Episode 290

Apr 10, 2020

Real talk about gift certificates and the current COVID-19 shutdown. Also heads up, Allissa drops an F-bomb in the Quick Tips segment.

Listen to "E290: Should I Be Selling Gift Certificates Right Now?" on Spreaker.
Image for E290: Should I Be Selling Gift Certificates Right Now?


What caught our attention this week?

  • CARES Act: Mortgage Forbearance Request

Discussion Topic

  • Should I Be Selling Gift Certificates Right Now?

Quick Tip

  • Small, incremental progress is good progress.
  • Don’t expect too much more from loud people in times of high stress.


  • Acuity Scheduling
  • The Jojoba Company
  • Yomassage


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Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where every day is a new exercise in reinventing ourselves these days. I'm Michael Reynolds.

Allissa Haines [Laughing]. I am Allissa Haines.

MR And we're your hosts. We're going to --

AH Such -- [laughing]

MR You like that? [Laughing].

AH I just -- I -- folks, I did not see what he was going to say with that opening until just as he was saying it, and I'm just so proud.

MR Hey, we adapt to current conditions. That's how we roll, you know? So.

AH Yeah. Yeah.

So we're recording this on Thursday, April 9th to be published, and you're listening probably on Thursday, April 10th or later. Thank you for joining --

MR Friday, April 10th?

AH Yes. That -- whatever the day is that's -- days don't matter.

MR You know what? Who knows what day it is? Who knows what day it is these days?

AH [Laughing].

MR It's all just mush. [Laughing].

AH Nothing matters anymore.

MR [Laughing].

AH Time is irrelevant.

So my favorite 11-year-old last night requested a 2:15 meeting today where upon I would pretend to be the school psychologist and ask him all of the questions that he normally gets at his Thursday at 2:15 check in.

MR That is delightful.

AH And that's how the pandemic is going at my house. [Laughing].

MR That is absolutely delightful.

AH It's delightful when you're not the one that has to pretend to be the school psychologist. [Laughing].

MR [Laughing].

AH So apparently she asks him a couple of questions and then has him rate, like, on a scale of one to five, like, how things are going at home and at school and in his classroom and with his peers, and then they play a game. So we asked those questions, which were, you know, how are -- I adapted to be, like, how are things going with, like, distance learning and stuff, and everybody -- he seems to be doing good. And then I got to play Candy Land for what I think was the first time in my life.

MR Oh, we have the Disney version of Candy Land, and Eli loves it.

AH Nice. I had never played that before. I didn't -- we didn't do a lot of board games when I was a kid because my brother -- my older brother was, like, one of those people who could not lose, like, and if he started to lose, he would, like, flip a board game up into the air and stuff. So we just didn't do board games as a -- when I was little. And I don't think we ever had Candy Land anyway. So yeah. I played my first game, and I won in case anyone was wondering.

MR Oh, congrats.

AH I did in fact win. Yep. I got to go to, like, Princess Frostine's spot right away at the very top, and totally kicked butt. And then he -- the kid continued to play until he also won. So it was pretty great.

MR Congratulations.

AH Yeah. Sorry, that was more banter than we intended on, but that's just -- I haven't talked to a human outside of my family in a little while, so.

Michael, what are you reading this week?

MR [Laughing]. Well, again, time is irrelevant, and I'm happy to be that human.

All right, what am I reading this week? So I'm -- referenced the article on mortgage forbearance, some specific clarity on mortgage forbearance. And it was written by a fellow financial advisor from XY Planning Network, which is an association I'm in for financial planners. And it was a little blurb on, specifically, just some clarification details on how to request mortgage forbearance under the CARES Act. I thought it had some good tidbits in it, so I've been reading that.

And some of the highlights are -- one thing to note is that you're eligible for a mortgage forbearance if your mortgage is a federally backed loan. And you can find that out by googling "is my mortgage a federally backed loan?" or something to the effect. You google it basically, and you'll come across this site -- actually, the better term is actually "find out who owns my mortgage." That's the correct term to use -- and you'll come across a site, it's a dot gov site, and it basically lets you look up if your mortgage is held by a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. And if your mortgage does show up as being held by one of those two entities, then your mortgage is eligible for forbearance. Now, you can still ask if it's not, but you're officially eligible if it is federally backed.

So that's one thing to note how to look it up, how to see if you're eligible. And then also there's a few notes on kind of how to make the request and how to understand it. So it varies lender by lender, but some lenders are allowing you to push pause on the mortgage for anywhere from 90 to 180 days, and some lenders are allowing you to basically tack on those skipped payments, so to speak, onto the end of your mortgage, which in my opinion is the preferable way to do it because who wants to pay, like, extra payments when you're just getting back into the swing of things? That’s a pretty big burden. So putting it onto the end of the mortgage is one option.

There are others that are not doing that. The other are making you basically pay it back immediately after you hit the end of that forbearance period either, you know, by doubling up your payments or spreading it out a little bit, but they're basically wanting it all pretty much once things start up again. So you want to be sure you understand what they're actually offering. You don't just say yes to it. Make sure you understand exactly what the repayment terms are. And if possible, make sure you negotiate tacking them onto the end of the mortgage if they will allow that.

So that's kind of how it works, a couple of the options there. And when you're asking questions when you make the request, in addition to asking about the specific terms, make sure you verify with them that the deferral will not affect your credit report. It's not supposed to. Make sure you verify with them. Make sure you also verify that all late fees or interest on late fees are waived during the forbearance period. And also find out how much your escrow account will be short if you defer your payments so you can kind of plan for that and making up for that once things restart again because a short escrow payment will kind of leave you in the hole when you're paying things like home insurance, things like that, for escrow.

So that's kind of a nice little walkthrough of just some of the specifics if you are thinking of requesting mortgage forbearance under the CARES Act. That's what I'm reading.

AH Sweet. I read a children's book yesterday on the Roanoke Colony.

MR [Laughing]. I'm sorry. I'm laughing just because, like, I'm, like, decked out in spreadsheets and numbers here and you're like, I read a great children's book. And that sounds a lot more fun. So go with it.

AH I did. It was for social studies. It was for 5th grade social studies, and I learned about the Roanoke Colony. And --

MR Oh, I'm fascinated by that. Yes. Go ahead.

AH Yeah. I didn't even -- like, listen. I don't remember anything from school.

MR They disappeared.

AH Yeah. They just like disappeared. There was a couple of attempts to try to get a colony of, you know, colonizers going on this little island in the Chesapeake Bay, and it failed a few times, and then the last time somebody went to check back on them, everybody was gone, and the only thing left was, like, the name of the local Indian tribe carved into a tree. So nobody knows if, like, the Indians were, like -- or Native Americans. I'm sorry. I went to school at a time when we called them Indians, and that's inappropriate. Native Americans. I'm learning.

MR [Laughing].

AH And the only thing, you know -- like, so nobody knows if the Native Americans were like, yeah, we're done with you, and just slaughtered them, which good for them, or if the colonizers tried to, like, take a boat back to England, which had happened a couple times prior, and just sunk at sea or whatever. So it was like a big mystery. So I learned about that. That's what I'm reading.

MR Nice.

AH Yeah. That's all I have. That's my "what are we reading" section.

MR All right.

AH Who's our -- you know, who's our sponsor, Michael?

MR Today --

AH One of our sponsors.

MR Yes. One of our sponsors are our friends over at Jojoba.

Sponsor message Yeah. And as you all know I recommend HobaCare Jojoba for use in your massage practice because it never goes rancid. It will be there and smelling delicious when we are ready to return to our clients. However, with all the hand washing we are doing nowadays, it might be time to grab a bottle of jojoba for a bit of self-care. Jojoba is the closest thing in nature to the sebum that our skin naturally produces. Our skin cannot keep up with these repeated extra washings. Couple of drops on the back of your hands will keep your skin soft and healthy through the entire pandemic. So go grab your bottle from the office. Or if you can't get to the office, you can go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba, and you will get 20% off. They're giving you more because it matters. And that's now until May 1st. That's an increased discount from whatever our previous discount is that I cannot remember. But go to --

MR 10%

AH -- thank you. Okay.

MR [Laughing].

Sponsor message Go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba and get your 20% off if you need it.

AH I have to give a couple of massages in my home this evening, and I will be using my bottle of jojoba I grabbed from the office.

MR That's really cool. I think that's the first time I've either heard or noticed that it's the closest thing to what our skin excretes. That's really cool.

AH Well, then you have not been listening to me because I have mentioned it before, Michael.

MR You have?

AH Yeah.

MR Are you sure?

AH Just zoning out because you know what? The whole time I'm doing these, I think in your head you're just like, jojoba!

MR I’m kind of singing to myself. Yeah.

AH Uh-huh. Yeah.

MR I’m not going to lie.

AH It's great to know we're really highly --

MR I'm making up jingles. Yeah.

AH -- [laughing] highly functioning team over here.

MR [Laughing].

AH So.

MR Let's talk gift certificates. You have feelings about this.

AH I have feelings, and I put out an actual written blog post about those feelings because I was asked to by some colleagues. And it's hard. There's a lot going on.

So you know, there's a lot of people, a lot of our clients, a lot of general public is doing their best to be really kind and thoughtful to small business owners right now because most of us are just out of work. And even the businesses that have been able to stay open, restaurants and stuff, they're struggling because they've had to move to a whole takeout only option, and it's just tough.

So people are being really kind and generous, and they're saying, you know, if you're able, please keep paying your domestic stuff if you have housekeepers or dog walkers. And maybe keep paying your massage therapist if they had to cancel your appointment because of coronavirus. And maybe buy gift certificates from small businesses that can't be open right now but need a little bit of cash flow.

And I have to say when I first started seeing these posts a couple weeks ago, they made me internally cringe because, as a general rule, you should never sell gift certificate unless you are wholly capable of setting that money aside until that gift certificate or package or whatever is redeemed. Some states require this. There's actually some states that have certain gift certificate law. And Connecticut is one of those states where you have to keep the money aside, and if you close your business, you actually have to turn over those funds to, like, the state attorney general or the treasurer so that anybody who had an outstanding gift certificate can make a claim and get reimbursed for whatever they spent and whatever service it is that they cannot redeem now. Some states have rules about this. Many do not. In many places a business can just shut down, and that's it. They don't owe anybody anything, and if people have unused gift certificates in hand, too bad, so sad, bad for them.

So I feel like we've probably talked about this before, but we've all made this mistake, most of us. We've sold gift certificates or -- you know, we recorded a whole episode on what to do if you can't pay your taxes, and then we scrapped it because the whole coronavirus thing came, and we did something else. But in that episode that we recorded and never used, I talked about how there was a year where I couldn't pay my taxes, and I ran, like, this huge package and gift certificate sale in, like, March to make a couple grand and be able to pay my taxes [laughing]. And it was fine, and it worked out for me. I was very lucky. But it was a rough 6 to 12 months after that when I had so many gift certificates coming in and so I couldn't pay myself what I usually would because I had spent that gift certificate money paying my taxes.

So we've all, I think, done something like that in the past where we spent money for future services before we provided those services. As a general rule, this is a bad idea. It's a great way to short yourself. And you know what I'm talking about.

So to sell gift certificates and the promise of future services in order to pay bills now is usually a bad idea. And it's an especially bad idea right now when you contemplate that we have no certainty about when we will work again. I understand that this is a point of contention. Some people are feeling very confident that the moment their state ban -- their state lifts the ban on, you know, nonessential businesses being open, whatever, they will go back to work. People feel that is what they are going to do. They feel that is right and safe and okay. There's other people who feel that that will not be a good idea. We might have to wait longer until there is antibody testing or vaccines or any of these things, and it could be a longer time out of work than just a couple of months. We don't know. Nobody knows what's true and right and what the CDC is going to say and what OSHA's going to say. So we don't know when we will work again.

If you're taking in money for gift certificates now -- one, I have no idea if that will or won't affect your unemployment claims. I have no idea. You should talk to an accountant about that. But if you're spending that money now to float your rent for the next couple of months while you're not working, and then for whatever reason you can't go back to work when you're thinking you're going to be able to in July or August, then what? What if you can't float rent anymore and you shut your office down and it's 6 or 12 months before you can find another office? Like, worst case scenario, what happens? You've got to refund those people their gift certificates. And if you don't, your reputation is at stake.

We have very little to run our small businesses on. So how would you feel if -- how would your potential clients and your current clients feel if you sold -- you know, I sell someone a $500 package, and then in two months I realize this isn't going to work, I can't float this rent, I can't do this, I shut it down, and I can’t start somewhere until next year. What if that client comes back and says, hey, since you shut down, can I have my $500 back?, and you don't have it to give to them, there goes your reputation. None of these people are going to want to come back and see you after you've taken their money and been uncertain about when you can provide services. Or if you've just taken their money and closed up your business and taken another job, in a couple years you want to start doing massage again, none of these people are going to trust you. And that's your reputation. That's a big deal.

So the final thought here is there are exceptions, and I do -- I have colleagues, I know, that are accepting gift certificate sales and truly setting that money aside and dedicated to not spending it. And they have decided if for some reason it looks like I can't continue in the near future, I am setting this money aside to refund it. So if you're going to do -- if you're prepared to do that anyway, you don't need the money anyway, you don't need to spend it right away, why would you even do that? Because you could treat selling gift certificates as a loyalty sale allowing clients to express how much they care about you and your business and how they will come back when it's safe and when they are able and when you are able to serve them.

If you are truly able to put that money aside and not touch it until they're redeemed, then rock on. You have my blessing. But outside of that, you should be concerned about taking people's money right now. Maybe people want to pay you for sessions that were missed and with no strings attached just as if they had, you know, no showed on that appointment. Okay. You're taking a little charity. Okay. Do that. Go for it. But if you are taking money in the promise of providing future services, remain able and willing to refund that at any time. Able and willing to refund that at any time. And that is what I have to say.

MR Yeah. Fair enough. Thank you.

AH (Indiscernible) Do you have anything to add?

MR No. No. I agree.

AH It's pretty clear. [Laughing].

MR Pretty clear. [Laughing].

AH [Laughing]. That's how I feel. And if you disagree with me, I'm cool with that. That's fine. You do what works for you. I just probably don't need to know about it.

MR [Laughing]. All right. That's a great segue to our other sponsor today, our friends at Yomassage. So tell us about Yomassage and what's going on with them.

Sponsor message Yay, Yomassage! Yomassage is pretty awesome because they have online virtual training for restorative stretching, massage, and mindfulness in small group sessions. They have virtual trainings that begin the first Monday of every month, so if you've got the time and the energy right now and you want to learn something, now's a good chance. You can get $50 off at massagebusinessblueprint.com/yomassage. And let me tell you a little bit of a testimonial that a participant in their online training testified to. That's the word I have right now.

"Katherine and Tiffany do an amazing job at distilling potentially complex info into concrete pieces so people can actually learn and do it. I love the training. I'm so impressed with all the additional support and resources offered by Yomassage. It's really equipping therapists to take hold and carry it forward. Yomassage offers a whole new angle from which to work with humans and their needs literally and figuratively."

AH And I tell you what, people, humans are going to need us to be working with all of their needs -- movement, meditation, and otherwise -- moving forward.

Sponsor message You can go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/yomassage to get $50 off your next training. Oh, and you have to use the code BLUEPRINT, all caps, one word, BLUEPRINT.

AH That's what I got.

MR Right on. Thanks, Yomassage.

AH Thank you, Yomassage.

Michael, what's your quick tip today?

MR All right. My quick tip is that small, incremental progress is good progress right now. And I kind of said that because I'm in this mode right now where -- I think a lot of us are in the same place where -- and I've seen a lot of our premium members post about this and kind of talk in office hours where there's this sort of ethereal pressure out there where people feel like, oh, because we're -- you know, we have down time, we're expected to be extra productive because we suddenly have all this time and we should be doing 17 projects and catching up on this and that. And that seems to be introducing some guilt in many of us where if we're not hyperproductive, we're feeling like we're, you know, squandering this, whatever, golden opportunity of down time.

So I want to make sure that we have this conversation about the fact that that is not right for everybody. Like, some people are being hyperproductive, and that's great. There are days when I feel like I am just killing it productivity-wise and other days when I feel like I just want to watch Netflix all day in my pajamas. And I think all of it is okay. I think we need to make sure we give ourselves permission to be okay with whatever the norm is right now that's good for us. And to me -- like, what's really working for me right now is small, incremental progress. It's not, hey, I need to tackle this big project or learn a whole new hobby or learn to play the piano in three weeks. Like, it's nothing like that. It's basically, like, if I can track little incremental steps forward on things that are important to me and I can kind of notice that and track that carefully and say, okay, I've accomplished a tiny little step forward, that really works well for me.

And I think that may work well for some of us who are struggling with these two extremes of, you know, Doritos and Netflix versus, you know, 17 new projects done in 24 hours. There's -- both extremes are fairly unhealthy, and so I'm thinking, somewhere we need to figure out, okay, what's -- where on the spectrum are we? And to me, if you're making little incremental steps towards whatever that may be -- you know, building your new dream practice when you reopen or learning a new skill to develop income or to get a new job somewhere, or whatever it is -- tiny, tiny steps I think are what a lot of us need right now, just very tiny incremental steps.

I'm not sure that made any sense, but that's kind of what I'm feeling.

AH It really did. And I think that I -- we had a hard day in my household yesterday, and I recognized very early in the day that it was going to be a difficult day in the household, and I immediately changed all of our expectations for the day. I put away my own work. I let go of -- you know, and I think I even texted Michael and said, the big topic I was going to talk about is not what we're going to record tomorrow, but I will be ready to record something tomorrow. And I just immediately adjusted and changed all of our expectations for the day in order to prioritize everyone's mental health and happiness. And I found myself -- I've been -- I've written this phrase many times in the kid's stuff and repeated it to myself: "This is not within our capability today." And/or kind of the polar opposite, which says, "This is all that is within reach for us today." [Laughing]. And --

MR Yeah. I like that.

AH -- it really -- it has been good. And you know, I'm trying to handle two kids home learning with this, like, onslaught of resources coming at us and teachers who are trying to learn the tech on their end as they try to teach it while they're managing their own families at home and all of this stuff. And I apologize that half this podcast has become, like, Allissa family centric --

MR [Laughing].

AH -- but that's what my life is right now. And I know for many of you that's the case, and maybe that's not the case. And I'm sorry. I have been someone without children, and I understand how you feel. I'll move through this quickly.

But it was really good for me yesterday and then a little bit this morning as I kind of identified some stuff, like, oh, I am not going to check that off my Microsoft to-do list. That is simply not within my reach today. Okay. So kind of adjusting and readjusting our expectations multiple times per day based on the -- what situations present in front of us is good.

And also, this kind of goes into my quick tip, which says, don't expect too much more from loud people in times of high stress. And I am straight up talking about me. Y'all shouldn't be expecting that I am superhuman because I think it's pretty clear that I'm not. And this is a thing that happens when you are someone in a profession or a community or, you know, if you've ever been head of a PTA or whatever where you're the person who says the stuff, and especially if you're the person who says the stuff that everybody's thinking that nobody wants to say, it is very easy to get pissy at the person who says the thing. And I've had a lot of people get super pissy with me in the last couple of weeks because I've said the things.

And I found that people who follow Blueprint, and then people who are also connected with me on a non-Blueprint level like via the social media, some people forget that I am a human being as well as someone who speaks about massage and teaches about massage stuff professionally. And I do a really good job sometimes -- as much as possible on Blueprint -- trying to be clear and pragmatic but also a little gentler than I am in my own personality, which if -- I mean, you know, probably sounds ridiculous because I'm not that gentle here. But in my personal conversations with people, I am not -- I am a lot whippier and more aggressive. And I have feelings about being out of work too, and I am also grieving, and I am also -- much of that is coming through as anger at people who are still working and at people who are complaining about not working in ways that I find unhealthy for me to read. You get to grieve however you want, but that's my interpretation. And I've said things in my personal profiles and had people cancel their subscriptions or unfollow or say how much they hate Blueprint because I'm such a -- I'm going to -- you're going to have to mark this as explicit because "I'm such a fucking bitch" in my personal life.

You can bleep that if you want to.

MR [Laughing]. I'm noting the "E" right now.

AH So I've gotten some hate mail. We've had a couple people who -- well, we had one specific person who told me she was leaving after being mean and rude to me and telling me what a jerk I am and also emailed Michael to tell him what a jerk I am. And I've watched this happen with other people. Like, people getting mad at some of my colleagues who have said, you know, here's some of the pathology reasons why we might not be able to go back to work right away, and getting mad at some other colleagues who are like, hey, we're going to have to change how we work. And I'm watching us become more and more targets in a time of really high stress and people seeming to forget that we're human being who have feelings and are grieving our careers too.

So anyhow. That was a lot longer than I wanted it to be, and I apologize. But maybe don't expect too much more from leaders in these times of high stress because the leaders that you most respect in the field are usually the ones who have some -- are either knee-deep in massage every day themselves or hands-on practicing or all the time writing and immersed in teaching, and we're all grieving too. And maybe don't get personally mad at us for expressing thoughts in a personal realm just because you're used to me being a little bit gentler in a professional realm.

Also, just as a side note. I don't send friend requests to anybody, so if you're friends with me, it's because you requested it. So deal.

And that is all I have for the episode, Michael. [Laughing].

MR All right. [Laughing].

AH Yelling at everybody. I did not mean that to go that way.

MR [Laughing]. Not a problem. I've marked the "E" there, so we'll warn people in advance, so. [Laughing].

All right. Now that we've done that, you want to say any more swear words or anything since we already have the "E" noted there? You can --

AH No. I'm good. I’m good.

MR -- you can cuss until your heart's content if you want.

AH I'll put this at --

MR [Laughing].

AH -- I'll definitely put that at the beginning of the podcast notes too because I don't normally drop the f-bombs. Sorry.

MR Fair enough. Fair enough.

All right. Well, with that, thanks for sticking with us as always. We appreciate everyone who's joining our community recently and becoming a new listener and long-time listeners as well, and we will continue to do our best to be a place for hopeful and practical conversation about the current conditions and be as helpful as we can to our community and to our listeners. So thanks for being a listener.

All right. You can find us online as always at massagebusinessblueprint.com. You can send us a note there, and we will see you next time. Thanks for joining us.

AH Bye.

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