I came across this article this morning and just had to share:
Sure, it makes my day to read about cabbies getting 15-minute qi gong treatments between fares (really!?), and I love the name “Ebenezer Eyelash.” But what’s really interesting to me about this article is how familiar it feels.
Those of you who have CA clinics will get a chuckle out of it, I think (especially lines like “at Ms. Ranftle’s small fluorescent-lit space in a beauty supply warehouse, treatments are accompanied by a sound-track of wind chimes emanating from a portable CD player that hardly masks the ringing of office phones and thumping music from the clothing store downstairs”). And those of you who might be considering CA clinics but have concerns might see some of them echoed here. Setting aside for a moment questions of race and nationality and gender that might be fruitfully discussed (e.g. whose bodies are “appropriate” for what kind of labor?), let me just try to tackle some of the class issues here by revisiting myths about what happens when you attempt to provide a service less expensively than other people in your field.
Let’s start with our number one myth about money and value:
If it costs less, people will not value it as highly. Wrong! Or at least, not necessarily true, especially in these tough economic times. One customer in the article says, ‘I’m repeatedly disappointed by the fancy spas,’ she said. ‘Often, I feel like I just spent $300 and I didn’t even like it.'”
People who are used to individualized treatments in single rooms won’t want to be treated in rooms with other people. Wrong again! The article continues: “…at Sai Kay 21 on Bayard Street in Chinatown, where an hour and a half facial costs $55 — albeit in a room with a couple of other customers — the esthetician, Mandy Wong, said she recently noticed more non-Asian women at the salon.’They come in groups to eat and get a facial,’ she said. ‘Everything is a little cheaper here. It’s the Chinese style.'”
Here’s something that is true: you do not have to take any shit from anybody, no matter how much you charge. I love the massage therapist who said “just lie down” to the client who was loath to plunk her $2000 bag in a bin with her (probably only $300) shoes. And what happened? Did the client leave in a huff?–no, she got a great treatment and then apologized for her attitude! But what if she had left in a huff? It’s nothing to take personally. Some people are going to care more about their stuff than your feelings; you don’t have to work with them.
One myth that comes up a lot, and isn’t directly addressed by this article but is relevant to our discussion is that people will take advantage of you (i.e. they won’t pay as much as they can really afford to). Now, you don’t really know what your patients’ budgets are; but they might have or do things that trigger your suspicion that they could pay more. For example, some patients might have Gucci bags, or really nice shoes, or a fancy car, and maybe you’re starting to really worry about that sound your 20-year-old Ford’s engine is making; others might be hippies with trust funds who don’t care about Gucci but glowingly tell you about the month they just spent on the beach in Thailand, and nothing sounds better to you right now than two days on any beach anywhere. Maybe international travel or designer bags are a higher priority for them at this point in their lives than their health–or maybe their priorities are changing, but they’re not about to throw out a bag that they spent that much on (and may still be paying off). And maybe the bag was a present, or a family heirloom bequeathed by their favorite tacky aunt; maybe the hippie doesn’t have a trust fund, but ate beans and rice for a year to save for the trip to Thailand–or maybe a rich friend paid. Who knows? Why worry about it? In any case, the following isnot a myth:
Some people WILL value other things more highly than your services. It’s true! They might think you’re super, and might really want acupuncture, but they want or need other things too. If it cost them $60, even if they had the money, they just wouldn’t come. If you would rather be puncturing than proud, I encourage you to get over this. If someone can hang with the shoes-in-bins and old recliners, are polite to me and other patients, and respectful of the space and my time, and they only want to pay $15, I say come on down! The penny-pinching society matron who pays $15 might send her kids’ teacher in, and he might pay $25. Unfair, maybe; but people are weird about money. I think committing to a Community Acupuncture practice is a great opportunity to learn where your own weirdnesses are – and to be really busy doing acupuncture in the meantime.