whoever thought getting a massage could be THIS comical?!

I've been wanting to write a post about hair cutting salons, or going to get a pedicure, or massage places, or the like. But, I'm short on time and never sure how my thoughts in my own head, will transfer into a post. Sometimes I think something and then LOL at my own thoughts, but I go repeat it to someone else and I can totally tell {by the "duh" blank stare on their face} that the joke didn't transfer quite well from my brain, to my mouth, to their brain. There's a big communication FAIL of some sort along the way.
But yesterday, as I was sitting in the waiting room as Massage Envy {I wonder if I get a nice discount for plugging them on my blog!?} I realized I need to write about it all - funny or not.

I'm not a girly girl. Never have been. I love being a woman, I love getting all prettied up for my husband and I get a kick out of finding a new style that's actually IN and being able to carry it off well and look current, for once in my life. But, fashion {by and large} isn't a huge concern for me and I'm really OK with it. Probably because my husband is OK with it.... probably because our bank account agrees with it.
I've always said that I view clothes as an invention for the purpose of covering our bodies, so we don't have to walk around naked. Only this year did I realize I need to drift away from basic colors like navy blue, black, white and gray. I'm actually wearing more pinks, purples, oranges, yellows - you know, trying out more of the rainbow. God created color and
beautiful colors at that and I think I'm finally learning to enjoy that part of His amazing creation.
Anyway, little side step there. Now you see what I mean about getting things from my brain, into a post, to
your brain. Its not an easy task.

So, back in February, when I turned the lovely age of 30, my husband found a deal at Massage Envy {really, with all this hype, they should at least give me some sort of discount} where I could bring the coupon in and get an hour massage for only $37.00! Since we're being careful with our money, budget is very tight these days and paying
down off our debt, he knew that would be an inexpensive gift, but a gift I would love. When I went in for my birthday massage, the lady at the front desk told me about a deal they were promoting, where you sign up for a year's contract with them and you get a 1 hour massage, per month at a flat rate of $39.00 - So now I get to go in once a month {but I strangely just went yesterday and haven't been since that day in February} at a nice low cost and for me... that's my splurge. I don't get my nails done, I don't get expensive hair cuts or color my hair. And not because I think those things are bad or wrong at all. Its just not what I'm personally into.
The massages are amazing after lifting 3 kids all day, working out for an hour each night and after going through 3 pregnancies. Its nice to have my back, legs and neck pampered for a good hour.

So yesterday was the 2nd time I've been and I realized after my visit, there needs to be more comical blog posts written about places like these! The people working there are super nice. Have any of you watched the FRIENDS episode where Pheobe works as a massage therapist {I believe its season 10} and the receptionist talks to her in this high pitched, squeaky, perfectly enunciating all of her words, voice?! Cracks me up every time I watch it, because that's exactly how they talk when you go into those places! And then, for whatever reason, I find
myself talking back to them, they way they're talking to me. The whole time thinking to myself {about myself} "what the heck are you doing - that's not your voice!" I walk in, register with my name so they can let my massage therapist know I'm there and then she says "okay! you're all checked in, go through the glass doors and she'll be right with you."
So I walk through
"the glass doors" and there's a hallway to my right and a waiting room to my left. "I guess I sit in here? No one told me... but she did say 'have a seat', so I guess I'll assume she means here and just sit." A few minutes later I see another lady {customer} do the same thing. She walks through "the glass doors" and looks confused. She finally comes to the same conclusion I did {though neither of us know if that's where we're supposed to be}.
I watch about 5 people do this same thing; some men, some women and think to myself "why don't we just pop our heads back through
the glass doors and ask "did you mean for me to wait in this room to the left?"
So there we are, the 8 of us, waiting for our names to be called. For some reason, none of us make eye contact, as if getting a massage is a bad thing. Some look at magazines, some text on cell phones, some just sit and look at their shoes {I
always wonder what the shoe staring people are really thinking}.
There's gentle, soothing music playing over the speaker system {slowly putting me to sleep} and a light waterfall at the center wall in the room {making me feel the urge to go to the bathroom, even though I did that just before entering this room}. The cheery, squeaky, soft spoken receptionist comes in, offering to pour ice water with lemon for everyone in the room. There's a part of me that really wants the ice water, but then I know in about 10 minutes {right in the middle of the massage} I'll really be feeling the urge to go to the bathroom and that's just no good - so I politely say "no thanks", as does everyone else in the room, making me wonder if we're all thinking the same exact thing. Then the man next to me laughs {completely breaking the rules in that quiet room through
the glass doors} and says "I'm too worried the water will make me have to pee!"


didn't anyone tell him about the rules of being at a massage place?! Your voice cannot be louder than a whisper and you'd never use tacky words like "pee" ... for shame.

The receptionist then calls a few names out {mine being one of them} and takes 3 or 4 of us down the hall. She directs each of us to our own dressing room/bathroom and says "when you're done in here, you'll be in room number *blank* over here and your massage therapist will be in, in about 10 minutes."
We all smile and say "thank you" and then slowly close our doors. And then I'm sure we all wonder... "what exactly do we do in here?! Do we change our clothes, go to the bathroom, wait in here for her to come knock in 10 minutes?!" And I know its not
just me thinking this, because a few minutes later, the lady in the room next to me opens her door and asks "so, do I wait in here, or change and go in the room, or what?" And once the employee gives her proper directions to just use the bathroom {if she needs to} and then go directly to the massage room, change and wait for the therapist to come it... all 3 of us quickly follow suit. So its obvious we were all wondering the same thing, but she was brave enough to ask.
During the massage there's
more awkwardness. Is talking not allowed? And if the massage is tickling you like crazy, is laughing prohibited? I mean, I imagine wiggling around and laughing out loud makes the massage therapist feel odd, but do other people do it... or is it just me? Turns out I have a rather stubborn cluster of muscles in my lower back that do NOT want to be rubbed out. So they spasm as she massages them and they often crawl up my back, trying to get away from her fingers. Yes, you all see where Kara gets her stubbornness from now, don't you.
And then there's the awkwardness of drifting off to sleep during the massage and waking up, realizing you drooled while sleeping. Did the massage therapist notice? Do I need to apologize or just assume she's used to it? I had no idea this was all so complicated, being sophisticated and such. Maybe
this is what happens when you "have your hands full" 24/7 with toddlers and babies ;-)
Then the massage is over, I change back into my clothes and meet the lady in the hall - she lets me know that I will need to ice my back for 20 minutes every hour, so that I won't be sore where she went to war with my stubborn muscle. I thank her for the massage and then wonder "do I give the tip directly to her? or do I give it to the receptionist on my way out?" Again, isn't there a rule book out there I can read before putting myself through all of this?!
I finally asked her what people normally do and she says "either, or is fine!" So I decide to get my wallet out {bad idea, since I know its not organized
at all right now} and grab the wad of cash I have in it. I pull out a $20.00 dollar bill and think "no way, that's too much" and then realize she's standing there watching me the whole time. Nice, Stef. I'm sure you look really generous stuffing the $20 back in your wallet, while looking for something smaller to give her. Real nice.
I graciously pull out a $10 dollar bill, remembering that their policy is a minimum of $10 for a tip and hand it to her, saying my "thank-you's" and heading out, feeling completely dumb about the way I handled it all.

As I drive home, I'm not sure if I'm feeling
relaxed and thankful for the massage, or just completely torn up in knots, about my lack of experience in places/situations like those. And then I wonder if I go to Barnes and Nobles, if I'll find the book titled 50 things to know before getting a massage, hair cut, manicure/pedicure or a wax." and wishing I had bought it and read it before venturing out into this great world of public personal hygiene.
And if that book really does exist, God bless the person who wrote it! I need to get a copy.

9 {comments}:

Anonymous said...

My old boss said it best when it comes to "tipping": wouldn't it be GREAT if you had a tip jar on your desk or bedroom nightstand so that your co-workers or kids could just tip you for just showing up to work or for being their mom?

A while ago, I took my sister to a pre-natal massage and endured her nervous laughter for about an hour. It was endearing actually, but it made me realize how complex our society of services has become! My poor sister was prob LESS relaxed after her expensive massage than before.

So here's my very personal POV about tipping: Tip ONLY if you feel like the provider went above and beyond YOUR expectations, whatever that might be. A service company and provider should always level set with you!

From reading your post (and knowing from my husband who also went to Massage Envy), I don't think they went out of the way at all to make their customers comfortable. So you should feel 100% fine to not tip at all!

It's hard, because society and Massage Envy will pressure customers to tip, and sometimes I cave in too. But then I always think of what my boss said and I always feel better!

For further rationalization, you can use your "tip" money for donating to church or for individuals/organizations where your hard earned $10 really means so much more.

I love getting services but it burns me to see that tipping has become something almost expected and not a true gesture of thanks for someone going above the call of duty.

It's a terrible racket, and I really try to go as infrequently as possible or to go with friends. The rule of thumb for massages, hair cut, mani/pedi, etc. is 15%. In your post, a $5 tip would have been sufficient.

I used to be a college waitress and my tipping philosophy has evolved. I mention this, because I know a lot of people will say 20% or 15% of the "regular, list" price is the rule of thumb, and why am I being so elitist or cheap? But I don't care. I still stick to my philosophy-- 15% of the final price only for service above and beyond.

There's a fundamental way to look at the math and the business model of services: what is better for the individual massage therapist? A steady stream of customers who tip small or the one customer who tips big? In many cases it will be the former and to win the customer's loyalty, service providers have to perform at a high level to earn even 15% of the final service charged. But in the end this is better economically for her (and for your wallet).

And there are alternatives!
For massages, you can look into medical massages or chiropractor therapy which are often covered in part by corporate health insurance. Health insurance will typically pay 50-100% of a medical massage, up to 4-6 visits annually.

Luckily for me, my husband gives great massages! Unluckily for my husband, I do not. But all this reminds me, I'm in need of a pedicure :-)

Anonymous said...

sorry one last comment. for me, getting any service, including haircuts, means i love and desire complete silence.

Drooling on the pillow and falling asleep is a compliment to your massage therapist! As my awesome dentist told me when I actaully fell asleep during a root canal, "that's the best compliment you can give to a dentist!"

But different strokes for different folks. My sister needs to talk and talk. (I just need to write and write).

So that's why when it comes to services, it boils down to tipping for what you feel exceeded your expectations, whether that's getting some quiet, relaxing time or fun, adult conversation. :-)

Stef said...

haha! your comments gave me some good insights and some good laughs - thanks!
I think the world of tipping has become completely uncontrolled. I can't stand the way people tip these days. I shouldn't be paying the person's income, just adding an "extra" thank you in. I think it mostly bothers me that people can be so stingy with tithing at their church or to specific ministries and then go out of their way to go above and beyond with 20%+ tips for meals out and places like Massage Envy.

So when I went in February, I gave the receptionist a $5.00 bill to give to my massage therapist and she said "oh, the tips needs to be a minimum of $10 dollars, please." - I figured I kind of HAVE to follow the rules... don't I? If you know otherwise, do share!

Volkov Family said...

Loved this!

Nicola S. said...

Stef, I was laughing so hard. This was so funny. But, I really agree with anonymous, I only tip if the person goes far above what their job requires of them, though with eating out (which we hardly ever do, other then a Costco dog) I tip according to the service I receive. But with hair etc. only if I'm very happy with it.

Stef said...

thanks, Cola :)

Do you think I have to though, since they said its a $10 minimum?
I guess I should google it or ask next time. Oh great... another awkward conversation.

Krista said...

I think it is very strange that they "require" a $10 minimum tip, but I suspect that is how they get away with their cheap massage prices. They make up the cut with the tip price. Otherwise they probably wouldn't get too many massage therapists working there- not good enough pay!

I have also wondered about tipping for things like this, I have NO idea what the protocol is! If you find anything concrete, do share!!

Charlotte said...

I am a bit behind on my blog reading so I just read this....what a way to ruin a nice relaxing massage! We have Massage Envy's around here but I have never been. A couple years a go my MIL gave me a gift card to a local place and the experience was totally different then the one you described. And the $10 minimum tip? Sounds like force tipping to me. A tip is just that, extra money, and needs to be deserved, not expected.

Stef said...

okay, so maybe this wasn't a great "plug" for Massage Envy ;-)
Good thing they don't know about this blog - I could go in next month and find out my account has been "lost" :)


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