Picture a spa and you visualise the perfect setting – massages that make you limp with pleasure, treatments that set your face aglow and staff members who treat you like royalty itself. With such positive decadence, nothing can go wrong – or can it?
Unfortunately, the reality is we don’t live in a perfect world, and while one hopes that the reality is as close to the dream as possible, it is not always the case.
Spa disaster stories and pet peeves are not that uncommon, with over-friendly staff and massages gone haywire are just the tip of the iceberg.
Emirates 24|7 spoke with some spa aficionados to get their take on their memorable spa experiences, resulting in some interesting food for thought.
Pushing the wrong buttons
Says Akankasha Medhi, 32: “Over-friendly staff can sometimes do more harm than provide a helping hand. I recall an incident where I had opted for a full-body massage at a local spa here.
Halfway through the treatment, the door opened and in walked the spa manager asking me how I felt.
“How I felt? How would you feel when you are shivering on a table, naked, and a random stranger strolls in to strike a conversation!”
“I really hate spa therapists who talk too much. At one spa here in particular they all want to chat about where they came from and how badly their employers treat them.
You’re meant to be at a spa to relax, but I just end up feeling really wound up when I go there.
“I just like my therapists to exude a feeling of calm and well-being – it’s not too much to ask when you’ re paying upwards of Dh200 for a treatment,” says Sandra Chisholm, 38.
“The thing that most annoys me in spas are over-friendly therapists – you know the ones who put their hands on you to guide you to the room, and then insist on talking to you during the treatment.
Thankfully I haven’t come across many who talk about themselves, but I also don’t want to talk about myself. I’m there to relax and forget about things for a while, not drag through all my problems!” Jamie Knight, 30.
Says Jennifer T, 27: “It’s very irritating when you are in the middle of a face or body treatment and the therapist starts recommending products to you. I always politely decline and say I have my own home products but once isn’t often enough.
They keep bringing up the subject when you are progressing through and paying for your treatment and it’s really embarrassing to have to tell them again and again that you don’ t want their products.”
“It happened with me only once but I remember being bullied into purchasing these spa products I’ve never wanted. It becomes extremely awkward to say no repeatedly, so I finally gave in and purchased them. But the result was, I never went back to that spa as I was afraid of being hustled into making some more purchases that I didn’t need,” said Sabah Hamadi, 24.
“I really hate it when the spa is freezing cold. The therapist is warm because she’s moving about but when you’re lying still on the table, with some flesh exposed, it can be really freezing.
“I also hate what I call ‘plink-plonky’ music that’s really loud. I think it’s supposed to be zen or something but it really gets on my nerves as it stops me relaxing into the treatment,” said Sofia Titou, 43.
“What is it with spas and freezing temperatures? The fact that you are wrapped in meager piece of towel or less to keep you warm should be indication enough to turn down the cooling,” reiterates Daisy Marcus, 31.
“I do go for spa facials here but I must admit I find it quite boring most of the time and do it because it’s good for my skin rather than a well-being treat for me.
I especially hate it when I’m left alone while the mask is on. I wish they would do something – massage my arms maybe rather than leave the room for 20 minutes.
“I did have a facial recently where I was attended too for the whole duration of the treatment and I can’t tell you what a difference it made,” said Giovanna Salvatore, 36.
Catriona Samson, 56, says: “I can’t stand having a facial by a therapist whose fingers smell of cigarettes or whose breath smells of spicy food. It makes me want to vomit.”
“Mixed sex relaxation areas. I really hate coming out of a treatment all relaxed and sleepy in a dressing gown and having to sit in an area with men to have my post-treatment tea.
“If that’s the case, I skip the tea and go straight back to the changing rooms, which is a shame, but I’d rather that than have men looking at me,” says Alia Khan, 28.
“I hate the concept of one size fits all in reference to the bathrobes at the spas. Being a plus size too many, it gets quite uncomfortable to find that none of the robes ever fit me; not only does the staff get embarrassed, but look at their discomfort, the spa experience gets ruined for me,” says Rehana Mahreb, 43.
“I dislike being told to use the heat facilities. I know it’s good for you but sometimes I’m fitting in a treatment during my working day and the last thing I need is evaporated makeup and frizzy sauna hair. Sometimes, when I say I don’t
want to, the staff can be quite pushy about it and that annoys me.
“I also hate being made to wait – I’m usually on a tight schedule and I can’t bear it if I have to wait more than five minutes; it makes me so stressed, the treatment is useless,” says Angela Cummings, 23.
“A proper hygiene practice is a big thing with me, so I was appalled to see a local spa in Dubai recycle the same bathrobes without even washing them once! When I happened to point this out, the attendant just shrugged that it’s common practice in Dubai.
“I was so disgusted with this statement and attitude, that I never went back to that spa or tried another one locally for a long time. I only chose the one I did later after being reassured that the robes were freshly laundered,” adds MarissaD’ Angelo, 38.