Don’t Get Left Holding the Bag. How to Ensure Clients Pay.

You hear a lot about retail theft these days but what about clients who refuse to pay for services. It is called “theft of services.” Could it, too, be on the rise?  Recently, a nail technician in Federal Way, Wash., posted a video on social media of a teenager refusing to pay for her manicure after it was done. [1]

In response to the problem, some service providers are taking to collecting payment upfront.  While the policy increasingly is being adopted by service providers as a penalty for last-minute cancellations and no-shows,[2] it can also protect a massage therapist or spa from clients who walk out without paying.

Use technology to collect payments

Nowadays, thanks to technology, you can collect payment upfront so you do not have to worry about last-minute cancellations, no-shows or clients skipping out. You can integrate payment programs such as Square and Stripe with booking appointment software. By gathering credit card information at the time of booking, you can enforce your cancellation policy or recoup money should a client fail to show up or not pay.[3]

Prevent “theft of services”

But what if you do not employ technology for booking and payment?  In the absence of an online system, you still want to be sure to have all client information before you begin the treatment. Clients should be on file with their full name, phone number and/or email, so you have a way to get in touch if there is a payment problem.

To avoid a client refusing payment because they are unsatisfied with results, have a thorough discussion about the client’s problem and expected results. As you describe the treatment, be sure the client understands what you will be able to accomplish. Should the client refuse payment after the treatment, see if there is some way you can come to a resolution that is acceptable to both of you.

However, if regardless of the conversation, a client walks without paying, let them go. Try to contact them once more – it should be you or the owner of the spa and not an employee - to discuss payment. If the client still refuses to pay, you can let them know you will be filing a report with the police or sheriff’s department.[4]

Get creative about payment

Hopefully, getting paid for services or recouping some payment if a client cancels last minute, does not show up or refuses to pay are not chronic problems at your business. Still in addition to getting paid in advance, here are some other ways to ensure payment:[5]

Create a membership program: Your spa or massage practice could benefit from a membership program by gaining new clients, booking more appointments, ensuring more re-bookings, boosting sales, and providing a steady cash flow from membership fees. 

Sell gift cards: Another way to get paid in advance is to sell gift cards. While the holidays are a perfect time to offer gift cards, promote them throughout the year for clients to gift to friends and family who love massage and/or skin treatments.

Sell treatment packages of prepaid sessions: Start out by creating a treatment program for a client and then sell the package. By offering a small discount for packages, it makes it easier for clients to commit.  Prepaying for the package helps ensure clients will be back.

These recommendations can help you get paid and be better able to project your income from month to month.


[1] Torres, Nikki, “Nail salon owner discusses trend of clients not paying for services after viral TikTok,” Fox13 Seattle, January 4, 2024.

[2] Armstrong, Bobby, editor at LinkedIn News,” LinkedIn, Accessed May 12, 2024.

[3] “Get Paid Faster! 7 Tips on How to Bill A Client Easily, April 30, 2024.

[4] “Theft of services: when a client doesn’t want to pay,”, Accessed May 12, 2024.

[5] “Get Paid Faster! 7 Tips on How to Bill A Client Easily”