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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  Telephone
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Monday, August 6,2012

Telephone

Etiquette 101

By Cary Bayer  

Recently, I needed to find a new massage therapist in my area, because the one who I was seeing had started behaving unprofessionally. While she had a 24-hour policy for sessions

I cancelled, she had no such policy from hers. Within two weeks, she managed to cancel two massages when I arrived at her office.

If this isn’t a record, I’d be surprised. If there’s ever a reality television show called Massage Therapists Behaving Badly, this one should be its star.

The first time, she’d suddenly, and mysteriously, developed an itchy rash within 20 minutes of my appointment. When I asked why she didn’t call my cell while I was en route—my trip took 20 minutes--she said she was hoping it would disappear as suddenly as it had appeared. Post-English Invasion ‘60s songstress Dusty Springfield sang about this phenomenon in her hit, “Wishin’ and Hopin.’ (My apologies to Burt Bacharach and Hal David for paraphrasing their last line below.):

“Wishin and hopin’ and thnkin’ and prayin ’Plannin’ and dreaming...won’t get” the rash off your arms.

A week later, I arrived to discover a note on her office door telling me that her mother was rushed to the hospital in the morning. My appointment was for 12:15, which means that this occurred two hours before I left home. While sensitive to how such hospitalizations can frighten one’s heart and cloud one’s mind, she had the wherewithal to write a note, get into her car, and drive to the hospital. Why couldn’t she make a phone call, send a text, or drop an email?

That’s a rhetorical question: not only could she, as a professional she must— it’s an obligation all professionals have to clients to make the call herself, or have someone do it for her.

I called later that afternoon to see how her mother was doing. I still haven’t heard back from her two years later. I sent an email inquiring about her mom a week later; that email hasn’t been responded to, either. It makes me scratch my head and wonder how such professionals stay in business.

I searched for a new therapist by visiting the website of the American Massage Therapist Association’s New York chapter for therapists who were publicly listed as available to take on new clients, male or female. I called eight, only to leave eight voicemails. My message said I was inquiring about massage. Two years later, I still haven’t heard back from a single one. What are these people doing in business?

I’ve attempted to figure out their collective silence. Could it be that each one’s business is so full she has no room for a new client? It’s possible that one therapist out of the eight might be in that enviable position—but all eight?

Hardly! Of course, it was summer time when I called, so it’s possible that a therapist might have been on vacation at the time. But again…all eight? I think not. Besides, not a single one indicated that the therapist was on holiday.

I deduced that, perhaps, fear might be at play. Each therapist was female, and the fear of possibly inappropriate behavior on my part could very well be operative here, because I didn’t come through a referral. If a female therapist’s fear of inappropriate male clients is so severe that she doesn’t return unsolicited calls from prospective male clients, she should mention on the state website that she only takes male clients by referral. None of these eight had such a caveat.

If these eight body workers have no such fears, and still don’t return a call from a prospective client within two years, they should either hire an assistant to answer the phone, get psychological counseling to get over their fears, or just get out of the business altogether. I’m not being insensitive to the emotional charge of the issue here; I’m saying that such fears shouldn’t stop a therapist from being professional. Ignoring a phone call from a prospective new client leaves a bad impression, and reflects poorly on colleagues who are prompt and professional in returning calls. The good news for those who run their businesses in a professional manner is that they shine in comparison to the flakes who lack common courtesy or any business smarts to return calls of prospective clients.

A massage therapist’s skill is her touch; but she needs to extend that touch beyond her table. She must also incorporate the message of the classic AT&T advertising campaign and “reach out and touch someone” by telephone—especially when that someone is trying to benefit from the therapeutic value of her touch in the first place.


 

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