Past Massage Business Advertising Practices
Prior to the mid-1990s, most massage therapists advertised one-hour massage appointments then scheduled an additional 15 to 30-minutes after their 60-minute hands-on service for sanitation practices, client consult and dressing time. A one-hour service was commonly scheduled for 75-minutes or longer in an appointment book.
This 60-minute hands-on scheduling standard did not leave a client feeling shorted for their time or money, which appears to be a new legal liability when a 50-minute massage is provided as a one-hour service, given the recent success of Missouri’s class action lawsuit. In Missouri, a class action successfully sued a massage and spa chain that advertised one hour services, but then only provide 50-minutes of hands-on time plus 10-minutes in between appointments to consult with the client, allow dressing time and sanitation practices.
Some establishments and practitioners still provide a full 60-minute hands-on service with their advertised one-hour appointments. And more importantly, there have been no class actions lawsuits claiming unfair business practices with a standard 60-minutes hands-on application when it is advertised one hour appointment.
The Explosion of Massage Therapy Practice in the United States
So how did a one-hour massage change into 50-minutes of hands-on service with massage appointments being booked on the hour, every hour?
The number of clients seeking massage services in the 1990s and earlier was much less than the volume we experience today. The professional business practice of massage was much more relaxed, with less consumer demand prior to the 1990s.
Somewhere in the late 1990s, the massage profession exploded. This happened with an increase of massage schools which produced an increased number of providers for a greater number of available massage service industry appointments.
The massage industry also simultaneously exploded in the 1990s with the practice of hot stone massage. It was the new fad. News media loved the idea and interest of getting massaged with a rock. Everyone had to have one. It was the new cabbage patch doll.
Hot stone massage was one of our first industry times where major news media outlets covered the massage profession in a positive light. Luckily for massage therapists, hot stones were not a fad and our practice continues today.
With the increase of massage therapists and consumers, massage practice also became a larger interest to study and discuss. All of a sudden major news outlets shared that massage was not just a luxury, but that it was healthy too! Massage therapists and most recipients have always known this, but major news outlets continued their favorable coverage of massage practice by publishing massage-related health benefits.
It is doubtful the massage industry would be the mainstream practice it is today if it had not received so much favorable news coverage around 25 years ago. This created an explosion of the number of massage graduates seeking to practice massage and a greater demand of favorable interest in massage-related health benefits.
Prioritizing Business Interests
50-minute hands-on hour appointments were born mostly out of the 1990s massage industry explosion. The sudden increase in demand for massage appointments instantaneously created many new business practices, including taking credit cards to secure massage appointments.
There are many advantageous business benefits to providing a 50-minute “hour” massage appointment. Business practice interests capitalized on those benefits without disclosing to clients that their one-hour appointments would not be a full one-hour hands-on massage application.
It should be clear that there is nothing wrong in prioritizing business interests, unless it is practiced to the determent of others. And in the Missouri class action, the judgement ruled the massage practice of providing a 50-minute hands-on application advertised as a one-hour service was to the customer’s detriment.
Debatable 50-Minute Appointments and Massage Industry Standards
Some massage therapists feel that it is rushed to schedule 50-minute appointments on the hour, every hour. It can be difficult to reuse the same equipment on multiple clients with proper sanitation practices, plus allow client consultation and dressing time in just ten minutes.
Despite debatable experiences with how long appointments should be scheduled for any particular service, a 50-minute clock hour is a normal industry standard appointment time in most massage establishments.
Ethical Massage Business Advertising and Practices
The class action ruling was clear that it did not matter that 10-minutes of the one-hour appointment was spent on massage practice customer requirements such as sanitation, consultation and dressing time. What is advertised must be provided, and the expectation is that an advertised one-hour massage appointment should be a one-hour application of hands-on massage, unless it is properly disclosed that the hour includes sanitation, consultation and dressing time.
While it is perfectly acceptable to schedule and provide 50-minute hands-on services as hour long appointments, it is critical to detail that the hands-on service time will only be 50-minutes long. A business can additionally disclose that 10-minutes of the hour service is provided for client consultation, sanitation practices and more, at the business's own discretion.
Establishing Clear Appointment Scheduling and Advertising Business Practices
It is important to learn from this type of history. This lawsuit teaches us that when advertising a one-hour service, it should be precisely detailed if the customer will receive less than 60-minutes of hands-on service. This equally applies to 30-minute, 90-minute and all time lengthened appointments.
According to this lawsuit precedent, a one-hour appointment should have been advertised as a 50-minute hands-on service, with 10-minutes being provided for sanitation, consultation and dressing time. Unfortunately, that detail was not provided in the advertising, hence the ensuing legal action.
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