Happy Endings and Icky Jokes: How to respond when it happens

IMG_3289One of the weirdest parts of being a massage therapist is the less-than-classy questions people will ask. It happens much less now than it did 10 years ago when I started in this business. But every so often I’ll get introduced to a new person, and the crass oaf will say. “Do you give happy endings?”

And we all have ‘that friend’ who (repeatedly) posts stupid massage jokes on our Facebook wall, because they think it’s hilarious. Ugh.

It can be tricky to handle these awkward confrontations. It can be trickier to handle these confrontations and not be a catty jerk who embarrasses and alienates the poor oaf. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

For me, it helps to have some scripts ready when these things come up. I need to think about what to say and practice it, so I don’t get all stupid or pissy in my response. And so I don’t just laugh and blow it off and feel like crap about my lack of response later.

So I checked in with a few friends and pulled together our favorite responses.

When you get the dreaded, “Do you give happy endings?” questions

“Weeell, no. Because I’m not a sex worker. I’m a trained and licensed health professional.”

I like to be clear, and use the actual words instead of catering to innuendo. It deflates the whole cheeky joke thing.

You can say it harshly and get all catty about it. But there’s not really a point to that. You want to gently but firmly educate someone without shaming them. Partly because you’re not a jerk. Also because they will understand and retain the lesson better if they are not made to feel stupid and defensive.

This is not the best time to go all out with a lecture on how disrespectful that little ‘joke’ is to all massage therapists. That becomes apparent when you say the words ‘sex worker’.

Once you get out that response, you have two choices. You can change the subject entirely, “So what do you do?” Or just keep talking and tell them about your work. “I’ve got an office in Plainville, mostly working with people who sit at desks all day then run marathons on the weekend.”

My friend Leslie says, ”Almost all my clients leave happy, but it’s never because of sexual services. That would be illegal and completely not what I do for a living. Happy endings are for Disney and the library. Sexual services are for prostitutes.” She’s got a kickin’ sense of humor and can pull that off.

My friend Ian responds, “Everyone gets one massage sex joke, and that was yours. You totally wasted it, by the way, I’ve heard way better.”

If it happens in the office, my friend Tracy likes inform people that by asking that question seriously, they are soliciting sex, breaking the law, and setting themselves up for a call to the police. That’ll deflate their casual, stupid humor pretty quick and likely ensure it doesn’t happen again.

When the inappropriate jokes are virtual

There are equivalents to this silliness in the virtual world. People share junk like this all the time, and occasionally post similar ‘jokes’ on my profile, or even my massage business page.

You may be great at just ignoring these things. Or you may be like me, and feel that this teaching moment should be utilized.

This is a time for a private message:

I wanted to let you know that I deleted the link you put on my wall. I know you had only good intentions and thought I would find it funny. But I need you to know that I did not, and I think it’s important that you know why.

I take my job seriously. I have extensive training in massage, I maintain my licenses and certifications, and I run a business that serves my community.

So when you post a video that makes a joke, and an uncomfortable joke at that, about the services I provide, that’s a problem.

I would never want anyone to think those kind of shenanigans go on in my massage room. I would never want a current or potential client to see that on my wall and think I would be disrespectful of their comfort and privacy.

So I hope you understand why that ‘joke’ isn’t funny, and that you’ll consider not sharing things like this in the future. Not with me, or anyone. 


Yes, it’s wordy. But I think that response also strikes a nice balance of kind, informative, and firm.

How do you deflate these situations, without putting someone on the defensive, so it can be a useful exchange?

From a Negative to a Positive

One-day back in 1999 (my first year of owning my massage business), in walked an elderly gentleman. He didn’t look happy to be getting a massage. The first words out of his mouth were “My wife scheduled me for this massage, and I don’t want to be here.” He never received a massage before, and he seemed uncomfortable. I tried to change the subject, and asked him to fill out a health form. I then proceeded to ask him if he had any hobbies (People usually light-up when they talk about their passions). He said woodworking, of which I knew nothing about.

Portrait of aged teacher looking at camera with blackboard on background

After he’s done filling out the form, I looked it over and started asking him some questions. His wife booked him the massage appointment, because she was sick of him complaining about his back pain. I asked him about his arthritis, and he stated “I don’t have it much anymore in my fingers. I broke my fingers to take away the pain, and it helped.” As you are imagining, I had a shocked look on my face! He complained that a few months ago, his doctor put him on rat poison (That is what he called his blood thinners).

I explained to him what the massage process. He immediately stopped me when I told him he could undress to his comfort level. He said, “Why do you need my clothes off, when I only have lower back pain?” I let him know that sometimes the gluteal region can refer pain to the lower back, but he only took off his shirt (I was ok with that).

He did not speak at all during the treatment, and luckily it was only ½ an hour. I was emotionally drained after the massage. I wished that he would not book another appointment, and he didn’t.

A few weeks have passed, and I get a call from his wife. She wanted to book another massage for her husband. She said, he didn’t complain much about his back pain, after he saw me. I had mixed emotions. Should I deal with the negativity, again?

After a few days, he came in for his massage appointment. Now that I knew his personality, I tried some humor. I asked him is he still on his rat poison? He actually laughed! During the massage treatment he started to open up. I didn’t feel like he was sucking up my energy.

This is what I learned from this gentleman:

  • I learned a hard lesson not to take things so personally. I also incorporated more humor (when necessary), into conversations.
  • Every single client is going to have good days, and bad ones.
  • Always look at the brighter side, and not to feed into their emotions.
  • The more scenarios you run into, the easier it will be in the future to deal with them.
  • In massage school, you only learn a part of what you need in the real world. It’s a good start; so stay awake during your ethics course.
  • If a client doesn’t like you, or you couldn’t help them, they won’t come back. Just don’t take it personally
    .

So, the next time you have a negative client come in, just remember it’s probably not you!

Ryan Hoyme is the owner of MassageNerd.com and RyanHoyme.com

 

 

 

 

 

Body Slam These Body Scams

I’ve recently been the lucky recipient of two separate yet equally annoying scam attempts on my business phone line. Woot!

Take a look at this text message I received a little while back. You can see that the sentence structure and vibe seem more than a bit suspicious. At first I chose to reply in a professional manner, just in case this was an actual prospective client:text

Then their reply confirmed my suspicions, so I responded in kind:fu

This scam has been making the rounds among massage therapists, salon folk, personal trainers, etc. for years. If you engage with the texter the convo eventually morphs into a fraudulent credit card scam involving wiring money to the texter. Sometimes the scammer will engage via email as well, due to being “hearing impaired”. 

A friend suggested that we all make it a habit to reply to these scammers with pictures of goats, because why not? In support of this new campaign to Ram the Scam, I’ve designed a little something to blast back at these criminals. Please use, share and enjoy!

goataway

Scam #2 manifested as numerous phone calls from “merchant services”. Their phone numbers were varied and sometimes featured a local area code; sometimes they’d even leave a voicemail message that I wouldn’t return. 

I unintentionally answered one of their calls the other day. The scamming bozo on the line said he was from “merchant services” and wanted to send a rep out for a quick ten minute appointment so he could update my horribly out of date credit card processing equipment (that I do not currently and have never had…Square, baby).

I nicely told him that I don’t have an account with them, and requested he take my name off of their list so I don’t waste any more of their time. This rude asshat had the nerve to raise his voice and inform me that he got my number from Google so if I wanted to remove myself from the internet I could go ahead and do that. Well I never!

So I did him one better. I put myself on the do not call registry. [insert laughing goat meme here]

Then I researched the scam he was trying to pull. It involves “merchant services” switching your credit card processing activities over to their company without telling you they’re doing it. Apparently you can incur major fees by dumping your old company like this. So don’t. 

Have you got a scammy story to share? Please post it below (with farm animals, if you wish). 

I’m A Big Girl Now

I’ve been growing my little foot spa biz for over two years now. It’s currently at what I feel is a really good place number-wise for a part-time hands-on gig. I look forward to filling things out a little bit more in the upcoming year — booking more appointments further in advance if possible — but I’m happy with where things are right now, too.

I’ve also been engagin’ in a lot of learnin’ about potentially uncomfortable subjects recently, including cancer treatment, oncology massage, and death. I think I even finally know how I want my gravestone to look — complete with a refreshing sense of well-placed joy and excitement! (Cue the weird looks!)

bear

When I first became a massage therapist ten years ago, my retired insurance exec cousin told me I should look into disability insurance. What if I injured my tools? How would I support myself? Her questions were valid.

I ended up working at spas that provided disability insurance as a benefit, but those days are over. Being 100% self employed means I have to think about these things and put on my big girl panties. I have to do the things I dread.

This afternoon I visited my insurance rep, Mary. I’ve purchased my business, homeowner’s and auto insurance through her over the years, and she has always been super helpful. I told her I knew nothing about disability insurance, but I’d appreciate it if she’d talk me through it and present me with my options “in case my arm gets chopped off one of these days”. 

We had a lovely chat about the trials and tribulations of small business life and neighborhood gossip. Then she showed me that I could acquire disability insurance for as little as $23.13 per month. 

Tonight I’ll present my options to my better half and we’ll talk it over while we do laundry and watch Fringe. Being a grown up isn’t always easy, but it’s how things get done…and hopefully done right.

So, you’ve got a successful massage business. Why so anxious?

IMG_3289

Let’s get real
Being a business owner is scary. Being a single business owner even more so. And when you’re supporting a family? Holy geez wowsers that sounds terrifying. (Hats off to all of you raising kids and/or supporting a stay-at-home spouse. You are utterly badass.)

Yes, being your own boss is crazy-rewarding and has it’s own benefits. But it’s still scary as hell.

Most of us started our businesses with just the supplies and equipment from our schooling, slapping together ideas and action as best we could, learning as we grew.

The lucky ones had a business plan (and knew what to do with it). The luckier ones had previous careers that provided some necessary business skills. The smart ones researched the nitty gritty of every situation and made well-informed decisions that led to success.

However you got here, you’re here
You’re pretty well established, staying fairly well booked, and you’ve got the day-to-day tasks of running a business under control. Congratulations! You’ve arrived!

Except for that nagging, petrified little voice in the back of your head shrieking, “It could all fall apart in an instant!” Daily. Or maybe weekly. Or maybe just when you’re having that day where 5 clients call to cancel upcoming appointments and your week falls apart.

Why am I diving into these tales of woe? Because Cindy said, “Business is wonderful here, but my anxiety keeps me feeling like there’s a hidden shoe about to drop. [I’m] still struggling with looking ahead instead of behind despite being very solidly booked.”

And from the response her comment got, I can tell that’s a common problem for people in her situation. In some ways, it’s a good problem to have. It means you’re successful! But it kinda sucks the fun out of working for yourself.

For every fear, there is a solution to make it tolerable. Here are my go-to anxiety relievers. 

Have a go-to protocol for slow weeks, and make it easy
Look at the things that have helped you bring in clients in the past. Figure out what’s worked and what hasn’t.

For me, sending an email to my clients with a list of that week’s open appointments is really effective. But if I have to make an email from scratch every week, it becomes a whole big project. I’ll procrastinate and never actually do it. So I finally made a sweet last minute appointment template with all the links and buttons to my online scheduling. I can just drop a one-liner note in there to keep it fresh and send. It’s an easy, 10 minute task that’ll fill an appointment or two.

If you get a great response on Facebook, spend a few minutes making some adorable graphics in Canva and save them to your computer and mobile device. When you have a slow day or week, upload to Facebook with a headline and the link (or contact info) to schedule. That’s a five minute task when you already have the graphic ready.

If you still have too much time on your hands, I’ve got a few bigger tasks outlined over here on the At Peace Media blog. 

Just having a protocol in place can be comforting. Sure, it’s a slow week, but you know what to do to make it better. You’re in control.

Get some emergency savings
This is the thing we all know we need, but few make it happen. We need an emergency savings.

Because your car will need a new transmission the same month your second quarter taxes and license renewals are due. Your fridge will break the week that you pay for the kid’s hockey season including all new equipment because holy heck she just won’t stop growing.

Or you’ll just miss a week of work when you have the flu. You need a backup. And when you own a business, this is doubly true. You need a savings for living expenses and business expenses.

We should all have at least three months of expenses in the bank. Six to nine months is even better. If you don’t already have this started, it seems like a Herculean task to save That. Much. Money.

So, like most things that are big and scary, we put off getting started. Then it doesn’t happen. Then you jam your thumb and immediately have a panic attack over the notion that you could lose a few days of work and oh my god what if I break my leg I’m going to be homeless in a month my life is falling apart someone help me. Or maybe that’s just me?

Anyhow, the thing about accruing a solid savings is that it happens slowly. But when it happens, it’ll change your life. A whole layer of fear and anxiety lifts from your life. Really.

How to do it? Again, slowly. I recently got my act together and started building up a savings. I created a whole new saving account at an online bank. Every week when I sit down to pay bills, I transfer money from my local credit union to the savings. It’s super easy to do online and takes under five minutes. I force myself to transfer at least 5% of the last week’s income, I try to do more when I have busier weeks. If that seems impossible to you, start with 2%. Or if you take tips, transfer half of them. Something is better than nothing, and it’ll add up over time.

Having a cushion takes all sorts of stress off a slow week, an illness, or a busted water heater.

Get some cheerleaders
There will always be tough times in business ownership. Sometimes your preparedness won’t be enough of a comfort and anxiety will eat you up. Hopefully you’ve got friends and colleagues to lean on and talk you out of your funk. And if you’re a loner, the rest of us are right here.

How do you keep the anxiety from ruining the fun?

Songs for Weird Massage Therapists

As a Spotify user, the playlist feature comes in pretty handy.

By “handy”, I mean I’ve actually put together a collection of songs having to do with touching, rubbing, or those silly things found at the distal ends of our forearms.

Although several of these tracks were originally meant to be filtered through the speakers of our sex-crazed society where sensuality is inextricably linked to ejaculatory pursuits, please take a moment to push all boning references aside. Listen to these songs purely from the perspective of a massage therapist, and I promise you’ll be tickled. 

In case you aren’t able to access Spotify, here’s a list of the tracks currently included on Songs for Weird Massage Therapists. If you can think of more that might be a good fit, please list them in the comments section below this post. (And to those of you who helped with the initial lineup, thanks!)

1. I Want Your (Hands On Me) – Sinead O’Connor

2. Both Hands – Ani DiFranco

3. Too Much Time On My Hands – Styx

4. Slow Hands – Interpol

5. Clap Hands – Tom Waits

6. Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron

7. Invisible Touch – Genesis

8. Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ – Journey

9. Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me – Susan Sarandon (Rocky Horror Soundtrack)

10. Touch Me – The Doors

11. Human Touch – Bruce Springsteen

12. Touch Me (I Want Your Body) – Samantha Fox

13. Your hands on my skin – De/Vision (I am in love with this song, BTW.)

14. I Believe In A Thing Called Love – The Darkness

15. Healing Hands – Elton John

16. Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) – Done Again (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts cover)

17. Grab It – L’Trimm

18. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

19. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand) – Diana Ross

20. Skin – Zola Jesus

21. Hands Off – Old 97’s

22. Body Party – Ciara

23. Icicle – Tori Amos

24. Sometimes When We Touch – Manny Pacquiao (whaaaaat!?!), Dan Hill

25. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey – Paul & Linda McCartney

26. Real is a Feeling – Pictureplane

27. I Wanna Hold Your Hand – Fab Again (Beatles cover)

28. I Touch Myself – Divinyls

Closing Down

Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Tracy Bradley. Tracy has been practicing massage therapy since 2003 in rural Arkansas. When not massaging she can be found sipping Cherry Coke, watching cat videos, reading massage discussions, or hanging out with her family. She publishes a client-centered blog at The Comfort Zone Massage. Her 8-year-old daughter creates stories about her two zany cats at Cat With a Chat. Tracy is moving over a hundred miles from home to begin a new adventure with her family!

***

One month and then my massage business is closed. A month. No more clients, no more sheets, no more hot towels, no more. I feel like I’ve never done this before even though I left a different place 4 years ago. I wasn’t as emotionally involved with that place, I suppose. This place, this business is like home. I’m leaving home.

What will I do with my hands now? Will they miss the feel of flesh gliding under their fingers? Will my skin shrivel up and dry out without the daily use of massage oil? My hands, who have caressed, kneaded, rocked, pushed, pulled, rubbed, and comforted humans for the past 12 years, won’t know what do anymore. Will they lead me around searching for an aching shoulder like a forked limb leads one to “witch a well” for water? I apologize in advance to those I hug. My hands will surely try to massage your back and shoulders in what should be a brief moment.

Have you ever closed your business? Have you ever had to tell your massage clients you’re moving away and never coming back? It’s a difficult task.  After almost 4 years working as a massage therapist in a small town I’m moving away. Telling loyal, regular, make-their-appointment-before-they-leave clients is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done.  The first eight years of my massage career were extremely part-time. The past four years were more than full-time. They were full emersion. I fully devoted most of my brain, heart, and soul to growing this business and caring for my clients. And now it ends.

I spent the week telling clients I’m leaving. A few were devastated. Most were supportive of my family’s new opportunity.  We cried. We hugged. We talked it out.

I will miss these people. Even with “good boundaries” relationships are developed. People talk. Living in such a small town many of us go to the same church, family members work together, kids attend the same schools, we go to fundraisers together, etc. We conduct our lives side-by-side. Boundaries are there but they are different than someone who lives in a place they never see their clients outside work.

All this said, I’m ready for a break. I’ve been “all in” for quite a while to make sure I supported the family while my husband was in college. I loved it most of the time. The Hustle becomes such a rush!  You try something to get more clients and your week fills up!  You write a blog and people read it and tell you they like it.  You develop a way of doing things, communicating with your clients, and operating your business. You get shit done. You try a new promotion that flops but it is still a rush because you get to brainstorm again. It never stops: the planning, writing, researching, talking, etc. It can’t stop if you want to stay busy.

I’m tired. I’m ready to shut that part of my brain off for a while. I’m ready to see if there is a Tracy inside me. She wants to laugh and smile and read and write and play and stuff.

Sharing is Caring

It’s in our nature to share feeling, thoughts, and other thing with people. I’m constantly hitting the share or retweet buttons on social media, or I’m creating my content. The Internet has made it easier to share things with people, but it’s also been a trigger point in my side (Pun intended).

I started MassageNerd.com, January of 2006, and since the beginning, I’ve noticed people stealing my photos and videos. It’s really frustrating to see my work on someone else’s website or social media account, and them not giving me credit. I’ve even seen people put their logo over my watermark and some have even cropped it out. I work hard at creating content! I just wish some people would respect that, and either buy their own, or create it themselves. I’ve even seen large massage companies stealing photos of mine – pretty sad. Someone even said: “I just do a Google search for images.” Well, I’ve got news for you; most images on Google Search are copyrighted. Even photos that you can buy usually have rules for using them. So, make sure you read the Terms of Service agreement before purchasing them. Leaving the watermark on a photo after you download it is stealing , so just don’t do it.

Facebook, and other social media websites have made it easy to share photos with a share/retweet/repin button, but some people haven’t figured that out yet. Just imagine your clients knowing that you are stealing photos from others, would YOU want to get a massage from someone who steals? It doesn’t make you look professional at all!

Have you thought about the repercussions of stealing content from others? It can vary from being asked to remove it, or you will have to pay them royalties. Adobe recently sued Forever 21 for pirating photoshop. If you would like more information on copyright, view this link (It breaks it down with questions people have about copyright laws).

Social media sites have made it easy to embed posts on your website.
Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.10.28 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.11.33 PM
As you can see, I embedded the post below…

So, the next time you want to download a photo from Facebook or other places, just hit the share button on your social media profiles, or embed it on your website.

Ryan Hoyme is the owner of MassageNerd.com and RyanHoyme.com

Credit Where Credit’s Due

A couple of months ago my friend Jon and I were gallivanting around town, cameras in hand. We snapped, filtered, cropped, ate undercooked soft pretzels and posted about our adventures on social media. This is what we often do when we hang out, and it’s just one reason we’re friends.

One of my shots from that day’s shenanigans turned out pretty well (if I do say so myself). I posted it on Instagram with the usual tags. It got some social media love, and was even used (with permission and with proper photo credit given) on two local blogs to illustrate stories. Huzzah!

I think the weirdness started when a local casino regrammed the photo without giving me credit. Then it appeared – again, without credit — on a local government office’s Twitter feed. I thought the wild ride had ended, until just the other day when a local small business regrammed the photo (do I even need to say without credit?) AND had added their own logo to the mix. *cues Twilight Zone theme music*

This photo of my kitty niece is not the photo I'm talking about.

This photo of my hairy niece is not the photo I’m talking about.

Look, mistakes happen. I’m not claiming to be Saint Andrea here. I may have at some point in time uploaded a snippet of laser-riffic or double neck guitar concert footage to the interwebs. One time I took photos at a Holocaust museum exhibit because I didn’t see the signs forbidding photography until after I had already been through the building. (Even though they were serious, respectful photos and this happened a long time ago, I still feel a little bit embarrassed by this tacky error.)

But I don’t “regram” without giving credit. If I like something on Facebook enough to post it on my page, I use the “share” function…I don’t save the graphic and upload it myself, implying it is my own original creation. And “retweet”? It’s a thing!

I guess my gears grind the hardest when I witness improper social media sharing inside of our rather intimate communities. Whether we’re interacting within a geographical area of small businesses (or large businesses that should know better), or within an online collective made up of well-intentioned massage therapists (or large massage therapy businesses that should know better), we really should strive to behave courteously at all times. Remaining mindful of our integrity and trustworthiness will serve us best in the long run, and that’s definitely an impression worth sharing.

***

Want to know how to report copyright violations on Instagram and Facebook? BAM.

Want to learn more about sharing and caring? Tune in to The Young Thumbs next week, when our very own Massage Nerd discusses copyright issues!

Thrift Store Finds for Your Massage Business

Running a small business can be expensive, ever wonder where to shop to save a images (1)few bucks? When I mention shopping for my massage business at thrift stores, I sometimes get a sideways glance or two…but there’s a method to my madness. The trick to fabulous finds at thrift stores is to make small trips often. It is unlikely that you will find all of this great stuff with one or two trips, but if you stop in every once in awhile, you’ll soon start to make great little discoveries. I usually pop in to various stores for a 20-30 minute trip once or twice a week. Since I am a mobile massage therapist, I usually make these trips between clients or on my lunch break in different parts of town.

If you have never shopped at a thrift store before, or if you find thrift stores unsavory, this post might not be for you…but if, like me, you enjoy a good thrift store and find shopping to be a relaxing experience – you might find yourself scanning the shelves with a fresh pair of eyes. Here are some of the things you can look out for. 

  1. This one is as obvious as it is surprising: professional massage equipment. It isn’t likely to be found, I have only come across a few things in my thrifting excursions, but when you do find some, it is especially exciting. I once bought an extra Earthlite facerest platform for my massage table for $7, and a professional leg bolster for $5. There was an Oakworks Nova massage table for $80, which I didn’t purchase at the time because I didn’t need one. My latest find, that I am really excited about, is a Medi-Rub foot massager machine for $10! If you have ever used one of these bad boys you know what a steal that is. I use it for myself, as well as bring it with me to office and convention chair gigs as an added perk for my chair massage clients. 
  2. Self Massage tools – from foot massagers to finger massagers, to vibration and percussion tools, people are constantly sending their self-care devices to thrift shops. These can be a great way to practice a little of what we preach between clients to take care of ourselves. Some of the things I have purchased include a Homedics shiatsu massage chair mat for $12 (this works incredibly well to ease my scoliosis symptoms when I can’t get in for a massage right away), an “Original Foot Log” for $3 (hands-down amazing for people with plantar fasciitis – I bring it with me to appts for clients to try out), and a calf-stretching rocker for $3. I am also the proud owner of a vintage Spine-a-Lator which I purchased for $125. My favorite recent find is a Spoonk acupressure mat which I paid $5 for. I LOVE this thing. I use it before bed or sometimes after a hot shower and find it incredibly relaxing on my back and the soles of my feet. It is a huge stress-reliever.
  3. Office organization supplies. You can find everything from briefcases to sample cases, binders and new packs of filing folders, executive planner cases, mail sorters, magazine racks, bulletin boards, white boards…and even smaller items such as three hole punches. I have bought all of my mobile massage bags at thrift shops – I usually use business traveling cases – my last one was a nice Kenneth Cole which I purchased for $10, and my current one is a Franklin Covey equipment bag which I purchased for $2.50. 
  4. Decorative Items. This one is pretty self explanatory. You can find many decorative items at thrift shops, the biggest problem here is really knowing what/when not to buy, so that your massage room doesn’t end up cluttered and messy. Often I find great deals on candles here. Such as the big three-wick candles usually used on coffee tables for a buck or two, or wooden wick candles, or huge bags of tealights for a buck. My favorite find so far would have to be my Himalayan salt glow lamp, which I purchased for $3. I know it is pretty cliche for a massage space, but I just love the golden pink glow from a pretty salt lamp…and they can be expensive in health food stores. My second favorite find would be the old style glass bulb Young Living essential oil diffuser which I purchased for…wait for it…75 cents! 
  5. High quality massage sheets and blankets. The concept of buying used massage linens came up in a massage group awhile ago and it seemed people were pretty divided about it. If you are someone who is comfortable using secondhand sheets (and really, aren’t they all secondhand once one client has used them?) then you can potentially buy much higher quality and/or higher thread count sheets for a fraction of the price you would pay for much lower quality new sheets. It is incredibly important that you thoroughly inspect every inch of the sheets to make sure there aren’t any stains, rips, or loose threads and that the sheets are thoroughly sanitized before going into rotation with your other sets. This means hot water, detergent and bleach, as well as a hot and thorough drying cycle. 
  6. Promotional display items: Comment card boxes, raffle boxes, picture frames, poster frames, A-frame signs, business card holders, etc.
  7. Client gifts. I know, that sounds cheap as heck…but give it a chance. Thrift stores are actually an amazing place to find small special client gifts. For instance, one of my clients just loves Disney, she takes her family to Disneyland every year for their annual trip, and a lot of her Christmas decorations are Disney themed. When I saw a gorgeous limited edition Disney Christmas ornament at a thrift shop for $8, picking it up for her as a Christmas gift was a no-brainer (after inspecting it very thoroughly for any defects). The original box was a bit banged up, so I tossed it and instead wrapped it in a satin organza bag and put it into a little sequined re-usable Christmas box which I picked up at the same store for $1. She loved it.  For my client who loves The Little Mermaid, a tiny snow globe for $2. For my client who is a chef who loves French cooking – a little kitchen sign with a quote from Julia Childs was a great personalized gift at only $3. Shopping this way allows me to give something my client will like, rather than something impersonal yet affordable which they don’t need. We all have/receive enough of that stuff. 
  8. Stationery and paper goods. Honestly, here is where I save the most money when it comes to thrift store shopping for my business. I send out a lot of cards, and you can buy big packs of greeting cards, beautiful stationery, envelopes, etc for a fraction of the price you would buy new. My newest great find for my summer promo mailers were these beautiful Papyrus notecards. There are 14 cards, envelopes, and gold hummingbird seals in each box and I got 5 boxes for $1.09 each. I’ll send these out with a little personal note and some summer promotions to all of my regulars, possibly with a coupon for a friend or family member. Photo paper is also always available in abundance for a tiny fraction of the price you pay at the store. Another paper good you can almost always find is Avery printable business cards. These aren’t really good for using as actual business cards (you can buy inexpensive, much better quality cards online) but they work very well for promotional purposes as coupons or referral cards. I like the versatility of thinking up a promotional idea and being able to print up a sheet or two the same day, possibly tailored to a holiday or specific event. You can usually pick up a pack of 250 for $1. 
  9. Furniture. Desks, bookcases, filing cabinets, lamps, chairs, good condition throw rugs, etc. This one is pretty self-explanatory. 
  10. Attire. If you are looking to build a professional wardrobe, but on a smaller budget, thrift stores are a great option with clothing that is often higher quality/longer lasting than the cheap new stuff you can buy at your local EverythingMart. You can buy a cheap polo shirt for $10 or $15 at your local big box store, or you can and buy a name brand Nike (for example) polo shirt of much higher quality at a thrift store for about $5. They cost less, you get more use out of them, and you keep goods out of the landfill. Not to mention many thrift stores are connected to Charities in your local community, so you may also be helping out those in need depending on where you shop (My favorite local store is Savers – which benefits SafeNest). That’s a win-win in my book.

Always check items very thoroughly for defects, and remember to have fun! Do you have an awesome thrift store or garage sale find in your office or in use in your business? If so, please share in the comments :)