How To Avoid Difficult Massage Clients- For Good!

We’ve all had them. You can’t please them; they are always late then have the audacity to complain about your massage room, the oils, the curtains, your music, or whatever they can think about that doesn’t meet their standards of perfection. They’re never come for their appointment on time, they leave their money ‘at home’, they never refer anybody to you….the list goes on.

I had a client once who was always clinging on to her Asthma for an excuse for everything. After 20 minutes into the appointment she arrived late (couldn’t find her puffer), doesn’t apologise (why should she, she was an asthmatic) and still expected her hour treatment (because Asthmatics need a full hour) and then criticised me for not using X,Y,Z technique, after all her last massage therapist did it (she die of asthma if I didn’t and it would be my fault)….I wanted to strangle her. But I didn’t because I wanted her business.

Then one day she forgot her purse at home (her puffers made her do it) and said “I’ll be back in ten minutes with the money.” I didn’t see her again. By this time I was so sick of it that I wrote her a letter. I was polite yet assertive. In a nutshell I was sick of being walked on and treated without respect. After all her breathing had never been better like when she was seeing me…I don’t mean to big note myself but it was just a fact. I deserved better.

About a week later I wrote her a letter explaining that I felt disappointed and hurt that she didn’t pay me because it was like she did not value me or the good work I was doing and to please pay within 7 days of getting this letter otherwise I shall seek legal action. As any normal business person would.

Well you can imagine what her reaction was. Because I’d spoken to her in an assertive way she was very angry after all she could have had an Asthma attack and died. She accused me of being unfair and didn’t want to see me again. Phew! I was so glad. She sent me a cheque pretty quickly though. And that was all she had to do. Frankly I didn’t want her back. And I was not being aggressive, I was being assertive. (There is a huge difference.)

Question: What went wrong? Why did this person give me grief?

Answer: because I let them.

I just wanted to make my massage business to work and I thought I had to accept new clients just because they gave me business. I thought that a big part of making my massage business work was accepting clients that came my way…ANY clients.

But I learnt something very different (and extremely valuable) from that experience. That was to value myself as a person and a massage therapist. So I made the decision to never let another client treat me like that again. I would recognise the signs of a “difficult” client and nip it in the bud, so to speak and stop it from getting stressful. (After all the difficult client doesn’t feel stress; YOU DO!)

I devised a mental formula to prepare me to terminate difficult relationships without delay. As soon as a new client displayed any of the signs of being a difficult client, they were referred to someone else instantly. I had a mental checklist and used it actively. Since then I was able to recognise difficult clients and make the conscious choice of self value and my life would be so much better. After all who needs it for $70?

If you have had an experience like this then you know the headache they can cause you. So the first thing to bringing fabulous, regular, appreciative clients into your life and get rid of the difficult ones, or disconnect them from your life. To do this you need to recognise the signs of a difficult client.

Checklist to avoid:

Ø A ridiculously late arrival for the treatment without any apology or acknowledgment that they have inconvenienced you.

Ø Forgets their money or doesn’t have enough at the end of the massage treatment (let you get the whole massage through and then tells you they don’t have enough money on them).

Ø Criticises you in some very subtle way (this is called ‘invalidation’ such as “are you still using that cheap massage oil?”)

Ø Always compares you to their other massage therapist out loud in conversation with you, implying they were better and they are just seeing you because the other person went out of business, town etc, etc

Ø Tells you that they would like to make an appointment but suggests that you give them half price because eventually they will tell people about you, which somehow qualifies them for a huge discount. (This really means they do not value you.)

Ø Rings five minutes before the appointment to cancel then gets annoyed because they can’t have an appointment on a time you don’t work (like 10pm Friday night.)

Believe it or not their behavior is not personal. These people are like this because they don’t like themselves and have a difficult time with self value and respect. This manifests into insecurity and a difficulty in relating to other people in an honest and respectable way. They have not learnt to show others respect. They are like this to everyone, you just have the unfortunate situation dealing with them right now.

If a client displays ANY of these things you can handle it effectively for yourself by making the decision to be assertive. My advice to you is that they are just not worth the stress or headache. You are a valuable person and a very important massage therapist who deserves the very best that clients can give you and should not take any less, consider yourself to accept anything less. You are here now, doing something incredibly good for humanity so value yourself for it.

And think of this; if you charge $70 per massage treatment then you are putting up with all of this for $70. Is it your happiness more to you than $70? If it is, tell these people to see someone else. You are worth more.

Best wishes,

Amy Roberts

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1 Response to “How To Avoid Difficult Massage Clients- For Good!”


  1. 1 Jaime Self January 19, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Hello Amy! I was google searching “Difficult Clients” and came across your page. Everything rang true for me, especially today. I’ve had a “Loyal” client for years who has been paying $100 for four 60-minute massages. I never changed the price for them bc truthfully thay was the starting out price and I’m a push over. They were very difficult and always took a lot from me mentally. I had to listen to him talk about details of his life that no one should have to listen to and let it go bc he was old. He always would talk long after his massage knowing I had another client coming in saying “You’re not in a hurry are you” with a sly grin. He’s made comments on my looks on more than one occasion. He was narcissistic on many levels and thought I was oblivious to it, but I wasn’t. I just endured it for the sake of business. He would also ask me to wipe the lotion off his back after each massage because “He’s old and can’t reach it.” I put up with a lot.
    A few times I ask if he could come in earlier or later to align my appointments. I made sure to let him know that if it didn’t work for him we would keep his original appointment. He always seemed obliged. I mixed up his appointment one day with someone else’s and made sure I called before making the trip, offering to give him a free one. Then, his disagree tried to set up a couple times. On the day she called she expected to get in and there was no availability. That angered him and he assured me he would not be back. I was livid! Not because I wanted him to stay but bc of his anger and aggression towards me. I was in shock bc I was so good to him.
    Thanks for your article! It was a tremendous help to me! This was surely a tough day but I now know I too must be more assertive.


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