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  • The Massage Client’s Guide to Time

    Time passing

    Ever since reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I’ve wanted a time turner. Oh the possibilities… I could get all my work done and still have time for plenty of play every day! Oh, I would do other things with it as well. Good things. If you can put up with a paragraph or two of backstory first, I’ll tell you some of the good things I’d do with a time turner in regards to massage.

    Just the Facts, Ma’am

    Here in massage land, we work on a time basis. You pay us for an hour, an hour and a half, etc., and we give you a massage for that long. Unless we can’t. Many things can interfere with our ability to provide you with the full amount of time. (Not all the time, of course, but occasionally.) If we’re at fault, you’ll get your full time or we’ll ask to prorate your session so you only pay for the amount of time you were massaged. If you’re at fault, you get to pay full price for a shortened session.

    It may sound harsh, because sometimes it might not really be your fault either, but we were here, ready to work, and you either weren’t here or weren’t ready to be worked on. I know the pain of paying full price for a shortened session. I’ve been late to appointments and gladly paid full price (okay, maybe not gladly, but I understood it wasn’t their fault I was late) even when I was late because there was an unforeseen traffic backup enroute to my appointment. By the way, some (as in not all, but some) therapists will be willing to prorate your session if you’re late for reasons that are beyond your control.

    If I Could Turn Back Time

    As promised, here’s what I would do If I had a time turner in my office:

    • Give the clients who forgot to bring their paperwork with them time to fill it out in the office and still get the full time they’re paying for
    • Give a full hour (or 90 minute or 2 hour) massage to the clients who arrive late
    • Give some of those late clients time to drink the fresh, steaming Starbucks they walked in with (and give myself time to diffuse my irritation and re-center myself so that I can give the best massage possible)
    • Give people all the time they need to use the restroom after drinking a bottle of water or cup of coffee just before coming in and still give them the time they’re paying for
    • Give that one person time to find enough free outlets in the room to plug in 5 different devices (seriously) before allowing me in the room to begin the massage
    • Give the people who forget to tell me about horribly painful areas until the end of the massage as much time as needed to work out the pain
    • Give clients who wait to use the restroom until it’s time to get on the table, all the time they need while still giving them the full amount of time they’re paying for
    • Give tech addicted clients time to have a 10 minute text conversation while they slowly get on the table and still get the full amount of time they’re paying for
    • Give myself plenty of time to eat my lunch, use the restroom, and return emails/phone calls (I  have time allotted in my schedule, but things happen you know?)

    Yes, in the 15 years I’ve been a massage therapist all of these, and many more, have happened to me. It used to irritate me, and I’d bend over backwards and stress myself out tying to give everyone as much time as possible even if that meant that I didn’t have time to eat lunch, use the restroom, or write thorough enough notes in the client chart. Even if it meant that I increased my own stress level in order to do it. Not anymore.

    Time won’t give me time

    Sadly, as stated earlier, I don’t have a time turner, and neither does any other massage therapist that I know. This means that we only have 60 minutes in each hour in which to provide the service you’re paying for. This means that we may still need to end at the original time if:

    • You arrive late – We probably have a client after you and it would not be fair to start their session late if they arrived on time.
    • You arrived AT your appointment time, but forgot to bring the paperwork we told you we were emailing you – In many states, mine included, we cannot legally work on you until we have contact and health history information from you. The time you take filling out the paperwork is time that we have to deduct from the time we could be spending massaging you. I promise you, we’d rather be massaging than waiting for you to fill out paperwork.
    • You took 10 minutes, for whatever reason, to get on the table – We can’t enter the room until you’re ready. Most people take anywhere from 1-3 minutes getting on the table, maybe 4 if it’s winter and they have lots of layers to remove and are fastidious about folding or hanging their clothes just so. If you take 5 times longer to get on the table than most people, I’m sorry, but we still have to end on time. It wouldn’t be fair to start the next client late because you took so long to get on the table, especially if they were on time. That said, if you have mobility issues that cause you to take a long time to get undressed and/or on the table, we can modify our techniques, table height, and/or work through your clothes to give you as much time as possible. Just let us know.
    • You forgot to tell us about a painful area until 5 minutes before the session is set to end – We’ll be happy to spend the last 5 minutes working on your newly divulged area of pain. We’ll even be happy to make a note in your chart to start with that area next time, but we won’t go over the allotted time simply because you forgot to mention it in a timely manner.

    Peace, Love, and Understanding

    I hope this helps you to understand why we don’t just give you the extra time when you’re late or don’t arrive early to fill out paperwork. We’d love to give you a full hour, but:

    • We have a client right after you and they deserve to start on time if they arrive on time. If we go over time on your session, that means theirs might start late. Not fair. You certainly wouldn’t be happy if the shoe was on the other foot.
    • I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been lied to about how being late wasn’t a client’s fault. The thing is, lying to us is a bit like lying to your parents… we almost always find out without trying. We ask an innocent question to our next client to find out if the accident (that caused the previous client to be late) was cleaned up yet, and they tell us they work near that location and there was no accident there at any time that day. Busted! If you do that to us, we’ll never trust you again. If enough clients do it to us, we start to become hardened and take a no excuses stance.
    • Having enough time between clients is one of the highest forms of self care we can engage in while in the office. This self-care directly affects the quality of the the massage we give that day. If we’re hungry, parched, or need to use the restroom, you’re not going to get the best massage we’re capable of.
    • Having enough time between sessions allows us to fully, and legibly, chart on your session. This means we’ll be able to tell what we did last time and what areas we felt needed to be addressed further, and how to we want to address them, next time. You get much better treatment if we’re not starting from square one each time, because we didn’t have time to chart properly. Since you might be wondering: No. Waiting until the end of the day to chart on everyone is not a good alternative. Most people can’t remember the level of detail necessary to chart accurately after seeing 4-6 clients that day.
    • Having enough time in between sessions allows us time to re-ground and re-center ourselves so that we can focus solely on you, your body, and how it’s responding to the work we’re doing.

    When it comes down to it, the decision to keep a massage to its original ending time has as much to do with giving our clients the best massage we can as it does with the money or principal of the issue.

    Bonus: Gold stars to anyone who can tell me (without using Google) the name of the song or TV show that each of the headings is a lyric or line from. Double gold star if you can tell also tell me who sang or said it.