These stores relieve staffers' aches and pains

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Automotive News -- October 17, 2013 - 12:01 am ET
Warren Henry Jaguar in Miami offers massage chairs for staffers.

Les Lutz doesn't mind if his employees lie down on the job every now and then. And if they cop a few Z's in the process, well, that's OK, too.

In fact, the owner of Extreme Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Jackson, Mich., encouraged such behavior when he purchased a $4,000 thermal massage bed for his dealership.

Though a few customers have used the bed, it's there primarily for the use of employees, Lutz says.

"You lie down on the bed and it has jade ball bearings that roll up and down your back from your neck to your feet, and they're heated," he says.

Extreme is one of a handful of dealerships among the Automotive News 100 Best Dealerships To Work For that provide some form of massage therapy for employees.

It's one of the most unusual perks, and the dealers and employees who take advantage of the massages are enthusiastic.

Lutz, who suffers from lower back pain, found out about the soothing properties of the South Korean bed by trying it out in a store and wanted to share the relaxing relief with his employees.

"I started to think, 'I love it, and everybody's got aches and pains,'" he says. "I'll just buy one of these and put it in the dealership."

The employees at Phil Long Ford of Chapel Hills, in Colorado Springs, Colo., can enjoy the services of an on-site registered massage therapist about twice a month, says Scott Uhalt, who has a doctorate in health promotions and is the director of wellness at Phil Long Dealerships, of which the Ford store is a part.

Phil Long Dealerships ranks No. 87 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States, with retail sales of 9,271 new vehicles in 2012.

The therapist also visits the other dealerships in the group with her portable massage chair in tow. Employees pay $10 for a 15-minute massage and $20 for a half hour, says Uhalt.

Employees can sign up for their massages in advance or get on the schedule the day the therapist arrives, Uhalt says.

Wellness program


Employees can use their breaks and lunch hours for a little massage therapy as part of the dealership group's wellness scheduling. That way "they don't have to clock out or be worried about getting in trouble for leaving their work," Uhalt says.

He says there are a couple of employees who suffer from chronic back problems who are massage regulars.

"She stays extremely busy," he says of the massage therapist.

The employees at Warren Henry Jaguar in Miami get their massage R&R from remote-controlled massage chairs.

There is one in the showroom; the one usually at the ready in the service department customer lounge has been temporarily warehoused while the area undergoes remodeling, says Kelly Hayes, the audit and compliance director for Warren Henry Auto Group, of which the dealership is a part.

"At first they were just for customers to take the stress off, but we've moved them to where employees can use them, too," she said. "They look like huge recliners."

The dealership group bought its first chairs for its Infiniti store in 2006 because it wanted to find a way for customers to be comfortable while waiting either for their vehicle to be serviced or to meet with the finance and insurance manager, she says.

Now, with the exception of chairs being removed temporarily because of remodeling or because the chair malfunctioned, they are in all Warren Henry Auto dealerships.

'Lined up' for the chair


"I had people lined up waiting to get into these chairs," says Hayes, a 25-year employee who is a former service writer for the group. "I didn't sit in one for four years. You couldn't get to them."

Hayes says she steals about 10 minutes of chair-time about once a month.

She grabs a sugar-free, lime-flavored ice pop, flips the massage switch and relaxes. She and another co-worker jokingly call it their cocktail hour.

As she sees it, "Sometimes you need to get away from your desk." c

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com.


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