Let’s Make a Deal

I recently read an article being circulated amongst the massage therapy community regarding the ills of deal running. Deal sites have seen a boom in popularity since the economy went south back in 2008. Some are more popular than others (think of LivingSocial, Groupon and Gilt.com) but search the world wide web and you will find a myriad of deal sites for just about anything.

Here a DEAL, there a DEAL, everywhere a DEAL, DEAL!!

If you are searching for a new coat, have a craving for a fancy dinner out or want to book your all inclusive trip to Morocco, you can find a deal online at sometimes 50% or more off the original price. After the deal site pockets a certain percentage of the sales of the deal, the business running it will receive a FAT check in advance. This sense of immediate wealth is offset by the wait for the clientele to actually redeem their deals. This is more true of service industries like restaurants and spas; not so much for products or travel. Deal or no deal, the business still has the same overhead – employee wages, supply orders and stocking, the rent to pay, etc. There will be days when the books fill up with the discounted clients leaving little room for the regulars and full price paying walk-ins. Suddenly, that FAT check is looking a little lean. What seems to be good for the bottom line in the short term, actually costs the business a lot more than they bargained for.

Once the deal is redeemed, the business’s hope is that they will make you into a regular full price paying client. Unfortunately, there are many conflicting statistics regarding client retention after deal purchases and for a number of reasons. The bulk just wait for the next deal to come along. The long term affects of constant deal running can be disastrous to a business’s reputation. I once overheard a conversation on the subway between two men who had purchased a restaurant deal off one of these sites. One of the men said, “Oh, that place is always running deals…like every month.” In response, the other man laughed and said, “I bet they’re in trouble.” Public perception of a business that is always discounting is that the business is going under or that the services are going to be sub-par. An example of the latter happened to a friend of mine who redeemed a deal on a deluxe manicure/pedicure at a popular Manhattan nail salon chain. Despite the place not being crowded, my friend waited for almost 45 minutes to receive her treatment. It seemed to her that the staff was trying to decide amongst themselves which one would be taking her appointment. The technician who finally performed her treatment reminded her throughout the hour and a half together that she should tip on the original price. She was not offered any of the treats and beverages other clients were enjoying and she also noticed that her technician skimped on a couple of the aspects of her treatment. Not only was my friend disappointed with her entire experience, but also felt that if she were a full price paying client she would have been treated differently. There is some truth to the adage, “You get what you pay for.”

In an effort to boost their already bruised bottom line, many establishments will not pay “commission before discount” to their employees. This means that the employee gets paid less for the same amount of work. In other cases, the employee will be paid a flat rate for a treatment package that requires more work. There is, of course, no excuse for poor customer service and short-cutting; however I can relate to the feeling of having one’s skills undervalued. Sometimes, when every single one of your clients in a day is a deal, it’s hard to be so tired for what amounts to around $8-10 per working hour. It’s also hard to accept what is NOT a living wage and also not reflective of the level of education and skills brought to the table. Let’s not even mention how physically demanding the work can be. The more deals offered the more undermined and wrung dry the therapists and technicians will feel. It’s a never ending cycle of not being able to catch up, both financially and physically. And at the end of day, the overall bottom line can’t do so either.

Now, before you as the potential consumer/client start to feel guilty for shopping a deal, please understand that this whole diatribe is meant to inform your purchasing decision; not deter you from it. Deals are a great way to discover new places to patronize, try treatments that otherwise you never would have tried and also gift to someone special without breaking the bank. Just heed the following: Pay attention to how much off the original price the deal is. The higher the percentage, the more you can guarantee some of what I described above occurring. Also, look up the reviews for the place running the deal. Do they have good client retention? Are the experiences for deal redeemers positive? This is how you can ensure you will get the right treatment and a deal worth paying for.

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YELP me

Def: To utter a short, sharp bark or cry (i.e. to review)

Addendum/Update 10/18/12   It was reported on news-radio this morning that YELP is going to crack down on companies creating fake reviews to market themselves. There will be a “CONSUMER AWARENESS” label on the profiles of the businesses that have done that to let potential clients/patrons that they are guilty of this offense.

Never underestimate the power of a review.

Positive or negative, someone’s assessment of you can and will have an impact on how other people perceive you. The internet is an infinite source of information, posted by all walks of life and intelligence. For this reason, I always take what I read with a grain of salt because I understand that not everything that is published on the world wide web is absolute, unbiased TRUTH. In the field of social psychology, attitudes are an important factor in the evaluation of a particular thing. Our attitudes influence our beliefs and often, our behavior. We form our attitudes in a variety of ways. Personal experience, observation of others’ experiences, social expectations and societal codes of conduct all help to shape attitudes. Another important factor is conditioning, a process of behavioral modification where a person is made to associate a desired behavior with a totally unrelated stimulus. Example: Any commercial ad that shows a subject in an idealized state resulting from the shampoo they used, the drink they are holding or the perfume they are wearing, etc. This is classical conditioning at work and most of us are not conscious to the fact that the ads have worked in this way. Operant conditioning is a little more obvious. A behavior is associated with either a reward or a punishment. The reward, as in getting a bonus for working longer hours, increases a behavior while the punishment, like being asked to leave a restaurant to smoke your cigarette, is said to decrease the behavior.

Keeping in mind that other people’s experiences can form attitudes and thus, influence belief and behavior, you can understand how a review functions on a larger scale. As soon as it is published people will read it, comment on it, re-post or email it to their sites and contacts, tell their friends via social networking sites, “like” and “favorite” until the information has taken on another life altogether. One extremely popular and useful site for reviews is a place known as YELP, where ANYONE can review just about ANYTHING – from spas , to restaurants, schools and even the Department of Motor Vehicles. All you need is an email address to make or break someone’s career. Many businesses have started to realize just how much of an affect these reviews are having on their sales. As a result, some have started providing incentives for positive client reviews and discounts or complimentary services for negative ones. I have seen firsthand how a devastatingly negative review of a colleague led to the comping of the treatment provided and a gift card to use towards a future purchase down the line. Weeks later the same client wrote a second review thanking the establishment for taking such good care of the situation and noting that they would be back with friends soon. In this way, the business did not lose face or future client $$; however the downside is that my colleague’s professional reputation was negatively affected. Any future clientele that come across this review could potentially choose not to book their appointment with this therapist for fear of the experience happening to them. Case in point, I received a booking request recently based on the review another client of mine had posted, singing my praises. This new client’s positive attitude was influenced by another person’s experience of my skills and work.

Here are my thoughts: Before you rush to express your positive or negative experience via the internet, take a minute to assess the gravity of your words. If something truly feels relevant enough to be shared in this manner, I absolutely agree on posting the information. After all, I too YELP; however we all have to possess some level of accountability. For instance, if I am having a bad day and the barista behind the counter at the coffee shop messes up my drink order, that doesn’t mean it was done on purpose or that he/she is an idiot. Also, if I am just getting over a cold, the massage I am receiving may actually make me feel worse the next day. That isn’t the therapists fault; I should have said something. And speaking of sharing important information, an esthetician had a client who never wrote on her intake form that she had a heat sensitivity a.k.a allergy. After the wax treatment, the client claimed that the wax had scalded her. The esthetician, obviously concerned, addressed the client who then admitted her allergy. After pointing out that she never mentioned this to her before or during the treatment, the client proclaimed, “Well, it’s not like you asked me?” Again, accountability applies here. Very few people are truly “psychic” so if you know you have a problem, say something. If you sense a little attitude in what I am saying, perhaps it will influence you to be a little more scrupulous when sharing your TRUTH with others.

Scrubs beyond skin deep

One of the most common body treatments offered at spas is the body scrub. It consists of a head to toe exfoliation followed by a shower and moisturizer application. Outside of the spa setting, body scrubs are available EVERYWHERE. Just walk down the bath-and-beauty isle of any drugstore and you will see numerous brands of scrubs for the body and face (remember St. Ives Apricot Scrub…available since forever). Specialty shops like The Body Shop or Bath and Body Works also carry them in a variety of flavors and consistencies. With all this choice, how does one pick the right scrub and how can you tell the difference between them all?

Universally speaking, body scrubs will improve circulation by way of the tiny capillary networks that feed the skin. The friction of rubbing the scrub into the surface of the skin causes these networks to flood the surrounding tissues, making you turn a little red. The boost of “nutrition” helps the fresh skin cells in the deepest layer of skin known as the dermis to migrate to the surface. The lifetime of a skin cell is 30 days. Once it migrates to the surface it officially “dies” and becomes saturated with keratin, a protein whose fibers coil and bind to form a protective layer over the skin to keep the outside elements from damaging it. Keratin does the same thing for hair and nails. Age and hormones (for women) will change how the cells turnover, making skin uneven and rough.  The scrub itself is exfoliating away the surface layer of dead cells, helping along the natural order of things. In addition, it can unclog pores, helping skin to breathe as well as keep the naturally acidic pH in check, so you will smell fresh.

Now that the science behind exfoliation has been explained, let’s take into account what is going on with your skin. Are you prone to oiliness? Do you shed like a lizard? Do you have sensitive, reactive skin prone to breakouts? Do you want to prevent ingrown hairs and bumps? These are all important factors in choosing a scrub. Here is how I would break down your decision.

SUGAR OR SALT

Most scrubs on the market are either sugar or sea-salt based. Sugar based scrubs are more moisturizing than salt based because sugar molecules bind to water, thus retaining moisture in whatever state they are present in. The sugar exfoliates and holds moisture, so that skin will feel hydrated post scrub. This molecular action enhances the job of the moisturizer, helping to keep the skin properly hydrated. If your skin is the type that flakes off when the seasons change or has a tendency to remain dry no matter what the weather, sugar based it the route to go. Sugar is also best with skin that is highly sensitive, as it is not as abrasive in texture as salt.

Salt based scrubs, aside from being the most aggressive texture for exfoliating, draw everything out of the skin, including water. These types of scrubs can effectively address rough patches and clogged pores because the properties in sea salt ionically bond to positively charged impurities that would be found on the surface of the skin and lodged in pores. Reference my post on DETOX treatments  for a more in depth chemistry lesson. Often, the salt based scrubs will have eucalyptus essential oil added to them, which acts as an antiseptic and antimicrobial agent on the skin. Salt based scrubs are potent; therefore skin absolutely needs to be moisturized well post treatment in order to ensure hydration.

Addendum: Other scrub bases can consist of fruit seeds, ground nut shells and oatmeal (St. Ives anyone). People with allergies, especially nut based ones should be wary of the seed and nut shell varieties, dependent on their level of reactivity. The oatmeal based scrubs are super gentle and not very abrasive at all. They are often used to relieve the itch and discomfort of chicken pox, mosquito bites, hives, sunburn and for a gentle exfoliation of the face.

SCENTS and FLAVORS

Marketing, marketing and more marketing. Flavors and scents of various scrubs on the market are designed with the buyers’ eyes and noses in mind. However, certain essential oils, as the aforementioned eucalyptus oil described above, can have therapeutic affects on the exterior and interior of one’s body. Scrubs with lavender, vanilla or chamomile essential oils are soothing to the skin, helping to neutralize redness, prevent bacterial growth and tone down the itch and irritation of such conditions as dermatitis, eczema and acne. Also great for congested skin are lemon and orange scented scrubs, as the essential oils of both help the lymphatic system do its job of clearing out toxins. They also control excess oil production and aid mature skin to retain moisture. Lastly, mint oils like spearmint and peppermint have similar therapeutic qualities as the eucalyptus oil. They boost circulation to the skin through the menthol component that cools on contact and then vasodilates those little capillary networks. Best of all, they stimulate the nervous system, which can leave you feeling completely invigorated.

With the above in mind, you can now expertly peruse your spa menu and/or drugstore beauty aisle armed with the therapeutic knowledge of a beauty practice that is beyond skin deep. You can also make your own scrub, using the information above to tailor it for your specific need. Some recipes for homemade scrubs can be found here:

http://www.fromnaturewithlove.com/recipe/recipes.asp?category=16

http://wellnessmama.com/3628/luxurious-sugar-scrub-recipe-easy/

Here are some of my favorite Over-The-Counter Scrubs:

Ignore the marketing label. This scrub smells amazing and has been a godsend in the heat and humidity of Summer thus far. I don’t use a moisturizer after because the sugar and oils in its recipes do the work effectively.
Another one that is super hydrating, even though it is salt based. It has an extremely clean after-feel on the skin and the scent is not overwhelming, just fresh.

and lastly,

Forget the product description. This scrub is saturated with essential oil of eucalyptus and super effective at removing heaps of dead skin, especially near the bikini area. Goodbye ingrowns.

SOURCES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfoliation_%28cosmetology%29

Worwood, “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 600 Natural, Non-Toxic and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health – Beauty – a Safe Home Environment” (1991)

Pisces Productions saved my broken a**

Massage is very physical work. Even with proper body mechanics and self care, at the end of my day I am pretty exhausted. Try adding carrying my massage table and supplies up and down multiple flights of stairs and the exhaustion is two fold. I count my blessings that I have a growing number of private clients who prefer massage in their homes, but there are some days where I wonder if I can really keep doing this. While I was in school, I had purchased my first massage table to use at home for practice and eventually, private in call clientele. The table weight is about 42 lbs. With bolsters and supplies, I would fairly estimate the massage luggage to be around 46 lbs. This is the table that I have carried up 5 flights of stairs, precariously balanced on one shoulder while hailing a city cab and dragged into the narrowest of living rooms to perform what I can only describe as “ninja” massage for the contorted positions I had to take in order to do my work. This table was never meant to be portable and as this past summer came to an end, I knew I needed something lighter…FAST!

I perused a number of sites including Massage Warehouse, Massage King, Best Massage and finally, Amazon.com. Most of the tables that were listed as portable were between 25 and 35 lbs. Although way lighter than the 46 lbs. bundle I had been lugging about, this range was not what I defined as easy to carry. Nevertheless, I finally settled on a 25 lbs. table advertised on Amazon that was ridiculously cheap due to its unpopular baby pink hue. In the description, it noted the total package weight (i.e. table with packing materials in its box) to be 32 lbs. When the table arrived, I was surprised to see the only packing material was a single plastic sheath. The table weight was 32 lbs. When I contacted customer service, they told me I had “misread” the BOLDED seller description that stated “Lightweight Massage Table – just 25lbs.” I could argue till blue in the face, but in the end, there was no way to get a refund or exchange because the table was on clearance. Despite my deep frustration, I tried to make the new table work and it did…I ended up leaving  it at a client’s apartment and it has essentially become her private table for our sessions. I reverted back to the 46 pounder during the Holidays for a few sessions, but felt broken by Valentine’s. I refused to believe that there weren’t any tables on the market below 25 lbs. I just hadn’t searched hard enough or opened my budget up to a bigger investment. In the long run, if I am going to have a successful practice, I kind of need my body to not fall part at the seams.

Cue the angelic chorus in the background…

HUGE search later, I found the California based company Pisces Productions whose New Wave Lite II massage table is “The lightest full size massage table available – a remarkable 20 1/2 lbs.” See below for the goods:

I was able to customize my table, via the drop menu order form, to the specifications of my choice. The whole thing came out to just under $700. I placed the order last week and hoped that the multitude of guarantees on the site would ensure that this table would indeed be 20.5 lbs. I curl 20 lbs weights in my sleep, kid! (sorry, the Queens in me just slipped out on that one).

On Tuesday evening, my New Wave Lite II arrived. I slid it out of the box and with one hand lifted it above my head. Yes, it was SUPER light.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I examined its mechanisms and read the Quality Control sheet and Manufacturer Guarantee they included. Here are the facts: The table is supported by an interlocking canvas weave with a buoyant enough soft vinyl bed and face pillow; however it is pretty vulnerable. The table closes by velcro, which over time will start to wear off. If I am not careful to overly bump around while riding the subway and city transit, I could pop a hole in the vinyl of both the table and face cradle. The table can handle up to 500 lbs of body weight, BUT the larger your client is the more towards the ends (front or back) the client will have to mount the table in order to get on it because the center is its weakest point. The guarantee for the table is 5 years, but if damage happens to any of the vulnerable noted points, they will not replace the table. The face pillow is only guaranteed for a year, which is the most vulnerable of all parts because people’s faces are pressing into it for lengthy periods. The pillow can be re inflated, but the air hose for that is not included with the table.
This all being said, the table has in theory saved my broken a**. In practice remains to be seen, but I am optimistic my tendons will be thanking me.

 

Where my hands may fail me: Massage by Foot

In my waking life, I do a hell of a lot with my body, especially my hands. From clutching weights, punching pads or carrying my massage table around, my hands and upper body really serve me well. Factor in 15 to 20 hours of hands on massage per week and those are some busy hands indeed. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if something happened to my arms. Last year, when I was recovering from my supraspinatus injury, every day of massage was followed by an immense amount of stretching and icing of my tendon. I worked through it; however it gave me a sneak peak into just how over my career would be if I injured myself permanently. So many therapists leave the profession prematurely due to musculoskeletal injuries resulting from overwork, poor body mechanics and poor self care, to name a few. I love what I do, but much like my voice defines me as a singer, my hands, forearms and elbows define me as a massage therapist. They are my tools of the trade.  Without them, I am useless…or so I thought.

Take a look at the inspiration that is UK massage therapist, Sue Kent:

Sue was born with a deformity of her upper extremities rendering her hands useless for massage. Her feet are her tools, which she has trained to such a level over the past 7 years of practice that she is now an official therapist to the Paralympics of 2012 in London. She also rows, skis, swims, sails and runs. Her specialty is sports massage, which from experience requires precision, deep pressure and specificity. I’m totally awestruck that she has trained her feet to achieve these three requirements. Below is a video of her technique in action. I am truly amazed by the strength of her feet and the way she uses her big toes and heels to access muscles.

It’s people like Sue who show me that you can always find a way to make what you are passionate about a reality. At least I know that where my hands may fail me, I can always look to my feet.

More Info on Sue Kent here:

http://www.enjoyfeet.co.uk/Sue_Kent.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-16672120