An article in the Los Angeles Times caught my eye recently. It was about the proliferation of foot massage parlors in ethnically Chinese neighborhoods in L.A. over the past three years. Explains writer David Pierson, the massaging typically takes place in a large, open room lined with armchairs and stools. Sometimes clients’ feet are soaked in warm water and herbs before the massage. The masseuses — usually Chinese immigrants — charge as little as $15 an hour to rub weary feet. (In a parallel to the nail industry, intense competition has driven prices steeply downward.) Authorities say many masseuses earn less than minimum wage.
The latest problem facing the industry is a crackdown by county and state officials who have ruled that they require a license from the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. While many of the businesses already comply with city regulations, including massage schooling, the Board determined last year that the industry fell under its purview “because of a law that encompasses the beautification and cleansing of the feet.”
Foot massage business owners say lawmakers should establish a separate set of rules for them and have formed an association to further their cause. In the meantime, operators and employees are facing fines of up to $1,000 for not having cosmetology licenses.