What happened to listening to your massage client’s needs?

Be warned, this blog entry is long and it is going to contain some editorializing. This isn’t something I normally do, however I feel I have the responsibility to talk about my recent experience at a very well-known spa in Edina, Minnesota.

As you may know, if you read my blog, I am a massage therapist and have been since 1995. I have received 100’s of massages over the years and one of my pet peeves is when you pay money for a mediocre massage.

Recently, I decided to use some gift certificates that I had for a local spa. I was going to have a “spa day”. We had just moved, work had been stressful and I needed a break. Physically and emotionally my body was drained. So I signed up for a facial, a haircut and a much needed massage. I signed up for the 1 ½ hour massage and I asked to be seen by the therapist with 20 years’ experience; I thought for sure I would get an amazing massage. I was wrong!

First I asked why aren’t you having me fill out an intake form and the response was “we are booked so closely together, we don’t have time to look at someone’s medical history form”. I was flabbergasted, but I didn’t say anything other than “that seems a little odd”. I went on to explain what my issues were, what my health history was and what areas she should avoid (I had a sunburn on my back). I asked her to focus on my neck and jaw as I was having a lot of pain and discomfort. She told me to get on the table face down. When she returned to the room the first thing she did was apply lotion to my back, which was ok but then she proceeded to perform deep gliding on my sunburned back and I said “ouch, my back is burned” and she said “I am sorry, I forgot”. Hmmm…I guess she didn’t listen to me when I told her my back was burnt or just didn’t care. Next she proceeded to do a full body Swedish massage and she didn’t spend extra time on the areas I asked her to and her technique was mediocre at best. After pointing a few things out a couple of times I decided she really wasn’t listening to my needs, as the client, and at this point I was going to have to take what I got or complain and I didn’t want to upset her and get an even worse massage. At one point she did ask me if I wanted to do a $20.00 add on foot massage treatment and since I wanted some extra work on my feet I said yes. I paid $20.00 extra for a quick 1 minute foot scrub and a hot towel wrapped around my feet, “Are you kidding me?”  By the way this meant I was now spending $125.00 for a massage.

Needless to say I will never get a massage from her ever again and I will not be paying for any more massages at the spa either. I had similar experiences at one of the spa’s other locations and that is why I tried this one. I was surprised that the quality was just as mediocre at this spa location as well. I was disappointed and concerned as a massage therapist and massage educator.

What are people paying for; don’t they know to demand more for their money? Maybe they don’t know any better. However, I think they deserve better and it should be the norm that a massage is therapeutic and you should ALWAYS listen to your client’s needs. I don’t care if you are just getting a basic Swedish massage or a Myofascial Release Treatment, the therapist should still be listening to your needs and customize the treatment to you. (Obviously, this is my opinion and I am sure there are those that would disagree.)

When I left that day I thought “Wow, we really do an amazing job at training our students at Globe University/Minnesota School of Business/Broadview University to be excellent massage therapists in technique, but to also listen to their clients and customize the massage to the client’s needs.” I guess that is why our graduates are in high demand. I know I sound prideful, but hey it’s true.

I ask all of you to not patronize a facility that doesn’t believe in health history forms (dangerous) and doesn’t hire high quality massage therapists. I don’t think this is too much to ask and to tell you the truth I feel it is our ethical responsibility as massage therapists to do what we can to “cause no harm”. If you don’t know someone’s medical history and you don’t listen to their needs, you are more apt to cause harm and lose a potential long term client.

I beg of all of you remember to demand excellence and if you don’t receive it, let someone know. (I will be writing a letter to the spa owners.)

I welcome any comments or your own experiences that you might want to share.

Be safe, be healthy and be happy!

Blog Post By:  Maria Leonard, MBA, MT, Reiki Master – Network Dean of Massage Therapy for Globe University/Minnesota School of Business/Broadview University