The Perils of a “Big Mac” Massage

by Marissa Gandelman, LMT, BCST, founder of Elm City Wellness

A while back, a colleague sent me a link to an article about a class-action lawsuit against the nation’s largest Massage Chain. The company has been withholding prepaid massages from its customers while continuing to charge them monthly for memberships they attempted to cancel.

This is not the first time this company has been in the news recently -- nor is it relegated to just one store. Nationwide accusations of sexual misconduct amongst its employees is also coming to light, causing a growing number of us therapists to shake our head in frustration and sadness.

This is not the image we massage therapists want you, the client, to see when you think of massage. While there are still many independent therapists out there, those who work for Massage Chains usually had limited job options when they finished their training.

And that’s too bad. Getting a massage from a Massage Chain is like eating dinner at McDonald’s. People think it’s cheap and convenient, but deep down they know it’s not the best option. The quality of the product is subpar because Massage Chain therapists are grossly underpaid and receive minimal training.


Massage Chains are like health clubs. You sign a contract and they get your money every month whether you go or not. They don’t care about your health, your wellness goals or your budget. They care about your credit card number. And once they have it, good luck stopping the payments when you eventually become disenchanted with them. And you will.

Most people are under the misconception that one massage is as good as the next, or that because a therapist went to massage school and is licensed they're going to know what they're doing.

It’s not that simple.

A good therapist needs guidance, mentoring and more education. He/she also needs to be fairly compensated and respected for their work. We are healthcare professionals. Many of us collaborate with doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and even dentists (ask a skilled therapist about massages for TMJ or migraines — they’ve probably had more than one dental referral).

$59 for a monthly massage at Massage Chain? My wellness center offers comparable prices ($60-80/hour) WITHOUT CONTRACTS, and my highly skilled therapists are fairly compensated for their work as opposed to the approximately $15/hour these poor, undertrained Big Mac Therapists make. And they’re undertrained because no one is training them after they leave school. No one is helping them hone their skills, continue their education or mentor them.

I’m devastated by the recent allegations against this Massage Chain, but I’m not surprised. Most of these franchise owners are not massage therapists and that’s a problem, too. The “business” of true healthcare is a tricky road to navigate and without the proper education, dedicated staff and the ultimate goal of taking the best possible care of the client, Massage Chains are doomed from the start. And we all suffer -- clients and therapists alike.

If you’re a practicing therapist, guide and mentor your colleagues -- and let them do the same for you. Strengthen your practice by improving the quality of the work you do and your referral network of other therapists. Learn how to market your business and raise awareness in your community about how unbelievably awesome massage is for overall wellness. And take care of yourself so you can take care of your clients.

If you’re a client or a potential client considering a Massage Chain Membership, please support your local massage therapists, privately owned practices, wellness centers and spas instead. But do your research first. Before you book an appointment anywhere, ask how their staff is compensated, their level of education and training and how much experience the owner has in the field. And then ask how often they all receive massage. If they can’t answer these questions without hesitation, go somewhere else.

Visit the American Massage Therapy Association’s Website to start your search for a therapist:

If you want to support fair compensation for skilled massage therapists, please help us by signing this petition. It’s a really big deal.

And if you’d like to read some the most recent articles about this Massage Chain’s practices, follow the links below:{%22635566026532392%22%3A1471558849727887}&action_type_map={%22635566026532392%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map=[]