An Inside Look at Massage Cancellation Policies

One of the hardest things that massage therapists have to deal with is clients who cancel their appointments, especially when it turns out to be a no-show who has given no notice that they were planning to cancel. It is for this reason that many massage therapists have had to enact cancellation policies for their practices. Some clients are surprised or offended that they will be charged for a missed appointment or last-minute cancellation, since to them it seems only a minor adjustment to the massage therapist’s schedule. In this post, I would like to give people an inside look into the process of setting up a massage room as well as how not showing up for an appointment or cancelling on short notice is truly an inconvenience to your massage therapist.

Why are massage cancellation policies a necessity?

A good massage therapist does not just show up last-minute to the scheduled appointment with barely enough time to turn on the lights and make sure that the room is ready before the client walks in the door. Most therapists will show up anywhere from twenty to forty minutes ahead of time to turn on the towel and table warmers and give them sufficient time to heat up, review their treatment plans for their clients that day, prepare any additional materials for the massage (hot stones, scrubs, etc.), and make the space a place of welcome and healing for the clients. It takes a lot of time and energy to get everything ready! Picture then, the therapist’s disappointment when a client does not show up for their massage after all this care and preparation. It is disheartening to say the least, especially if that client was the sole appointment for the day. Now, if the therapist has a few other appointments scheduled, the client might view one no-show as a small loss; but the fact of the matter is that the appointment that could have been given to another client who was hoping for a massage is now available to no one and gives the therapist no income. They have no choice but to sit and wait for the next client to arrive for their scheduled appointment.

Even cancellations within several hours of an appointment put a significant strain on the therapist. Just as most people have their days planned out well ahead of time, massage therapists do as well. To cancel an appointment with only a few hours notice puts a wrench into the workings of the therapist’s day. They might be able to find another client to fill the appointment slot in that small amount of time, but it is actually rather hard to do when they advertise an opening on such short notice. Most other people have also planned out their day in advance and may not be able to drop everything just to go get a massage. Besides that, if the massage therapist has a session or two before the cancelled slot, they will be busy massaging their clients and unable to get in touch with other people who might want the spot.

Massage therapists will all acknowledge that sometimes clients have no choice but to cancel on short notice. Deaths in the family, health emergencies, a call from a child’s school. Any number of things can cause an unforeseen disruption to a client’s day and force them to reschedule everything. In such cases, massage therapists are usually willing to cut the client a break once or twice, since they know that life is unpredictable and the client is not abusing the therapist’s time and effort. Even for no-shows where the client completely forgets that they had an appointment, the therapist may be willing to forego charging them the first time, as long as the client doesn’t make a habit out of forgetting their appointments. However, cancellation policies are the massage therapist’s “insurance policy,” if you will. Clients are much more likely to show up for their appointments on time or cancel with plenty of advance notice if they know that they will be charged a fee for disrupting the therapist’s schedule without a moment’s thought.

So what are some good things to keep in mind as a client if your massage therapist has a cancellation policy? First off, be sure to read it! Most therapists have their policy spelled out rather clearly, whether on their business card, a brochure, their website, or elsewhere. Mine, for instance, is printed on the back of every business card. If you can’t find one, be sure to ask the therapist about it. They will be happy to tell you the policy if they have one.

And, of course, be courteous about cancelling your appointments well in advance if you have to. As mentioned above, sometimes things are out of your control and you have to reschedule last minute. That’s fine. But, if you know that you have a business trip coming up that got scheduled for the same week as your massage appointment, don’t wait until the day before your appointment to call up the therapist and tell them you’re out of town and won’t be able to make it. Call as soon as you see the conflict on the schedule! That way, you give the therapist plenty of time to give someone else the appointment, and you get the added bonus of being able to reschedule your appointment right then and there when the therapist still has plenty of open slots for the coming weeks.

If you are one of those people who has trouble remembering appointments and often ends up showing up late or missing them entirely, be sure to make several notes for yourself about your upcoming massage session. There are calendars on our phones that can be set to give a reminder, physical notes you can write yourself to stick on the fridge or other noticeable place, and many other ways that you can remind yourself of your schedule. As an added bonus, most massage therapists have software that will send you a reminder text or email a day or two before your appointment. If you’re especially worried about it, ask the massage therapist if they will make a note on your file that you would like a phone call to confirm each appointment. As another alternative, you could book several sessions in a row at the same day and time each week or month so that you form a habit of receiving massage and don’t accidentally forget about your regular session or double-book. That way, unless the world is literally falling down around your ears (which is a very valid reason to have to cancel and reschedule your appointment last minute), you shouldn’t have to worry about forgetting a session ever again!

In general, massage therapists don’t actually want to have to implement their cancellation policies at all. We would much rather be consistently seeing our clients and giving them our healing touch. However, many therapists feel the need to have one in place just for a little extra job security, since some people show discourtesy to our time on a consistent basis. Don’t be one of those clients! Rather, strive to be the one that the therapist is pleased to have because you are always on time, cancel and reschedule your appointments well in advance, never forget an appointment, and make the therapist’s job of running a business and scheduling their precious time that much easier.