I’ve been corresponding with a MASSAGE Magazine reader who had some surprising information to share about the spa she works at. I’ll leave the therapist’s and spa’s name out of this posting; I’m sharing it because I’d like to hear from readers to find out if you’ve ever heard of anything like this.

This woman is a massage therapist employed by the spa (she is an employee, not an independent contractor). Every time she gives a massage session, the spa charges her, the employee, a “product charge” of $4.25. As this therapist notes, “The actual cost of product is pennies.”

In 2006, she told me, more than $3,000 was deducted from her pay to pay for the products she used to massage the spa’s customers. This therapist contacted the Department of Labor in the state where she lives, and found out this practice is legal. Still, I’m surprised by this situation.

Stories of massage therapists treated by spas in a less-than-exemplary manner used to abound in the massage field. Therapists at spas used to be expected to perform many massages, back to back, each day, for example, for a low percentage of the total session fee.

Have things changed? Spas are the number-one employer of massage therapists in North America (www.massagemag.com/News/2007/June/SpaTrends.php), and I would hope that relations between spas as employers and massage therapists as employees has improved in recent years; yet, charging an employed massage therapist a product fee doesn’t seem like a very positive management practice.

What is your experience—positive or negative—with working at a spa? You can leave a comment here, or email me at kmenehan@massagemag.com.

Until next time,


Karen Menehan
MASSAGE Magazine Editor-in-Chief