Sometimes they all three go together, but sometimes it's just one small thing -- that hair in the bottom of a shower drain -- that gives you an overall, yucky feeling. Here are some of my worst spa experiences. I'd love to hear about yours.
1) Dirty Spas. I went to a medical spa owned by a plastic surgeon to get Botox. I walked into a room that had open wax pots with sticks standing up in them, and wax dripping all over the cardboard collar of the pot. Was I grossed out? Yes? Did I feel like this spa had the highest standards of cleanliness? No. Did I get the Botox shot? Yes. Did I ever go back? Never.
2) Therapists Who Don't Care. For all the spa treatments I've had, this is surprisingly rare. One incident stands out. The therapist picked me up for my treatment about three minutes after everyone else had been claimed from the "relaxation room". I already felt forgotten and shortchanged. She told me she was a "healer," then gave me one of the worst massages I've ever had.
3) Therapists Who Just Graduated. They mean well, and hope to give you a wonderful experience. But they don't have the skill yet. Usually it's just a mediocre massage, but at one resort spa the therapist tried so hard to fix my neck that he made it worse. When I got home, I had to see a chiropractor to undo the damage.
4) Poor Draping...and Boundaries. Once I went to a club spa with my usual sore neck and shoulders. The therapist talked about how important it is to work on the pectoral muscles, and while I was on my back he started massaging around my breasts. He was actually doing good work, but the sheet started to migrate and I had to cover my breasts with my hands. This made me uncomfortable. He also told me how he was spending extra time working on me. It seemed like he wasn't very busy and was angling for a big tip.
5) Double-Dipping. I was staying at one of the finest destination spas in the country, and I had my own esthetician. I was totally in love with her. She was sweet and funny and gave me great facials. Then I decided to have a bikini wax, and was horrified to see her double-dipping -- putting the stick in the wax pot, then on me, then back in the pot. This is the most unsanitary thing an esthetician can do. If you do it on your esthetician licensing test, it's automatic failure. Would I see her again? Absolutely. Would I let her wax me? No way.
6) Talk, Talk, Talk. Therapists are supposed to follow your lead. If you want to talk, they can talk. If you want to stay quiet, they stay quiet. But if you see someone regularly, they may be happy to see you and want to catch up on the news. They may be so excited to see you that they don't notice you're having a quiet day. It's easy to tell a stranger you don't want to talk, but harder when it's a friend. One of my favorite massage therapists was peppering me with questions and opinions, and I finally said, "I just need to be quiet." This worked just fine, and I've used it ever since.
7) The Dump. This "destination spa" was a converted 1950s motel with a few exercise classes, terrible "healthy" food, and not many people. The massage therapist complained about the place (always a bad sign) and told me that I should give her the tip directly, since she wouldn't receive it if I left it at the front desk. What I learned, if there aren't any photos on the website, and it's cheaper than you think a destination spa should be -- don't go.