Clearing the Air? Spa and scent


The human sense of smell is profound. Not that long ago, the olfactory system was subject to a very different cornacoupia than we have available to us today. We are bombarded with scent, be it thru perfumes in our toiletries, in our home cleaning products, while we window shop in stores or boutiques and even when we step into a crowded room. Unless we are outdoors with the wind, we rarely encounter “clean” air.

In massage therapy and alternative health and wellness, the old notion of climatology as a backhanded form of racism has been transformed into a ban on perfume. It’s not necessarily unjustified in many cases and perhaps most cases. But it’s there nonetheless.

200 plus years ago, people lived on farms. Animals provided locomotion alongside new industrialized marvels like trains. Tobacco smoke was common and adopted by many. Tobacco smoke also served to temper the more unpleasant smells picked up during the day. Think about what those ‘other’ unpleasant aromas more than likely were for a moment…and then look at the number of tobacco scents available on the market. I’ve typically seen it paired with leather. Cologne and perfume, incense and candles, oils for home fragrance are the common products that cater to this aesthetic.

Which brings us to flowers and nosegays and what passed for perfume.


In the spa where I currently work, we are not allowed to wear perfume. Period. Regardless of job description or role. Period. This rule is designed for client comfort. We do offer scented products but we do not burn candles or use even so much as a scented air freshener anywhere other than the bathrooms. On that note, have a look at these product gems:

Poo Pourri


Which brings us round about to the subject of progress, climatology, pseudoscience, consumerism, design and environmental issues. Also known as conspiracy theory central: the home of Marxism in action as the witty occasionally deign to call it.

With so many unsavory scents bombarding us daily, many spas incorporate the absence of olfactory stimulation to soothe their guests. In our modern era, we all have personalized scent and internalized it. In our favorite shampoo and body products down to our chosen laundry detergent. Offering guests the absence of smell can be quite an unexpected change of pace from those spas that do utilize it.

Not all spas have the luxury of utilizing scent as a strategic endeavor. It’s my experience that aromatherapy treatments in theory require the absence of competing scents to be most effective and that this is the key selling point of scent in the modern era.

Spa layout and design should be a factor when making a decision to utilize scents and fragrance. How close are your treatment rooms to the lobby? How long are the hallways your guests use? Where are the bathrooms located? Do you have set rooms for aromatherapy purposes or not and are diffusers incorporated into each aromatherapy service? Does your spa offer hydrotherapy and so on? If your running a diffuser in the lobby and it permeates the treatment rooms, your losing money by diluting the quality of services and so on.

Suffice it to say, scent and it’s absence have value. How we interpret those facts and package them for clients remains an art.


NCBTMB and FSMTB: The Muddy Water remains?

I recently saw this article posted about a meeting of the minds between the NCB and the FSMTB. Meanwhile, comments continue to arise from various quarters across the country and abroad about what has been described as a lack of clarity.

The following statement from the NCB illustrates the lack of clarity I have heard expressed: “NCBTMB will no longer provide examinations for licensure purposes and will now focus exclusively on delivering quality certification programs.”

What I gather from reading this statement, alongside my own hesitation and those I have read online boil down to matter of civics and politics.

The NCB was for many years the only provider of any kind of exam that could be used as a gateway for the purpose of licensure.  The FSMTB emerged and without a word offered in polite language to those of us who either eschew ivory towers or who were outside of them for any reason at all, began deconstructing the NCB, rather than offering an alternative and they did it like Terrorists while the country was worried about more serious concerns and have consistently displayed the audacity of feigned innocence.

This statement “NCBTMB will no longer provide examinations for licensure purposes and will now focus exclusively on delivering quality certification programs” is not worthy of comment honestly. The value of the FSMTB is as dubious as that of the corpse they raped like a body on a battlefield. The NCB has the most dubious leadership at this point to have published that comment.

I remain disgusted beyond words.


The Ins and Outs of Tipping your Massage Therapist


Ashley M. Heidi Carter BS, LMT

The custom of ‘tipping’

The modern understanding of the word tip itself was first documented in the English language in 1706 and is the first mention of a ‘gratuity’ being offered in exchange for a product or service. Tipping was viewed as ‘undemocratic’ in some areas of the United States until the early 20th century when some segments of the economy recognized that they would be able to increase their profits by supplementing their employees’ wages with tips.

In 1916, William Scott ranted against the practice with more than a little irony on display in his book “The Itching Palm” where he states: “In the American democracy to be servile is incompatible with citizenship. Every tip given in the United States is a blow at our experiment in democracy. The custom announces to the world…that we do not believe practically that “all men are created equal.” Unless a waiter can be a gentleman, democracy is a failure. If any form of service is menial, democracy is a failure. Those Americans who dislike self-respect in servants are undesirable citizens; they belong in an aristocracy.”

Defining the value of Health and Wellness

Determining the value of a product or service is not always recognized as an objective decision but rather as a matter of personal taste and sense of ethics or for some, morality. As an example, the growth of the service sector in modern American economic history and life has not been viewed as a win-win for society at large. Many pundits have decried the growth of this segment of the economy as a herald of a larger societal decline resulting from the effects of everything from globalization and immigration to religion and politics. Despite these cries of heresy, in the 21st century, tipping does form the basis and backbone of the wages of all service providers who are not employed in the traditional STEM disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Tipping today is totally voluntary. When you book a massage, do you view yourself as purchasing a preventative health care product or modality or a personal care service? For the massage consumer, does a visit to your massage therapist signify a rare event for a special occasion, a gift, or is it about your quality of life? Are you visiting your massage therapist to recover from an injury or to maintain your health? Make a note of your answer and then consider if the answer to this question changes your perception of the value of the service you’re purchasing?

Tipping your Massage Therapist

Tipping anyone for any reason is customarily based on the consumers’ sense of satisfaction after having received a product or service as a rule of thumb. The following are basic rules of thumb to consider when tipping your massage therapist.



  • Does the setting my Massage Therapist works in determine how much I should tip? That depends on YOU – the consumer! In a spa setting, many guests take their total bill for all services and then apply the 15 to 20 percent rule and divide that amount between the various service providers. This can be done via credit card or cash tips. In both cases, let the desk know how much you would like to tip and they can allocate the amounts for you. In MOST Chiropractic offices, Wellness clinic or private Massage clinics, it is also presumed that a 15 to 20 percent tip or gratuity will be added onto the final bill for the service provider.


  • Should I tip more for a specialized massage such as Hot Stone, Neuromuscular, or Deep Tissue?

This often depends on whether or not the service was purchased a’ la carte or if a service charge on package purchases. If you’re visiting a private practitioner or a spa, it is appropriate to

tip a basic standard of 15 to 20 percent on the price of the service. It is always advisable when purchasing a massage package of any kind, be it from a spa or from a private practitioner to inquire if a service charge is included before receiving your treatment session. Don’t forget to inquire how much of that charge is received by the service provider.


  • Do I need to give the therapist a tip in person or can I leave it with the desk as I check out?

Either procedure is acceptable. All tips left with the desk upon check out will be allocated to the therapist based on company procedure – regardless of the size of the company. Tipping with a credit card in a large spa or massage clinic is the safest way to ensure your therapist receives the tip you allocated for them if you cannot place it directly in the therapist hand yourself. Many businesses provide envelopes for clients or guests to place cash tips in, and write the therapist name on an envelope once the guest or client has sealed it. These are distributed to therapists at the end of the day.


  • Should you include sales tax when calculating the tip?  Tips are calculated on the before tax price of a service or product.


  • Be Gracious: If you are pleased with the service you received, you are always welcome to exceed the 15 to 20 percent Golden Rule of tipping. The same applies if you are appalled by poor performance, regardless of whether or not you receive your massage from a spa or private massage clinic. Nothing communicates the concept that there is a problem with service quality like the absence of a tip to both the therapist and all management staff – including sole proprietors. If a therapist regularly does not receive tips, management will consider this a problem and over time, the therapist WILL be asked about the situation during performance reviews.

Quote of the day

“As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being.  If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, “It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.” How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?”

~ Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

Funding CAM Research


The paper above is a review of CAM funding since the Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Institute was founded in 1992. The review is critical to understanding the strategic position of the wellness industry. For those who like myself, have been in the industry since 1997 or earlier and whom were also in a position to anticipate resulting events, this is old news and a reminder.

Cupping Therapy: Massage Therapists be warned! Meta Study from 2012 shows the emperor has no clothes

cupping massage meta criticism

The link above is to a 2012 meta study. The study collected 135 research articles from 6 different databases published from 1992 thru 2010 in the US and overseas. As a stand alone treatment, cupping therapy did not have much value but was found to produce ‘synergy’ (my emphasis) when utilized alongside conventional treatments, no treatment and placebo. Cupping utilized alongside other alternative therapies were excluded from the study.

Of the studies that survived, a whopping 78 were wet cupping, which involves using a scalpel to create an incision to drain off excess blood raised to the surface of the skin once the cup is removed.

Excuse me massage therapists: Am I the only one who sees a problem with scope of practice here?

I would love to say more but I will let those who are inclined take it upon themselves to read the study and to discern, if they are able, to read between the lines about the promotion of this modality in the massage community.