January 23, 2014

Last month, I wrote an article about the Undercover Boss episode that featured Massage Heights.  My response to the program was like many other massage therapists across the country, disbelief and anger.  In fact this one episode caused a massive outpouring of comments and hate across the internet.  But that was mostly from massage therapists, and a lot of that was justified, but some of it was not.

The program showed Shane Evans, the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Massage Heights going into several of their stores and doing jobs in them.  Those jobs ranged from the normal management of the front desk to actually doing massage on a client and performing the job of an estitician (which actually happened here in Jacksonville).  In the case of the last two, state laws were broken as Ms. Evans was not licensed. 

This angered many massage therapists who poured out their opinions over the internet as what was shown demeaned what they do.  Keep in mind that the outrage came from those that work in the profession, not the general public, which is part of the problem.  The program basically said that anyone can go in and ‘rub bodies’ and get paid for it.  That they don’t need any specialized training in the field of healthcare or anything else.  “Here just rub like this and you’ll be fine.”  And what was even more concerning than her doing massage was her doing the facials where she was popping pimples and such. 

Now, I have had the opportunity to read one article which came after an interview with Ms. Evans, and watch an hour long video interview with her talking to The Massage Nerd (a YouTube regular program).  And the truth behind that program came out, or as much as she could talk about.  You see, she had to sign so many confidentiality agreements that she really could not talk too much about her experience without opening herself up to legal action from Undercover Boss.  But through these interviews we know this…

Undercover Boss (referred to hereafter as UB only because I am lazy) tapes for hours and days to come up with 43 minutes of programming, and they decide how they want to edit it.  The company featured has no say in it whatsoever.  So if UB wants to put a slant on a company (positive or negative) they do. 

Ms. Evans did not know that she would be doing actual massage on an actual client, and truly was not comfortable with it.  At the same time, this client was told that their session would be free and that a trainee would be working on them.  (I am not sure that this is still something I would do as a business owner.  I am pretty sure I would not do it as a client because I know the value of a quality massage, and how a bad one can really make you feel bad.  At the same time, I feel that most of the people that go to franchises like this do not really know the value of a good massage.  They just go for the price.  See journal entry here to understand.)

Again, there are so may contracts going on in the background with UB that it makes one’s head spin. 

One of the other things that caught everyone’s attention was when Ms. Evans referred to the idea of Massage Heights as a “sexy business model”.  That sparked a tremendous amount of hate for this company because she referred to it as sexy, which sparks most people to think of it as sex, or part of the sex trade.  And this is something that every legitimate massage therapist has a battle with.  Massage is healthcare, not sex.  Yet we still get people coming in asking for ‘happy endings’ and other sexual favors.  (It almost makes one wish that the government would make prostitution legal so people looking for that had somewhere to go instead of to a massage therapist.) 

But this comment bothered others more than it did me.  I have heard things being described as sexy and have nothing to do with sex.  These things include cars, the weather, houses.  I even had a boss describe the word processing program he wrote as sexy.  It is just another term meaning good, or really neat.  But when Ms. Evans said it, she said a lot more around it, yet she knew right away that UB would cut everything around it and leave it on its own to infer whatever it would.  She said she regretted it the second it came out of her mouth. 

One of the other things that caught people’s attentions was the way she reacted when she found people were not using the company lotions.  In the Massage Nerd interview, she admitted that they have trouble with some of the scents mixing with the lotion and they are looking into it. 

Now, do I like franchises that pay their people very little so they can charge less?  No.  Do I think the person going in gets the same quality and care from their therapist du jour as they do at stand-alone massage therapy places?  No.  (But that’s only my opinion.  I could be wrong.) 

But I do feel that Massage Heights got a really bad showing from this program?  Yes.  Now, I do feel that during one of the interviews, Ms. Evans did a little backpedaling.  But even still, the program made her look awful.  And because of all the contracts signed, she has no recourse to prove otherwise either in court or the court of public opinion.

One has to remember that these programs are entertainment.  UB goes in to someplace with their cameras all around.  In most cases (especially after the first one at Hooters), I feel most people think and act differently when they are being filmed.  In each case, there is always some unsung hero that is supporting 10 kids and working five jobs to make ends meet.  It really takes imagination to believe any of it is real. 

UB is a loose cannon on the business industry.  People believe it is real, but it is far from it.  Oh, some of it is real, but by the time all the footage is taken apart and melded into the 43 minutes they show on air, UB can take everything said and done out of context and put whatever spin on it they want.  Now, I watched this program the first season.  But I lost interest as I started seeing a pattern which caused disbelief.  I only watched this one because I saw an advertisement just moments before it aired and it was in my industry, an industry that was badly maligned by their program. 

I guess if you watch programs like Undercover Boss, you have to realize that this is entertainment.  The program is classified Reality Programming, but that is a big contradiction in terms because these shows are anything but real.  They edit down and make dramatic situations where none exist.  They force situations when there are none to start with because it makes good entertainment no matter what companies or people being hurt. 

I feel that the outrage this one program caused from the massage industry should be directed toward the network and in boycotts of advertised products instead of Massage Heights.  Just remember all of this the next time you want to watch UN-Reality TV.