Almost every week, it appears that a new Asian foot massage business opens up in town. I am amazed how these people can bond together to get a fully-staffed business up and running in no time. There is no shortage or bad economy for them. Every time I see an ad for a grand opening of one of these, I wonder how it is that I missed that link or why more cultures don’t bond likewise to build up one another. I have wondered whether these cultures don’t have the competition, malaise, fear and fraud among them; i.e. the energies which have kept so many other ethnic groups back, mine included. They seem to appreciate that one person might have a dream for a business, but it takes more than that one person to put it all together. I appreciate that too…and I give the Asians a lot of credit for this essential trait.
So I was curious about this “foot massage business” and since I can’t always afford to go get a massage myself, it seemed an economical option. After all, the Asian community is at the forefront of reflexology and Eastern therapeutic treatments, so there is much benefit in receiving sessions from them; even if it is just a “learning experience”. It is necessary to indulge here, that many of these businesses have a history or appear to have a connection with the porn industry. There are all kinds of stories of police busts among other sting operations across the State/Country. Some are not “shy” about promoting their services and their ads may be found in local cheap and/or free magazines and news papers. I actually know people, men and women (but especially men) who have patronized and got their “happy tugs”. This indulgence is a pro or a con depending on who you are and what you seek in a massage. As a therapist, one has to make the decision whether or not they want their profession to align with this for the sake of money, and/or whether to dignify their skill set and keep their profession honorable.
Every few weeks I notice coupons in one of those coupon magazines that come with your junk mail, advertising 60-minute foot massages for $19.99. I thought, wow…that’s cheap… I wonder what they do in the 60 minutes…. The ad indicated that they added in shoulder/back, head, and hand massage with the foot reflexology, and that there was the option to get a full-body massage for $35.00 using special herbal oils. So I called and told them I wanted to check them out but didn’t make an appointment. I drove by shortly thereafter and peeked through the glass doors. It was so dark I could only see my own reflection. I opened the door and looked around but maybe it was too bright outside for my eyes to adjust quickly to the darkness inside. After a few moments a man came up to ask whether he could help me. I glanced around, said no thanks and left. All those images of the “happy looking” men leaving that place next door to the spa I used to work for in Studio City came flooding through my mind and I felt dirty for having gone in…but I would eventually conquer this feeling so as to form my own opinions. What were the pros and cons of patronizing a place like this?
My experience proved the following combined “pros” and “cons” (not in any order of priority/significance):
1. It’s weird going into or coming out of these facilities, especially if you are a therapist.
2. Hardly anyone there speaks English. This means your therapist won’t talk to you the whole time.
3. Usually, you won’t want anyone to know you are there so you turn off your phone.
4. It’s cheap! $15-$20 worth! $35 for full body massage!…but you get what you pay for.
5. These places are usually convenient…right next door from where you work, for e.g., so no need to park your car right in front. Simply leave it at the job or grocers across the street.
6. The staff is usually very attractive, like the folks at your nail salons.
7. It’s pretty dark inside so you may not recognize others or be recognized.
8. You can give a fake name and wear disguise.
9. You don’t take your clothes off unless you go into that “back room” for the “full-body” massage.
10. The overall ambiance embodies the culture of the staff.
11. Certifications and licensing are prominently posted in the “front lobby”.
12. You get served right away, usually, and they finish right on time.
13. Tipping is a must! The therapist waits in expectation while you pay or gather your things.
14. General reflexology happens in a large room with other patrons getting the same thing done right next to you.
15. Most of the “Certifications” prominently posted are copies of certifications and not always CA certified (and one doesn’t know whether they are real).
16. From a therapist’s standpoint, the staff appears not to have training over 250 hours and in anything other than Shiatsu/Reflexology.
17. The staff consists of both men and women.
18. Be prepared for a staff member that just came in from cigarette break.
19. You don’t have a choice for your attendant unless you made reservations and asked for someone by name.
20. Most of the patrons of these places appear to be white and/or non-black.
21. I think the “foot soak” is just a pan with plain warm water, nothing else.
22. Everyone appears to be very tired and somewhat frustrated with their job.
23. If you are an athletic female (muscular), expect them to be extremely rough/rude (change attendant without notice and speak in their language with “disdainful gestures” while doing so) and don’t protest…they won’t understand you and will just keep going. (My Asian colleagues have often asked me why it is I think I need to be so “muscular and un-feminine”… Culturally, they believe women should be “slender but soft”, to attract and keep the men. Others say’ the Qi in the muscular female is too strong. This might be why the female attendants seem to opt out” and let the male attendants massage me. These men acted like I was a freak and did not treat me like a lady. I believe this is because I don’t appear to be as “soft” as they thought women should be.)
24. I’ve seen men get service with their shirts off, but ladies shouldn’t try this!
25. Ladies shouldn’t go in their sports bra or just a tank top alone on top, hoping to get more back and shoulder action. They’ll simply put a towel over you and continue with their “robot-like routine”.
26. Don’t ask them not to touch your face. They don’t understand you (unless you indicate to the customer service person who might translate if he/she understands).
27. Ladies should wear comfortable yoga-like clothing. No jeans, shorts, dresses, or skirts. One would think shorts would be o.k., but I tried it and no…don’t…!!
28. Part of their routine is to “stretch” your legs, which from a therapist’s standpoint is a Shiatsu-like stretch a la yoga’s “spinal twist”. Jeans are too close-fitting and inflexible for this stretch and shorts can become like ropes strangling your groin ‘n goodies, especially if you get a “very zealous” male attendant. Mine appeared to have been looking for a particular reaction or to show off his power. I felt like he was pleased he “conquered” me…the muscular, un-feminine woman…(but I knew he wouldn’t understand my language if I complained so I didn’t…)
29. There doesn’t appear to be any breaks between clients, so the staff is really very tired.
30. These businesses are open sometimes from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. in general, but one can find some who are open later.
I have decided, based on my own observations and experiences, that I will no longer patronize these establishments. My first objection is that we don’t speak the same language. When I say “that hurts”; “please don’t touch my head or my face”; or “I don’t want to be stretched like that”, these directions/requests are received with a smile and nervous nods and they just proceed with their routine, or until someone comes over to translate, which might be too late and/or cause a scene in this large room of service providers.
In my opinion, these are not legitimate massage therapists and they give credit to those who believe “anyone” can give a massage or do reflexology. They fall in line with the other chain spas and franchises which are simply in the “making-money business” not in the “people- health- then-money business”.
Legitimate body workers, like me, are genuinely concerned about the health and welfare of their patrons and people in general. We don’t “judge you”, which in my experience, I believe these places judged me.
When an individual goes in for massages in any facility, they should not have to wonder whether they are fat, skinny, muscular, black, short, tall, ugly, pretty, or what not. Yes, in my particular business, clients will ask about their health conditions and what I find while working on them. Some will ask for suggestions as regards what path to take to address a health issue. Sometimes I know and sometimes I don’t. Others do lament about trying to lose weight or put on weight or low energy, or soreness after a workout, etc., and yes I have experience in nutrition and wellness as well as weight management/personal training and have no problems making recommendations that I know work. However, this is generally not the reason for coming in.
Although I do make recommendations as regards how to eat in the days following your massage session with me, this is simply to nourish the organs effected in your session and to prolong your therapeutic results. The ultimate goal is for your health to improve, which it will with your consistency in coming for treatment and following through on the suggestions. Yesterday, a client told me she considers my opinions/treatments right up there with her team of doctors. It was a sweet compliment and I believe her. She’s seen results and experienced “my power” as she calls it and it feels great that I’ve attracted someone so open, and available for healing.
Mostly, we get massages because we believe they are good for us and our health. They feel good and we want to feel good. The economics are definitely a concern, but we understand that we get what we pay for. The people who patronize the foot-massage businesses and the chain spas, are usually making an economic decision, not necessarily a health related decision. I would want to be sure that my therapist has had some training in an American accredited school and is licensed and certified by the State or County in which I receive service. I also would want to know that the establishment is honorable with labor rules and is in no way connected with the porn industry. Lastly, I would want to know that there is no prejudice; that everyone speaks the language I speak; that there is value on my money just as much as any other patron, and that my spirit and my body will be honored in the professional delivery of service contracted and for the betterment of my health and vitality.