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What a Spa Therapist Won’t Tell You

A massage therapist/aesthetician who has worked in some of Washington’s top spas—and who asked to remain anonymous—gives us the skinny on the spa business.

Illustration by Ryan Snook.

What has changed during your decade in the spa industry?
Ten years ago, people would say, “This is such a splurge for me.” Now you see people going to spas more often.
People are losing the ability to relax. I’ve done facials on people who are texting. I want to say, “Listen, you can turn your phone off for just an hour.”

What annoys you?
My pet peeve is when people come in for a spa service and don’t take a shower first. I’m talking about people who walk around sightseeing all day in the summer. That’s kind of nasty.
Body hair is not that big a deal. I don’t mind any particular body type but prefer not to work on very athletic men. All that muscle—it’s hard!

Are people tipping well despite the economic downturn?
Some people are really good; others aren’t. Now when they come in for that expensive treatment, they’re tapped out. They’re not interested in upgrading or buying products.

What about annoying product pushes? Do I really need the products?
We have sales quotas to meet. I don’t know if you’ll lose your job, but you’ll definitely hear about it if you don’t upgrade enough or sell enough products, especially in luxury spas.
I try to be honest—I don’t feel I’m a salesperson. I might suggest one thing. Some therapists suggest three to five.

Some people complain about bad experiences on sites like Yelp. Do you know who those people are going to be before they post?
They don’t wait—they complain at the front desk. Therapists are trained to ask a client two to three times during the treatment if they’re satisfied so that doesn’t happen. Some people are shy; the other half are looking for a discount. Anyone who has worked in the service industry wouldn’t do that.

What’s with a therapist who hovers at the front desk after my treatment?
That’s a no-no in luxury spas. We’ll walk them to the changing area, but to walk them to the front desk is tacky. If someone is going to complain about you, do a better job; don’t just stand there.

Where do you spa?
I don’t need all the bells and whistles. I just need a place that’s clean and therapists who are professionals. I’ve gone to Massage Envy, but I stick to one person I like. If I want a vigorous massage, I get a shiatsu massage at Spa World. Sometimes I get a massage from a coworker. I’m not crazy about facials—my skin is so sensitive it can’t handle them. I like places like Spa World, a place you stay all day. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Day Spas 2013 ››

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