How To Be A Good Massage Client (#6 In An Occasional Series)

Get Some %*&^ing Control Over Your Life

Memo to certain members of the human race: Very few of your time management problems are unexpected catastrophes.

I know that things come up — broken cars, sick family members, the boss commands your presence at a reception or some damn thing. You have to cancel, pretty late in the day, and I can be remarkably forgiving about that. Or an important phone call — something about a will, or a lab test — comes in as you’re leaving the house and you find it impossible to be on time for your bodywork appointment without speeding, which I would rather you not do.

But that is flukiness. Please do not expect me to believe you have no choice other than to live in a constant state of emergency.

The office nudnik does not waylay you every time you are already late for your appointment with questions that must be answered right now — unless you have given him permission to do that, by failing to cut conversation short, by not reminding him that you have a schedule to keep like everyone else. The traffic is not always worse than you could have possibly expected. And if your sister has dumped her kids on you without warning for the fourth or fifth time, it is time to have a family conversation.

Probably 90% of the people who come to me have their schedule under control, as much as anyone ever does. And then there are the others.

I once had a grown woman, a grown woman, who owned some sort of design business and lived on an income tier I can never hope to occupy, burst into tears in my office when I asked what we could do to get her to her appointment on time. This happened after the third time she showed up half an hour late with a story about some contractor — we’re talking about the people putting in her kitchen — who wanted to talk out a problem with her, and cutting them off would have been rude, and this and that.  Should I simply write down her appointment for a half hour before I needed her to be there in order not to push the appointment following? Was she willing to pay me for an hour and get a half hour’s work every time? What should our agreement be? A few days later she called and said it was just “too much pressure” to have to be on time.

The cleft stick of this situation, for me, is that some of the people who are perpetually at the mercy of chaotic forces — to hear them tell it — are people I like, people I would want to see more of. Given a choice between spending an hour with someone who is dull and vapid (or, worse, vents social observations to the right of Genghis Khan, taking for granted that I share them) and spending it with a person who is fifteen minutes late and excites my interest, liking and empathy, it’s a no-brainer. Except. I have to make a living. I have to charge when people have an appointment on the books for two weeks, then bail at the last minute because they agreed (at the next to last minute) to give someone a ride to a town in the next state and didn’t get on the road soon enough. And I really don’t enjoy asking for money when I didn’t do anything except hang up the phone and count slowly to ten while vicariously breaking the necks of towel rolls.

I love some of you madly, I really do. And if you want to let other people jerk you halfway across the face of the earth on your own time, I regret it but that’s your choice. Just please don’t make it my problem.

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14 thoughts on “How To Be A Good Massage Client (#6 In An Occasional Series)

    • I believe that some of them think I can live on air, too. Because you can see them hoping I won’t ask for a payment for the appointment they didn’t make because they realized at the last minute their husband wasn’t picking up the kid today, or whatever.

      Worse is the creep into my spare time. Because if I’m going to be front and center at 1 pm, say, but that person doesn’t show and I’m not working till 2:30, that’s an hour and a half I could have used to do something I need to do, or just to do my workout without rushing. Or an hour’s worth of energy I could have had at the end of the day to add another appointment, if the option existed. There’s nothing that says “you don’t count” more than hurrying madly to be available for someone who doesn’t show up on time, if at all.

    • I’m stumped. I comment on another Blogger bog and never have problems there. The only difference is that on that blog, the comments are set to open in a pop-up window. On yours, I comment, then fill in the “captcha” nonsense word to prove I am a human, hit Publier and the screen returns to my unpublished comment. Sometimes I get a message saying my WordPress credentials can’t be verified. It can go on as long as I have time to repeat it.

  1. What’s a no-brainer is that you need to change how you charge people. If they pay up front for a month’s worth of sessions and are told that last minute cancellations mean they lose their spot (and money), but with 24-hour’s notice you will be happy to reschedule, you’ll be surprised – well, probably not – at how people will start being on time and giving you proper notice.

    And if they show up late then that’s how many minutes less of a massage they get.

    I had to educate my English students in more ways than one, and the first thing many of them had to learn was that giving them classes was NOT a hobby of mine. Having said that, I used to make exceptions for one or two people, but 95% of my students lived by The Rules.

    Sure, you might lose a couple of dead-beats, and you may prefer starting off by only using the New Method with new clients, but it’s really the best way to go. You’ll always know in advance how much will be coming in that month, and rescheduling should be kept to a minimum. Because that whole “being at the mercy of chaotic forces” excuse is totally lame, as I know you know, but as long as people are allowed to get away with it, then they will.

    • Paying for a month up front would work if that was how people scheduled their appointments. But they don’t. I see people anything from once a week to once a month to every three months to “whenever they can” — and I just cannot do the bookkeeping to keep track of all the ins and outs. I get lost enough with the gift certificates. I have a couple people who actually want to do it that way and sit down to schedule four appointments in advance and hand me a check, but they are also the people who almost never change or miss.

      You have to understand that I can screw up the simplest arithmetic unless I concentrate the way you would concentrate on disarming a nuclear device. As frustrating as this idiocy is, it’s less stressful than trying to keep track of payments.

      I think people look at classes differently, too. A lot of ideas are well ground in about making up missed classes, paying for makeups if you miss too many (in most colleges and training courses), needing proof of completed classes for work, and so on.

      Before the economy melted down, this was a minor problem, because the “chaotic” people just didn’t get repeat appointments. I could refer them out or say my schedule was full for a month without a second thought and without fibbing. (If I really liked them and felt I’d miss them, they would only get end-of-day appointments during packed weeks, so if they showed up it was money in my pocket, if they didn’t I’d get a needed breather.) My goal is to accumulate more reliable people, rather than try to make the sketchy ones reliable (some therapist may have success, but if I’m going to do therapy, I want to get paid for that too)..

      • I have a couple people who actually want to do it that way and sit down to schedule four appointments in advance and hand me a check, but they are also the people who almost never change or miss.

        I rest my case. If they’ve paid in advance then they will show up.

        I don’t see the problem with charging a month in advance. The once a month people pay for one session, the once a week for four or five, depending on the month. The “whenever they cans” can buy a book of five sessions and call to set up a session for when they can. If they don’t show up or are late then they lose that session.

        Get CE to do the bookkeeping.

  2. Some people (some of us, I might say) have a tenuous connection at best to the rhythmic march of time. I mean, I have great rhythm, but it isn’t because I have internalized clocks.

    I had a therapist appointment last Tuesday and thought I was on time. But the morning before had been spent flying in from out of town, and so the night before I forgot to set forward my clocks. We’re probably a rare breed who can mess up the daylight savings change on the TUESday following.

    So I showed up, acknowledged I was an hour late, wrote a check for his time, and left. I can see having a hard time integrating, but I can’t see making others pay for it.

    • I get a lot of screwupness around the time changes; I’m fairly phlegmatic about those. I even call the people who are booked the next few days, sometimes, even when they’re otherwise 100% reliable.

      The gripe for me about “out of control” involves people who can’t be realistic about what they can do in an hour (or a morning), overcommit to things they can’t possibly accomplish, or let someone suck their time because they can’t make themselves say “I have to get going now kthxbai” — and their appointment with me is at the end of the chain. Spaciness I understand. People who are in their 40s and 50s but still haven’t learned how much time things take, or can’t say no to time-wasting people, that I don’t get.

      I should note, for balance, that I parted brass rags with the talented German woman who was one of my professional mentors over the mirror image of this issue. After she had semi-retired, she continued to use her office one day a week and sub-let it the other six days; I was one of the remaining clients she continued to see. The third time she called me and cancelled my appointment with her, saying she just had scheduled too many things to do that day, I used bad words and slammed down the phone. (I would have been nicer, but she was notorious for things like besserwisser lectures on everything right down to critiquing my answering machine message, and I had had it.) Two or three other therapists I have known had this problem. They saw “having control of their own business” as complete freedom to rearranged their schedule at any time. Needless to say, I don’t do this.

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