Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

“Massage parlour” ecommerce hijinks

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Photo of a woman receiving a back massage. A dollar signs is superimposed on her back.

Customer: “Did I buy a book? Or a massage? Hmmm…” was recently identified as a “massage parlour” on a customer’s credit card bill! 😱 That description is, of course, utterly wrong and misleading. I have no idea where it came from. It certainly isn’t my description.

The customer was understandably puzzled when she reviewed it weeks later, and so she disputed the charge, even though she was actually a happy customer — she just didn’t remember going to a massage parlour back in March. Unfortunately, very disputed charge is a pain in the ass and involves a bunch of paperwork (some of it using actual paper, ugh — I can’t even remember the last time I had to mail something other than a Christmas card).

Strange as it is, that “massage parlour” description must be linked to my past life as a Registered Massage Therapist. It can’t be a coincidence. (Not that I would ever have billed as a “massage parlour” even when I was working as an RMT.) I have no idea how, but somehow my former profession must have influenced this.

It turns out the “massage parlour” code can be changed, thank dog, but not by me. It’s just some obscure bit of metadata attached to my merchant account, which I have no direct control over. More customers would have been puzzled by it, but apparently these codes are rarely actually used for anything. Most banks ignore them, but the odd one will suck it into their system and use it to describe the transaction.

Ecommerce is still such a mess.