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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 Frank J on October 21, 2010 at 7:10am
I do have one thing to say about sports massage!! I was taught at my school that sports massage was done at sporting events (another story all together). I have worked in places where people say they want a particular area worked on and they end up getting a full body (something they didnt want). But did you specify what you wanted worked on? Did she/he ask what you wanted worked on? I must say every therapist is not the same. Every massage isnt the same. Each therapist have their own unique talents. But for everything else that is what ME does that is their motto.
Comment by Mark Volkmann on October 20, 2010 at 9:15pm
Please tell me more about how you see ME reinvesting money and time into their employees.
The only real complaint I had was that the therapist I saw was mediocre. I'm not about to unfairly generalize on all of ME MT's, because I'm sure there are very talented ones as well.
The point I would make is that I believe there's a tremendous opportunity for MT's, thanks to ME. More people than ever are getting massages because of ME's smart marketing and business model. We MT's should take notice of what it is that works and try to find a way to make it work for us.
Comment by Mike Hinkle on October 20, 2010 at 12:52pm
From what I see, it looks like puppy mill schools have dropped the ball. ME is making tremendous efforts and financial investment back into their therapists. The same complaints you have listed above, I have suffered in private practices. People may think, for the most part I believe, that they won't get a "premier" massage at ME. But wait, I bet we can find thousands who say, "it was". And what a great advantage... to be able to work at a place that leaves no interpretation about what kind of massage to expect. That alone would make it worth it to a lot of serious therapists.

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