Laurence Rubenstein, geriatrician at UCLA Medical Center
This is my business blog - it’s going to be a bit more technical and industry-specific than my other blog. There will be a bit of cross-posting, but this will be the main place where I geek out over the new plant-based cosmetic preservatives, talk about new treatments and products I’m offering to my local clients, and other business-y updates.
So, if you are interested in the minute details of fragrance blending, cosmetic chemistry, cosmetic raw materials, and all of the other mad-scientist stuff that I love, please follow me here.
THIS is the really serious one, if you’re interested.
When I started working on cruise ships at the tender age of 23, I was a newly minted massage therapist, all bright-eyed and limber-fingered, brain still full of anatomy lessons and anxious to get my hands on some tense backs. I had signed on with Steiner Transocean, the UK-based company that runs the spas and gyms on almost every major cruise line. I was sent to a Carnival ship for my four-month contract. We did back-to-back three and four day cruises out of Miami, stopping in Key West, Cozumel and Nassau.
I was the only American on the spa staff. Everyone else was from the UK, Canada, Australia or South Africa. This was my first lesson in being the token American, which serves me well to this day. International relations aside, I had a lot to learn. I was promptly given the Elemis and La Therapie catalogues and told to familiarize myself with the products. Um, ok, sure! I was excited and enthusiastic. I was up for anything. My co-workers explained the retail game to me. We were expected to sell at least 50% of our total services. So, on each $90 massage, we were expected to sell an average of $45 in products. And I think the cheapest product was like, $40. Ok, I can do this. The products are so nice they sell themselves, right? I don’t have to, like, lie or anything, do I?
*Do a thorough consultation before the massage - ask questions that sound health-related, but are designed to tell you if the client is receptive to spending money on themselves, i.e. “What kind of activities do you do to relax, like bubble baths (sell them bath products), home massage (sell them massage oil), aromatherapy (sell them essential oils and burners), etc? What’s that? You don’t do anything to relax? Well, then, you’re going to die in 5 years if you don’t purchase this $1500 detox kit.”
*After the massage, explain to the client how broken they are and recommend products to fix them, i.e. soak in a bath with product XYZ which costs only $55 and it will help your exceptionally tense muscles relax. It’s totally worth $55 because it’s made of the finest natural and botanical ingredients which won’t give you cancer like that Calgon shite you use now.
*Get the client to tell you about any related physical ailments - the more problems, the more products. Bonus: people love talking about their health and lack thereof. Double bonus: if they suffer from a chronic ailment like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. You can capitalize on their feelings of helplessness at suffering from a vaguely defined and difficlut to treat condition.
*Start big - Map out a whole-body detox program for the client, being sure to mix in free activities (drinking water, exercising, sleeping) along with all the expensive crap you’re trying to sell them. When they balk at the cost, start whittling away products until you get to a price they can afford. $100 worth of products looks affordable next to the $1000 worth of stuff you whipped out at the start.
*Go holistic - tell the client about Elemis’ amazing Body Capsules, which are basically just a bunch of Metamucil and powdered seaweed, and how they will perform a full-body cleanse, curing everything from a fat arse to fatigue to pimples. Do not repeat the spa staff’s favorite joke, which is that Deep Drainage is the secret cure for cancer. Do not tell the client that the spa staff have conducted their own secret tests on these capsules, coming to the scientific conclusion that they don’t do anything except make your poop smell sort of fishy.
*Make up more shit as you go along - people trust you. They’ll believe you. Try this tactic when selling skincare. Explain that these brands are not available in the US (they weren’t at the time) because the active ingredients are too high for the US FDA to give them clearance. Sometimes I like to think that maybe one of my hundreds of clients was someone who worked for the FDA, and I gave them a story that they could dine out on for years to come while they sat there nodding and secretly amused. “You would not believe what this bimbo in the cruise ship spa tried to tell me about these products…”
*Use the word “toxins” a lot. A whole lot. Make little drawings of round things that represent toxins in the bloodstream. Now make drawings of Pac-Man shaped dudes eating the toxins. Tell the client that this is what will happen if they take the capsules/use the skincare. Throw around lots of talk about free-radicals. Nobody’s going to admit they don’t know what a free-radical is or does. Try to conceal your amazement when they actually believe your utter nonsense.
*Revel in the god-like feeling that surges through you when you realize that capitalizing on society’s ability to suspend disbelief when presented with something that is too good to be true is what keeps the entire cosmetics, weight-loss, wellness/alternative medicine industries afloat.
*Try to ignore that icky feeling in the back of your head. That’s just your conscience, and you conscience sure as shit didn’t just score you $100 in commission and an extra half-day off in the next port of call.
To be continued…