I just booked my first Thai massage. My bones crack and I feel like a sore old granny from being more active than usual (a gentle reminder that I really should visit the gym a tad more often than I do...).
As with most of my endeavors, I fired up my mobile hotspot (my business lifeline while on the road) and did some quick interwebs searching. Some things I’ll leave to chance, but unhygienic massage parlors is certainly not one of them.
I found one right around the corner from my Airbnb with enough promising reviews. The English-version of their website refused to load for me, but I did enough browsing on the Czech page to know their pricing model is all wonky.
Here’s their price breakdowns for a Thai massage:
— 60-minutes: 990 CZK ($45 USD)
— 90-minutes: 1,119 CZK ($50 USD)
— 120-minutes: 1,300 CZK ($58 USD)
I’m all for tiered pricing at a discount to entice an upsell, but if you make the discount too steep, you meaningfully cut into your margins to a point that may do more harm than good. As a consumer, paying an additional $13 was definitely worth an extra full hour of relaxation. It was a no-brainer. As a business owner, I wonder if the $13 they make during this 60-minute extension covers the salaries for the massage therapist, two front desk staff, rent, electricity bills, additional overhead, etc. during that time. I would think not. If not, they should either re-evaluate the pricing and/or consider stopping this 120-minute service if the economics don’t work.
Which brings me to how I almost got fleeced... When I stopped in to schedule a massage (had to check out the place with my own eyes first), they gave me a seat in a comfy chair and handed me a pretty, laminated menu with their “daily specials," which had completely different (and worse!) pricing than I had found via their website. They were offering a 60-minute Thai massage for 1,149 CZK (which is more expensive than the same massage they offer for 90-minutes online) and no 120-minute option.
Naturally, this made me a little exasperated, but I didn’t want to exacerbate my need for self-care. Before getting too worked up about this ginormous business red flag, I simply took a deep breath, pulled up their website pricing on my phone, and kindly asked the friendly receptionist if I could book their 120-minute massage for 1,300 CZK. What’s the worst that can happen? She tells me that their insane offer is no longer available and I simply walk down the street to the other Thai massage place I was considering? Sure enough, that discounted pricing is still in effect, and I’ll be receiving a two-hour massage at the original price I found (which I consider a win in my book).
I wonder how many tourists have fallen into this pricing trap because they either a) haven’t done their homework or b) are too afraid to ask about the better deal they saw online. This salon is hidden back from the street on the second floor of an industrial building complex (aka no man's land) — they aren’t catering to a walk-in crowd, so they should expect the people actively seeking their services will have either heard about them through word of mouth or have done a bit of online research to find them.
When helping clients determine or evaluate their pricing strategy, I’m always in the camp of consistency, transparency, and ensuring that you are offering a fair price while still more than covering all your costs, including labor and time. While making money hand over fist should never be the main objective, you aren’t running a charity either!
Time will soon tell if that extra $13 was worth 60 more minutes of bliss, but I have to believe I’m coming out of this deal on top before even lying down on the table because I was an informed consumer and wasn't afraid to ask for what I wanted.