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Why is massage therapy so expensive?

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Why is massage therapy so expensive?

woman shrugging shoulders standing in front of money with a why thought bubble wondering why massage is so expensive

Are you wandering the internet in a doomed scroll, looking at the massage pricing near you and wondering, “Why is massage therapy so expensive?”. Then this post is for you! While we are all collectively experiencing sticker shock at the market changes this year due to inflation, it can be tough when the things we find essential items, such as pain management, are expensive.

It is not just the price either; many places additionally expect you to tip! I know some people find the massage pricing in NYC too expensive. I know because they call and tell us and they have done so for years. It’s ok to think that, we just polity explain that our pricing is, for the most part, the same as everyone else doing similar work. It is in fact, a little below in some cases. Why, though, is it priced that way?

Let’s start with fair pay and the Massage Therapists

Our therapists usually perform 4 massages a day and can work 4 days a week without hurting themselves. That means that the rate of commission that they are paid for those 4 massages needs to be enough to live on. Plus, they generally also get a tip, that comes from the person attending. Our rate for a standard massage is $140.00 dollars. Out of that, we pay our therapists between 45-60ish dollars depending on experience. If we use an average number, that leaves the business with $90.00 left for profit.

It seems like a tidy sum and that owners are raking in bucks, but out of that $90.00 we also pay W2 taxes on wages (though some massage therapists are not W2) so deduct about $5.00 from the $90.00 for each treatment. Plus if the location has a retirement program, which we do, you can also deduct another 6% of the profit. Using nice round numbers, this leaves about $82.00 in profit.

However….it is not the only wage we pay….in most cases, your massage will also come with a reception at $20 dollars an hour. You can subtract the receptionist’s pay from that profit as well. Because there is cleaning time after your massage, you’re actually paying for 1.5 hours to the receptionist to make sure the room is absolutely clean, not just 1 hour of massage. There is generally more than one therapist working in a clinic like this, so let’s just say that equals another $10 off the profit. Now we are down to $72.00. That still seems like quite a lot…so why is massage so expensive?

What else are you paying for that is expensive?

Ok, let’s take a look at the per-service charges that we, as a business, incur. Each time you swipe your credit card, we pay something like $2.75 dollars, plus another interchange rate that might be a % per swipe. In addition to that, we also have the privilege of paying for many people’s points on their cards. By proxy, you are paying for someone’s vacation in tiny increments when you pay. On our statements, the credit card charges can be anywhere from $3.50 to $10.00. Our new profit is now about $68 dollars. We can pay upwards 2k in credit card fees a month.

Laundry costs about $5.00 per massage. We get ours from a hospital company.

Lotion, Epsom salt giveaways, and massage balls for promotion add up to about $3.00. Our new total profit is $60.00

New York is expensive so massage therapy is expensive…

Rent is our single biggest expense because it is NYC, and it’s EXPENSIVE. Followed by advertising and other business expenses, they cost us around 15k a month….in a good month. That cost can spiral up depending on whether we need to buy a new computer or have another emergency.

Picture of NYC times square with a money sign on a billboard. People are milling around the square.

When we take that into account, we need to do the math a little differently…but to break even we then need to be doing about 250 massages a month. So here we are, without any profit doing 250 massages a month….and we still have not taken into account paying the owner, staff sick leave, taxes on the owner’s salary and all of the unexpected things that go into running a business. We generally spend 2-10k in legal fees a year in things like updating contracts and advice, tax planning is a few thousand, of course, insurances of various kinds and emergencies. Oh and do not forget our apps! Music, social media posting, our booking system…all that costs about 1k as well. It all really adds up! 

All in all the margins on massage therapy are pretty slim when you start adding up all the costs. If you are paying your employees appropriately as employees, a very large chunk of the fee goes to them and to the associated insurance, sick leave, maternity leave, disability, and taxes. 

When did Massage Therapy get more expensive?

Not only are you the customer experiencing inflation, but there has been a gradual creep on costs due to increases in business costs over the last few years that owners cannot control. Our tax preparation has gotten much more complicated due to the pandemic. Hiring costs are huge with staff turnover. As well as five years ago, we did not need to post on social media, and now we have to, or it is considered unprofessional, it is also tied to how you find us through Google. We have periodically used companies costing between $600 and $2,000 dollars a month. Additionally, Google itself used to have an ads platform that most small businesses could use without help. That no longer exists and that too now can cost many thousands a month in addition to the actual ads costs just to put the ads online and monitor them. There is a slow and deliberate creep into the small business owners’ bottom line that does not need to happen but exists for corporate profit, making your massage expensive. Basically, you can no longer run your company on your own, where you could before. The complexity of the market means you need a team, and that team means your massage has gotten expensive.

If you are wondering what you can do to control why your massage therapy is so expensive here are some thoughts.

  • Go with smaller providers that treat their employees well, that way at least, you know that the money is going to the right place.
  • Sign up for the marketing. Yep, it is annoying to have a full inbox, but there are good discounts to be had. We send out 20-25 dollar off discounts on some days.
  • Ask about discounts for seniors and students– we have one for seniors at this time.
  • Buy in bulk if you can afford it. Packages generally lower the cost overall.
  • Shop on the holidays! You can usually snag a discounted gift certificate.
  • Offer to be a body for training or book at a school…most schools have clinic hours.
  • Book with junior staff massage therapists...it does not always mean untrained. Call reception and ask about their experience.
  • You can also see if you have coverage through your insurance, which is becoming more and more common. To do that you will want to see if you have massage coverage provided by a massage therapist and if you need a prescription to use it.

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