The Price of Comfort

Recently I walked into a raging discussion among massage therapists over discount pricing. To discount or not to discount is a huge bugaboo for massage therapists.

Prices are subjective, of course, and one can only wonder why people ask for a discount from a single massage therapist when they wouldn’t dream of asking at a big spa. I came up with a list of concerns about prices:

Overhead: Discounting is tough for all therapists, really, because our discount stated prices and what we get paid are quite different. My asking price includes things that support my practice, such as office rent, website, phones, supplies, education and licensing. A friend who does house calls only has the expenses of phone, linens and oil. Another therapist has few expenses as an independent contractor, other than insurance and licensing, but taxes take a much bigger bite out of her paycheck and she rarely makes tips at her chiropractor’s office. At the end of the year, we all make radically different bottom lines, and our prices are quite different.

Perception: Most of the huffy comments from my friends on this topic come from the feeling that clients who ask for discounts are insulting them or their skills. People don’t haggle over many items, but they do haggle over personal services. My feeling is: do you want to be paid like the maid or the accountant?

Need: We all have clients who come in with limited means and in need of massage. How do you handle these? I have given people discounts for multiple sessions when they clearly have a need and lack resources. However, there are always a few people who ask for discounts and don’t have a need. In my experience, they are either thrifty or culturally used to haggling. I don’t take offense. If they really want a discount for the sake of a discount, I refer them to one of the $39 chains.

Desire: Another therapist friend had a home-based practice, (sub-rosa, no licensing or insurance) and needed clients, so she offered massages for $25 an hour, cash only. It worked. She did not have to leave her house She is also now very burned out and has no savings.

My friend who is a hair stylist put it this way: when she started her practice, her prices were low. As she built clientele, her prices rose. The clients who stayed valued her services. The others, well, one or two come in every year so she can fix their $8 haircut.

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6 thoughts on “The Price of Comfort

  1. JoAnn

    When and how did we as Massage Therapists get so far away from the medical profession?
    The chain salons don’t value our medical education, so do we?
    In my 20 years of experience, I have always valued the fact that I have the important training like all medical professions in anatomy, physiology and pathology.
    This is reflected in my practice with pricing to include all expenses and experience and 24-hour notice required or payment in full because unlike many other medical professionals but similar to surgery time-wise, I help people for a much longer period of time, effort and see only a few people per day. My clients/patients appreciate my time, effort and work with them! I have always had a full, busy practice and I live in a smaller community of 25,000 with a lot of LMTs in the area.
    Let’s unite in our approach as medical professionals, please.

    (Also, Massage Therapists who do house calls do have the expenses of time in travel, gas, mileage on vehicles to consider in prices. I charge extra for those if and when I still do that for house bound clients only.)

  2. Kerry

    You couldn’t be more wrong about the cost of house calls. Like a brick & mortar, we need a business license, but for each city we travel too (states differ), gas, insurance, car wear + repair + maintenance, tire wear +repair + replacement, higher car insurance, massage insurance, car payment, not to mention the same costs of lotions, sheets, towels, portable warmer, etc. Plus, after hauling equipment constantly, we have a higher need of body maintenance like massage and chiropractor. Our costs need to take into account travel time, which equates to missed income when you’re completely mobile. My average commute time is 35 minutes in each direction. If my base rate LOCALLY is $95/hr, I’d be an idiot not to charge that for my commute time. My cheapest hourly rate when mobile is currently $145/hr off season. In season, no less than $160/hr. My motto is “if you can’t afford that, you aren’t my kind of client.” In any profession, you must know your worth before you can convince anyone else of your worth. If someone asks for a discount, I am quick to drop them like a hot potato, knowing they will be replaced by another client at a higher rate. If you build it, they will come. Works for me.

  3. christine

    I feel that discounted massages can be offered under certain circumstances to regular clientele I want in my practice. I offer packages which are discounted. I offer senior pricing because I like seniors in my practice and they are frequently on limited incomes. Plus they are accustomed to senior discounts. They are loyal repeat customers as well. Additionally in the past I have offered specials using one of the online formats such as “group-on now”-when it was available, during slow business periods, and “amazon local”, which I decided to consider as an “advertising cost” when moving my practice, and opening a new practice in a new neighborhood.
    Also when prices were going up, I advertised current package prices to have clients purchase before prices went up.

  4. Antonio

    I used some discounts for some clients that were on a or hit a rough patch in life. They were longtime clients and knew that it wountnt stay that way forever. One thing that my clients did know is that i didn’t raise their raits stayed the same if they were regular to what ever their appointment time were but if they disappear for 6months or more then they paid the new price unless we discussed thier living conditions worked out that way but discounting yourself only hurts you and your confidence in youtself and talents as a therapist

  5. Bonnie

    I agree! My clients that value my work come back more frequent also leave very nice tips. Tho I never expect a tip, it always helps especially in this economy. The budget clients always looking for a good deal seldom tip but that is fine. I give occasional discounts or a regular discounted rate for weekly or biweekly. Those that want comparable prices to the $25-$39. Spa rate do not understand the difference. You cannot compare an apple to a banana. Though both are great. There is a difference between a custom session from a H.H.P. Holistic Health Practitioner and a Massage Therapist. The training for H.H.P. is vastly more and most double the training and then some. Respecting that most of us have every intent to heal and educate the public on modalities and lifestyles to improve the quality of life. When you are doing 5-9 sessions a day in high pressure Spa environment, even the best intentions will change the quality of your session! Therapist or unlicensed individuals doing illegal services diminish respect for our industry! I worked very hard to build a respectful marketing plan. Let’s raise the bar and bring healing and education to our communities!

  6. Patricia

    I discount new customers after the initial session if the schedule each week. Untill relief is achieved. Then normal rate every 2 to 4 weeks. It gets some new clients coming in more regularly and for deeper relief and relaxation.


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