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February 10, 2005

Good Grief, Gift Certificates!

There is a lot of chatter among massage therapists about gift certificates. Apparently, gift certificate redemption is a source of interpersonal challenge for some therapists. Several I have talked to no longer offer gift certificates for sale to their clients.

From a purely financial standpoint, gift certificates are a wonderful means of plentiful income during holiday seasons. They offer an easy solution to your clients for creative gift giving. As a networking tool they are ideal because a client who believes in massage therapy is buying a massage for a friend or family member.

What challenges therapists and small business owners is gift certificate recipients who do not appreciate getting a massage as a gift. As a new therapist, this shook my confidence in the service I offered. With time and practice, I have developed policies and practiced responses regarding most typical issues that arise with gift certificate redemption. Included with every gift certificate is a written page outlining my policies for gift certificate redemption, appointment scheduling, and cancellations.

First, I do not allow clients to redeem gift certificates for cash. While it is difficult for me to say no to people, I have learned to formulate a clear and concise statement about this policy. It is an issue about boundaries. Second, late certificate redemption is dealt with on a per case basis. If they have a good reason, such as a health issue, I will extend the deadline. I will also redeem a late gift certificate so long as the client attempts to set up an appointment before the expiration deadline. Third, I don't encourage transfer of the gift certificate to another recipient for security reasons. However, if the purchaser finds they have given a gift to someone who doesn't want it, I will often let the purchaser redeem the gift for themselves. Other, less typical issues, which are as colorful and diverse as the human imagination, have honed my creativity and diplomacy.

While it is frustrating when clients try to pass expired gift certificates (would they do that with a gift certificate at a department store?), it is useful to keep in mind that, as massage professionals, our industry is in service to people. I believe my policies are fair and engender good will with my established clients. Offering gift certificates is a wise business policy despite the occasional challenges we encounter in redeeming them.

Posted by linda at February 10, 2005 9:50 PM

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