Although most of my clients are grateful when I can see them on the same day they call, I was awakened yesterday morning by a potential client who asked “Do you take walk-ins?” It was the second time I had heard this question in a week, so I decided to blog about it. The short answer is no. I’ll take an appointment on short notice (less than an hour) when my schedule permits and I feel like it, but I never take walk-ins. Clients have to make an appointment in advance, even if it’s just an hour later. Why? There are three basic reasons:
- I am a single therapist in a professional office, not a large group practice with a retail storefront. I have a high quality, low volume practice. I know some large group practices and spas can accommodate walk-ins. They have a vastly different business model than I do. For the most part these are cut-rate outfits like Massage Envy, which pays therapists almost nothing and burns them out at a rapid rate. These businesses rarely attract experienced professionals. They’ll have several therapists at a time sitting around, just to meet peak demand when it happens. That works fine for the business, but not so well for the massage therapist who wastes a lot of time sitting around. It might not work so well for the client, either. Demoralized workers don’t tend to do their best work.
- Familiarity breeds contempt. I work in the health care field, not in the personal services industry. I do clinically-oriented pain relief and injury rehabilitation, not fluff-‘n-buff relaxation massage. You don’t just walk in to your doctor’s office and expect him or her to see you right away, do you? Your dentist? Your physical therapist? Asking me to do a walk-in appointment takes my time and expertise for granted. It’s disrespectful! It’s hard to trust people whom we don’t respect, and the client’s trust in me (and vice-versa) is essential to building rapport. A person who can’t commit to a particular time is not likely to be sufficiently motivated to show up, even at their convenience.
- My time is valuable. To accept walk-in clients, I would have to chain myself to my massage table 40 hours a week. Now, there is some non-massage work I do in the office: cleaning, keeping my books in order, fighting with insurance companies and lawyers who don’t want to pay my bills, and so forth. However, I have a life, and some of my work takes me outside the office. I do everything related to my business from laundering sheets to buying toilet paper. I can’t sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting for the phone to ring just so a potential client can get a massage an hour sooner. I have too many other things to do so that clients can have my full attention during their appointment.
So why don’t I do walk-ins? They are inconvenient, disrespectful to me, and my office is not set up to handle a high-volume practice. If that’s what you’re looking for, you probably wouldn’t be happy with my individual service and exceptional therapeutic skills. You probably wouldn’t want to pay what those services are worth, either. Getting a good massage requires some foresight. Research the therapist(s) you are considering. Make certain they do the kind of bodywork you prefer, and that they have experience with your particular issue. Make an appointment at a mutually convenient time. Finally, please leave some time after the session to enjoy the effects of the work. Rushing off right away tends to reduce the effectiveness of any therapy.