Zeel’s massage therapists arrive five to 10 minutes ahead of their appointment and set up the table for customers. Courtesy of Zeel
Zeel’s massage therapists arrive five to 10 minutes ahead of their appointment and set up the table for customers. Courtesy of Zeel

Cathie Anderson

Insights into the people who shape Sacramento’s business landscape

Cathie Anderson

Need a massage in an hour? This national service is coming to Sacramento area homes

By Cathie Anderson

canderson@sacbee.com

June 19, 2017 11:17 AM

UPDATED June 19, 2017 12:25 PM

Already operating in more than 65 other U.S. markets, the mobile-massage business Zeel will start offering many Sacramento-area residents on June 26 the opportunity to get a massage in their homes within an hour of an online booking.

Despite Zeel’s size, news of its impending arrival didn’t faze veteran massage therapist Elizabeth Phan, whose Perfect Touch business offers services from Galt to Roseville. In fact, Phan said, she expects Zeel will raise the visibility of the mobile massage industry and expand the number of customers seeking services. Phan said she still gets calls from people who don’t know that many independent massage therapists make house calls.

Chelle Bradley, a 20-year veteran of the local massage industry, has done mobile massage in the past but now runs the Massage Heights center in Folsom. She’s also not concerned about the market’s new entrant.

“With this industry, there’s always going to be competition,” she said. “With the mobile massage, there are people who don’t want to go to the centers, they feel more comfortable in their homes. I don’t think that it’s going to deter anyone from coming to us. I think it will give a new avenue to people who really need to get massages.”

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Phan could apply to work through Zeel because the company contracts with local massage therapists to offer its suite of services, but she said her schedule already is often booked a week or two in advance. However, Phan’s former instructor, Madonna Polley of Fair Oaks Massage Institute, thinks a number of massage therapists will want to work through Zeel.

“I have former students of mine with them (in other cities),” Polley said. “They like it, and some of them have worked through them a long time. I think it’s great for both the clients and the students. I get a lot of calls from people who are bedridden or housebound or they have busy families. People want massage right at their house.”

Land Park resident Bob Waste agreed to test-drive Zeel’s service for The Bee. He has been home recovering from surgery but plans to return to work this week. He described his Zeel massage as one of the best he’d ever had.

The massage, he said, really helped to reduce some pain he’d been experiencing. The massage therapist did a combination of relaxing Swedish technique, along with some therapeutic deep-tissue work. Because of the nature of his surgery, he said, she had him lie down on his back or his sides as she worked.

“It was more convenient for me to have it in the house and not have one more trip, with all that I’ve got going on,” Waste said. “It was interesting that they offered a choice between a male or a female massage therapist. I’m sure people have different comfort levels with that.”

After sampling the Zeel service, Waste said, he went to his mobile phone and downloaded the app because he figured he would use the service again. Customers book either through the mobile app or at zeel.com. About half of Zeel’s business comes from repeat customers.

To use the Zeel service, customers must provide a government-issued identification. Zeel does this to ensure the safety of therapists, and it also processes all payments. For customer security, the company contracts with only experienced, licensed and insured massage therapists. When an appointment is booked, Zeel sends the customer a message with the therapist’s name, license number and photo.

The company will be offering its service in parts of Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. Bee readers in its service area can use the code BEE25 for $25 off their first Zeel massage when service begins Monday. Zeel regularly charges $105 an hour, but that includes an 18 percent gratuity.

Cynthia Irons, Zeel’s chief marketing officer, said the company surveys the spas in each market to determine its pricing. Zeel contracts with massage therapists who get four- or five-star ratings from their customers, she said, and the Zeel hour is truly 60 minutes, not the 50 that many spas provide.

Phan, however, charges her monthly customers $75 for a 60-minute massage. A gratuity is not included. Phan said she is interested to see how Zeel’s pricing goes over with Sacramento-area customers.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

Want to work with Zeel?

Zeel, the mobile massage company, contracts with only about half of all massage therapists who apply to become independent contractors.

The company processes payments and automatically collects an 18 percent gratuity.

Lisa Veyka, a massage therapist in New York, has been with Zeel since it launched in 2012. She said: “They book me at times around my private practice or other things in my life. … I feel like I’m really well-compensated.”

Interested? Visit zeel.com/massage-therapist.