October 18, 2010

Adventures in Spa-ing

Even though we've lived in Wellington quite a while, we have yet to find a day spa that is top quality. Not that we've been looking, really, as we found a fantastic massage therapist years ago.  However, after a couple stays at the amazing Westin Auckland (and several treatments at the equally impressive Senses Spa located in the hotel) I've been determined to find my "go to" place closer to home.  I'd also like to be able to have a fun girl day with my sis-in-law when she comes to visit next year...

So!  To that end, I have been perusing the "one day sale" sites - Daily Do, Groupy, GrabOne etc. - and taking them up on whatever spa offers they may have.

Now, the first adventure was not intended as an adventure, and was not one that I bought discounted on the internet.  Back in July, I wanted to treat Darren for his birthday and get him a relaxation massage in a nice spa.  (And ok, me too!)  I had heard good things about East Day Spa (purposely not linked) and without any other ideas, decided to book there.

Like many spas, East Day Spa (EDS) offers a massage treatment where couples can be in the same room together.  It's a lovely shared relaxing experience.  Well...it's supposed to be.  I called EDS to book our massage, and being the accountant that I am, asked why the massage for two was $20 more than the price of two massages separately.  I was told that there was a fee for requesting the one room that allows for two tables.  Not one to pay extra for nothing, I immediately requested two separate rooms for our massages - only to be told that they did not have two separate rooms for the day that I wanted.  No worries, I'll book for another weekend - but they insisted they could get us in on the day we wanted, in the double room.  I agreed, but only at the lower price, as I was not specifically requesting that room.
(Please note at the Senses Spa, the cost of a couple massage is actually *lower* than the price of two single massages.)

So, we show up to the EDS premises in an office/retail building across from the bus and train stations.  It's a couple of stories above street level, and as far as I could tell, relatively quiet.  The reception area was nice and we were immediately shown to the relaxation room.  I thought the room was fine, but Darren wasn't impressed.  He said he could hear the staff room next door and other various sounds.
Eventually, one of our massage therapists met us in the relaxation room and talked to us about what pressure we preferred and scented oil we wanted.  I generally do not like being massaged with oil, especially if the massage will include a head massage (as this one would).  However, there didn't seem to be any other choices, so we picked our scent and were shown to our room.
The room was nice enough, although it was some odd mosquito netting above each table. There was a little box to put our valuables, which was a great touch.  Once we were comfortable, our therapists came in and started to work.  Darren's therapist put her oil bottle above his right shoulder, while mine placed hers against my side.  While Darren was completely unaware of where the bottle was on his table, I was trying to figure out why my therapist has spilled cold oil all over my side and left it there.  She hadn't, but eventually she did move the bottle.
However, Darren tipped his bottle over while repositioning his arm to be massaged, leaving his shoulder in a pool of oil for the remainder of his massage.  This on top of the constant struggle with his therapist over the preferred pressure he had indicated earlier.  
As we tried to relax, I noticed the music...light drumming leading to heavier and heavier war-type thumping with actual monkey screams in the background.  Not relaxing!  What are we supposed to do in that situation? Stop the massage and ask for different music? Would we still get an entire hour?  I'm just not sure why war music would be played in a spa in the first place.
Towards the end of the massage, my therapist massaged my head (and thus my hair) with oily hands as fearfully expected.  It took 3 shampoo-ings to get it out later that day. The worst side effect of the use of oil, though, was that we were both made to sit up 10 minutes before the end of the massage time to let our therapists wipe the oil off of our backs/necks/arms etc. with hot towels (which had to be retrieved from outside of the room).  This not only took away massage time, but disturbed the relaxation and typical slow recovery from the massage.
On our way out, the receptionist asked about our experience.  I was honest with her, and commented that it was not an ideal experience.  She did not ask any further questions - just asked for payment.  That inspired me to write a complaint detailing our experience on the EDS 'contact us' page of their website.  Above the form, it states "We will do everything we can to reply within 24 hours".   Three weeks later, I still hadn't heard back from anyone.

We live in an amazing world of technology, with several ways to connect with other humans, such as Facebook.  Turns out EDS has a page on Facebook, so I joined it and left a simple message stating that I had not been contacted about my feedback.  It seems the Facebook page is run by the Auckland or Bali spas, and they were efficient and friendly.  They promised someone would contact me as soon as possible.

Not too long afterwards, I received an email from a person I assumed to be the manager of the spa. She stated that she had tried to contact me, but I was never home and she only reached my answering machine.  No explanation as to why she did not leave a message (although later she claimed that she had!) or why she didn't email me earlier.  In any case, she called me a couple days later to discuss my feedback.

The phone conversation began with her asking why I didn't feel comfortable asking for a product other than oil.  I explained that it was the spa's responsibility to anticipate the needs and preferences of their guests.  I explained that we are both experienced spa patrons and have been to some of the top quality spas in the country (and the world), including Senses at the Westin.  She then went on to give me the detailed background of Darren's therapist and why we were wrong to think she didn't provide a top-quality massage.

[Let me just note that Darren is a trained massage therapist himself (and quite skilled, I might add), and is very picky.  And when paying $80 for a 50 minute massage, he is allowed to be picky.]

The rest of the conversation was equally frustrating and not at all friendly. The manager (who actually turned out to be the owner) did eventually offer the partial refund I requested after first trying to get us back into the spa for a complimentary and sure-to-be-oily massage.  Of course, that refund was initiated when I commented on the EDS Facebook page again 3 days later - not that afternoon, as promised.

The oddest part of the phone conversation was the very end - the owner quickly stated "We are not the Westin" before hanging up on me.  To that I can only say, that is too true.

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