“Pay what you think it’s worth” massages – clever guilt trip pricing?

Given the choice - what would you pay for a massage?

Walking with Mrs MSE in the Westfield shopping centre the other day, we passed by ‘Massage Angels’ (a new back-rub booth there), with four attractive women rather heavily touting for business.

As we’d both just been complaining about knots in our backs, Mrs. MSE asked the price only to be told it was “pay what you think it’s worth”. When pushed the girl said: “well, most people give at least £10 for 10 minutes”.  

Will people pay more or less?

This is the second time recently I’ve heard of such a pricing model, and for some things it’s rather clever.

  • They can suggest higher prices than others. The £10 suggestion is actually more than other similar places cost, but once it’s stated it suddenly means you’re saying “it wasn’t worth it” if you give less and could feel rude to do so. However, you can’t accuse them of overpricing as it’s discretionary.
  • With services giving 50p ain’t easy. While it’s easy to think “great, I’ll give 50p”, that’s all very well if you were grabbing something from a shop and paying an anonymous shop assistant. Here the transaction is with the person providing what is a relatively personal service, laying hands on you, and therefore creating an, albeit transitory, relationship – I bet they always strike up conversation too, just to further that link.
  • Guilt gets factored into the price. After such a service, to be told “pay what you think it’s worth” is actually guilt pricing.  Are you going to insult by giving too little, or would you err on the side of caution and overgive just in case? I suspect, especially in what is a relatively upmarket shopping centre, quite a few people would want to show off their generosity.  
  • Massage ‘Angels’ – coincidence? I think not. And I hope I’m not casting aspersions, but the fact it’s called “Massage Angels” and they were all pretty women means some men especially may be seduced into paying more (don’t read this as there’s anything untoward going on, this is a public booth back rub only – it’s more the psychological impact of it).

So the question is, what would you pay – would you stick?

Comment and Discuss

PS. As for me and Mrs. MSE, we walked on. The uncertainty and embarrassment of the discretionary element means whether we’d got it right or wrong, would’ve made me tense up anyway. I’d need to think through my spending strategy to feel comfortable first.

This is heightened by my work being public. As has happened many times before I’m caught both ways… too generous and “some Money Saving Expert”, too little “tight git, there he is on the telly all the time and that’s all he gives”.