How do you know if a massage establishment is legit?

I get this question a lot; more than I would like.  There are so many ‘massage’ parlors offering adult services under the disguise of a true, therapeutic or clinical massage establishment it can be overwhelming to the consumer to make the differentiation.  Hopefully I can provide the newbie a few tips to ask when scheduling so there isn’t any surprise or awkwardness upon arrival.      

Presentation/Hours of Operation- When you call to set an appointment, pay attention to the language the receptionist uses. Typically, a legitimate establishment will refer to the practitioners as therapists, practitioners, LMTs, or massage therapists. An illegitimate establishment will likely refer to them as masseuses, masseurs, ‘girls’, ‘boys/guys’, or any other casual, non clinical reference. If they only offer in-office services, check their website and ask if the photos posted on line are of their facility or if they used stock photos. You have every right and reason to ask to see the facility and have a mini tour before scheduling to scout the location for your comfort and safety. Décor can say a lot about their business model. Neon signs, animal print furniture, and a more sultry décor may signify an illegitimate practice. If it is a home-based or out call practice, ask if they bring a portable massage table or floor mat for Thai/shiatsu sessions. If they work on their/your bed, chances are there is another direction this session can take.  Also ask about their hours of operation. If they are a 24 hour facility, you can almost guarantee they offer adult services. I would be suspicious of any business offering appointment later than a 8:00 p.m. start time during the week.  Places that accept walk-ins are sometimes a little sketchy. I am not fond of accepting same day appointments only because I am likely booked, or need whatever available hour to catch up on calls/texts/emails, paperwork, or eating. But some establishments do keep an on-call therapist on site to accommodate the last-minute client.   Uniform and dress code can also an indicator of a business’s intentions. One is safe to assume that miniskirts, fishnet, animal prints, and stilettos are signs of questionable practices. Any form of business casual, scrubs, and even active wear/yoga attire (for client assisted stretching like Thai) is expected in legitimate practices.   

Licensing/Insurance - After you get all questions asked about the facility and their management, ask about the therapists’ credentials. In Arizona, massage is regulated by the Arizona Board of Massage Therapy.  Licensed massage therapists are required to have their state issue license posted in an inconspicuous site in their place of work. The AZ Massage Board also has a data base on their websitecataloging every licensed therapist, the status of their license, and if any action has ever been deemed (misconduct, suspension, revocation, and the like).   Massage therapists typically carry liability insurance. You are welcome to ask about this at scheduling. Most therapists never have to use their policies, but carry as precaution and for peace of mind. Clients can ask for therapist insurance information to research if there has ever been a claim filed for negligence, misconduct, or malpractice.

Draping- Draping is the use and manipulation of the sheets in a massage session. A professional practitioner will always use a top sheet when the client disrobes to any degree. Additionally, the practitioner will only expose the body part being worked on at that time. At no point will a legitimate massage therapist expose the breast or genital regions.  Glute draping should always expose only one half of the glutes (right or left side) at a time. When scouting for new establishments, ask about their draping policies and techniques. I use what many call half diaper draping for the legs. This means I lift the client’s leg and pull part of the sheet under to create what looks and feels like an undergarment around the upper thigh. Depending the client’s boundaries, level of comfort, and presence/absence of underwear I will expose the glutes on that side as previously mentioned. Anyone at reception or front desk should be able to tell you the business’s policy on draping and use of sheets for the various massage modalities offered at the facility.   

 Wrap Up - These are not the only ways to determine if you are booking with a legitimate massage practice, but they are the most obvious. Research any business before you book. It is important for you to have the experience you want and pay for; whatever that may be. If you are looking for adult services, it is best to know if the facility you’ve booked will accommodate to avoid awkward and potentially legal consequences. It is also important to respect the practitioners who chose to operate legitimate therapeutic practices. I know I feel a serious sting when people assume or even imply I do anything but professional sessions.