Why I Sold My Soul to Massage Envy. ~ Tara DeAngelis

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With over 900 locations nationwide, Massage Envy has been called the Wal-Mart of the massage industry. Soon there will be at least one in every city of every state. It seems that they are trying to monopolize the profession by putting every private practice out of business. We are living in a time where most of us are making less and less while those at the top of these corporations and franchises are making more and more. How ethical of us is it to give money to an establishment like this? 

It was one year after the housing bubble burst in 2007. Every fourth house in my California suburban neighborhood had a brown lawn, a “Foreclosed” sign in the window, and a plastic blue lock-box over the doorknob.

Photo: Cartographer

I couldn’t help but feel like an over-privileged, spoiled-brat because while everyone was feeling the burn of the recession—I was driving to the day-spa because I was feeling like a massage.

Since I had lost my cell-phone, I decided to do a walk-in at my favorite place with the cheapest prices and best therapists in my opinion: Bodycare.

On my way there, I noticed that a large purple “Massage Envy” sign had been erected in a new strip mall. I was intrigued: “What a catchy name for a business.”  So my tires screeched and I veered into that parking lot.

Upon entering, I immediately felt like I was walking into a hotel lobby. The sleek, black, elongated counter-top reflected the gleam of seven pendant lights hanging in a row above. There were purple couches, beige walls and a trickling stone fountain to the left.

“How much are your massages” I asked the young man at the front desk.

He went on to explain that the first massage was a discounted price of $45 (the special introductory rate) for an hour. After the first massage you could decide if you wanted to sign up for a one-year contract.

Photo: Frank3.0

A one-year contract? This was a foreign idea to me. The thought gave me a queasy belly.

The one year contract would let me have one massage a month for $59.00 month, and any additional massages per month would only be $39 each.

“What if I just want to buy one massage after my introductory massage” I asked.

“It would be $79 per hour after that” he said.

That was the most expensive massage I had ever heard of! It seemed like a scam. I wanted nothing to do with it. The average rate in the United States for a one-hour massage was $60—only one dollar more than the monthly dues for Massage Envy. I thanked the young man for the information, walked out, and headed down to my regular rubbery and wondered what was really going on behind the scenes at Massage Envy. This is what I discovered:

There are five main factors that are contributing to the success of the franchises:

1. Convenience: They are everywhere.

2. Cost: It is slightly cheaper.

3. National Brand: Each location is nearly identical, except for square footage. People know who they are and what to expect.

4. The One-Year Contract: You will sign up for it because they are right—Being on a consistent (at least once a month) rub down schedule will be more effective in maintaining your health than waiting until you are stiff as road kill with rigamortis.

5. The average hourly rate: of a LMT at Massage Envy:  $15.49 per hour. It has been reported that the average tip is about eight dollars. Some say, “This is slave labor.”

At the time, I was making the same hourly wage as an assistant manager in a corporate retail store. I worked hard, I worked a lot—but I didn’t consider it slave labor. It must be taken into account that Massage Envy employees are employed as independent contractors (when I was an independent contractor, I owed much more in taxes at the end of the year and didn’t get anything back), and they only get ten minutes of down-time between clients. It is said that therapists have flexibility in choosing how many hours they want to work. Because the employees are only making $15 per massage (plus tip), many are forced to work many more hours than what is healthy for the body just to make enough money to survive.

About a year later a few more “Massage Envy” signs had popped up. There were now three within a thirty mile radius. I was on my way to Bodycare. When I pulled to open the door I noticed the lights were off. The door was locked. The inside was gutted. I was shocked! A little scrap of paper was taped to outside of the door: We thank you for your business, but Bodycare has decided to close its doors. I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated because I was so attached to this place. Now where was I supposed to go? Every other place (that hadn’t shut down) was booked. If I couldn’t get a massage that night, I was going to die.

I thought about Massage Envy—they were probably the reason all my favorite mom-and-pop massage places were going out of business! But I really, really wanted/needed a massage. I had been forced to shop at Wal-Mart, now I felt as if I had no choice but to go to Massage Envy.

So I drove over, walked in and booked my forty-five dollar introductory massage. I didn’t feel good about it. The massage was okay. I didn’t feel like the therapist’s heart was into it. I was going to leave without signing the contract—but I was pre-menstrual, vulnerable and feeling like I “owed it to myself” to get at least one massage a month—so I signed the contract.

Photo: lintmachine

The next day I was pissed. I had sold-out.

I called Massage Envy and told them I was moving to Boulder  so I would have to cancel my contract in a few months.  At the time, I didn’t realize there were 900 locations in nearly every city and that I would need to give proof that I was living at least 25 miles away from a Massage Envy to cancel my contract. Darn, I was just going to have to get a massage every month.

Massage Envy gets a bad rapping online. But I have met many people who say they enjoy working there despite the lower wages. They enjoy the steady employment and benefits. Even though the first massage I had there was mediocre, two of the best massages I have ever had in my life were from therapists at the Boulder, Colorado location.

Would you sell your soul to Massage Envy?


Tara DeAngelis used to teach yoga. She has learned, and continues to learn from wonderful teachers but doesn’t feel like name-dropping. For now, she is focusing on other things like trying not to make plans and throwing paint on canvas. While she is not editing your submissions for elephant journal, you might find her writing in a Boulder cafe or working or exercising or satiating herself in silly shenanigans. You might even see her leading a skipping parade. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and/or the Examiner.

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anonymous Feb 20, 2016 2:51am

I loved Bodycare and was bummed when they closed their doors and decided to try ME after receiving a giftcard. I didn’t have the most pleasant experience but decided to give them another shot a few years later (at another location) and absolutely love it! That’s a bummer to hear about the wages and benefits for the Therapists.

anonymous Feb 17, 2016 8:29am

I have worked as an independent contractor before. Most of these places pay what sounds good as an hourly wage BUT you only get paid for face-to-face time with clients, not other mandatory work. You often have to be there for an 8 hour shift, but if you get paid for 1 client you make $15 for the whole day.

anonymous Jan 24, 2016 7:04am

I’m now not sure where you are getting your information, however good topic.

I needs to spend some time studying more or figuring out more.

Thank you for magnificent info I was looking

for this info for my mission.

anonymous Jan 19, 2016 8:31am

I am sad to say that the I spent five years of my life there as an employee. If you knew about all the questionable things that went on in my clinic you would realize that this is an issue. Why don't you google the number of law suits they have had due to inappropriate touch. For instance Arizona hands it more hush hush and settles out of court while California slaps the book at them with extensive jail time. In my five years there was everything from used condoms found on the floor to the manager selling drugs specifically pot to the front desk staff and when you tried to take it above any of the managements head they were all friends and the owners didn't care. That is just a few of the things I encountered. I did however have a great working relationship with the Ohio Massage Envy where the owners actually worked within there clinic and cared. I have found that a lot of what happens is fully based on the owners of the clinics that typically dont know a darn thing about massage and really see the $$$ dollars signs. Its a sad day to come to these realizations when we love massage so much but yet again the all might dollar wins.

anonymous Dec 24, 2015 3:38am

I came across this article because the massage therapist I have been going to for the last year is quitting to go work at Massage Envy and I was trying to figure out if they took insurance (sounds like that is a big no). I am shocked to see the information about tipping — to me massage is a medical treatment just like acupuncture and physical therapy and for ME to expect clients to tip to give their therapists a liveable wage is ridiculous not to mention if you're expected to tip $20+ dollars it makes the massages just as expensive as going to someone who is self employed. I'm extremely picky about the type of massage that works for me (super deep tissue) so I'm very loyal to a massage therapist when I find one who does a good job (before she retired, I had been seeing my last massage therapist twice a month for 8 years) — it sounds like at ME you just have to take whatever therapist is available, which would be another negative. My insurance pays for 25 massage/physical therapy visits a year, so I'm sure that affects my views, but I'm never going to tip for any treatment that is covered by insurance (I have a chronic pain condition, so I've received a lot of massage, physical therapy, acupuncture over the years).

anonymous Nov 20, 2015 4:59pm

I am a member of ME and enjoy the experience. I am considering purchasing a franchise. I read a lot of complaints on this site. However, most are not considering that an owner has to put up $500,000 to $950,000 to open a location. Why do you expect an owner to invest that kind of money and NOT make a profit? I have worked for 30 years. Many of those years I worked for minimum wage and cash tips. So massage therapists are making far more than minimum wage and most likely not paying tax on the cash tips. I say, if you can do better, than best you open a place of your own and see just how expensive and how much work it is to open a business.

    anonymous Feb 6, 2016 12:53pm

    Why on earth does it cost $500,000 to open up a massage clinic? Why on earth would you agree to pay ME 6% of your sales right off the top? I own a massage clinic and have six therapists that have experience, are happy, and make a good wage.

anonymous Sep 25, 2015 7:28am

I interviewed at a ME recently with an open mind and was considering working there PT as a newly licensed therapist who needs to gain experience and start making some money. The paperwork, for starters, includes some very broad statements about non-competes and who you are allowed to massage at your ME location. I have no problem with wanting to protect your business, but it looked like it's set up to keep therapists very controlled. The schedule of raises/promotions is ridiculous and made it apparent that you need to be working 30+ hours a week to move up on the schedule.

The reason I will be declining is they were already being very pushy about my schedule limits and put me on the more than I said I was interested in. I also was there when a therapist who came in holding his hands and requesting his schedule change be expedited due to constant pain was told that he couldn't be expedited because they had already booked him. If the manager has to keep telling me, "We try not to kill our therapists," you probably aren't taking care of them.

Steady income, not paying for laundry or supplies, and the stability are definite pluses, but at what cost? I'm sure that, like anywhere, there are good managers and bad managers. I interviewed at another chain (LuXe) and felt the manager was much more supportive of her therapists there, but I didn't like the atmosphere and business appeared slow.

anonymous May 11, 2015 2:58pm

Massage envy sucks from their name up to the Core.
I worked at 2 m.e. Aventura and Sheridan, Florida, it was owned by the same family of owners, I worked there for 1 and a half years, at the beginning was good, good tips must of the times, and a good place to get used to work with a lot of people and get experience.
Until after a Saturday that I was booked 6 massages (4 were deep tissue) the next day I woke up with pain on my hands and my body. I called the manager to explained how I felt and she said, I'm so sorry about your situation but I had booked you already 3 massages, I replied that if I give massages in that condition I will hurt myself more and not being able to give a good massage, then she said, well in that case if you cannot come I will need to take the 3 massages that I booked for you from your salary!!!???
After that I sent a letter to them explaining how that attitude affected me and I quit.
You are expected to work until you are ruined, and then dumped you and wait for the next therapist to burn.

anonymous Apr 21, 2015 8:34am

I started reading these comments and felt compelled to respond. Let me first say I work at massage envy. I have been in this crazy industry for 15 years and worked at some very high end 5 star resort/spas. Working for massage envy is the first time I have felt “valued” as an employee. Although making more money at a upscale resort/spa may seem appealing to some, it is a very cut throat environment, has lots of down time, is seasonal, stressful, and sometimes downright unpleasant!!

At massage envy I have a standing audience. I am guaranteed an hourly wage, schedule, benefits, in a pleasant and stress free work place. I love it! I am not surprised at some of the comments I read. A few years ago I felt the same way. My co-workers and I would snicker at massage envy ( hiring people right out of school, paying low wages ). We were so far above that.

After struggling in our industry with on/off season, marketing, uncaring management, flaky spa owners, I am proud to say I work at massage envy.

    anonymous Jun 29, 2015 6:52pm

    Thanks for your feedback Renee! I am glad you are enjoying your experience working there. Things change, I wrote this five years ago and have actually went to massage envy regularly for a few years. I did find some very great therapists there. I wish I knew where they went to work when they left.

      anonymous Feb 24, 2016 9:50am

      "I wish I knew where they went to work after they left."
      That is the big negative for me with Massage Envy.
      I have clients I know are mine, and would not be happy to see someone else.
      For what they pay the corporation, plus my gratuity, I could convert them to private clients without raising rates for a couple years.
      I like my clinic. There is much room for improvement, but the same is true of me.
      I can usually work out time off. I can ask for a Monday off and work that Wednesday instead, as long as I'm not already booked.
      Time off for education is usually allowed.
      I barrage the scheduler with information so I think she says yes to get rid of me. Long lead time helps, too.
      However, I don't have a last name in this setting.
      I do use first and last name and my license number on the schedule given to first time clients.
      How many know to use that to look me up online?
      When I go, and eventually I will, it will be hard to reconnect with those clients.
      Legally, I cannot contact them for six months after I leave.
      While I'm researching the legality of such no compete clauses in part time jobs, I still am abiding by what I signed.

      The benefits? A full book that I didn't spend an additional hour to fill. Add no laundry, no oil to buy, no wear and tear on my equipment.
      Humility. That's a benefit, right? 😉

      I'm part time, have no health insurance nor paid vacation, don't even get a monthly massage without paying for it. Days the clinic closes or holidays are unpaid, even if I should have been scheduled.
      However, in my previous college degrees, white collar career, I worked these same holidays so my cohorts could have their "religious" days off. I was paid on the holiday and got flextime on a different day since I covered.

      As long as I am using the corporation to a similar level they are using me, I call that good enough.

anonymous Dec 25, 2014 6:18am

Massage Envy is a corporate structure and will one day be traded on the stock market. I think the "Envy" part of the equation has to do with the corporate take over of the healer and healing. Not more respect for a massage therapist but a gossip column mentality that only serves to diminish the role a massage therapist can play in healing work that is time honored. A place to go that gives you caché over care. Not a heart centered approach to hands on health outside our corporate culture world of insurance and medically based solutions to health care but a close second. Not bad, really, for a box shop. But is it enough?

What is it that would induce box shops into growing a good platform to allow incoming massage therapists to work at a rate that is commensurate with skill and hard work? Does beginning pay of $15 per hour for a session (not being paid if you are not booked) seem out of line with a career based profession? Can a therapist ever earn a 60/40 split with the 60% going to the therapist? Can they earn more? Not at these job sites. Turn over is part of the equation. As stated above, their numbers are skewed for the corporation. Owners of franchises differ, yes, but they share the corporate bottom line.

Oh, career versus a job? MT's are undervalued and treated as low skilled labor because with 500 hours of education we are not exactly high in the education area. Massage therapist's should have a beginning education of a 2 year college degrees by now. 500 hours is still minimal. And this is how I believe the box shops are looking at us. We are job fillers not skilled, educated, career based employees.

But our schools are not keeping up with our need to go beyond the present day job market. They are settling in to the 500 hour slot because that has been chosen for us by the schools who want to dictate the course of the profession to get insurance coverage. It is not what we as professionals want. Professionals are usually artists. We simply do not fit the mold of a job.

Career based massage therapists often have more skill because they have more education and more trainings beyond 500 hours. As career based massage therapists who deserve to make a viable income and support our selves and our families we want meaningful careers. It would be helpful if the general public would distinguish the job from the therapist.

If you want a rub down go to a box shop. You may even find a career person working there. If not, and you want a steady, ongoing, solution to your problems, pain, etc. find an independent practitioner who specializes in what you need and is dedicated to their clientele's well being. If you want a skilled touch find a professional massage therapist who has decades of experience and education that goes along with that. Begin to discern who is doing what for how much and why. Support the profession not the corporate box shops.

St. John's Neuromuscular Therapy, Upledger Institute, etc gives 100's of hours of trainings and difficult certifications to pass the mustard. Yes, they are all massage therapists. Discernment is essential to career based professional massage therapists. The populace at large needs to be better informed.

anonymous Dec 23, 2014 5:36am

I believe unless independent massage therapists and independent spa and health/wellness centers begin to trust one another, pool marketing resources together and I mean on a global level, develop APPs and web based presence as a whole then the trend toward cookie cutter box shops for massage will be the only viable alternative for entry level massage therapist. They will be what the general populace uses as an easy go-to alternative to no massage. It's why I finally sucuumbed to a ME membership. Even I, as a seasoned veteran, am looking for some security and the box shops offer that if nothing more.

One last thing. The reason we as a society want hands on is our heart centered souls need it. There is no need to sell your soul to get hands on time. Even at a ME. Or should I say especially at Massage Envy, as catchy as that name may be, I think it's an odd choice of a name alongside massage. I wonder what the meaning was when they chose the phrase as a name?

Any business has their bottom line to consider. After purchasing a franchise for a quarter of a million dollars the franchise owners have steep prices they have to pay back to corporate headquarters. I wonder how they manage to favor their therapists over income in any one of their locations? The numbers are not balanced in their favor. How long does it take them to get make the investment back and then profit. We have yet to see a ten+ year trend of ownership. Should prove interesting.

We all deserve to know and share our common humanity. Box shops, state regulations, national exams, MT's who cannot abide by listening and heart centered approaches share in common a dehumanizing quality and dumb down the playing field. We need to uplift one another. Honor one another. Educate and train ourselves rigorously and wisely with consciouness awakened in our touch. I think we alone know this. We alone will be the only ones who can find a way to promote this.

anonymous Nov 30, 2014 7:10pm

I have been a therapist for 8 years and have worked for ME for 3.5 years in addition to having a private practice.

I used ME as a way to have trackable W2 income when I first wanted to purchase a home because self-employment income can be variable. I work for a decent owner who pays therapists at the ME rate. The longer you have been a therapist, the higher your starting rate is. I started at $17/hr and am now at $20/hr plus tips (which average $15 to $20/hr).

I prefer my private practice to my ME job, but the ME job provides some financial security when the practice ebbs and flows. As a whole, the timing at ME sucks. There is no down time, therapists are chronically in pain and there seems to be a tin ear when it comes to keeping therapists healthy. The goal is to UPSELL services and keep the schedule as booked as possible- even going as far as lying to clients about modalities that therapists perform.

ME serves a purpose when it comes to new grads. It provides a network of support of seasoned therapists who can assist new therapists as they build their confidence and skills. This is NOT a forever job. Burnout sets in at 1.5 years after a steady stream of work. Taking time off is next to impossible and calling out or asking to reschedule to rest your body is not allowed. Every franchise has it's own set of benefits and time off policies. Mine wants us to 'take care' of ourselves but not on their time. I have often thought of having my doctor write me out of work for an injury, just to rest my body…..

Still contemplating that….

On another note, several of my ME clients who grew tired of aggressive billing practices, have cancelled their ME memberships. They have found me outside of the clinic (I did not solicit them) and they are now regular clients.

anonymous Nov 21, 2014 6:30am

I am a current M.E employee of almost two years with 2 and 1/2 years experience of being a therapist. I love what i do and I like to think of myself as knowledgeable about what i do( though i am always learning something new everyday) i also have a pretty stable clientele who are always giving me great feedback. With that said. i do appreciate the steady work M.E has to offer and the flexibility of your schedule… but thats where it ends. There are many things that were said in the article that I can agree and attest to. I am fairly young and active so i take care of my body pretty well and I am therefore able to handle a higher work load, but that isnt the same for all therapist and many of whom i work with. Yes, you get to choose your hours which is great, but 4-5 massages a day five days a week at $15 and hour will not substantiate a standard of living. I work anywhere between 5-8 hours a day, 6 days out of the week, at 60-65 hours every two weeks and for me that still isn't enough. Benefits were only recently introduced to the M.Ts employees at my clinic (because obama care made it mandatory for business owners to provide that) but with $300 going to the fed. government for taxes, an additionally $200 a month for company healthcare was just not feasible.Not with what we get paid and you can't always rely on tips. (My personally clientele does tip me very well but that money isn't guaranteed.) Also there is no 401/k or anything of the sort. M.Es are taking over the world so to speak and not neccassarily in a good way. It is for me, very unsettling with the idea that these corporations for the schools and these franchises are making the kinds of decisions that they do when they are not bodyworkers themselves. With all that being said, what saves me is that I do love what I do and what I am compensated for is OK for now but when i think of my future i don't quite see massage in it or M.E. I will actually be going back to school to pursue a different career, more substantial, and better respected one.. especially if as a therapist [in the future] M.E will be all i have to look forward to for employment.

anonymous Nov 18, 2014 3:31pm

just want to clear a few things up (keeping in mind that every location might be different…)
the location I work at is really great- the owners are nice, the managers are decent… I've been there 3 years and the convenience of having no overhead, and also having no responsibilities other than showing up and giving kick-butt massages makes up for a lower wage. they start us at $17, they cover all linen, product, cleaning, etc, and we are not expected to help out with cleaning or laundry, etc. tho most of us do help out.
Also, the cost is not what you guys list above- it is $59.99 for the monthly membership, but any massage above and beyond is only $39.99- NOT $79.99.
tipping is nice, but I have the occasional client who doesnt tip, and that's fine… but it's unfair to lump a tip amount, an amount you choose as it is not required. you tip out of the kindness of your heart, and because you appreciate our hard work. you would still tip if you spent $200 for a massage elsewhere, would you not?
re: body mechanics, ME is very clear on self-care, and our owner and educator both work with new grads to make sure they take care of their tools (bodies). that having been said, you can't blame ME for an MT who doesn't take care of themselves. ME allows for modified shifts, more breaks, more or less hours, etc, per the MT request- they are not slave shops, and they do not work us into the ground. I feel for any MT who feels they don't have control of their schedule, or who doesn't have the education to maintain proper body mechanics.
I'm sure not all locations are owned by people as great as mine- but I encourage you- If you don't like where you are, leave! I say it's the partly the MTs responsibility to find a location who respects them- don't work for someone who doesn't respect you or our wonderful industry! if no one wants to work for certain franchisees, maybe the will change their approach to managing.

anonymous Sep 20, 2014 12:48pm

What's worse than Massage Envy ? I have two candidates :
Elements Massage – they are popping up all over just like ME. A new one opening here in the San Francisco Bay
Area pays 8 to 10$ per hour for new hires. Sweatshop.
Massage Heights is another.. They pay $12 per hour .
A race to the bottom !!

    anonymous Jun 30, 2015 9:46am

    I work at “sweatshop massage heights” and I make $20 a massage hour plus very generous tips. I love my job and make a very liveable wage. I didn’t get into this profession to become rich, and if u did, u will be very disappointed with ur life.

anonymous Aug 17, 2014 10:18pm

I was a LMT at Massage Envy for three years. At first I did enjoy it, however once the location I was at (which was brand new) really took off you start to see a change in the owners and management. You are micromanaged and treated like an idiot. Front desk staff would come into the break room crying because they just got yelled at for not getting a new client to join/sign their ridiculous contract, therapists are overworked and walk around limping or have to take time off of work because they injured themselves. Most therapists hate working there and are forced there because Massage Envy had monopolized the industry and they are popping up EVERYWHERE!!!!!! When it comes to pay, $15/hr sounds decent well when you go to work for 6-8 hours and only do 3 massage you do the math, also they make you stay "in case there is a walk in" I would go to work sometimes and have nothing on my schedule but they make you stay, not pay you AND expect you to do laundry and clean up for FREEEEEE!!!!!! I grew to hate this place and everything they stood for. They give the impression that they are "All about your health and well being" bullshit they are all about your money and I have heard the managers talk about it openly. You know they pay the therapists crap when they want you to tip at the "non-member rate" to help makeup for the crap pay they give the therapist.

Seriously do the math: monthly membership $59.99 (49.99 for the massage and some $10 bullshit fee)
Tip at non-member rate $20 (for a 50 minute session)

Total: $79.99 for a 50 minute….yes 50 minute massage.

Go to a private therapist and pay $60-70 for the FULL hour and you wont be rushed on and off the table or have to sign a contract where basically the only way out is to have it run its course or you die. Just when you find a therapist you like at Massage Envy they leave because employee turnover in this place is ridiculous. This company has made me jaded to the massage profession and I am now in school for another medical profession. When you see a massage envy i urge you to run the other way fast!!!!!

anonymous Jul 31, 2014 10:05am

Thank you ajspencer0918 for adding some well thought-out clarity and sharing your actual experience where you work. The comparison to your other work situations which were not a good fit for you was really valuable. It's the kind of information I can trust and strive to create. Massage Envy is doing many things right both from a customer and employee standpoint. There are some things that could improve and no business could ever do everything "right". Maintaining brand consistency when each ME is locally owned is an opportunity for therapists to have the backing of a trusted brand and get a lot of needed experience and regular feedback about what clients find important. Check out the vibe at a local ME to see if it's a fit. Identify yourself as an LMP and ask for a tour. Concentrating on (what sounds like) a low hourly wage when there are so many other benefits provided hides more than it reveals and makes the issue black/white when it's really shades of gray. For LMPs there are several choices where they could work but often you need to have touched hundreds of bodies to work there. At some point you need to pay your dues which goes beyond 6-12 month schooling. I own a ME. I came from a medical background. I work hard to treat my employees well and add benefits and perks we all share. I also paid for the entire first 2 years until the business reached a certain size and began paying for itself. During this time, I did not take a paycheck, put my house and retirement savings on the line to build it. Please don't lump me into a faceless corporation only interested in 'money'. It's disrespectful and ignores the facts. We work as a team and both of us (my staff and I) need one another to be successful.

anonymous Jul 18, 2014 1:09am

The wage is not $15.49 per hour. It is per hour of massage. A therapist may only do 4 hours of massage in an 8-10 hour shift.

anonymous Jun 23, 2014 10:19am

I am a licensed massage therapist of 8 years and have been with massage envy for the last 3 years. I can tell you, I LOVE my job. I used to work for chiropractors and with the way insurance has gone in this country it wasn't working out. I came to Massage Envy because I knew I would have work. I would like to point out that in the article you say we are independent contractors but we are not, at least not within my franchise group. We are paid commission per massage but we do not receive a 1099, we receive an actual W2 and they pay our taxes, thus making us employees. It is true, we do not make a lot per session, but When you include gratuity I'm making on average $30/hr, and when you consider that the ONLY thing I have to do is show up, that is actually a pretty fair wage. I do not pay rent for the space, I do not pay for the laundry service, I do not supply my own linens or products, I do not pay for advertising, or marketing or anything else. I do not make the reminder calls or answer telephones or handle the scheduling. I do nothing but give a great massage to each and every one of my clients. People ask me all the time why I don't work for a resort spa. Well to be honest, I like to see my clients again and in Phoenix, there is not work in the summer at a resort. People also ask me why I do not work for myself. I did that for a while, doing out calls and I hated it. I absolutely hate doing out calls. So I would need to rent a space. Once in a while a room comes up for rent with a chiro that's under $500/mo but when I've looked for rental spaces or day spa suites they are priced between $800-$1000/mo in the area I live. And then you consider I am supplying the linens and lotions and all the leg work to get people there, means I will be charging a lot more per session. I saw a comment-er on here, a therapist of 22 years who said a good therapist deserves $100/hr. That's well and good, but there are a lot of people in this world who need the healing touch of massage who cannot afford to pay $100/hr. Those are the people I want to help. I am a great therapist and it breaks my heart to see people who have suffered in pain for months or years because they couldn't afford to get treatments. Working at Massage Envy allows me treat clients without charging them $100 per session. I don't care how many years of experience a therapist has, everyone deserves the benefits of massage not just the privileged. And that is what Massage Envy has done. They have made massage accessible to people who once thought massage was only a luxury and not within their reach. I can't tell you how many therapists I have met who look down on M.E. employees like we are the scum of the earth, who act like they are "too good" to work for M.E.. The truth is, as healers we are NEVER "too good" to heal. M.E. patrons are just as deserving of massage as anyone else. I love what I do, I love massage, and I love working at massage envy.

anonymous Mar 17, 2014 12:29pm

Thank you Jill for putting this out so clearly. I have 26 years of experience and teach methods that help CMT's use their bodies properly to avoid injury in Northern CA. ME makes me sick! New kids doing massage and expecting to live on the wages can expect to have frozen shoulder in 4-6 years. If you don't work correctly, you can expect carpel tunnel or wrist damage in less than that. New Kids, beware!!!

anonymous Jan 24, 2014 6:46pm

I've never worked there, but I have been a member for many years and gotten many many massages at ME, in several different states. I have always had a good experience, some therapists are better than the others, just like any place where you get a personalized service.

i am sorry to hear that this large and rapidly growing franchise company doesn't always treat their therapists well. I have never had any therapists that wasn't as nice as could be, very professional, and extremely hard working. But, this is the typical was business operates. I worked worked for a large worldwide pharmaceutical company for many many years. We were constantly preached to on how to treat our customers, with the utmost respect, listen to them, etc., etc., etc., Yet, they did not treat their employees anywhere near that way. It was such an eye-opener to many of the employees, including me. The reason I write this is so others will know that it's not just MEnvy. A business is about nothing but the bottom line – "the money." Everything they do is for the customers, because that is where "the money" comes from. They don't have to treat their employees well, because they know they can replace most employees for less "money" than doing things to please them. They are ONLY going to do what is going to bring in "the money." This is simply the way buiness works, and anyone who doesn't know that is very naive. You can jump ship and tell them to kiss your ass, and go somewhere else to work. And at first, the new place might seem so much better. But give it time, and it will soon show itself for what it is. A business. And business translates into a way to make "the money." It's not that they don't care about their employees. They only care to a point. To the point to where it costs them "the money." It's just the reality of the real world. At all major companies and corporations. It's the same everywhere. You can get pissed and change jobs over and over, or you can see it for what it is, a business there to make "the money" and go about building your career at a company where you can stay. You are there to make "the money" for them, not for them to spend "the money" on you. So pull up your big girl/boy undies and deal with reality. Sometimes reality just bites.

    anonymous Jan 24, 2014 8:02pm

    OOPS – I apologize – that was supposed to say "But, this is the typical way business operates." Typing too fast caused a few typos in my previous post – I DO know how to spell "business" but typing too fast caused me to misspell it a few times.

anonymous May 20, 2013 3:00pm

The corporate form is anathema to quality products of any kind. The bottom line is always profit, and this is a terrible trend for the somatic arts.

Michael…somatic therapist since 1982

anonymous Jan 10, 2013 10:19pm

I work at a Massage Envy in Noblesville, IN. And I actually must say that I enjoy the experience overall. I do admit that there are things that could be different, however, what job couldn't be better in a few areas. Yeah, the commission isn't the best, but I would honestly say that I average about $30-$40 per hour given of massage. Which probably works out to $25 – $30 an hour after breaks are factored in. I also earn a quarterly bonus of around $700. On top of that, they added additional incentive and I now get a week of paid vacation as well as 5 uncovered days off per quarter and 3 sick days per quarter. Insurance could be MUCH better and I just buy it on my own, but that is supposed to be changing soon as well. Yes, I understand that even $40 per hour of massage is fairly low, but for someone coming out of school who won't be easily hired by upper echelon spas and don't have money to start their own practice right away, I think it is a more than viable option. Just my opinion!

    anonymous Mar 17, 2014 11:23am

    That is very reassuring,for I am going to an interview at a Massage Envy in Strongsville,Ohio,and after looking at all the reviews(good vs.bad) I felt a little put off about going. They say since theses spas are independently owned,that no two places are alike.Sometimes it's just good to get your foot in the door!

anonymous Jan 6, 2013 9:01am

In order for LMTs to take back their power in this situation, we need to join together to educate and fight the system. Please recognize that this is not solely about these corporations but about our schools and associations who are doing business with these franchises. Franchises like Massage Envy are paying schools off by providing student scholarships and in turn guess where these students will end up working? We need to make change happen. Please join us at http://www.facebook.com/groups/lmtsagainstthefranchise
You can also sign and share our petition <a href="http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2 Fwww.change.org%2Fpetitions%2Fthe-massage-franchise-increase-payrates-for-massage-therapists-decrease-lowballing-of-massage&h=fAQHsMUWj&s=1″ target=”_blank”>http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2 <a …” target=”_blank”>Fwww.change.org%2Fpetitions%2Fthe-massage-franchise-increase-payrates-for-massage-therapists-decrease-lowballing-of-massage&h=fAQHsMUWj&s=1

    anonymous Mar 21, 2013 9:01pm

    Wow! I did not know that! This is good info. I wish I had of known this when I wrote this article.

    anonymous Jun 12, 2013 3:54pm

    [email protected]. I have been an ordained Minister for 33 years and licensed LMT in Florida where there are 37,000 licensed therapists. I have recently contacted the Department of Health for assistance to obtain copies of my medical records. A pre-requisite to my hire was to add them to my professional liability insurance as a rider. Page 6 of their training manual specifically states that the records (Wellness Chart) we chart and sign our names to are legal medical documents that can be subpoenad by insurance companies in a court of law. Florida's state statute of limitation lasts up to 4 years for someone to make a personal injury claim. Client records were continually lost, misplace and even tossed. Please contact me to join my efforts for unionizing/forming a guild to slap these guys up. First by contacting your state board of massage to find out how you can get copies of your medical records to protect yourself. Then file a complaint with the Department of Health if you witnessed ANY wrong-doing. [email protected]

    anonymous Dec 23, 2014 5:42am

    Love to get in touch.
    I am not a facebooker.
    Do you have another link to get to you?

anonymous Oct 28, 2012 10:12am

most of the massage therapists are on pot or worse and have alot of extricular activites

    anonymous Apr 3, 2013 1:30pm

    pot? REALLY dude? My boss is way okay with the fact that I am a legal MMJ user, would you rather your therapist be stressed out when you see them, ??Grow up. Bet you've drank too much on occasion, and the Bible says being drunk is a sin. but in Genesis it says ALL the plants and animals….

anonymous Sep 8, 2012 9:01pm

Massage Envy is a joke both from the client and employee perspective. I work at one and am miserable as are 99% of the other therapists. The clinic manager refuses to talk to the therapist unless they are being reprimanded for some stupid little thing or being fired. Half the time she sits in the office with the door closed on FaceBook or reading her Kindle. The owners refuse to spend any money to fix things or purchase some supplies on a regular basis. Therapists are micromanaged to the point of overkill. Once you walk in the door to work, I do feel at times I am selling my soul to the devil called Massage Envy. I will never recommend anyone to work there let alone be a client.

    anonymous Dec 24, 2015 10:29am

    Micromanaging does NOT sound like an independent contractor situation.

anonymous Jan 20, 2012 7:51am

It is like a sweat shop. I have worked in one for awhile outside of sacramento. The “10 minute breaks” are not breaks, during that time you are helping the last client out, changing sheets, and bringing in the next.
I knew I wasn t being paid much… but didn’t realize normally a worker would be paid both hourly and commission, We are paid one, whichever is greater, so the hourly wage is subtracted by commission. I love doing massage, and worked at two diffeerent business that opperate like this, I didn’t realize how unfairly it is. All that extra money goes to the owners, enjoying all the caring and hard work of the employees.

anonymous Dec 22, 2011 2:19pm

It seems pretty difficult to find ANYTHING good about Massage Envy. We've recently been burned by them and doing everything possible to bring light to their deceptive ways.We would greatly appreciate all of you coming to share your negative experiences about ME here at http://www.massageenvyblows.com.

anonymous Nov 17, 2011 1:12am

Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to give one thing back and aid others like you aided me.

anonymous Nov 16, 2011 1:01am

[…] […]

anonymous Sep 15, 2011 5:13pm

"But I have met many people who say they enjoy working there despite the lower wages. They enjoy the steady employment and benefits. " My reply is: If there are "many" therapists (although you say people so that could mean the associates/sales people) why are they not speaking up as to how much they enjoy working there? Are they able to financially support themselves on these lower wages? How great are these benefits? What exactly are the benefits? 401K? Medical/Dental insurance?

    anonymous Apr 3, 2013 1:26pm

    because stupid, they more than likely have student loans and bills to pay, if I had not lucked out and work in a medical setting with a 25 year established business I, I myself would probably had to work at ne of those S***holes.

    anonymous Jun 23, 2014 9:48am

    I do enjoy working at Massage Envy.

anonymous Sep 15, 2011 4:26pm

I have an opinion, It is almost like selling your soul to the devil! haha I was a therapist at ME from April of 2011 until July 14th 2011, the day I hurt my back during a massage. When you are injured at any place of employment, the owner/manage on duty is supposed to have you fill out paperwork and send you to an urgent care facility. This did not happen at the location I was at because the owners son (a 24 year old with no experience managing anything), did not know what to do in this situation. He is also a therapist and I had to ask him about 3 times to work on my back (may low back went into spasm), thinking this immediate therapy would prevent worse pain/injury. Unfortunately it did not and about 1-2 weeks without work and not feeling better, I asked the owner about filing workers comp. He told me he was out of town and was not sure how it worked either and that he would be back in town in four days and to discuss it than. About a week later, I finally got the info from him to call and file a claim. It took the insurance company about a week to get back to me, actually no, I had to follow up with them a couple of times. The agent told me she called me the day prior and left a message which was complete B*llsh*t! She told me they denied my claim because of a pre-existing injury and that a DOM I went to said I never told him I injured it at work, which again was B*llsh*t! I called him and he said he never spoke to her or faxed her any information regarding the matter. I decided to get an attorney to handle this and after about two weeks or so, I finally got a call from him saying they wanted to settle. All along since I was hurt, the owner of the ME would contact me saying, "Hey, we could really use you in the clinic today, we are slammed!" He did this about 4-5 times. I told him, "Listen, if I was able to work I would. My back injury is not just a simple back ache, it is much more serious and because your insurance company won't cover me I am not getting better." He finally stopped asking me after that and hope I felt better soon. Now that I will be getting a settlement I will no longer work for them, because what happens if I am injured again? I am basically screwed! And this location did not offer ONE benefit to the therapists, although the sales associates at the front got one free massage a month with a different therapist so that they can recommend therapists to clients. But than if a therapist wants a massage, we have to pay $25 plus a tip. They are making $10 off of the therapists to get a massage when we are the ones that need it, but free massages to the associates?!?!? Does this make sense? I even gave my opinion to them about incentive programs for the therapists, to either earn more money or earn free massages, they said they liked the ideas…did it ever happen? NO! I could go on and on even more about this ME and the owners, but I am just getting frustrated thinking about it. I hope this gives perspective on ME and just remember that if your therapist appears not into the massage or seems tired, you know why.

    anonymous May 18, 2012 3:30pm

    I broke my foot working on a client one day and I was told to tape it and finish my day at that hell hole.

anonymous Sep 15, 2011 2:30pm

My name is Jill Kristin Berkana and boy oh boy do I have an opinion!

I am the Owner/Founder/Academic Dean of the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy, as well as the originator of the bodywork modality known as Mindful Expressionism. I am currently in the process of opening massage therapy schools in the U.S. starting in Denver, and in Austin. I have been a massage therapy industry professional for over 22 years and have authored a 560 hour basic curriculum.

I'm sick over this Massage Envy situation and to me this is a very clear consequence of some tragic trends in Massage Therapy Education.

Here’s my opinion:

At one point in time, there were a bunch of great little heart centered massage therapy schools across the U.S. They were doing really well and Corporate America noticed. Then the corporations (non-bodywork artists) saw the potential and bought up a bunch of those cute little massage schools, standardized it all so that the U.S. Government would provide financial aid and in the process of standardization, killed the artistic heartfelt approach for the most part. Corporations are about MONEY…and so the schools owned by the big Corps. pay their instructors about $15 per hour max. Consequently, they are only able to hire Massage Therapy Instructors who have not been successful massage therapists. If you are a successful massage therapist, and qualified to teach, you should be earning $100 per hour doing bodywork. You will not work for $15 per hour…right? So…the result is you have unsuccessful Massage Therapists teaching people how to be unsuccessful massage therapists and none of them have esteem for their work or for the industry.

Another problem is with the Western Medical Insurance climate, which has put the pressure on Massage Therapists to look and feel more sterilized in order to qualify for claims, again squashing the art of bodywork. Massage is an art. It should be approached from a knowledgeable, creative, and fluid place honoring the therapist’s and the client’s needs simultaneously. Massage Therapists should be compensated appropriately. There are TONS of medical, emotional, spiritual and mental benefits if it is approached this way.
When massage therapists become technicians, doing the same thing over and over….the same recipe hour after hour…it sucks for them and the client. When massage therapists do more than 25 massages a week, they burn out….and this sucks for the massage therapists and for the client. When you get a massage from a therapist, the connection that is made is powerful. The massage therapist by virtue of touching you is touching your whole life. The body holds all mental, emotional, physical, spiritual memory. This can be accessed through the tissues of the body and you need to be with someone who is well educated, present, does not have an agenda and is paying attention to YOUR needs and adapting around those. If your massage therapist is burnt out, or even worse…resentful…you could get hurt…and I'm not just speaking of your physical body. Massage therapists need to paid at least $60 per hour and depending on the economic area they are in..probably MORE…but not less. Massage Therapists give A LOT and they need to feel appreciated and well compensated in order to serve you. Massage Therapists deserve to be able to carry a mortgage and pay their bills for what they provide. Outside of those 25 massages they (should) max out at, they have to keep the room hygienic for your safety, market themselves, manage their business, pay taxes, and rest. The only time an MT should make less than $60 per hour is if the establishment they are working with (not for) is providing the client, the space, and all materials. Then…..they should earn no less than $35 per hour. Massage Therapists should never be employees…but Independent Contractors.

These massage chains are pimps, feeding off insecure massage therapists, and burning them out. This will change the face of massage therapy and it is very sad.

I am personally on a crusade to educated awesome massage bodywork artist who are Mindful, Loving, Love their work, are artistic, and highly knowledgeable and skilled. World Class Massage Therapists who know not only how to take care of you… but to take care of themselves.

You decide….who do you want to touch your whole life?

    anonymous Dec 14, 2012 6:32pm

    Great story
    As I am having major second thoughts about working at Massage Envy.
    It seems as if your trained and educated profession isnt enough as they want you to do sales & marketing, cleaning and laundry.
    Thats three jobs at once divied by 15 hr is 5 bucks an hour