Massage chains DO affect us in serious ways. The client who has never had a massage before is generally more open to trying a massage at a chain, especially with the price breaks offered. That’s a good thing because it gets them in the door and trying it. However, it is more difficult in a short phone conversation to explain why we charge more than they do if the person decides to branch out when the chain is booked up. We have to be better in both marketing ourselves and our skills to help differentiate between us, which is difficult and can be costly. Many clients go for the cheaper price, even if it means a fluff and buff, shorter massage because they don’t know the difference between that and a therapeutic style (not that we don’t do relaxation massages as well, but we mainly do a combination style without charging a higher price for it). In my area we have a Massage Envy, which undercuts our office by $21 for an hour massage, and is staffed by a few experienced therapists, but mostly by new graduates. (It doesn’t help that we have 3 massage schools in our area pumping out new hungry grads.) Several of our clients have tried ME, and came back after their experience was “they just spread oil around,” and “the hour was really short.” However, the clients who never try us don’t know the difference, especially our flexibility to extend a therapeutic session if required (often without charging extra) to finish dealing with a painful problem, and our many years of experience. One of my fellow therapists put a bid in to a B&B owner for an outcall service, and was turned down in favor of Massage Envy’s bid. My friend explained to the lady that even though her bid appeared to be more at first, it was a fixed cost; ME would actually be the same or more after their add-ons to the basic price. She still lost the contract due to the cheaper-appearing initial price, a frustrating experience. So, our experience has been that, while chains can help train the public to get massages, they often underprice us to our detriment. We have to be so much better, offer more (in skill sets, ambience and specials) and work twice as hard to attract our clients.