More bad press for Singapore spas

Er… is the spa industry really going downhill or has the Singapore press started a bad press campaign against the spa industry? This must be the 3rd newspaper article in less than a week about bad spa experiences in Singapore.

Do you have similar horror stories about spa experiences in other countries? Please share with us if you have come across spa bad experience, cheating cases or bad service in spas in Singapore and other countries as well.

In the meantime, here’s the ‘horror’ story from a spa-goer in Singapore…

Burnt by slimming treatment
By Amanda Yong

YOU often hear of slimming treatments claiming to “burn stubborn fat” off your tummy. One housewife tried doing just that in an unusual beauty treatment – and got burnt.

Madam Li Mei Gui, 35, is now left with horrific scars on her back, one as big as a two-dollar note.

The Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia was enticed by a local spa’s promise of a “fat-burning treatment” that claimed to reduce the fat on her belly.

She visited the spa in Ang Mo Kio and tried out the procedure on 28 Oct.

We are not naming the spa for legal reasons.

Her son, 9, and daughter, 7, were at school. Her husband was at work and didn’t know she would be going for the treatment.

“I didn’t tell him because I thought it was just a small matter,” she said in Mandarin. But it was no small matter.

During the procedure, Madam Li lay on her front in one of the spa’s treatment rooms. Her lower back and waist were left exposed for the treatment.

The therapist placed a towel on her waist and poured an alcoholic fluid on the towel.

The procedure was to have been carried out on her back and her front, but it could not be ascertained which treatment came first.

All Madam Li could remember was turning back and seeing the therapist light up the towel, which started to burn.

“I was so scared when I saw the fire (on the towel). I wanted to ask her what she was doing, but it was too late,” she said.

Within a few seconds, the fire on the towel had spread to her bare skin.

She felt a sharp burning sensation on her back and screamed in pain.

Realising that Madam Li was on fire, the therapist immediately threw a wet towel onto her back, dousing the flames.

She also put ice cubes on the burnt area to soothe the pain.

Madam Li was so traumatised and in such pain that she left the spa without raising a fuss.

“I was in so much pain that I just couldn’t say a word. That half an hour (of treatment) was so painful that I just wanted to get out (of the spa) as soon as possible,” she said.

Huge burn marks

When she arrived home, she showed her husband her injuries.

Her husband, a 40-year-old pastry chef, who wished to be known only as Mr Chen, told Shin Min Daily News that he saw angry blisters, “some long and some round” on his wife’s back.

There were also huge burn marks, one as long as 20cm.

Read the rest of the article here:

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More spa unhappiness…

Here’s more bad press about spas and their package-deal hard sell tactics. This is a letter written by a disgruntled consumer to a local newspaper in Singapore.

I agree that many spas hard-sell their spa packages nowadays. I have always been against such aggressive sales tactics. They always spoil an enjoyable time at the spa and sometimes leave a bitter after-taste because your mood and time has been spoiled.

However, I don’t blame the sales girls as it’s their job to sell and it’s easily up to the consumer to reject the hard-sell and walk off. I do blame the spa owners and the spa industry though… why can’t they just concentrate on providing good service, upgrading the spa environment and ensuring excellent massage skills… and customers will just come back even without all the fancy sales techniques?

Wed, Nov 18, 2009
my paper

Protect spa customers from dodgy sales tactics
IN AUGUST, I signed up for a package from a well-established spa and visited the spa thrice for facials.

During a visit, I was persuaded to add services to my package.

Although I rejected the offer, the staff member was insistent and offered me a lower rate, which I also turned down.

She then returned with her manager.

It was harder to refuse and I relented.

After my facial, the manager sat me down for half an hour, going through the profiles of customers who had signed up for packages worth several thousand dollars each.

For someone who had just started work, the amount was too high.

Also, did sharing other customers’ information with me constitute a breach of confidentiality? While it is fine for spa workers to recommend products and services to customers, they should stop once their offer is rejected.

My friends have also experienced such hard-sell tactics at other reputable spas.

Shouldn’t these businesses understand that people visit spas so they can relax?

The thought of having to face sales pitches during a treatment is a source of stress. Consumers have to be firm and not let spas push products down our throats, as it is our money that we are parting with.

More awareness needs to be raised about unethical sales tactics practised by spas.

Could more be done to protect consumers’ interests in such instances?

Ms Khoo Shu Hui

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When spas go bad…

If you are a regular spa goer, I’m sure you had been approached many times to sign up for spa packages or spa membership at the spa you are patronising.

It can get irritating. Especially if they hard-sell. One goes to a spa to enjoy and relax and not listen to some pushy ‘membership consultant’. Other than being irritated, should you even consider such packages?

Many spas will tell you that membership or packages will save you money at the end of the day. You may also enjoy preferential treatment. Maybe even receive birthday cards/cakes.

Well, personally, I’ll never sign up for a spa package. No matter how attractive the terms are. My main reasons are:

1. A spa is a very human-based business. A good spa today may be a bad spa tomorrow simply because therapists skills deteriorate or service quality drop. Without a package to lock you in, one simply look for the next good spa and move on.

2. You normally pay upfront for a spa membership or package. This can start at a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The moment you sign on the dotted line, you are at the mercy of the spa.

Some spas are known to spend all their effort in recruiting members and then treat members badly. Some oversell their slot availability. Some go bust and keep your money. Check out what happen when spas go bad…

Has Wellness Village Spa left its customers in the lurch?
By Alicia Wong, TODAY | Posted: 10 November 2009 0704 hrs

SINGAPORE: For over four years, it operated at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel. But over the course of a day, the Wellness Village Spa left customers and the hotel in the lurch when it suddenly shut down, disconnecting its phone lines.

At its Pagoda Street outlet in Chinatown, the premises were empty, with the doors wide open when MediaCorp visited on Monday. Neighbouring shop owners said they saw movers shifting equipment and furniture on Sunday afternoon. In the quiet of the night, the same scene was seemingly repeated at the Pan Pacific outlet.

A nearby shop owner said the spa began retrenching workers last month. He noticed remaining staff packing up late last week, and believes that customers were told it was “fully booked” to keep them from coming down.

This was certainly the experience for one customer.

Ms Elaine Ong had been trying to make an appointment, but the spa kept telling her that it was fully booked.

The “first hint of trouble” came last Thursday when she called the Pan Pacific outlet and an employee told her only two therapists were being employed, said Ms Ong who is in her 30s.

As she has recently signed up for a $600 package, Ms Ong said she was a “bit alarmed”.

At Pan Pacific on Monday, a hotel employee told guests the spa had closed without informing anyone. Dutch businessman Laros, 39, who had been peering through the spa’s glass door, said the hotel’s reception pointed him to the spa for a massage when he checked in.

The hotel told MediaCorp the spa “leases and operates the premises independently”.

It “sincerely regrets any inconvenience experienced” and is now re-directing guests to nearby spa facilities. It will “continue to attempt” to contact Wellness Village Spa, it added.

Checks with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority showed that Wellness Village was incoporated in June 2004 and is still a “live company”. Permanent resident Lia Meyrina is listed as its director. MediaCorp could not reach the company.

Wellness Village Spa and Fitness, a limited liability partnership with Ms Lia and a Mr Christopher Tan Khee Howe listed as partners, was struck off in September. It was registered in 2007.

Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) executive director Seah Seng Choon was “not surprised” by the spa’s actions.

“Don’t be fooled by the location. Spas are generally small businesses, unless they have an international chain … Consumers have to be careful when transacting with them,” said Mr Seah.

Since last year, CASE has received five complaints, including unsatisfactory services and difficulty in scheduling sessions, against Wellness Village. Four were made this year, with the latest complaint in October. CASE is trying to contact the company.

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