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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:

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Comment by Mary Scott on October 24, 2010 at 8:03am
Yes, Darcy I did fill out the intake and of course I asked for a deep tissue massage and deep pressure , but I am confused with what you said.
" Light, Firm, or Deep pressure not Deep Tissue massage, which is a whole different modality that most LMT's have no clue about just getting out of school. "
Because I am a LMT I know the difference but say Im a regular person on the street and I asked for the same thing having gone to other professionals besides ME i received what I asked for and not at ME I wouldnt know why they didnt give me what I asked for only that I didnt get it. You know what I mean. I love the fact that this is a place where students out of school get their feet wet its a great place to start, but at the same time the client should get what they ask/pay for. Its not up to them to educate the therapist.
Comment by Darcy Neibaur on October 23, 2010 at 2:01pm
Laura, the only type of deep massage we learned was CTM. It was only a couple weeks at the end of school, Same with sports massage. Was not taught to use forearms, nor were we taught not to use our thumbs. One of the big differences in schools.
Comment by Rajam K Roose on October 23, 2010 at 1:49pm
As I mentioned on the other site this question was posted-- In my experience I've had more bad massages from mt's in private practice than who are working at spas or other companies. I haven't yet been to an ME but I can imagine there are good therapists working there. Also, here in San Diego, we have the HHP (holistic health practitioner) designation which means 1000 hrs or more of massage education and many HHP's I've been too haven't been that great and shown ignorance on some things I would expect them to know. Unfortunately, many folks here in San Diego think HHP's are better, but that's not the case and I would think the same for therapists working at ME.

Not all mt's want a private practice, nor do they want to work in a spa setting. ME probably fits the bill for those therapists.
Comment by Laura Allen on October 23, 2010 at 1:41pm
Deep Tissue was in fact a part of my basic massage education...and it is in the curriculum of most of the massage schools here in NC. Since I have multiple therapists at my office that I rotate around, I don't often get massage anywhere else except when I'm traveling. I always tell them I am a therapist. 99% of the time, a newbie would be happy to get constructive advice from a seasoned therapist.
Comment by Darcy Neibaur on October 23, 2010 at 1:24pm
Mark and Mary, if you go back and check your intake form it will ask you about pressure. Light, Firm, or Deep pressure not Deep Tissue massage, which is a whole different modality that most LMT's have no clue about just getting out of school. They do not get trainted in proper Deep Tissue Massage in School. That is for Continuing Education. My sports massage exposeure in school Mark was very limited as is most. I have not continued on into it as I am not interested. Did you tell them were an expert on Sports Massage and would be judging them? If you did not, that was so unfair to the therapist. When I receive a massage, wherever it is, I always tell then I am a licensed LMT. I use my session to learn from them not judge them.
Comment by Laura Allen on October 23, 2010 at 12:55pm
Saying that anyone who has gotten a massage at ME hasn't experienced a real massage, and saying that ME drops the ball on the quality of their services, definitely sounds like bashing MTs to me. I avoid this forum many times because I don't want to argue with people, but I do see this going on a lot. I imagine the therapists who work there are, for the most part, taking pride in the services they provide, and I am relatively certain that they would not appreciate being told they aren't giving a "real" massage. You may call it by another term if you like, but it sounds like bashing to me. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion, and that is mine.
Comment by Mary Scott on October 23, 2010 at 12:40pm
I just wanted to add my 2 cents if I may? lol My personal experience with 2 different locations of ME were not good. Each time I called I let them know i was a seasoned LMT( which I dont think they noted or cared was my impression at that time) and requested 90 min DT. I know neither of them on both accounts were skilled in knowing how to release the tissue and I received a lot of long stroke effleruage nothing that got into the releasing of my tight muscles and certainly not deep. My last appointment the therapist would not be quiet even after my many comments on Im just not talkative right now. When she was done I couldnt believe 90 min had slipped away that fast (and it didnt she short me by 10 minutes) Needless to say on both accounts i didnt walk away with a good taste in my mouth. BUT IM NOT BASHING ~ as Ive said before I am sure there are some real gems in ME places I just didnt find mine :(
Comment by Mark Volkmann on October 23, 2010 at 12:03pm
Hey Darcy - No need to be defensive or make me the bad guy. I just gave an honest and unbiased review mentioning both the positive, the neutral and the negative. So you and I differ on Sports Massage - but I can tell you with absolute confidence that no matter what your definition of Sports Massage is, and having specialized in Sports Massage myself - I did NOT receive anything even closely approximating a sports massage.
Clearly ME fills a need both for clients and for therapists - otherwise it wouldn't be as successful as it is.
My point remains, however, that MT's can learn a lot from ME's marketing and business operations and need to apply some of the same tried and proven marketing techniques ME uses (and I'm sure Laura Allen's book teaches) to be competitive in today's environment.
Hey Laura - nice job with your practice! Just ordered your book on Amazon. I didn't insult anybody, anywhere. Perhaps I should have used different words to make the point, but the fact remains that there are differences in abilities among therapists. Recognizing that one therapist's skills don't measure up is stating an opinion based on having been educated as a therapist, having received thousands of massages, and having trained many therapists. I was careful not to generalize unfairly and spoke specifically. So take your own advice and don't go bashing indiscriminitely yourself.
Comment by Darcy Neibaur on October 23, 2010 at 10:50am
Thank you Laura for posting here.
Comment by Laura Allen on October 23, 2010 at 10:39am
One day last week, I posted the following on my FB page, where it has so far attracted 79 "likes" and at last count, 64 comments: "Why do MTs bash other MTs? I have seen very mean remarks about the skills of therapists who work at Massage Envy. I know some MTs who work for ME and they are very talented therapists. And yes, they DO give deep tissue massage. Get off your ego trip. Many people need a job, so unless YOU have a job to offer them, shut the hell up."

I will say that my intent in making that statement was not to start a discussion of whether Massage Envy itself is good or bad. That's a different discussion. There is good massage and bad massage available everywhere--in spas, in chiropractic offices, medical clinics, cruise ships, gyms, and anywhere massage is offered. To say that anyone who has gone to ME has not experienced a "real" massage is a ridiculous insult to the many talented therapists who work there.

Yes, they do have a lot of beginners, and they also have plenty of old hands who want job stability and who are very happy working for them. Many of the franchise owners provide free CE for their therapists, and the parents who work for them say they are very accommodating to their children's needs on their schedules. Not everyone is cut out to be in business for themselves. I know plenty of spas and chiropractors who pay less than ME does. They are providing employment for 16,000 MTs in the US. That's 16,000 MTs who might otherwise be unemployed.

I don't usually try to sell my books on here, but I will say that in 5 years, I grew my own business from zero to $300,000 a year and I provide employment for a dozen people who make a minimum of $30 an hour up to $42 an hour, plus gratuities, and I have spent very little money on marketing. One Year to a Successful Massage Therapy Practice(LWW, 2008) is exactly how I did it. It can definitely be done.

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