Why Are Couples Massages Not Offered?
Why Are Couples Massages Not Offered?
You and your significant other are on vacation, and you find this wonderful spa or resort where you would love to have a couples massage. Wouldn't it be great to share that relaxing experience with the one you love?...It certainly can be! And couples massages are very popular in many areas. But might there be limitations to the couples massage? And why would some therapists decide not to perform this highly sought-after service?
In this article we'll discuss why Artful Touch Massage made the decision not to offer this radically popular service. There are three main reasons:
1) ethics, 2) logistics, and 3) business preferences.
Why would a couples massage possibly pose an ethical challenge? Here are the Principles of Ethics according to AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association):
Massage therapists/practitioners shall:
- Demonstrate commitment to provide the highest quality massage therapy/bodywork to those who seek their professional service.
- Acknowledge the inherent worth and individuality of each person by not discriminating or behaving in any prejudicial manner with clients and/or colleagues.
- Demonstrate professional excellence through regular self-assessment of strengths, limitations, and effectiveness by continued education and training.
- Acknowledge the confidential nature of the professional relationship with clients and respect each client’s right to privacy within the constraints of the law.
- Project a professional image and uphold the highest standards of professionalism.
- Accept responsibility to do no harm to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of self, clients, and associates.
Let's break that down a bit. According to (1), a massage therapist must give the highest quality massage to anyone in his or her care. This means in a couples massage situation that the booking therapist cannot control the quality of service rendered to both guests who would be considered within his or her care. The booking therapist can take on the reputation of the second hired therapist--good or bad. It can cause issues when the second therapist uses questionable techniques, shows a lack of massage knowledge, talks incessantly during a massage session, makes lewd jokes, or wears unprofessional clothing. I once hired a second therapist, with whom I was previously unfamiliar, and the guest she helped was unhappy with her massage. The guest then wanted a refund. The refund was deserved, but it did leave me in a very uncomfortable situation. The quality of each massage cannot be guaranteed when the second massage is hired out. Conversely, a therapist may be very competent, and in order to provide the best possible massage to their guest, the routine may need to be broken to properly work on areas of discomfort or ischemia. When both massages must be done in synchronization, it does not allow for the individualization that is ultimately due each guest.
According to (4) each guest has a right to privacy. Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning therapist can not control the privacy in a room where two individuals are disrobing together before their massage session. While generally, each guest would acknowledge informed consent, a massage therapist cannot be fully aware of whether any party has been coerced or manipulated into an inappropriate situation. For example, I once was hired to accompany another therapist to perform a couples massage. The boyfriend had purchased his girlfriend a gift certificate for a couples massage and then scheduled the massage for them. The girlfriend seemed a bit frustrated when they arrived, but she signed and filled out forms and entered the couples room and got ready. As the other therapist and I walked in, we found them both ready. However, the tension in the air was palpable, and the girlfriend muttered under her breath that she felt very uncomfortable with this situation. Meanwhile, the boyfriend insisted that she should like this treatment and should be grateful. Needless to say, the other therapist and I assured her that we could abort the session at any time. However, this example highlights how easily a situation can turn unsavory when there is a lack of privacy offered to each guest.
A couples massage may pose logistical problems. It can be very difficult to schedule or reschedule a couples massage. While a normal massage session is combining the schedules of two people, the therapist and the guest, a couples massage is combining four schedules, two therapists and two guests. When one person's schedule must change, all of the others must change with it. For example: It may be impossible to find a time when a couple can both come in after work or on the weekend and find two therapists who can accommodate them. Couples often get frustrated that they cannot get in for a session for three or more weeks, just to have something come up and then have to start the process over or decide which individual can still receive a massage and which therapist must now reschedule or lose work.
Beyond scheduling two therapists, a space of the appropriate size and with the necessary equipment must also be available at the facility. This can pose a problem when tables must be set up and taken down quickly between various appointments. And the equipment can be bulky if simply left up and ready all the time. If the space is on the snug side for two tables, it can cause trip hazards and allow for a less-than-comfortable massage on the therapist's part, or worse yet: injury. If the booking therapist must rent a separate space for the couples massage, he or she may not be using their own equipment, which can lead to its own set of discomfort and problems.
Some businesses prefer not to schedule couples massages due to their own preferences. A massage practice's worst enemies are last-minute cancellations, no-shows, demands for extra discounts, and poor reviews. Couples massages are quite possibly the most likely to cause any of those scenarios. Due to the logistical problems posed by couples massages, the risk of a cancelation is quadrupled as opposed to a regular massage session. This often leaves the business with little choice but to charge for the appointment ahead of time and offer no refunds, or limit the number of times an appointment may be rescheduled...or both. Some may decide to charge an extra scheduling fee to compensate for the hassle. All of those decisions do not typically lead to guest satisfaction.
Because couples massages tend to be viewed more as "luxury," "treats," or "special occasions," rather than "therapeutic" or "healthy," they are the first appointments canceled or put on hold. The way these are viewed also means guests who book a couples massage are less likely to become repeat clients unless it is to come in together again on their next birthday, anniversary, vacation, etc. And while this is no fault of the guests', it does mean a practice may limit the number of couples massages they book or eliminate them altogether. A regular clientele is what keeps a massage therapist in business. Also, many independent massage therapists work within the wellness and natural healthcare field. In such a case, these "luxury" appointments may be foregone in order to pursue guests or clients more suited for their independent practices.
Also, because these massages are viewed as a "treat" or a "splurge" for many, its not unusual for a couple to begin asking--even demanding--multiple discounts. I have personally found that guests who wish to come as couples feel that because they are providing their therapists with more work, they deserve a discount. This is understandable from the guest's standpoint. The guest feels he or she is working hard to schedule something nice for someone special, but it's nearly impossible to get in, the price is double a normal massage, advanced payment is required, and there's an extra booking fee! So, maybe they should offer a percentage off since they can't accommodate them on their anniversary as they wanted, right? This can be quite the quandary for the entity booking the appointment. If the booking entity is a therapist, he or she must decide if the other therapist must take an unexpected discount or if the booking therapist will take both discounts and pay the regular price to the associate. The reason the price is doubled is because two therapists must be paid for the massage given. And the extra fee is to compensate for the scheduling difficulty and moving extra equipment around or in and out of rooms (which takes extra time and energy). So, lets say a couple wants 20% off for an hour couples massage because they can't get in for another three weeks. The regular price is $130 ($60/each for two one-hour Swedish massages and a $10 booking fee). Twenty percent off brings the price down to $104. The booking therapist must decide if both therapists will work for $52 rather than $65 (and hope the second therapist wants to accept a coupon) or if he or she will hire the other therapist at the normal rate of $65 and work for $39.
If any of these demands are not met by both guests, chances are the booking therapist or both therapists will receive poor reviews. A very good therapist can receive a poor review because the other therapist had a scheduling mishap, gave a poor massage, or was unprofessional or unsatisfactory in some way.
There are perks to offering couples massages. Namely, getting a therapist's name out there to multiple clients at a time, offering a much-sought-after modality, and the joy of seeing two people nourish their bodies and relationship. For Artful Touch Massage, the risks in the Central Wisconsin area, unfortunately, outweigh the benefits. Quality is our prime concern at Artful Touch Massage! Since that quality simply cannot be guaranteed in a couples setting, we have opted, as of January 1, 2018, to no longer offer standard couples massages. Any outstanding gift certificates will be honored on or before their expiration date. Also, if you wish to book appointments in separate rooms at the same time, this is left to your discretion and to the discretion of the independent practitioners at Nurture Wellness Center.