Pulling off a great surprise massage, while mobile.

If you have been doing mobile massage therapy for a few years now, chances are you have received at least one request for a “surprise” massage for someone’s birthday or anniversary. If you haven’t yet, you will be soon. Pulling it off just right requires a little extra care, and the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies well.

First of all, let me tell you about a few experiences I have had when I didn’t handle the surprise gift well, and things went awry.

Scenario #1
A sweet older gentleman calls me from overseas. He has to be away for work for months at a time and this time, he has to miss his anniversary. So he decided to have an entire day of pampering, including a massage, delivered to his wife at home. Seems like a sweet and thoughtful gift, right? Until he doesn’t tell her I am coming. I show up to her door, and at first she doesn’t answer the door, so I call the contact number he gave me and she picks up the phone. I explain what I am there to do, and she says “Go Away!” and hangs up! I left and called her husband, who talks me into going back. Once I am there, it is apparent that she speaks very little English. She wouldn’t disrobe at all (no big deal) but also insisted I strip the sheets off the table before she would lay down on it…then she tried to clean my table with (wait-for-it)…Windex! It was the most awkward 90 minutes ever.

Scenario #2
Another gentleman calls me to set up a massage for his wife’s birthday. Everything is going well on the phone, then I casually mention that it is a good idea to let her know about the appointment ahead of time. He says that he won’t be doing that, he wants that “big surprise” moment. I mention it might be a good idea just so that way she has time to prepare for the massage if she wants to, you know, shower right before…some ladies like to shave their legs, etc. He gets incredibly offended and says “My wife is ALWAYS freshly showered and shaven. She isn’t a dirty person, YOU could EAT off of her.” I was able to calm him down, but it was an awkward misunderstanding that could have been avoided by choosing my words more carefully.

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of the actual appointment, and the awkwardness on the phone? I’ve learned that a few questions and a few key phrases really do the trick to starting off on the right foot. Let’s pretend for a moment that Ben is getting a massage for his wife Susan for her birthday. He wants to surprise her and really wow her this year, so he is ordering her a massage.

Questions to Ask Ben on the Phone
“Has Susan ever had a massage before?”
This one seems obvious, but it is actually one of the sneakier screening questions. Many, many times I have had someone say “No, but I am always telling them that they need to and now I am just sending you straight to them so they can’t get out of it”, assuming that I will agree to their plan of “putting sight into their blind eyes”. When someone says something like this I strongly advise against it, and if they refuse to tell the person ahead of time, I refuse the appointment. Massage therapy is personal enough in an office, and people can feel even more vulnerable when at home. There’s no need to make someone feel uncomfortable or invade their personal space.

Do you have anything else special planned for before or after the massage?”
If there is a fabulous meal planned, you certainly don’t want to show up immediately after…or too soon before. Many clients don’t plan for buffer time before and after their 60/90/120mins for set-up and break down. It is your responsibility to remind them.

“Will you be there for the massage?”
This gives you an idea of how they would like to pay, how many people will be in the house, and who will be answering the door. Follow up questions I have are if they have children, and if the kids will be there while she is getting her massage. If he says that the kids will be going out somewhere, I usually suggest that they leave before I arrive, so that mom doesn’t get caught up trying to get the kids ready and can instead focus on herself and relaxing. If he says that they will be at home, I usually suggest inviting them in while I am setting up so they can check out the table and get a sense of what is going on…making them (I have found) less likely to interrupt mom once she is on the table.

Advice I would give to Ben/A few key phrases to use
“So there are a few things to consider to pull off a really good surprise massage.”
This usually gets them into “listening mode” and they are more likely to give you a little time to explain.

“People need to be told beforehand, so that they can mentally prepare for the massage. When I just show up at the door, it can sometimes catch people off-guard and make them uncomfortable, which isn’t conducive to their relaxation.”
This phrase is perfect for demonstrating that you want them to be told ahead of time because you are concerned for them and want them to enjoy their session, not because you are concerned about yourself and your own comfort. The two words “mentally prepare” seem to be the keywords that work best for me. I also never say “You might want to ” or “It might be a good idea” because in my practice it is actually a requirement. I don’t do surprise home visits anymore unless the person is told at least a few hours before I come, or preferably the night before. Very few people break that rule.

“Some good ways to get that “big surprise” moment for Susan would be to serve her breakfast in bed, or bring her flowers, then casually mention she will have a massage therapist coming over tomorrow.”
The ladies always go ga-ga over this whole presentation and totally think it was their husband’s idea (Which I let them, of course, hehe.)

So there you have it, a few things to consider to make this surprise massage a great one. Susan will have the best birthday ever – and you will have two happy customers. Do you have any advice to give when it comes to pulling off a great surprise massage, while mobile? Please post in the comments below!

Ariana La Cour, a Nevada native, lives and works in fabulous Vegas (baby) . She is a full time licensed massage therapist who runs her own small mobile massage company, is a part time massage blogger, runs the Las Vegas Massage Therapy Meetup Group, and is an aspiring author. She is the main shenanigator over at MassageHacks.com. She adores both kale smoothies and chocolate equally, and doesn’t see a problem with it. She is a sucker for bouquets of newly sharpened pencils. She dislikes pointy toed shoes, complacency, and when people don’t use their turn signals. You know who you are.

Photo courtesy of RyanHoyme.com