When is it Worth $32 to Ban a Customer?


Here is a teachable moment about how Massage Envy banned  a customer as a result of using a gift card to pay for a massage.

I saw a post on Facebook and Debbie, the customer, offered to speak with me on the phone after I commented on her post.

Debbie purchased a Massage Envy gift card for a “Couples Massage” but didn’t redeem for two years. The card did not have a dollar value or expiration date but written on the card was the service she purchased,  “Couples Massage.”

Realizing the age of the card, Debbie called to make sure it was still valid and after being told yes, she scheduled an appointment for the Couples Massage.

In my phone interview with Debbie, she told me that both she and her Fiancé enjoyed their massages and went on about how clean and nice the  clinic was. After the massage, when Debbie presented the gift card, she inquired to the clinician about other services and planed to return.

When the clinician processed the gift card , she told Debbie that she owed an extra $32.00. She told Debbie that she didn’t understand the extra charge since she was pressing the “Couples Massage” button on the point-of-sale terminal but told Debbie that she was all set and would call Debbie later if there was any issue.

So far, we have a happy customer who is planning to return and an empowered employee who did the right thing.

Enter “Walt.”

Later that day, Debbie received an email from a “Walt” about the $32. This was the first correspondence that Debbie received about it and she forwarded me the email:

On Jun 22, 2017, at 4:03 PM, Walt Envy <clinic0717@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Debbie,

We are reaching out because of the appointments that you had scheduled for today. Due to you refusing to pay the remaining balance that was left of $32 for you and Mike Slater, you are no longer welcomed here at this Massage Envy location. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email us back here at this email address.

Thank you,
Massage Envy Spa-Waltham
1030 Main St.
Waltham,MA 02451
(781) 647-4747



I know there are two sides to every story so I called Massage Envy. Walt refused to speak with me,  so this will be my thoughts on the customer’s story.

Massage Envy had a happy customer planning to spend more money but decided that this correspondence was the right action. This should have ended when the clinician said “thank you” to Debbie as she walked out the door.

It costs companies hundreds and even thousands of dollars to acquire one single customer.  The value of each customer isn’t just in that one customer’s single purchase but in the CLV (Customer Life Value) and in their referrals.

Massage Envy lost a happy customer who was ready to spend more money and lost others because most of the comments on Debbie’s post were from women … Massage Envy’s target demographic. The social media outrage and viral comments was not surprising. It was a bashing feeding-frenzy.

Walt clearly did not think this through. Well played, Walt.

Debbie also posted a review on Massage Envy’s Facebook page. They commented and asked Debbie to reach back out to them via their email.


The customer has already reached out with a genuine complaint and they clearly have Debbie’s email address. To recover this failing customer experience, Massage Envy should have proactively offered an apology to Debbie for Walt’s poor judgement and offer her a complimentary service or some concession . Then they should get some Emotional Intelligence and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) training for Walt.

If a customer is ever wrong, which sometimes they are, the right move is proactive communication to work with the customer and try to improve the customer experience and attempt to salvage the customer. Companies pay a lot to get customers in the door, so, acquiescing and eating a little humble pie for retention is usually worth their future business. But, if you’re often eating humble pie, you have a bigger problem.

The teachable:  Be proactive with positive communication to resolve any issue, and if possible in the customer’s best interest because you will always lose more than that one customer.

Incidentally, I asked Debbie if she would have paid the $32 if she knew”before” the massage. She said she would have but wouldn’t have been happy since she bought a “service” and not a dollar value.

If Massage Envy simply honored the card, which is the right thing to do, they would still have a very happy customer ready to spend more money.

So, when is it worth $32 to ban a customer?  NEVER!!!!

– Please read my other posts for ways to help improve your company’s customer service and share it if you’ve found it helpful.


About the Author

Gerry Criscenzo, founder of Advanced Service Knowledge is passionate about delivering an exceptional customer experience.  He has over 30 years experience managing customer facing teams in very demanding customer service  industries such as automotive services, IT Services and Home Remodeling/Contractor Services. Gerry is available for consulting, keynote speaking and training.  Read more

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