Massage Envy was one of the first companies to bring franchises to the massage therapy profession and was started back in 2002.
The idea back then was quite controversial as their business model is to hire entry level grads or anyone who wants to work there and pay them low hourly wages. The franchise offers low cost massage and their premise is to bring more people in for massage with the low fees. That means that they cannot pay their therapists much more.
At first I was really scared of them, thinking that they would ruin my business since I am priced much higher than the fees they charge. I thought at first that they wouldn’t last long – but of course they have. Each Massage Envy is a franchise which is owned and run independently and the owner can make the places much friendlier to massage therapists and some do just that.
On the positive side:
- They provide jobs when there are not many jobs in massage to be found.
- They pay for MT to take CE classes (from what I understand)
- They donate money lots of money!) to things like the AMTA and the Massage Therapy Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation.
($678,173 to support the Arthritis Foundation in 2012, according to ABMP , $100,000 to fund clinical research for the past two years according to this press release)
- They advertise in Oprah Magazine and on TV and in other places and get massage out there to the public.
- They provide millions of low cost massages to people getting massage out there more to the public.
- The Massage Envy network spent $17.9 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2017. Fallon Worldwide became the company’s agency-of-record in 2018. Massage Envy launched a brand awareness campaign “Keep your body working” in early 2019. The campaign, expected to cost $20–25 million, includes radio and television ads, as well as digital video and social media placements. It continues to focus on holism and replaces the previous tagline, “Making the most of every body”.
On the other side:
- They are becoming known as the Walmart of the massage profession, taking advantage of massage therapists and paying them low wages and having them work long hours without breaks in many cases. Working like that, a massage therapists career is at risk because of injuries or burnout working like that for many hours.
- The negative comments found online of course out number the positive ones. (People usually complain more than they praise)
- People may be starting to get sick of their sales people.
- They don’t do intake’s on clients or I have heard that the front desk people do intakes which just won’t help the massage therapist in educating clients.
- You can’t make a living there working at Massage Envy. It usually needs to be a second income for a family or have other means of support. If you are trying to make a living working there, it will be a struggle on $15-$20 an hour.
- They always say that the MT makes up the income in tips and that is what makes the difference for their wages, but I as a sole proprietor charging $100 an hour still gets tips on top of that too.
Massage Franchise Ownership.
Awhile ago, when I was looking through the AMTA-WA lawyers website and I found an interesting question in their FAQ’s for MT. It asked something like – can my husband who is not a licensed massage therapist own a massage business? The answer was NO. So how then are Massage Envy’s opening in WA State? I asked the attorney (John Pieck) for clarification and indeed it is a big issue here in WA State. There is something called the Corporate Practice of Medicine Law that says only a healthcare professional can own a healthcare business in WA State. It also needs to be someone in the same profession or a higher level to own a massage business. A chiropractor or MD or PT can own a massage business, but a massage therapist cannot own a chiropractic business or PT business or MD business. This is because the owners need to be educated enough to make the proper decisions for client/patient care. Some non-massage therapist business owners may want to force a MT to give massage to someone who has a condition that is contraindicated just to make the money. It is important that the owner know of contraindications. The Board of Health here in WA has agreed to not prosecute for now. Some Massage Envy owners are actually going to massage school to make it so they can legally own a massage business. Does the Corporate Doctrine of Medicine Law apply to other states? I don’t know the answer to that, but most likely it does.
Massage Envy Sexual Assault Scandal
In November 2017, BuzzFeed reported that over 180 women had “filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company” over allegations of sexual misconduct. The women also accused Massage Envy of ignoring or mishandling most of the cases they reported to the company. According to BuzzFeed’s article, Massage Envy requires internal investigations of reported abuse, but does not provide significant instruction on how they should be conducted, and it does not require that law enforcement be notified except in states with laws requiring such notification.
The problem still continues to exist and is in the news all the time in some city/state. There may be some hiring issues, since there is a nationwide shortage of massage school graduates and more franchises opening (besides Massage Envy). The massage therapy professional associations are supported by advertising and many other contributions from Massage Envy making it difficult for the associations to help in reducing the problem.