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Pros and Cons of The "Asian Foot-Massage" Businesses
Almost every week it seems like a new Asian foot massage business pops up in town. I’m amazed how these folks can bond together to run a fully staffed business in no time. There is no shortage or bad economy for them. Every time I see an announcement for a grand opening of one of these, I wonder why I missed that connection or why more cultures don’t equally come together to build on each other. I wondered if these cultures don’t have competition, malaise, fear and fraud among them; that is, the energies that have held back so many other ethnic groups, including my own. They seem to appreciate that one person can have a dream for a company, but it takes more than that person to put it all together. I appreciate it too…and give Asians a lot of credit for this essential trait.
So I was curious about this “foot massage business” and since I can’t always afford to go and get a massage myself, it seemed like a budget option. After all, the Asian community is at the forefront of reflexology and oriental therapeutic treatments, so there’s a lot of benefit to receiving sessions from them; even if it’s just a “learning experience”. It is necessary to indulge here, that many of these companies have a history or appear to have a connection to the porn industry. There are all kinds of stories of police arrests among other sting operations across the state/country. Some are not “shy” about promoting their services and their ads can be found in cheap and/or free local magazines and newspapers. I actually know people, men and women (but mostly men) who have patronized and gotten their own “happy tugs”. This indulgence is a pro or con depending on who you are and what you are looking for in a massage. As a therapist, one has to decide whether or not they want their profession to line up with this for the sake of money and/or whether to dignify their skills and keep their profession honorable.
Every few weeks I notice coupons in one of those coupon magazines that come in your junk mail, advertising 60-minute foot massages for $19.99. I thought, wow… cheap… wonder what they do in 60 minutes… The advert stated that they had added shoulder/back, head and hand massage with foot reflexology, and that there is was the option to get a full body massage for $35.00 using special herbal oils. So I called and told them I wanted to check on them but didn’t make an appointment. I passed by shortly after and peeked through the glass doors. It was so dark that I could only see my reflection. I opened the door and looked around, but perhaps it was too light outside for my eyes to adjust quickly to the darkness inside. After a few moments a man approached me to ask if he could help me. I looked around, said no thanks and walked away. All those images of the “happy looking” men leaving that place next to the spa I worked for in Studio City came to my mind and I felt dirty for going in…but eventually I would overcome this feeling so to form myself my opinions. What were the pros and cons of frequenting a place like this?
My experience has shown the following “pros” and “cons” combined (not in order of priority/significance):
1. It feels strange to enter or leave these facilities, especially if you are a therapist.
2. Hardly anyone speaks English. That means your therapist won’t be talking to you the entire time.
3. Usually, you don’t want anyone to know you’re there, so turn off your phone.
4. It’s cheap! $15-$20 worth! $35 for full body massage! …but you get what you pay for.
5. These spots are usually convenient… right next to where you work, for example, so you don’t need to park your car right in front. Just leave it at work or at the grocer across the street.
6. Staff are usually very attractive, like the people at your beauty salons.
7. It’s quite dark inside, so you may not recognize others or not be recognized.
8. You can give a fake name and put on a disguise.
9. You don’t take off your clothes unless you go into that “back room” for the “full body” massage.
10. The overall atmosphere embodies the culture of the staff.
11. Certifications and licenses are prominently displayed in the “front lobby”.
12. You get served right away, usually, and they finish on time.
13. Tipping is a must! The therapist waits in anticipation as you pay or collect your things.
14. General reflexology takes place in a large room with other clients doing the same thing right next to you.
15. Most of the “Certifications” posted in plain sight are copies of certifications and not always CA certified (and it is not known if they are real).
16. From a therapist perspective, the staff appear to have no more than 250 hours of training and in anything other than Shiatsu/Reflexology.
17. The staff is made up of both men and women.
18. Get ready for a staff member who just got back from a smoke break.
19. You have no choice for your assistant unless you have booked and asked for someone by name.
20. Most of the patrons of these places appear to be white and/or non-black.
21. I think “foot soak” is just a pan with plain warm water, nothing else.
22. Everyone seems to be very tired and somewhat frustrated with their work.
23. If you are an athletic (muscular) female, expect them to be extremely rude/rude (switch attendant without notice and speak in their language with “disdainful gestures” while doing so) and don’t complain… I don’t understand you and will continue to go forward. (My Asian colleagues have often asked me why I think I have to be so “muscular and unfeminine”… Culturally, they believe that women should be “lean but soft”, to attract and retain men. Others say “The Qi in the muscular woman it is too strong. This may be why the female assistants seem to give up” and let the male assistants massage me. These men acted like I was a monster and didn’t treat me like a lady. I believe this because I don’t seem to be as “soft” as they thought women should be.)
24. I’ve seen men receive shirtless service, but women shouldn’t try!
25. Women shouldn’t wear their sports bra or just a sun tank top on top, hoping to get more action on their back and shoulders. They’ll just throw a towel over you and continue with their “robot-like routine.”
26. Don’t ask them not to touch your face. They don’t understand you (unless you tell the customer service person who might translate if they understand).
27. Women should wear comfortable yoga-like clothing. No jeans, shorts, dresses or skirts. You might think shorts would be fine, but I tried it on and no…don’t…!!
28. Part of their routine is “stretching” their legs, which from a therapist’s perspective is a Shiatsu-like stretch to yoga’s “spinal twist.” Jeans are too tight and stiff for this stretch and shorts can become like ropes strangling your crotch and goodies, especially if you have a “very zealous” male assistant. Mine seemed to be looking for a particular reaction or show the power of him. I felt like he was glad he “won” me…the brawny, unfeminine woman… (but I knew he wouldn’t understand my language if I complained, so I didn’t…)
29. There doesn’t seem to be any breaks between customers so the staff are very tired indeed.
30. These businesses are sometimes open from 10am to 10.30pm in general, but you may find some that open later.
I have decided, based on my observations and experiences, that I will no longer patronize these establishments. My first objection is that we don’t speak the same language. When I say “that hurts”; “please don’t touch my head or face”; or “I don’t want to be ironed like this”, these directions/requests are met with a smile and nervous nods and they just go about their routine, or until someone arrives to translate, which may be too late and/or cause a scene in this large hall of service providers.
In my opinion, these are not legitimate massage therapists and give credence to those who believe that “anyone” can give a massage or do reflexology. They are in line with the other spa chains and franchises who are simply in the “business of making money” and not in the “business of making people health then money”.
Legitimate body workers, like myself, are genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of their clients and people in general. We don’t “judge” you, which in my experience, I believe these places judged me.
When an individual goes for massage at any establishment, he should not wonder whether he is fat, thin, muscular, black, short, tall, ugly, pretty or what not. Yes, in my particular business, clients will ask about their health conditions and what I find by working on them. Some will ask for suggestions on which path to take to address a health issue. Sometimes I know and sometimes I don’t. Others complain of trying to lose weight or gain weight or low energy, or soreness after a workout, etc. know the job. However, this is generally not the reason to join.
Although I do give advice on eating in the days following the massage session with me, this is simply to nourish the affected organs during the session and to prolong the therapeutic results. The ultimate goal is to improve your health, which will happen with your consistency in coming for treatment and following the suggestions. Yesterday a client told me that she considers my opinions/treatments up to her team of doctors. It was a sweet compliment and I believe her. She has seen results and experienced “my power” as she calls it and it’s great that I have attracted someone so open and willing to heal.
We mostly get massages because we believe they are good for us and our health. They feel good and we want to feel good. The economy is definitely a concern, but we understand that we get what we pay for. People who patronize foot massage businesses and spa chains usually make an economic decision, not necessarily a health decision. I would like to be sure that my therapist is trained in an American accredited school and is licensed and certified by the state or county where I receive service. I would also like to know that the institution is honorable with the rules of work and is in no way related to the porn industry. Finally, I would like to know that there is no bias; that everyone speaks the language that I speak; that my money is as valuable as any other patron, and that my spirit and body will be honored in the professional performance of the contracted service and for the improvement of my health and vitality.
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