by Kathy Gruver

Massage Menu: Combining Massage Treatments, Part 2, MASSAGE MagazineIn my last article, “Massage Menu: Combining Massage Treatments,” I talked about add-ons you, as a massage practitioner, can offer free of charge to pamper clients. Now, let’s talk about add-ons for which your clients will have to open their wallets.

The first question is, “How do you sell an add-on?” One option is to have items on display, so clients can inquire about them; once they inquire, you sell it. Another option is to wait for clients to comment on the nice massage cream, candle or music, and then tell them you have it available for sale in the waiting room. This approach is passive selling, and most people are comfortable with this technique.

The other option is a bit more aggressive, and it requires you to suggest to clients add-on services they may not know about. An example of this type of selling includes suggesting an up-sell of a special lotion, back scrub or aromatherapy. Even suggesting a client to extend her 60-minute session to 90 minutes is a form of selling. If you suggest a service and it costs extra, I recommend being upfront with the client about the cost. The last thing you want to do is upset your client when she finds out she agreed to $100 worth of services without realizing they were not included. It’s a way of alienating your clients, and it is dishonest.

If you’re going to sell products, make sure you’re doing it legally. Have a resale number and charge sales tax. Contact your county to find out what to do. Once you have a resale license, you can buy products at the wholesale price. Know the sales tax in your community, and make sure to keep good records. You can either add the tax onto the item—in other words, a $10 item will be $10.82 here in California—or if you want to leave the total price to the client as $10, you’ll have to deduct the tax from that price, making you slightly less money ($9.18). Either way is fine, but for your own sanity and recordkeeping, make it consistent.

Also, be aware you are responsible for use tax; this is the same amount as sales tax. You don’t pay use tax if you sell an item, only if you use it or give it away. For example, say I pull a homeopathic product off the shelf for my husband. Since I got it at a wholesale price, I still have to pay tax on that item. Again, your county can give you more information about sales and use tax.

Now you have your resale identification number and are ready to go. What do you sell? Products you use on clients are an easier sell, such as special lotion, candles or music. If you want to sell nutritional products or herbs, homeopathics and the like, make sure you do not diagnose or prescribe. You can’t tell someone to take a certain dosage, or that it cures such and such. You can make recommendations and give them information, but make sure you do not act out of your scope of practice. When in doubt, refer clients to the literature that comes with the product and use the suggested dosage on the bottle.

Most therapists do charge extra for additional massage services, such as hot stone, since it requires extra equipment, prep and cleanup. And many spas and therapists charge extra for deep tissue. To me, there is no clear delineation between where deep tissue ends and nondeep tissue begins, and clients might get confused with what service they are receiving. If you charge more for deep tissue, don’t make exceptions with clients unless you plan to do it every time they’re on your table. If one week they receive deeper work in an area for free and the next week they are charged for it, you might end up with an unhappy client. Also, deep-tissue work means different things to different people, so be careful if you initiate this policy.

Other therapists add on reflexology, crystals, lymph drainage, reiki, even spiritual counseling. I suggest offering these services at the beginning of the massage, so the client is not disrupted by thinking about finances. And remember, please be realistic with your pricing. I once heard of a therapist that charged per trigger point after the massage was over, which seems a bit over the top.

There are a lot of multilevel marketing products that health practitioners get involved with. Such companies as Melaleuca, MonaVie and Herbalife are well-established popular ones. Be sure you know what you are getting into with various companies. Some are above board and offer really useful products, while  others are a scam. Do your research, talk to people and remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Very few people make as much money as they hope with these types of businesses. Remember, we are massage therapists; never let your sales pitch outshine why people come to you.

If you want to carry products and don’t know what to sell, ask your current clients what they would like to see in your office. They may suggest something they already use that they would love for you to carry. Perhaps they visited a spa and had a special service. Since we want to make our clients happy, getting their input could be a big plus.

Good luck on your future business endeavors and if you decide to sell, may your products be useful and your profits large!

Kathy Gruver, MASSAGE MagazineKathy Gruver has been involved in natural health since 1990 and has a doctorate of traditional naturopathy. Gruver is a medical massage therapist, natural health consultant, reiki master and birth assistant. She is currently pursuing a masters and doctorate in natural health. Gruver owns Healing Circle Massage in Santa Barbara, California, which specializes in medical and therapeutic massage and was chosen as a “Best Practice” by MASSAGE Magazine. For more information, visit