Tribulations


Phew! What a week! Tough, tough, tough. It’s not surprising when the OECD report that a good 55% of the toughest days in poor old H’s life have occurred in the last 18 months. In fact, I’m inclined to think it might be greater than that, but I guess the pointy heads in the OECD know better.

Unfortunately the tough week has stretched into its second, but let me start at the start…

Tuesday night last week I’m having a reasonably pleasant few drinks with tapas in the city with a girl I know. We part sometime before 9 and I stroll towards Flinders Street station feeling reasonably content. Throughout the night I’ve been tracking business at the shop, and its been a bumper. Then, just as my train pulls into Hampton I get an SMS from one of my masseuse. She had the day off, and is due to work from 10am Wednesday. Instead she tells me she won’t be in, not then, not ever again. This is desperately inconvenient, to say the least. I’m not about to stop her – she is a pain in the arse – but I express the thought that more notice would be reasonable, and could she at least service her bookings. Well, you know the answer to that one.

So for the rest of the week I’m one masseuse down, with another due to finish on the weekend. It’s a good week, very busy, but unfortunately because I’m short of staff a lot of business walks out the door. Then the weekend comes and it’s still great, except that now one of other masseuse – an excellent therapist from France – finishes on Saturday to continue with her travels. So on Sunday I’m down to one masseuse and though she’s kept busy I manage less than half the business that I might.

By now I’m looking ahead to the coming week, concerned that I’m short of staff and that it will be critical. I’ve been advertising since I walked in the door, but it’s a tight, competitive market, doubly so for ‘good’ masseuse.

I’m having lunch with Fong down at the wasteland otherwise known as the Docklands when once more my phone trills to announce another message received. This is from V, my best and most reliable masseuse. She’s Thai and is quietly professional, opening up most days, making sure the shop is spic and span, and working tirelessly without complaint. She’s great. Now she informs me that she can’t work Monday because she has some problems with her uterus.

That doesn’t sound good. Immediately I’m figuring that it might be a while until she returns. And it means that I can’t open.

Now that’s the worst possible outcome. You can’t run a massage shop without massage therapists. Regardless though, costs mount, and the potential damage to the brand increases with each day out of operation. What am I to do though? V works 5 days a week, 2 of those days 12 hours straight. That’s a lot of time to fill with less than 24 hours notice. And the other two who might normally have been there are now gone.

The result of this is that Monday and Tuesday I’m closed. Calls come through to me as people try to book, and I explain trying to put a positive spin on it. But I feel the dollars leak through my fingers.

I go back, refresh my job ads, seek other avenues, but it’s hard work. It’s frustrating, most particularly as I feel relatively powerless. Short of doing massage myself – which I can’t – there seems little I can do.

On Wednesday I do open. Last week I engaged as receptionist a Vietnamese girl who also has great experience as a masseuse. She’s great. I have a lot of time for the Vietnamese, I find them industrious and enterprising, and she is precisely that. I had spoken to her ahead of Wednesday telling her of the situation and she had gone off on her own initiative to place job ads for the shop. Yesterday she came in and did massage while I sat on receptionist. In between times we sat together and mapped out all the things that need doing. She’s very generous with her time and effort, very willing to get involved as too few are. She appreciates the predicament I’m in, but reassures me that it will be okay. She believes in the potential of the place, and is excited by the challenge – a feeling familiar to me.

Today I’m closed again. Tomorrow I’ll open for half a day. The weekend, where I really make my money, will have a shoestring staff. Next week should be better, but a long way from great. And tomorrow the rent is due.

I’ve been in the shop most days this week open or closed. I’ve interviewed a bunch of candidates, engaged two and possibly another. I have another interview Sunday. None of them can replace V as so far they’re only a day here or there, or a shift. I need that anchor masseuse.

Of course I’m worried. After doing well last week I’m going to lose big this week, and probably next as well. The unknown is the damage to the brand – not terminal as yet, but need to get on top of it soon. I have a bunch of necessary costs coming up – besides the rent, $1,500 worth of brochures, vouchers and business cards. As it stands I’m paying for that out of my capital, which daily diminishes as I have no time to go out and earn money elsewhere.

All this has been responsible for a few pointed moments. Deal with it though, that’s all I can do. And take it as it comes.

So it goes. Perhaps there’s a book in it some day, or at least an interesting case study. Right now all it’s good for is a few grey hairs and possibly an ulcer.

Tonight I’m out for drinks with the African. May as well. Close my eyes and just enjoy.