Until a few weeks ago, I never had a massage. It’s not that I’m not interested in treating myself, it’s just that usually involves booze. Or food. Or taking a stupidly long nap. Massages always seemed like one of those things that were bound to be over hyped. Not to mention, I’ve heard so many people describe them as straight up painful. I couldn’t quite see the appeal.
Yet, when I got an email from the Zeel team asking if I was interested in trying their service, I was definitely intrigued. Like many smartphone apps, the basic idea behind Zeel is to make booking a massage as easy as requesting an Uber driver. While there are a couple of hoops to jump through in the beginning (you have to provide them with a snapshot of your license or passport for obvious reasons), once your profile is done, you can start booking in home massages with abandon.
It took the app less than five minutes to find someone available to come to my house later that day, and just like that, I booked my first massage.
The massage therapist brings everything. The only thing you have to worry about is having enough space to fit their table somewhere, and providing your own sheet and pillowcase to cover the table. If you don’t have an extra sheet and pillowcase, you really have other more pressing problems in your life.
Since I had zero experience getting a massage and had no idea what to look for in a massage therapist, take everything I say with a grain of salt, but my therapist Karemia was the shit. She was so nice and fun and I think I almost gave her a heart attack when I told her I had never had a massage. She could not believe it, but she was incredibly good with communicating everything that was going to happen, putting me at ease. I don’t know if this is a normal massage thing, but I told her I carry a lot of stress in my jaw, so she even massaged my face. It felt weird and great. Afterward, I was definitely tired, but I wasn’t very achy and I slept like a goddamn baby. Mission accomplished.
Before my massage, I was able to chat for a little bit with Zeel’s CEO, Samer Hamadeh, about how he started Zeel, why he wanted to launch the product in D.C., and most importantly, how they make the service safe.
Tell me a little bit about Zeel’s origin story. How did this all come to be?
We created the category of Massage on Demand and were the first to market in 2012.
Zeel started in 2011 as a wellness booking service for offerings such as acupuncture, yoga, and of course, massage. What we learned in those first 18 months drove us to create massage as an in-home, on-demand offering and relaunch Zeel to what it is today. We learned that our customers were clamoring for massages when their back and necks actually hurt – right then and there – not when a spa was open or had availability. We learned that 53% of all massage customers want a massage within 4 hours. We learned a lot about therapist payments, overall safety, and other aspects of the business that, leading us to create Massage On Demand in 2012.
Why did you decide to launch in D.C.?
Washington D.C. is truly the heart of the United States – not only is D.C. home to a booming economy and the home of the United States government, it’s also one of the most important American centers of business, technology, and tourism. We’re excited to bring Massage On Demand to the D.C. metro area.
The idea of having a stranger come to your home and give you a message seems kind of strange at first. What are you doing to reassure people that it’s not as weird as they think?
In the past several years, the idea of having services delivered to you on demand at your home or hotel has become mainstream, so we don’t have to do as much education as we did back in 2012. We even have other companies that have sprung up doing similar things, so people in general are more familiar with the concept.
That said, we take extraordinary steps to make sure we have the best on demand massage therapists – every one of our Zeel Massage Therapists is fully vetted, licensed in their state of practice and chosen for their excellence and commitment to customer service.
If you could go back to the very beginning, what would you have done differently?
We would have focused on massage even sooner than we did – people wanted their massages on demand as soon as we could deliver them!
What’s next for Zeel?
Considering that a full 84% of all Americans didn’t have a massage in 2015, we have our work cut out for us! We’re planning to bring Zeel to many more cities in 2016.