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Phuket masseurs demand action against price-dumping “foreign” competitor

Phuket masseurs demand action against price-dumping “foreign” competitor

PHUKET: A group of Phuket masseurs have filed an official letter of complaint urging authorities to take actions against a massage venue offering services two times cheaper that what they believe an honest market price should be. The business in question is also alleged to be owned by foreigners.

By Eakkapop Thongtub

Saturday 20 August 2022, 04:11PM

At 10am Friday morning, around 100 masseurs gathered outside of Phuket Provincial Hall on Tha Kraeng Rd in Phuket Town to ask Phuket Government to protect them from a price-dumping competitor. The group was led by Thornsiwit Klaicha-em who spoke on behalf of Karon Traditional Thai Massage Community Enterprise Group and other massage parlors in Phuket.

The disgruntled masseurs in front of the Provincial Hall holding up placards bearing figures “300” and “150” with B300 being what the group believes to be an honest massage price and 150 being the price offered by the competitor they want actions against.

The slogans on the placards included “300 is life, 150 is hard life”; “150 get out!!”; “We share the same occupation. Please, be creative. Don’t hurt yourself”; “COVID was bad, 150 will break us”.

One big placard summed up the message: “Kata Karon Community Enterprise Group came to ask for fairness. We have been open for 10 years and never had a problem. But when you come in and turn [your price down to] 150, you hurt a colleague in the same profession, you make him die alive.”

“150” was also a common chant from the disgruntled masseurs during their rally.

Explaining the case, Mr Thornsiwit said that what the group wants is “standards and fairness”. According to him, before the pandemic Phuket massage parlor operator agreed to set a standard service price of B300 per hour “same for all shops”. 

In 2020 the pandemic began badly impacting the traditional massage sphere among other tourism-related businesses. 

“During the coronavirus outbreak there were almost no tourists in tourist areas. Entrepreneurs were unable to bear the costs of keeping parlors open and many Thai massage shops gradually stopped their business,” Mr Thornsiwit said.

“But then the Government implemented measures to solve the problem and contain the spread of the coronavirus to some extent, so Thailand could welcome tourists again. As a result, there arrived travelers who began using Thai massage services again,” he added.

Mr Thornsiwit said that the recovery in the massage industry is now threatened by 150 Massage By Ked salons, operating in many areas of Phuket and offering “almost all types of massage” for only B150 per hour instead of B300. The parlors lure customers straight from the street and via social media with their low prices, which other venues cannot compete with.

“Thai massage shops cannot operate,” Mr Thornsiwit said.

Sinea Phuket

“The cost of operating a business is higher than the actual income [if the fee is B150]. It is not possible to offer the service at B150 per hour. It also impacts the confidence about Thai massage as well as the value of wisdom and science behind Thai traditional massage in the eyes of foreign tourists,” he added.

According to Mr Thornsiwit, 150 Massage By Ked is a Thai massage business opened by foreign investors who used Thai nationals to get around the law.

Mr Thornsiwit explained that massage shop operators tried to solve the issue by addressing Karon Mayor Jadet Wicharasorn and other local officials, yet it didn’t bring any results.

“It appears that 150 Massage By Ked does not operate according to the agreement,” Mr Thornsiwit said.

Having failed on sub-district level, the Karon Thai Massage Community Enterprise Group had no other options rather than try to approach Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew asking him “to formulate measures and solutions for both short term and long term as well as investigate foreigners behind Thai massage business in Phuket, which is a forbidden sphere for foreigners to operate in, and set a fair middle price for massage services so these businesses can continue operating in Phuket”.

Before the pandemic struck, there were about 10,000 masseurs working in Phuket. Now the business is coming back to life as tourists are returning.

“Massage parlors are starting to come back as well. We want to compete in massage services, not in cutting prices. The shop that cuts the price is a shop with foreign owners who act like capitalists. The investors initially opened one shop in Kata followed by branches in other areas of the province. They set their price at only B150 per hour, causing suffering to other massage parlors. Therefore we ask to sеt a flat price which would be fair for all the parties,” Mr Thornsiwit said.

The rally had been ongoing for some 40 minutes, when Phuket Vice Governor Anupap Rodkwan Yodrabam invited representatives of the disgruntled masseurs to join him in the meeting room of Phuket Damrongtham Center (the provincial ombudsman’s office) so they could discuss the issue in person.

Having listened to the masseurs, Mr Anupap said that as soon as next week officials will “go to the area” and negotiate with “massage parlors with lower than usual prices which cause most other parlors to suffer.”

“The province will set up a working group consisting of representatives of Phuket Public Health Office, Phuket Commerce Office, Damrongtham Center, police and all related agencies to check the licenses of the establishments in question and other details regarding their functioning. Services should be prices at rates that allow other shops to exist as well. The working group will report its findings to the provincial authorities. Other masseurs can contact Phuket Damrongtham Center for follow-ups,” Vice-Gov Anupap said.

In turn, the masseurs expressed satisfaction with authorities being ready to act quickly and resolve the issue. The rally in front of the Provincial Hall finished straight after the meeting with Vice-Gov Anupap. No breach of peace and order was reported.

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Taswegian | 22 August 2022 - 11:43:20

I would happily pay a lot more at my hotel's safe, clean spa and not be hassled for "Extras" that most of these women rely on. The street Massage parlours are simply brothels under another name

christysweet | 21 August 2022 - 12:19:21

How dare this biz "act like a capitalist..."  Seems to me managers siphoning off workers' pay is the real problem, not  free market enterprise. Aside from 
 US Amity Treaty companies, please show me one 'foreign owned'  business that is not using Thai nominees to circumvent the laws?  

jamstock | 21 August 2022 - 11:46:54

It's called having a free market. Anyway I always tip the 150 B massage more than the 300 B massage so it probably evens out.

Kurt | 21 August 2022 - 10:05:25

Reading mr Charles' comment, it is not a "foreign competitor". That was just a atmosphere creating thing to support the protest,  It's owned by Thai lady, who has  perhaps a smart foreign husband who knows about real business accounting.

Kurt | 21 August 2022 - 09:40:30

Perhaps good idea V/G this week first talks with the masseurs of the "B150 Parlors", see or these masseurs happy with their earnings ( perhaps at end of the day more earnings than in a B300 Parlor, were most masseurs spend their time in sitting/hoping to get customer and earn daily just little.)

Kurt | 21 August 2022 - 09:32:25

Probably to many massage parlors. There are streets on Phuket with 6-7 parlors in a row. Staff receive B100 per client, owner takes B200. If a Parlor asks B 150, staff get B100, owner takes B50, nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, with more clients, every one in such parlor makes more money, including the owners. And don't forget the tips! 

Timothy | 21 August 2022 - 08:51:54

Any business should be able to charge whatever they like, high or low. If the other shops don't like it, tough. Bars have happy hour specials. Burger and pizza shops sometimes have 2 for 1 sales. Maybe the operator is desperate and is taking measures to save her shop. Nobody has the right to tell an business how much they can charge for a service. 

JohnC | 21 August 2022 - 08:45:03

One of the main problems is that up to 50% of what many massage girls make (especially those working on the beaches) goes to the 'beach mafia' who control who can set up there. My wife knows many of them. The 300B p/h means the masseuse only gets 150B anyway. Stop the 'dark elements' taking large cuts of their income for protection money, or should that be called what it really is ...

charles | 20 August 2022 - 22:25:22

I know the business mentioned here , she is a Thai national married to a foreigner who runs  a scuba business. if she can afford to run her business at that pricing & her staff are making money then good for her.  I run a scuba business & have competitors undercut my prices & my margins have dropped to 15-20% I don't see how my competitors  can do that but you don't see me runn...

Capricornball | 20 August 2022 - 20:41:23

Just getting by for most massage lady is already difficult, having to deal with their stingy greedy shop owners. While things might be coming back, most of the masseurs I see spend most of their time sitting outside hoping.  The nerve of a foreigner showing up and undercutting the going rate really sucks. There are already too many girls trying to make a living.

Old guy | 20 August 2022 - 20:19:58

No such thing as "two times cheaper."
For English, it is "one half as much."  

Nasa12 | 20 August 2022 - 18:09:39

That's how business is, when the access is greater than the request.  Then the price will be pushed down.

DeKaaskopp | 20 August 2022 - 16:54:12

Standardized prices for a massage ? Complete BS !  What's next ?


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