Jersey Joe Gets a Mall Massage [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]
Shopping malls are plentiful in just about every state of the country. But in New Jersey, there’s a certain store that seems to be in just about every one – a massage parlor. Not, the illicit, happy-ending, adult ones – but the “my back’s sore from shopping can you rub it for a couple of bucks” ones.
Each time I visit Atlantic City, I try to stop by Ping’s Place on the Boardwalk. The family run shop has been in business for a long time. While the Boardwalk is loaded with massage places, I tried Ping’s on my first trip to AC a decade ago, and now I stop by as a treat.
For about a dollar a minute, they will massage your back, legs, neck, arms, and hands. You tell them how long you want to go, but I usually opt for the 20 minute session. They don’t use any crazy oils and you don’t have to get naked. I usually just lay down in a t-shirt as they play soft tranquil music and rub your cares away.
Not only are these parlors plentiful on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, but also on other New Jersey shore town boardwalks and in their malls!
The Shore Mall, in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, is currently undergoing a large de-malling construction project. The mall was once home to several of these mom and pop massage parlors, but as a wing of the mall is being demolished, they’ve simply moved to the nearby Hamilton Mall.
I’ve shopped at the Newport Center Mall in Jersey City for years and have always noticed the set of eight massage chairs in the main mall walkway surrounding a kiosk. There’s no store to walk in here – you’re right out in the middle of the mall, between the cell-bedazzler and the ear piercing pagoda.
On various shopping trips, I’ve walked by and glanced at the customers in these chairs. Some shoppers even stop on the upper level and gaze down for a moment to watch the show, as the massage therapists work on their clients.
I treat the Atlantic City place as a luxury, something to add to the value of my trip there. It’s completely relaxing, except for the occasional drunk person or confused loud mouth tourist on the Boardwalk. So, on my trip to the mall last week, I saw that there were no customers and the masseuse was sitting there quite bored – I decided to give it a try.
They have a little odd price structure which works out to $20 for 22 minutes, not including tax, which they inform you of ahead of time.
She led me to one of the eight chairs, in this case in the back row that directly faces the Kohl’s department store. So, while you check out at Kohl’s – you get to stare at me!
I took off my coat and she placed it in front of the chair. She took my shopping bag and Yankee cap and placed them on the ground.
The masseuse had me place my face through the padded circular cushion, sit stomach forward, and lean my arms around two padded support posts.
I had no idea what I was in for.
Next thing I hear: “This is medicine,” she said, as a giant glob of an Icy Hot-type substance was slathered down my back from the top of my shirt collar. It could have been Crisco, if it weren’t for the smell.
She then stuck her lubed up hands down the neck of my t-shirt and began to massage my left shoulder. She started at the top, worked her way to my lower spine, and repeated the process on my left side.
Next, what felt like her elbow dug into my muscles, again starting at the top left, going down, and then repeating the process on the right side.
I suddenly heard a bunch of dialing tones. It took me a second to realize as she was elbowing me on the right side, her cell phone was in her pocket, and she was pocket dialing. I never heard anyone answer, but she had dial 30 digits or so. Verizon was about to cash in big. Then she realized what was going on and removed the phone from her pocket.
She then lifted my t-shirt up over my head, like we were in a hockey fight, to expose my entire lower back to all the shoppers in the mall. Good thing I don’t have any freak birth marks or injuries back there. I was really wondering if this was about to get frightfully freaky, she began to massage that area, when a couple of shoppers approached.
I had my face buried in that cushion looking down at the ground. The only view I had was the tan tile with blue accents on the floor. I was really hoping that one of my friends wouldn’t walk by and see my wonderful, shirtless back being lubed up like a giant dinner roll, exposed to all the shoppers.
The couple asked if they too could get a massage and she said it would be another 10 minutes. I guess that meant I had 10 minutes to go.
She moved to my neck. She dug in pretty good, if I had any clogged arteries, I’m sure she jarred them clear! It wasn’t painful at all, it actually felt quite good, but, my head was bouncing back and forth in that pillow like a Muppet.
She then stretched out my left arm and rubbed down from the top to my fingers. She then massaged each individual finger and ended each with a weird snapping noise with mine as she ended each one. Was she trying to draw attention to the show? Oh, dear Lord – no! She repeated the process on the left side. I could feel the eyes of that waiting couple staring at me. Another group of people walked by and they started talking about massages. With the amount of people watching me – I could have sold ad space of my still naked backside.
Next, she put my shirt back down and moved on to massage the top of my head. She pushed down on several pressure points, which hurt a little, and then ran her fingers through my hair in all different directions. I must admit – that was kind of nice. No wonder cats like getting pet!
Then, beep beep beep… beep beep beep. Her little timer indicated that the 22 minutes were up… or were they?
She asked me if I wanted more but there was no way that was going to happen. I wanted to run away like a cat thrown in a bathtub.
I have to be honest – it did feel pretty good and she did loosen up my back. No bruises or punctured discs. I was pretty relaxed, but still a bit embarrassed knowing there were even more shoppers, including the other couple, watching my freak show.
That is when she grabbed my shoulders and had me lean back. She pressed her arm and elbow on my left back and tried to crack it like a chiropractor. Nothing happened. She did it again on the right side – and that one popped like a champagne cork on New Year’s Eve. She was really digging into me, but my face now out in the open, I hid the pain. I didn’t want to be weak now for the aspiring Jersey City audience!
She then lifted my arms above my head and stretched those out, before pulling them straight back to stretch my shoulders. It kind of reminded me of warming up at my old high school track days. Neither did much, but now I could stare right in the faces of the shoppers exiting Kohl’s and walking by with their purchases. What, you’ve never seen a guy getting twisted around in a massage chair, before? If I had a free arm, I should have waived.
She placed me back down with my face in the center cushion again. Now, she began to slap my back up and down. My friend Simon refers to this as ‘The Grand Finale’ – just like a fireworks display! He’s right, but, this didn’t really do anything for me either. People were looking again at the sound of someone repeatedly getting slapped over and over. I don’t even want to know what this looked like.
That was it. She sat me up and handed my hat, bags, and coat.
She then presented me with this plastic sheet with the prices. Apparently, New Jersey now charges some kind of state tax on massages (although they don’t in Atlantic City). They have the exact cost figured out with tax and I owed her $23 and a few odd cents. I gave her $26 for the tip, grabbed my dignity, and ran away toward the crowd to continue my shopping.
Walking back through the mall, I completely wreaked of Icy Hot, but I did feel pretty good.
What: mall massage chairs
Service: massage therapy at your local shopping mall
Cost: generally $1 a minute (rates vary by store) and tip
My total cost: $26
JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS:
Medical experts agree that massages are therapeutic and do relive stress. It’s not surprising that these are appearing at a mall near you. For smaller business operators, these kiosks avoid having the expense for a full blown store. They only have to invest in a few chairs and pay rent for a small kiosk area.
These setups have even appeared inside Las Vegas casinos. At Harrah’s an area with three chairs is located just off of the casino floor. Instead of booking a massage at the spa, and having to wait for the appointment, a tired gambler can get up from the blackjack table and walk only a few feet to a waiting masseuse.
There are even now massage chain stores.
One drawback, there is no way of knowing if these people are professional and licensed. The kiosk I went to had no credentials displayed and there was no way of knowing. She seemed to know what she was doing, but I guess I was taking a risk. If you’re not sure – do a Google search or see if the place is displaying some sort of massage degree. If you’re still worried, just seek out a professional spa in your area, although the cost will be much more.
Would I go back to this place? Maybe, if I was really in a good bit of pain and needed immediate relief. She did a good job for the most part, but it didn’t seem to be the most professional operation. But at $1 a minute – you get what you pay for.