain the best talent.

I also feel like the general public who has experienced a massage at ME hasn't experienced a "real" massage and still is coming back for more. Crazy, but very encouraging for those MT's who actually do have some talent.

What Massage Envy has going for it is a marketing engine that brings new clients in the door, easy to find retail locations, a reasonable cost structure, a professional first impression and a credible business that leaves no room for interpretation about what kind of a massage to expect.

Where ME drops the ball, as far as my singualr experience leads me to believe, is in the quality of their services.

Now that we know what we're up against, how do we compete?

Ideas and methods for building a vibrant practice:

Views: 2064


You need to be a member of massage and bodywork professionals to add comments!

Join massage and bodywork professionals

Comment by christopher keller on February 9, 2011 at 11:46am

I have read every comment on this feed and I have to put view on this matter I have worked at ME in for nearly two years and we are the busiest clinic in the nation and the first in the southern California. 

1. We do not have a tip chart

2. When a client comes in we go over what they need (consultation) deep tissue, Swedish,

I explain to my clients, since I am a certified deep tissue specialist and work slow.  I need extra time with them to schedule an hour and half and they are happy to pay the 57.00.  I see these people on a weekly basis, as most of my client’s whether it's a 50 min session or 1-1/2 session.  Sure there are some therapists that do not educate themselves or take advantage of the education that ME offers.  I don't agree with this.  I don't judge. It's their business and they are the ones sitting around.  There was a comment someone left about California standards on hours unless you live here and know our practices don't share what you don't know it's minimum hours to get a permit is 350 hours to get a license is a minimum of over 700 hours not enough but for someone who wants to do massage and finally it's regulated we are proud of this moment--mark from Florida.  I don't want to use this as a bashing ground.  But I am proud to work for ME they treat me very well and give me great education.


For your experience at ME i would suggest going back and trying another therapist out raising your concern to management and or the owners--if they are available they need to hear this (we have standards to meet) corporate policy.  I recently had a massage at my location by a new therapist and it was less than stellar I complained and pulled him aside.  I sat him down and explained to him what his weaknesses were. 


I have read every comment on this feed and I have to put view on this matter I have worked at ME in for nearly two years and we are the busiest clinic in the nation and th

Comment by Darcy Neibaur on December 15, 2010 at 10:53pm
Comment by Diana Brayshaw on December 15, 2010 at 10:46pm

It's already here.  Best of luck to them, they'll probably get green graduates, like some spas, and then they'll move on just like some spas. However, since even our green graduates have 2200 hours of education and training, ME will be lucky to get them. In Ontario we are considered Health Care Professionals governed by the same Act as physicians, surgeons, physios, chiros, dentists etc. Our standards are pretty high, so I don't think Mark would have had such a list of negative things to say up here. Of course there will always be the lazy ones everywhere.  Those of us with well established practices and strong referal sources are not concerned. I did read recently that the term "money gauging massage therapists" was used by either ME or another large corporation. Now, if that's not massage therapist bashing, I don't know what is. We attended school for 2 or 3 years and work very hard at what we do. We make no appologies for making a living. I pay out of pocket for my bi-weekly massage and it's worth every penny.

Comment by Darcy Neibaur on December 15, 2010 at 10:28pm

Massage Envy is making it's way to Canada

Comment by Diana Brayshaw on December 15, 2010 at 1:52pm

Mark, thanks so much for sharing your experience at ME. Once reading the other comments posted, I realize that you are in the States, as I think most of the posters are.  Here in Ontario we are registered, therefore are regulated and have strict standards that have to be followed. Of course there are some who don't, but after 2200 hours of education we would hope that most RMTs adhere to them at all times. The problem that I have with corporations opening these massage chains is that the main focus is making money, and not client care. They can argue the point all they want, but it's not what I have experienced.Even RMTs that own clinics that have a lot of therapists working with them have a hard time not getting caught up in making a lot of money. I have  colleagues that have worked in places like this and have heard their experiences. Not good!   I am an educator in a massage therapy program and make it my duty to investigate possible places of employment for my students. I will be advising my students to stay away from ME and other organizations like it.

Comment by Kimberly Rogers on November 21, 2010 at 7:47pm
Hi Mark,

This may sound silly, but did you go back and get your complimentary massage from ME? And did you receive your second massage (sports) from a different therapist? If your second massage was as disappointing as the first, I would address the management on training issues.

On another note: Did you "interview" your therapist the first time? Sometimes simply asking them how they will be performing your massage will give you insight to their training and experience. And did you ask to have your low back, glutes, etc., to be addressed? What training your therapist had and their understanding of "sports massage" may have been 'site specific,' rather than full-body. There are many types of sports massage, even deep tissue massage.

And while you were on the table, did you ask your therapist to increase or decrease pressure as you were being worked on? We all hear complaints from clients about not having needs addressed, yet when we are on the table, we forget that communication is a two-way street. If your MT did not check in with you often or at all, that still means you need to speak up! From what I understand of both sports massage and deep tissue massage, they can be intense and communication is key. Did you talk to your therapist at all during the massage?

Also, your therapist may have gotten the "vibe" from you, which explains her behavior toward you during the "prescription" phase, as you call it. We all get them, we pick up on them quite easily the longer we've been in the business. Were you as negative during your massage as you were in writing this piece? Your personalities just didn't click. That's it. You didn't like your massage or your massage therapist.

You complain about quality control, yet you are basing this article on one sole experience. If you are concerned about quality control, experience and training, why not go and work at the ME location and bring it up to speed? That is the best way to ensure quality control, as many franchises are run by business people that may not have experience in the bodywork field. They just care about the bottom line. It's up to us to make sure the customer's experience, MT's training and employment options are fair.

I would also suggest returning to this ME location and receiving several massages from different therapists, both male and female. Interview them, the support staff and the management. Be up front and tell them that you have concerns about the location and you want to help. You have some legitimate concerns, like the sales pitch and the dirty-looking lotion bottle. Make sure that these are the only problems and not just the tip of the iceberg. See what it takes to get your 1 star massage up to 5 stars.

What are the cons? You may receive another "weak" massage?

What are the pros? You can help improve the conditions and environment of a local business.

Then come back here and write up another article on your ME experience. And don't focus on the franchise aspect of it...we get it, we have an idea on how it works. We want to know the working conditions and the employment experience. And if ME really is a competition to non-franchise MTs or if it merely fills a much-needed niche in these strained economic times. Thanks for posting.
Comment by Darcy Neibaur on November 9, 2010 at 9:12pm
Thank you Relax and Rejuvenate
Comment by Relax & Rejuvenate on November 9, 2010 at 9:17am
I find the whole tone of the post to be self-serving/important and missing the mark. Not sure what you hope to achieve by bashing ME.

From a business perspective, you are making a mistake by characterizing a franchise operation by your experience with one therapists in one location. This is not McDonalds, they dont' have a manual for every step of the way. As you have learned from other posts, not all MEs operate in the same fashion and the great variation of MT and customer satisfaction has to do with the quality of ownership and management, which has nothing to do with whether or not these folks are MTs or not.

"Now that we know what we are up against, how do we compete?" Geez, sounds like you just discovered ME exsited and are trying to enlighten us. Pretty much a rhetorical question based on your analysis -- you get what you pay for. The answer to competing against the low cost provider is pretty elementary.

Finally, you are off base on the pay structure issue. If ME paid them 2x as much, many "talented" therapists still would not join them, and higher pay would not make the therapist you had any better. Jobs pay what jobs are worth, and people take them for a variety of reasons, and to criticize someone's talent level based on their income is insultingly elitist.
Comment by Laura Allen on November 6, 2010 at 8:55am
Personally, my practice has gained a LOT of clients from the other therapists in town who "tell people what they need." And who dictate pressure. You may know they need deep tissue, but if they don't want that, too bad. You may know they need their gluts worked on, but if that's out of their comfort zone, too bad. Many of the people who come in here say that their previous therapist didn't listen to them, or insisted that they "need" so and so. Our therapists check in about pressure as soon as they start and several times during the massage.

At our board meeting last month, one of those therapists who "knows what the client needs" was brought up on disciplinary charges for working too deep and ignoring the wishes of the client, whom she bruised. The end result of that for her was a $1000 fine, having to attend 48 EXTRA hours of continuing education on top of the 24 she is already obligated to get between now and her next renewal, and probationary status for her license for the next two years.

From ME's page about your first visit
, the 50-minute explanation is not in small print at all, it's in the same print the rest of the page is in: Our massage therapy sessions are one hour in length. This time includes a 5 minute pre-interview, 50 minutes of hands-on time and 5 minutes at the end for you to re-dress.

They are far from being the only ones to doing the 50-minute gig. I hear that about spas all the time.
Comment by Lisa on November 1, 2010 at 6:58pm
Interesting I'm gonna chime in. Here are some thoughts as I read through everyone's responses....

First off, I think where the probably REALLY stands is in schooling. Everyone out of school and through their state's licensing tests (or national depending on the state) can call themselves MTs. And yet there is a HUGE difference in education and subsequently skill set. I'm actually floored to here that some never learned deep tissue or sports massage in schooling. OK maybe sports is a technique more suited to CEs since it's a more specific targeted audience, but deep tissue is a fundamental modality to what we do. I am thankful for my schooling. I learned more things than most have in their basic schooling, but I didn't realize to what degree until I actually got out.

But here's my REAL complaint with ME. It's 50 minutes of massage time!!!! They don't tell you that in the's in the small print. And they also don't advertise their prices other than their first time rate. For me it's your basic bait and switch marketing. Get me in at one rate and then sell me a membership. And just like gyms, a business that runs on memberships makes a majority of their money on the people that never actually use it. That bothers me.

If I want a 60 minute massage...I want 60 minutes, not 45 or 50.

I also have an issue with the idea that the client should be dictating what to work on, what pressure, what modalities, etc. If you are a first time client, there's just no way you can know what you NEED.

My school spent a LOT of hours teaching us to hone in on our intuition so we could better serve our clients by being able to palpate and intuitively KNOW what the client needs. And to be able to adjust during the session with regards to pressure, etc. I can't imagine having a massage that didn't include my gluts, lower back, shoulders and head worked on. And yet we will put the ownis on the client for not being specific in their request? That's crazy. Would I be expected to go to the doctor (or chiro) and tell them what to look at, what tests to run, where to adjust me, etc.?

For all these reasons, I will not go to an ME. I can't afford to spend money and walk away unsatisfied. And as an MT, I continually hear about disappointments from clients about ME. YES there are good MTs at MEs and there are also bad private MTs. It really comes down to having too many differences in our education.

© 2018   Created by Lara Evans Bracciante.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service