The Line Between Favor and Obligation

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The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby alleycat_lady on Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:07 am

Hey everyone,

I am a part time massage therapist, 3 days at a spa and 3 days at an office job. Despite the fact I have been there a little over a year I am still in my book building phase. Most of my first year was spent doing Living Social specials, which was great for short term income but horrible for retaining regular clients. It's a small spa, so I am the only massage therapist there.

Yesterday I was working at my office job and my spa texted me that a new client wanted to come in. I agreed to come in after I was done at my office. The client wanted to come in at 6:30 and the spa closed at 8:00, so none of the spa receptionists would have to stay late. After finishing with the client he remarked that he would like to become a regular, but he was always busy and his best days were Mondays and Wednesdays when I am working my office job. Out of politeness I said that 'of the two Wednesdays are better if it fits into my personal schedule'. That was stupid of me, but I felt put on the spot. Then he closed with, he wishes to come in weekly and he would call next Monday for next Wednesday.

The problem is I don't know if I can or should commit to a weekly client who would be arrogant enough to expect me to come in when I'm not working. Coming in after working a 9 hours day is hard, not just for me but for my husband. The fact is, also, I don't think he needs a weekly massage for any muscular problem. Stress, maybe. But I didn't recommend weekly. It would be great for income. There is always the possibility that he intends to schedule weekly, but won't follow through He honestly seems like one of those types. I've always done my best to do favors for good clients, staying late, coming in early and even working through lunch. My peers at the spa are of the opinion that if you don't make yourself available when people want you, you will not succeed. I'm torn between being a good provider and not wanting to be a doormat. It's actually very upsetting that I was trying to do something kind and feeling like I'm being taken advantage of. Has anyone else had to face this problem before?
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby pueppi on Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:09 am

Hi. I have re-written my response, as it was a bit choppy when I wrote it the first time. :)

So, as I understand it, you work an office job (standard for you is definitely on Mondays & Wednesdays) and you chose to see a client on a Monday evening in the spa you work at, after your regular office job. This was out of the ordinary for you. Now, the client would like a weekly appointment and can only come in on Mondays or Wednesdays. You offered to see him on Wednesdays.

If you felt put on the spot, I figure it is because you don't have a hard boundary as to your work hours. If you did have a hard boundary around that, the answer could have simply been, "I'm sorry, this was a one time occurance, I normally only see clients on such and such days".

I think you must first decide if you will or will not work the spa job in the evenings after your office job. If you will not, then you need to clear this up with the spa and the client. If there may be occasions in which you will, then you have a soft boundary. If the soft boundary is difficult to manage for some reason, I suggest you make some subtle arrangements in which you set the client as a standing appointment for Wednesdays and at the same time address the issue of cancellations. You could let him know that since you are making a special arrangment to provide massage work for him after your normal business day, if he doesn't provide 48 hours advance notice of cancellation, he will be charged in full for the session. The first time he doesn't provide notice, and/or doesn't want to pay the full cancellation fee you could then re-visit the arrangement (since you think he won't honor a standing weekly schedule) and determine if you will change the arrangements to then only see him on the actual days you work in the spa.

I am a little confused that your interpretation of the client asking for work on specific days is in some way arrogant and taking advantage. Some people who need the extra work, would likely be thankful he asked, even though it wasn't their normal work day in the spa. There are plenty of people who are willing to work double shifts going from one job to the next. I think it is all in how you choose to look at it. I look at it as an offer. You just have to decide if you want to do it or not.

I am also confused as to why you would judge whether he should ask for a weekly massage or not. Many clients do very well with weekly massage and it makes theirs and the lives of those around them much more tolerable. So, if he wants massage and it is not hurting him, I don't see anything wrong with a client getting weekly work.

Oh, and don't worry that it's taking you over a year to build up a steady clientele. It took me *years*... with an emphasis on the s. ;)
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby alleycat_lady on Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:44 am

When I offered Wednesday, I didn't know his intention was to come weekly. I was willing to see him monthly or occasionally. But, yeah, that's the gist of it.

I guess my dilemma is how to deal with soft boundaries. I've been told that if I set hard boundaries with my schedule I won't succeed. Part of me says that I would like for them to fill up my scheduled days before I come on on extra days, even if it means finagling my shift a little to come in early or stay late. But I know this isn't a perfect world, and often schedules don't line up. So I guess the real question for the board is not whether or not I am willing to do this. I can only answer that. It's how successful can someone be who sets up hard boundaries?

Looking back, perhaps arrogant is a bit of a harsh term, but he certainly wasn't easy to work with. He was very unwilling to be flexible or work with me. I even offered to alter my shift on the days I was scheduled to work. He gave off the vibe that his inconvenience was more important than my free time, which isn't exactly arrogant, but is undermining of me. That sort of thing doesn't usually bother me, but when I'm doing you a favor you can at least be respectful to me. It's the same with coming weekly. There are some people that can use weekly massages. I'm not denying that. I didn't suggest weekly massages to him. He took it upon himself, which is fine, but again I was doing him a favor. I feel like he was waiting for an opening. Admittedly, I may have been taken aback from his response and kind of tired and hungry (which makes me crankier). I, for one, would not expect someone to make a special trip for me every week, especially someone I was meeting for the first time.
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby tranquilspirit2006 on Wed Apr 02, 2014 3:12 pm

I don't know who's telling you you 'have to be available when the client wants' but they're giving you bad advice, IMO. I worked at a spa for 7 years, before opening my own office 1 1/2 years ago. When I first opened my own, I wanted to get as much business as possible, so I made my hours Monday through Saturday. I figured if I booked up on Monday, I could always take Tuesday off, or Thursday or whatever... I'd have one this day, a couple another day, I wouldn't turn down someone because I needed the money, I'd come in earlier, I'd agree to a later appointment, etc etc. And fter 9 months of doing that I was fed up and honestly, I knew better.

I changed my hours to what I really wanted. Tues thru Fri, 10am to 6pm, Sat 10-2. Tuesdays are my slowest day, so I offer other days first, reserving Tuesday for last or if that's the only day someone can make it. So quite often I find I have Sun/Mon/Tues off. But I'm always guaranteed Sun/Mon. I stick by my hours. I'm offering someone almost 40 hours a week, if they can't make it sometime in there, they should try to find someone with different hours. I have one client I flex for, and he's a doctor I've known for 20 years, with sometimes erratic hours, but he's the only one. My hairdresser doesn't change her hours all the time, my doctor has set hours, my dentist doesn't say 'Well sure, I can stay til 8pm for you." Does it mean that sometimes I'll miss out on a client? Yes. But my life is SO MUCH BETTER since I started sticking to my hours. And I'm actually busier than ever. Yes, you can be successful with what you call hard boundaries. I think you will find that most people here have set hours they work, or at least some kind of schedule they adhere to. Being available for everyone and accommodating everyone elses schedule is not good for us.

Figure out what hours you're willing to work and stick to it, always. Don't blame the client for choosing a day that you more or less offered as available. It's kind of sticky because you offered it, but if he continues to schedule, after this next time, you can say 'My schedule has changed, here are the hours/days I'm available, when would you like to schedule within these times?' But also, don't judge because he wants a weekly massage without any muscular issues. If I had the money, I'd have one every week too, just for relaxation, believe me.
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby pueppi on Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:21 am

alleycat_lady wrote: It's how successful can someone be who sets up hard boundaries?

alleycat_lady,

I don't have hard boundaries, but they are pretty firm. I can also be finicky, so some days the boundaries are harder than others.

My hardest boundary is that I don't come into the office before 10:30am due to the length of my drive and the traffic during the 6-9am times (except on the extremely rare occasion of about once a year which usually correlates with a client who may live a few hours away, is only in town on a particular day and I want to fit them in).

My firm boundaries are that I work between 11-8pm, but I am generally open to staying later than that (as my schedule allows). And, my schedule usually allows that for a few clients, because traffic becomes much lighter the later it gets and because I am a night person.

My boundaries become a lot softer if the month is not shoring up to produce the 70+ clients I need to make the bills. Which means, I may take more clients than I prefer on a given day, or I may work a day I would normally be off, if need be. It doesn't happen regularly, it does happen on occasion.


Looking back, perhaps arrogant is a bit of a harsh term, but he certainly wasn't easy to work with. He was very unwilling to be flexible or work with me. I even offered to alter my shift on the days I was scheduled to work. He gave off the vibe that his inconvenience was more important than my free time, which isn't exactly arrogant, but is undermining of me. That sort of thing doesn't usually bother me, but when I'm doing you a favor you can at least be respectful to me. It's the same with coming weekly. There are some people that can use weekly massages. I'm not denying that. I didn't suggest weekly massages to him. He took it upon himself, which is fine, but again I was doing him a favor. I feel like he was waiting for an opening. Admittedly, I may have been taken aback from his response and kind of tired and hungry (which makes me crankier). I, for one, would not expect someone to make a special trip for me every week, especially someone I was meeting for the first time.


I understand if someone gives you a vibe you don't like. That is a personal thing and I do believe you have to trust your gut with that sort of issue. If it (something about someone) seems wrong or "off", keep it on your radar.

The only thing I can think of in an instance like this, is if he didn't realize you were doing a favor (but had the expectation that you were there to provide a service), and thought you were an employee who was expected to be at the facility when someone wanted an appointment. It may just all be in the way the salon framed the conversation with him in the first place. It doesn't make it right, but he may not realize that you are in charge of your schedule - and that you were going out of your way to provide him with something you would not normally do.

I still don't quite understand is that you seem averse to your clients asking for weekly massage, when you haven't suggested it to them. I'm not sure if you are turned off by the fact that someone would want to get weekly massage, or if you don't want someone asking for further bodywork until you offer the option first. Or, maybe you didn't really like the client (his bad vibe) and were just irritated that asked for more sessions than you had planned for in your head. I can see where that might put someone on the spot. Saying no can be hard, and getting rid of a bad client can also be extremely frustrating. Most times when we aren't a fit for someone they just go away... so it may be that you felt you weren't a fit and this wasn't going to work out, but, he didn't get the same memo in his head. Anyhoo, I'm not sure it matters as a discussion point.
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby tranquilspirit2006 on Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:46 am

So it's been a couple of weeks, what has happened? Has he come back?
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby cabwy on Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:12 am

I have found that the ones that I help get the times they want end up being some of my best clients.

I agree with Pueppi.. my boundaries are soft and if the bills look to be overtaking my month, those boundaries are eradicated. haha

I think the main concern is whether the OP hopes to eventually to massage full time. I took several evening appts after working a long 10 hour day because in the grand scheme of things, they would be my clients long after I quit the "other job" and it has worked out nicely for me. Some of those are still on my books and Thank God for the weekly regulars. I love them! They are usually people who have a chronic condition or a lot of anxiety and they benefit from those regular appts. Since they know this about themselves it also makes my work so much easier. There is nothing worse than the client who gets a massage once every month (or even less) for an hour with unreal expectations.

But I do the very same thing, once in a while I have someone ask for a time or day that I feel resentful about. I have struggled with that for years, and try to remind myself that clients have the right to request what works best for themselves. We have the right to say no, if we say yes, then we can't be resentful. LIke I said, I have to remind myself not to personalize it.

Good luck and I am interested in how this turned out for the OP.
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Re: The Line Between Favor and Obligation

Postby Pete on Sat Jun 14, 2014 10:51 am

Wow! First off, you are NOT doing the client any favors. The spa, not the client, called you in on your non-spa day and when the client stated his preference for scheduling, you offered up a spot on your non-spa day. You had the option right then of advising the client of your availability and chose not to. When the client indicated his desire to schedule for that day/time each week, you AGAIN had the option of clarifying your availability and AGAIN you chose not to. How is the client supposed to know what your schedule is if you're not telling him and/or if you're willing to make exceptions with so little prompting?

Also, as to the client wanting to come in weekly despite the fact that you hadn't recommended it and your opinion that he didn't have any muscular problems to justify that frequency of treatment, who cares why the client wants to come in weekly? If you're concerned that he'll flake or not pay you, have him prepay for the sessions...
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