I recently answered an excellent clarification question on Quora: “When massage therapists complete a massage and say, ‘Take your time getting up,’ do they mean five minutes, or fifteen?” For lots of clients, this is an area of uncertainty. Everyone wants to enjoy the luxurious feeling of a limber, relaxed body after a great massage, but no one wants to be discourteous to their therapist and make them run behind by spending too much time on the table. So what is the proper etiquette to follow once you’ve finished a massage session? Read my response to find out!
“This is a great question and one which leads to a lot of misunderstandings on the part of the client. Generally, it means to not just jump right off the table but to take a minute or two to regain your presence and control over your body, let your blood pressure adjust so that you don’t unexpectedly faint, and bring yourself back into the moment. However, it also partly depends on the massage business itself.
When you only have 5 minutes or fewer between appointment times
Take, for instance, the franchise places such as Massage Envy. They typically schedule clients for fifty-minute massages back-to-back with only about ten minutes between appointments. (So a massage scheduled for 2:00 would run until 2:50 and the next one would begin at 3:00.) This means that the therapist has very little time to finish with one client before they have to clean and prepare the room for the next client and start the next session. Hence, when they leave the room and tell you to take your time getting up, if you lay there for the next five minutes, you have cut into their time to get ready for the next client and have probably made them run behind schedule. In such a case, although you may wish to remain on the table and take a nap, it is discourteous to the therapist to put them in a position of running late for their future appointments.
When you are at a luxury spa and have a little more time between appointments
Hotel and luxury day spas usually have a similar policy but with about fifteen to twenty minutes between appointments as opposed to ten. After all, they certainly don’t want the client to feel as though they are being rushed through their luxury experience for which they may have paid top dollar! They also acknowledge that the therapist has to have adequate time to prepare the room properly for the next client, and that if a client chooses to lay on the table for five minutes before getting up then the next appointment has a good chance of running late if the therapist doesn’t have at least ten minutes with which to prepare everything. Plus, for luxury spas, there is usually a little more preparation that goes into the room than at your average Massage Envy. There may be baths to fill, saunas to prepare, essential oils to diffuse, candles to be lit, and special food setups to be laid out. So while you may have a little bit longer to lie on the table after your massage, you probably still shouldn’t push it too much and try to stay below the five-minute mark. Usually a good spa will try to schedule appointments and rooms in such a way that there is more than adequate time between appointments, but sometimes on busy days, that just cannot happen. Again, it’s a courtesy to your therapist to not take up too much of their time once they have finished your session.
When you are at a private practice that can set its own scheduling
Private massage business owners have a little more flexibility in this regard, depending on how many clients per day they wish to schedule and how close together they place the appointments. Some therapists follow the Massage Envy model, putting their clients back-to-back and having very little time in between appointments to prepare for the next client. Obviously, taking more than a minute or two to lie on the table in such a case would push the therapist behind schedule. Other therapists prefer to give both themselves and their clients a bit more time to relax and reset after a massage and will schedule appointments at least a half-hour apart. That way, even if the client spends five or even ten minutes getting up off the table and checking out, the therapist still has an adequate amount of time to prepare the room for the next client. Some therapists even offer their clients the option of paying a small fee for additional time to rest on the table once the massage has concluded. This way, the client gets the time they need to get up and the therapist is still being compensated for the fact that the room is in use and they cannot prepare it right away for another client.
One respondent suggested that if massage therapists really meant that the client should take as long as they like, then they would find a way to set up the next client in a different room and leave the other client alone until they really were ready to get off the table and go on about their day. (In fact, they even seemed huffy that their therapist had not taken any action on this suggestion when they had offered it.) In an ideal world, that might be possible. However, for most therapists who own their own businesses, it is simply not feasible. For instance, even if rent is fairly inexpensive, having two rooms available but with only one in use at a time means that the therapist is paying double for the space while only making the same amount of money that they would make if they had one room in operation. Not a very smart business move, even if it made their clients happier with the extra time they could spend on the table. Besides that, if the therapist does not have a receptionist to take the client’s payment (which is the case for many independent practitioners who simply can’t afford to pay a receptionist full-time or who are in a location that doesn’t have a setup that is feasible for a receptionist), then they have to check out the client before the next client arrives for their appointment. They obviously cannot do this if they escort the next client in for their appointment while the first client is still relaxing on the table in another room.
If you are confused about how long you are able to spend on the table without infringing on the therapist’s time, don’t be shy about asking the therapist. Usually, they will be happy to give you a general idea of their schedule so that you will have a better notion of how long is appropriate to spend after your massage just lying on the table and getting back in the moment.”