Friday, December 28, 2007

Yay! Success! Hired a nail technician!

Whee, finally, after much pomp and circumstance, failure, embarrassment, and inconvenience, I have myself a great nail technician. Her name is Annie, she totally rocks, is a fast learner, and very hard worker. She is going to be my next nail goddess, mark my words.

You know what else was bizarre about this hire? My psychic predicted it. Nope, I'm not kidding. I was lamenting my woes of looking for a nail technician to her, and she says to me, "You know, Mare, you will find one within 4 days." Mind you, this is Theresa Hatcher we are talking about, the woman on my staff who runs my Soul Therapy program (Tarot readings, past life regression, Reiki, astrology charts, hypnotherapy, etc.). So I said, "Is that 4 days or 4 business days?" Because she was saying this to me on a Wednesday. Teri peers at me with a quizzical glance and says, "4 business days."

And what do you know, Annie came to interview with me on the following Monday and I hired her. I always knew she was accurate, but this was ridiculous.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Acts of Random Kindness

They really do make you feel good. I had a couple come in for gift certificates today and I just spontaneously decided to treat them to warm foot paraffin treatments. I made the husband a cup of spicy hot chocolate (with cayenne pepper added) and the wife a customized herbal tea. They had a great time enjoying each other and enjoying the treatments in our dressing room. I felt great to have been able to offer this lovely couple a nice respite from the world (and their Christmas shopping!).

Speaking of Christmas shopping, I haven't done ANY. And the parents are coming in tomorrow, and they will be hungry for dinner, and no restaurants will be open, AND I don't cook (I won't have time to, 'cause hubby and I are volunteering at a soup kitchen tomorrow) AND our usual Christmas standby, Chef Chu's, is closed tomorrow. Dang, just typing that has stressed me out and gotten my blood pressure up. I'd better get my butt in gear.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nightmare clients

Most days I love owning a spa. I am in the business of taking care of people's health, giving them a little dose of sanity, and offering them a respite, however brief, from the travails of the outside world. And most of our clients are truly appreciative and wonderful people. I love getting emails like this one:

I have been meaning to thank you and your staff for the spa treatments I scheduled the first week of October. We had a wonderful time and the staff was amazing. Truly the best spa, in fact I have mentioned to the staff at the spa I go to here in Santa Rosa to come into your spa if they are ever in town.? I will be reserving the first Thursday in October 2008 (10/2/08) for the 6 of us again so be sure to save a spot for us a 3:30 pm.? Thanks again for a perfect afternoon!? Happy Holidays.

P.S. Monica is the person I had and she was beyond words!"

However, every once in a while, the flip side rears its ugly head. I never thought I'd actually want to fire a client, but I guess I was wrong. In the 4 years I've owned Pavia, I have had to fire two of them. Now let me say first of all that I am a people pleaser. I hate not being liked; I don't care who you are, if you don't like me, it bothers me. That is why I usually go so far out of my way to make things right for clients, even if I don't truly believe we did anything wrong. If clients come on the wrong day, I always say it is our fault - we must have gotten the date wrong. If clients are booked a different service than they expected, I always own up to it and take responsibility - we must have misunderstood them. If clients are unhappy, I always assume it was our problem, not theirs. I guess that is why people try to take advantage of me, and there are some clients who just cannot be pleased, who cross the line and behave OUTRAGEOUSLY.

Case #1: Obviously I'm not going to name names. But this client had a pretty bad waxing experience with us, and I definitely wanted to regain her goodwill. I refunded her all of the money she paid for the services that went wrong, plus I gave her a complimentary makeup lesson and also a complimentary bottle of makeup so that she could cover it up. We then decided that perhaps she wouldn't be the best candidate for waxing, given her sensitivity to wax. However, she kept wanting to come to the spa for waxing, but didn't want to pay for any of the services. I understood that she needed to pinch pennies a bit given that she was a student, so I just agreed to allow her to do "training" services. Meaning that any new estheticians I hired who needed "training" in waxing could use her as a "model." The third time she comes for these free waxing services (a Brazilian bikini wax), she talks the esthetician into also doing her underarm and other free waxing services. She flails around on the table and somehow gets wax on the sleeve of her sweatshirt. We explain to her that she just needs to get it dry cleaned, and wrote down all the ingredients in the wax so the cleaner could take it out.

Well, believe it or not, the next day, she comes to the spa and says, "I feel that you should pay for my dry cleaning - $16 - even though it was a free service that I received. It was technically your fault that I got wax on my sleeve." I was so livid, I can't even tell you. People like this are just ungrateful, unappreciative, and completely draining. Who wants to be around someone like that? Well, I instructed my spa coordinator to give her the $16 (I know, I know, call me a softie), but I asked her not to come back to our spa anymore. She said she wanted to come back and talk to me about it in person, but she never did show her face (I wouldn't either, I would be too ashamed of my egregious behavior). One funny update on this situation: she since got married and tried to book an appointment at the spa under her married name, thinking we would not notice. TOO HILARIOUS.

Case #2: This one just happened tonight. A client came to us a few months ago for a facial (during our Off-Peak) time, and she had wanted a consultation and one of our Ingestible facials. She was expecting a 10-minute consultation plus an 80-minute facial. We did NOT properly communicate this to our esthetician, who incorporated the 10-minute consultation INTO the 80-minute facial, leaving just 70 minutes of "touch" time. So, she complained. She wanted to pay the off-peak price for a one-hour facial - and I, completely forgetting it was an off-peak day, somehow botched it and asked her to pay the peak price for a one-hour facial. In any case, totally OUR FAULT. I owned up to it and allowed her to pay the off-peak price on a one-hour facial, and then I also gave her a spa credit for another 80-minute facial (at no charge). I really wanted to regain her confidence and goodwill.

Well, she comes tonight for her FREE 80-minute facial, and I leave instructions for the staff to MAKE SURE she gets her entire 80 minutes and to make sure she has a good experience. Did it go well? Apparently not. I got an email from her afterwards complaining that she was shortchanged on the time AGAIN. She said that instead of 80 minutes, she got only 65 minutes - she feels that there is something wrong since we advertise 80 minutes. And, she says she is not sure she wants to come back for another facial ever again (which cracks me up, because this one was on us).

Naturally, I get frustrated, so I call up the staff and ask them WHAT THE HECK. The staff tell me that the client arrived 12 minutes late and didn't get on the table until 15 minutes after her service was supposed to have started! My esthetician said she even gave her 75 minutes, even though she was more than 5 minutes late, and this lady was STILL COMPLAINING. After I heard that, I just couldn't believe it. Some people have a LOT of nerve. I mean, it was a COMPLIMENTARY facial - instead of being grateful and appreciative, she has to complain about being shortchanged when she didn't even give us the courtesy of arriving on time? Give me a BREAK.

How can you reasonably expect to receive the full service if you don't even come when you're supposed to? You book the appointment, and you decide to spend part of it on the highway, or in a meeting, or just plain somewhere ELSE other than at the spa, and instead of owning up to it and taking responsibility for your actions, you complain to us that we shortchanged you again? And it was FREE in the first place? OMG OMG OMG. Some people are just....unbelievable! I sent her a nice, polite email and just explained that we were all ready to give her the full 80-minutes, but were unable to because she came late. I also said that I would understand if she never came back to us...that while I would hate to lose her business, I just wanted her to be happy. TRANSLATION: YOU'RE FIRED AS A CUSTOMER. By all means, take yourself elsewhere so some other spa can have the headache of a chronically unhappy and complaining customer.

What I really wanted to say to her was what my high school gym teacher, Mr. Guadagnino, used to say to us all the time: "OWN YOUR OWN ACTIONS AND SET YOURSELF FREE." Take responsibility and stop blaming everyone else for bad situations that you create, was what he basically meant.

Okay, I am done ranting and raving. Stepping off the soapbox now...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The purse strings have been a bit tight lately, so I went to get some supplemental income. I signed up for a focus group the other night that interviewed a bunch of small business owners. (Hey, don't laugh - they paid me $150 for 2 hours of my time!) I was in there with a really diverse group, including a woman who owned a paintball supply store, a woman who owned a social adventure club, a man who owned a photography studio, and a man who owned an investigative service that specialized in locating missing children. There were 3 other people in there with us, but their occupations have left my mind. Anyway, I was the only spa owner.

And I won't say much about the subject of the focus group, because I think I am not supposed to, and I don't want to be killed. But the thing that was embarrassing was that AFTER I got home that night, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth (yes, they fed us LOTS of M&Ms) and I looked in the mirror and I could see HUGE, MASSIVE flakes of dandruff in my hair...we are talking, the size of TEXAS.

OMG. I howled at myself. How could I have let myself walk out the door? I had only washed my hair that morning. I've noticed I have this problem in the wintertime so so embarrassing. The others were probably like, 'Um, SHE'S a day spa owner? Ms. FLAKY HEAD?' OMG. OMG. Mortification City.

I wish I knew what this problem even was. Always in the wintertime, large pieces of my scalp fall off. Not small, but gargantuan pieces. Like I said, the size of Texas. How gross. I jumped in the shower and scrubbed my head really hard, and then after I dried my hair, the flakes were right back. I don't know what it is...I looked up dandruff and it indicated that my scalp should feel itchy, but it doesn't.

I think, since I AM an aromatherapist, I might make myself a hair oil and rub it into my scalp and give my head a little wintertime conditioning treatment. I will post here to tell you if it works. But ARGH, I could have died right then and there. There are worse things, I know, I know. And I can almost laugh about it...but not yet.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Nail Technician Recruiting Report Card

Candidate #1: First person I interviewed, and I was thanking my lucky stars. I thought: how can it be this easy to find a good nail technician? I LOVED her in person. Sure, she had strange purple hair, but that could change, I told myself. More importantly, she was an accredited holistic nutritionist from the same school where I got my Aromatherapy certification and am working on my Master Herbalist diploma! She told me she and I were on the same wavelength. I invited her in for a "practical" interview - this is where she does a service on my lead nail technician (nail GODDESS Summer Brown). Result: She called the same day to cancel because her daughter was sick. Instead of rescheduling, she emailed me and said that since she had already accepted a job at another spa when she interviewed, it probably wouldn't be good to also take a job with Pavia. WAAAH! GRADE: F (I don't know why I was so wrong about her energy - I really liked her, and thought she liked me).

Candidate #2: Very cool in person. Currently working full-time for a non-profit, but wanted to get back into nails. I liked her as well, invited her in for a practical, and whaddaya know: "My car just broke down! I can't make it! I will call back to reschedule." Did she call back to reschedule? NOPE. GRADE: F (Once again, Mare falls for the other person, without the other person falling for Mare)

Candidate #3: Ex-sales rep and nail technician in the East Bay, looking to relocate to the South Bay. Resume looked STELLAR. I called her up, we set up an interview in person, and whaddaya know: Day of the interview, she calls to reschedule. We reschedule to one week later, and whaddaya know: Day of the interview, she calls to reschedule again. I don't even bother calling back - first impressions count for a lot! GRADE: F- (Is that even possible? I gave myself an F- because I shouldn't have allowed her to reschedule in the first place. Both times I came into the spa early just to meet with her, and both times she dissed me).

Candidate #4: Very nice woman, and her English was actually pretty darn good, especially in writing. Of course, we can't communicate with our clients on paper during a service, but I thought she would do. She actually SHOWED UP to her practical!! Hallelujah!! Oh, but wait: my lead nail technician said that she didn't sanitize the bowl that her clients soaked their hands in....oh, well. If the mindset of being maniacally sanitary isn't there, she can't work at my spa. GRADE: C (This was no one's fault, she was just not clean enough for us)

Candidate #5: 25 years of nail experience, gentle lady, very nice on the phone. I thought: WOW! Could this be it? I invited her in for an interview, we had a nice conversation. I thought she dwelt a bit too much on "not being liked" at her current job. She told me she felt excluded and talked about, and that was hurtful. I thought she was very nice, and thought she would connect well with our clients because she had a mature energy about her. I invited her in for a practical, and she agreed. The last thing she says to me in the interview is something that she didn't need to say - she shared something about her husband being in prison and hoped that didn't impact anything. Well, of course not! How would I have even known that if she hadn't told me? I kept it under my hat, and just let her perform the pedicure on Summer. I asked Summer what she thought afterwards, and Summer said, "Well, she did a pretty good job, although she got nail polish on my cuticles. But my main concern is she may not know what NOT to say." Uh oh. I asked, "Did she tell you about the husband?" And Summer nodded. That's two for two! I mean, I can't trust that she won't tell a client about it - clients come to the spa for sanctuary and healing, not to give US therapy. So, she's out too. GRADE: D (I should have known not to even waste her time inviting her in for the practical. But I had already invited her when she told me, so I guess I couldn't take it back.)

Candidate #6: Nice girl, I have high hopes. We shall see how she does in her practical. GRADE: TBD!

Candidate #7: No-showed for her first interview. Didn't even call to cancel. GRADE: C. Why a C? Because she weeded herself out, and even though I showed up specifically to meet her, I got some work done in the meantime. So no harm done, actually.

Candidate #8: HALLELUJAH, I think I've found THE ONE. We shall see how she does in her practical, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Candidate #9: We scheduled an interview for yesterday, 12/10/07, at 2pm. At 2:10pm, she calls and says, "Can we cancel? Your place is too far from my house." GRADE: B (if only for the humor and shock value of it. Once again, I got some more work done in the office).

Candidate #10: Sister of Candidate #6, and they are thinking of job sharing. Okay, this can work for me. Let's see how she does in her practical as well. Very presentable and nice girls both.


As you can see, it ain't easy!!!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tough times

This is how you say to your landlord that you won't be able to pay him on time: "Landlord, we just had the worst cash-flow month we've seen in the last 4 years. We can't send you the rent until after the 10th. Thanks." Click. That's right, hang up. Don't give him the opportunity to say "no."

This is how you relieve stress without your employees knowing about it: Quick, you cry in the parking lot before you walk into work. Then you use the back entrance and run into the bathroom and dry your eyes before they see you. Then you blog about it and hope they don't read it.

This is how you fall asleep at night quickly, without worrying about how you're going to make payroll, rent, and the myriad other bills piling up in the next 3 days: you mix St. John's wort, valerian root, skullcap, and lobelia, and you make a tea. Then you pass out naturally, with no side effects.

This is how you get through each nerve-wracking and worry-filled day: you give thanks for everything you have. For your wonderful spouse, who cooked for you last night and did your laundry. For living here in America, when you could have been born without hope and food and freedom in a developing country. For your health, which you need to truly enjoy life. For God or your higher self, or whatever name you want to call that entity that is in charge of you, for giving you opportunities for growth. For your fellow human beings, without whom the world would be a lonely place.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

4-year Anniversary

4 years ago today, my partner and I purchased and took over Pavia Day Spa. I still remember vividly that I could not be there that day when we took the reins over from Cristina Howes, Pavia's founder and previous owner. I was in Anaheim, CA managing a trade show for my then-employer, Syndeo Corporation. I even remember that our revenues that first day, which was a Tuesday, were around $1,300.

4 years later, I've learned so many lessons, fallen so many times, and dusted myself off so many times that I am amazed at my own journey. These are the biggest things I've learned about myself (and the spa industry) these last several years:

1. Owning a spa is more stressful, not less stressful, than working in high-tech. Yes, it's true - from the outside looking in, I also thought that owning a spa would be fun and relaxing and soothing. Well, it is only that way for the customers. For those of us who have to make it that way behind the scenes, it is NOT at all.

2. I am actually pretty good at customer service. I didn't realize that this would be a strength of mine. After all, I had zero experience in this arena, except perhaps if you count hobnobbing with cable industry executives and taking them out to expensive dinners. I am talking about the kind of attention to detail and service required of the best servants...i.e., butlers, housekeepers, concierges, wait staff, etc. Good service means anticipating your clients' needs, and I feel that I've gotten quite good at it. Our clients probably don't even think twice about the fact that we chose dark colors for our disposable spa wear (like thong bikinis and bras), but they can certainly feel more comfortable wearing them than wearing white, see-through disposables. It's the little things that count.

3. I am not nearly as tough as I should be. Each and every time I go to a different spa for a service, I try to learn as much as I can about how their operations are run. And all I've got to say is, my employees have NO CLUE how lucky they are. Other spas do NOT care what your physical limits are in terms of massage; if you're tired, sad, hurting, it doesn't matter. You will do as many massages as they want you to do, or else. Other spas give 5-15 minutes in between services; I give the employees 20 minutes. Other spas give employees their schedules for the next six months - meaning that the employees have their schedules dictated to them and their vacation times pre-set. I pretty much have never said no to a vacation request. I need to run a tighter ship, but I don't know if I can!

4. I would not trade the experience of the last 4 years for the world. Yes, I've been through the wringer in terms of stress and financial hardship. Yes, my husband and I are now living paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I have done things I've never thought I would do because I have an MBA from Stanford; everything from doing laundry at midnight to cleaning up the bathroom after incontinent clients who "miss" the toilet to picking up dead frogs that got stranded in the spa. BUT, I've learned so much about life, about business, and about people. I've met so many wonderful people, from my clients to my employees, that they have become precious to me. The emotional connections that I've forged are far stronger and deeper than any I had in high-tech. I always felt, in corporate America, like I didn't quite belong. I always felt that I was different, sought a deeper level of meaning and understanding with my colleagues and customers, than they wanted to give me.

This job transcends that, however. I will always treasure this most of all, which is perhaps why I now consider myself a "lifer" in the spa industry.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Woo hoo! Instant Gift Certificates!

I'm impressed. I kept getting contacted by a company called SpaBoom to help me sell gift certificates online, and for a while, I ignored them because I already HAD an on-line gift certificate function on my web site. But then I recalled how difficult the process was both for my customers AND my staff, and I decided to look into it.

Well, I really like it. Clients can now order gift certificates and PRINT THEM OUT INSTANTLY. They can pick a design template based on the occasion (whether it's a birthday, holiday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation, or other). They can have it emailed to the recipient IMMEDIATELY, or if they want to time the email to arrive on a specific day, they can specify that specific day! (Um, was that too repetitive?) Anyway, here's a link to this awesome new function.

I resisted at first because of the cost...SpaBoom takes 5% of the first $1,000 of gift certificate sales per month, then 4% of the next $1,000, then 3% of the next $1,000, and so on and so forth, until you sell over $4,000 and then everything else is 1%. With spa margins so low, 5% is a LOT...especially since we have Off-Peak hours now and these gift certificates might be used towards Off-Peak services.

But then I remembered the inordinate amount of processing that my spa coordinators had to do on this end to get a gift certificate done: manually process the card, manually create the gift certificate in Word, turn it into an Adobe PDF, crop it appropriately, then attach and email it out to the client. It wasn't INSTANT, it wasn't CONVENIENT, for the CLIENT or for US. So, I figured, okay. Let's see how it goes.

The other thing that I like much better about this new system is that we don't have to charge clients postage! YAY. They print it out, they mail it themselves. Win-win!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


So much has happened lately that I don't even know where to begin. The holidays always sort of take me by surprise and then completely overwhelm me. I don't even know how I will get done the things I need to do before leaving for Thanksgiving.

Spoke to Drew Ladner of Clasis Capital yesterday. He wants a CEO for his medical spa (called Hela Spa) in Washington, DC. I don't think I'm the right person for that position, given my quite opposite bent on how spas should be all-natural, organic, herbal, therapeutic, non-invasive, etc. etc. But apparently he is doing really well over there in DC...he and I joked about him being a Harvard Business School graduate and my being a Stanford Business School graduate and how we both have had the experience of doing laundry at ungodly hours of night...and how we both do not mention it to our circle of friends...since none of them would understand it!!

I also linked up with another wonderful holistic practitioner, Dr. Kate Fox of Fox & Young (she's Dr. Renee Young's partner). We are going to link up for some cross-referring opportunities - she believes that my spa is like an extension of a naturopathic physician's office, one in which clients receive treatments with actual therapeutic benefits. She believes it is a wonderful tool for healing patients because the doctor him- or herself cannot spend the time it takes to give patients that healing experience, so a spa is a great way to get that.

Well, we shall see how the relationship goes, but I am so impressed with both her and Dr. Young. That's all for today...will write more during the break.

Monday, November 12, 2007

OMG. Another no-show.

Okay, what kind of a loser ARE you if you:

1. Send in a resume applying for a position.
2. Get called for an interview, set up a time.
3. Call the day before the interview to cancel due to illness.
4. Get a callback to reschedule, reschedule it to a different day.
5. NO-SHOW on the interview, no call, no explanation, no nothing.

Hello???? Has the world just gone completely insane? Who DOES that kind of thing? What rock have these people been living under?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More screwing up. Why oh why oh why...

can we not be perfect? Normally I love working at my spa: really nice customers leaving really happy. Well, not today.

Today, we apparently told two different couples that they could have the Duet Suite at 1pm. Apparently, it was both couples' wedding anniversary. And apparently, we could accommodate NEITHER couple in the Duet Suite. YIKES.

I was really sweating it the whole time they were in there, trying to think of what I was going to do. The therapists warned me ahead of time that they were really pissed, so I knew I had to do something good to get back into both couples' good graces. So, to the first couple, who were REALLY MAD, I took $95 off their services (about 50%). To the second couple, who were not quite as mad, but still annoyed, I took $100 off their total bill (about 25%). Both couples seemed pacified, but then I was just so upset and disappointed about the whole thing. Firstly, because had it happened to me, I would have been just as upset. Secondly, because the front desk staff are veterans now...they should know to indicate the services as Duet or not. And thirdly, because I am out almost $200 in revenue! OUCH.

Goodwill is so important to keep, especially in the day and age of the Internet. When people get pissed off with you, they go on YELP.COM and tell the world and then you have a bad reputation and then the world goes to you-know-where in you-know-what. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get the gist. Hope we don't make these mistakes again (please, please, PLEASE).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Good. People. Are. Hard. To. Find.

My experience thus far looking for a spa coordinator: 50 resumes in, 10 candidates interviewed, 2 offered the position, 0 actual spa coordinators working here as a result. Hmmm. The most recent person I offered it to seemed like a really great individual, but then when push came to shove and she had to actually show up to work her first day here (TODAY), she called at 10pm the night before to say she had "actually decided against taking the job." I love how they are all eager and bright-eyed on the day of the interview, but when it comes to showing up for work...

And what kinds of people are actually out there anyway? I mean, I've had 95% of the candidates show up WITHOUT a resume. Who DOES that, I mean honestly? Do you think you're going to get a customer service job if you can't even anticipate the need to bring your potential future employer your resume?

And then there were the late/no-shows. A person actually came 20 minutes late to her interview. I had decided already that I would not hire her, since first impressions matter and if you can't call and tell someone you're going to be late, then you're not being considerate. And if you're not considerate, GONG! (does anyone remember the Gong Show? Or am I aging myself?) YOU'RE OUTTA HERE! Another person was late, she DID call, but she had gotten the time wrong and yelled at ME about it. Okay, GONG! SHE'S OUTTA HERE. And then, of course, there are the no-shows. People make an appointment with you to come interview for a job in which YOU will pay THEM. And then they don't show up, and don't even have the courtesy to cancel beforehand or tell you that they're no longer interested. You drive your butt all the way down to the spa just to meet with GOODNESS! How can anyone like that be successful? In ANYTHING? EVER?

Okay, rant's done. Tomorrow I will rant about my experience finding a nail technician. But that's different - I KNEW that would be tough. I thought finding a spa coordinator was going to be cake, but it has turned into turds.

Friday, November 2, 2007

In panic mode: I need another nail technician!!!!!!

Okay, how shall I say this without Great Spirit getting pissed at me? I need to remind myself that everything happens on purpose, and that what I perceive as disappointing or DISASTROUS is truly a learning or growth opportunity and is a chance for me to get over my fear. But I will admit to feeling a lot of panic right now, that is for sure.

One of my beloved nail technicians, and keep in mind I only have two of them, has lost her childcare at home and needs to return there to raise her family properly. Her mother went away to another country for 6 months, and will not return until the summer. This particular nail technician is a wonderful employee, everything I could have wanted. She was hard-working, ethical, gentle, sweet, helpful, flexible, a great communicator, anxious to learn, and anxious to please. She was also a good esthetician, astoundingly good at waxing and was getting very good at facials. But while good estheticians are easy to find and hire, good nail technicians are NOT! That is the strange secret of the spa seems like you can find nail technicians anywhere, right? Because there are nail salons everywhere!

Yeah, well, those nail salons charge $18 per pedicure and $9 per manicure and don't speak English to you and probably use Windex as disinfectant, just because it is also blue. And to tell you the truth, I can't hire a nail salon employee. We charge $55 to $85 a pedicure, I think our clients should expect someone who can communicate with them and someone who is maniacal about cleanliness. I certainly do expect that when paying that much!

But where to find them, where to find them? Here's an illustration of how hard it is: I put an ad out for spa coordinator on Craigslist, and was immediately flooded with 50 resumes. I put a similar ad out for nail technician on Craigslist, and not a single resume has come in yet. What am I going to do? I have no idea. I like this employee too much to just willy-nilly terminate her. Good people are hard to find, in any industry. But in nails, when you find a diamond nail technician, you don't let her go off and take care of her kids!!! Okay, Mare, get a grip. Did you see what you just said?

So I told her that she could come back whenever she felt she had the situation in hand at home, even if it wasn't until the summer of 2008. We also might work out a limited schedule during the weekdays, but only before she has to pick up her kids from school. But in the meantime, dilemmas dilemmas.

I understand that Spirit or God or my Higher Self (or whatever the term I use for the entity that is in charge of me) may have a reason or plan, but it took me forever to find this great employee, and I am resisting going through that process again with a vengeance. I did place an ad in Thang Mo, the Vietnamese weekly, which is how I found her last time, so hopefully I will be successful again. Oh please oh please, let that happen. In the meantime, if you are reading this blog, and you know of someone who is a great nail technician and is looking for a position, let me know!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ewww, creepy!

Happy Halloween, everybody! Speaking of creepy...I had a call last week from a male client asking about massage and prices for massages. He sounded normal at first, like any new client wanting to know about our massage therapy services.

So I explained all about the different kinds of massages that we offer as well as the Peak/Off-Peak pricing structure. At some point, he asks me what most people receive in terms of massage, so I tell him, "The most popular massages are our Relaxation and our Deep Tissue massages."

He asks, "And what is the difference between the two?"
I reply, "The Deep Tissue massage is $10 more in price because the massage therapist is exerting more effort and pressure in the massage."
He says, "So there's extra..."
I say, "Extra pressure, yes."
He says, "So is there extra..." At this point, I'm thinking, WHAT?
So I ask him, rather pointedly, "What do you mean by 'extra'?"
He says, "You know, extra..." Okay, now I'm PISSED. He's just wasted my time and all he wants is sensual massage. And even worse, I pride myself on being able to screen out these slimeballs and I didn't catch it until this point!!
So I say, rather rudely, "Sir, I don't think we are kind of place you are looking for."
He apologizes profusely, "I'm so sorry," but I don't hear any more because I've CLICKED - yes, I hung up on him.

Argh! So mad! Who ARE these sorry slobs anyway, and why would they call my spa, of all places? What about my place makes people think it would be THAT kind of establishment? Ewww!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge...

Now that I think about it, they could have been cleaning....I'm referring to the questionable day spa up the street. After all, my cleaning crew come in late at night from 9pm to midnight Tuesdays and it is entirely possible that that is what they were doing Sunday night, too.

So, for now, I reserve judgment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Questionable "day spa" up the street...

Speaking of "ladies of the night," there is a certain establishment up the street (which shall remain nameless, but anyone who knows the address of my spa can easily imagine the one slightly north of here and on the opposite side of the street) that I would really question as to their legitimacy. Years ago, when my business partner and I were looking around for spas to buy and scouting out neighborhood places, we walked in and asked for a menu and a tour, and the front desk gave us the really icy shoulder. They didn't have menus, and no, they didn't give tours.

And later, after purchasing Pavia, we learned from several of our female clients that they experienced the same thing. They would walk in and be told that the spa only did "facials," but then their husbands would walk in and get the red carpet treatment. And most recently, a client of ours, Ms. D.S., was driving by their location on a Sunday night at midnight (she was coming back from a quilting group) and saw that they were still open.

D.S. asked me if I knew what could possibly be happening at midnight on a Sunday night at a legitimate day spa, and I shrugged and said I had no idea. So anyway, she called the police on them. Hee hee! I wonder if the police did anything about it...we shall see!

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Massage Therapist, Not Masseuse, Okay???

Let's review: in order to perform massage, a person has to undertake some serious educational hours (varying between 300 and 1,100 hours, with most California schools clocking in around 730 hours of classroom training) to get their certification in body therapy. They have to register with the local police departments - in my town, they have to be fingerprinted, background-checked, and registered within a licensed massage establishment - and they have to know anatomy, some physiology, and when massage is contraindicated. So they deserve the title, "Massage Therapist," not "masseuse."

The term "masseuse" connotes images of untrained ladies working in unlicensed parlors that perform wamby-pamby body rubs and THEN SOME. Can you say, "happy endings?" Serious, professional spas do not employ masseuses, and it is an insult to call someone who has made it their life career to help others maintain their physical health through massage, a "masseuse." In my book, a "masseuse" is equivalent to a "lady of the night."

It's "Massage Therapist," not "masseuse!" Okay, time to get off my soapbox now. I'm done defending the rights of my employees and other highly trained spa therapists out there. Enough said.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Jet lag strikes again.

Rats, I lay awake again last night tossing and turning until 5:30am. I never really did fall *quite* asleep, I don't think. This morning, must have been around sunrise, I woke up in a sweat, the aftermath of a vivid, terrible dream about being caught breaking into Harmonie Day Spa with a "friend" and then having said "friend" call the CBS evening news to come film me doing it. I was extremely thankful afterwards that it wasn't true.

I tried everything last night: warmed milk, studying my Holistic Structure & Function of the Body textbook, a sleep mask, but nothing seemed to help. Nope, nothing but frustration and teeth-grinding, especially since the hubby always seems to sleep so peacefully. I must confess, however, to leaving behind my Sleep roll-on aromatherapy in Taiwan like a dumbass; I bet that would have helped.

So, I was in a trying-to-be-pleasant mood when I came to work the front desk at the spa today. That was dashed fast, however, when one of my employees complained to me about having only one service on her calendar today, which meant that it wasn't "worth" it for her to drive all the way here to perform it. She means financially, of course. I thought to myself, "And how is your moving away to the farthest corner of East San Jose somehow the spa's fault?" But on the other hand, the part of me that is a softie does understand her situation.

We are just so slow this October...but that will change, I am confident. Fingers crossed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jet lag, employees, and frogs...

Phew, made it back from Taiwan safely. Had a smooth flight and was planning to take all Thursday off to recuperate, but got called into the spa because two employees miscommunicated - each thought the other was going to work the front desk, and it ended up that neither of them did - and I had to fill in! Woo hoo. I hardly knew my name yesterday.

Then, this morning, I was supposed to be at the spa by 9:30am to cover for another employee of mine, but jet lag struck forcefully. I didn't sleep until 7:04am (at least, that was the last time I remember seeing on the clock), and needed to be up by 8:30am. Well, thankfully I have a strong inner TimeSense or SOMETHING, because I could almost feel someone pulling up on my hair and dragging me awake this morning. I swiveled around to look at the alarm clock, and it was 9:14am already! Holy cow dung! I slipped on pants and a shirt and high-tailed it to work, no make-up, no hair combing, no nothing. I barely remembered to brush my teeth...yikes, that would be clients away with morning breath...

And I got the lovely news that we have a little renegade frog loose in our spa. Our spa fronts a creek, and when the little ones hatch (as they are doing now), sometimes they invade us and show up during inopportune times. Like yesterday, for of my therapists saw a froggie visitor in the wet room while she was doing a salt glow on a client. Thankfully, the client was blissfully unaware!

OMG, I sincerely hope I do not see this frog myself, and that one of my staff can just pick it up and shepherd it back out to its own habitat without my knowing anything about it. I don't know if I have the self-control to not panic and scream bloody murder if I do happen to see its hind end in here...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Waaah, last day in Taipei!

My time here is drawing to a close, and I got to do everything that I wanted to do. I got to hang out with my grandmother and listen to her adorable little voice telling me stories about her youth and her walk across China during the 2nd World War. I got to see a Doctor of Chinese Medicine who took my pulse and was able to tell me that one of my ovaries wasn't functioning and send me home with some herbs that will hopefully help me get pregnant. (Fingers crossed). I got to experience the best spa ever - EVER - and found a lot of ideas to steal (hee hee). Finally, I got to visit my grandfather's memorial site today in northern Taiwan.

He is at rest in a very peaceful building filled with memorial urns, and it was a great comfort to see that his remains were so well cared for. It was a very peaceful place, with rows upon rows upon rows of shelves, each with a little urn "lockbox" and a loving message from the family. I thought I would tear up and cry, since I never really got to say a formal goodbye to my grandfather, but I didn't. I felt very happy, actually, and I whispered to him a little message in my heart: "Goodbye, Yeh Yeh (Grandpa in Chinese). I love you and miss you and will see you again soon."

We also ate at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in town that was translated as "King Join," but it really isn't that great of a translation. Not that I have any better ideas. The food was first-rate, though.

We leave tomorrow evening on the 7:50pm flight. I really do feel I should be out in the living room holding onto my grandmother's soft little hands right now, but am working on payroll. The employees have to get paid, after all, and nothing in the world can stop that from happening! LOL. See you Stateside!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Absolute best spa experience of my entire life!

I have to admit, I didn't think that the most wonderful spa experience of my entire life would happen here in Taipei...but the place I went today, Orient Retreat, was absolutely, by FAR, the most awesomely relaxing, stimulating, invigorating, and rejuvenating place I've ever patronized. I was sooooo blown away.

EVERYTHING about them was note-perfect, from the herbal tea they serve you to their facilities to the products they use to the service itself. EVERYTHING. WAS. PERFECT. I am definitely going to be stealing some ideas, big-time. I chose to have the Healing Flower Remedy treatment, which combines Bach Flower Essences with essential oils, color therapy, and massage. A client care coordinator greeted me to help me determine my Flower Essences, first by choosing from a deck of Flower Essence cards, then by looking at a chart that corresponded to my aches and pains, then by choosing a color of the rainbow. When all was settled, we determined that I would need the Vine Flower Essence (they would have had no way of knowing this, but I knew that Vine essence is meant to help us accept others as they are, without trying to change them - i.e., dominance and inflexibility).

I was given a tour of the facilities, which included a spotlessly clean and visually appealing locker room, showers, sauna, steam room, and a relaxation area which included an "herb bar" that had the yummiest herbal tea I've ever tasted (had an aftertaste redolent of red dates, yum yum), crackers, fresh apples, and water. My therapist, "Melinda" (I put her name in quotes because I am sure she has a Chinese name), came to get me and then took me into a room that was softly lit with a purple light. Ding Ding Ding - I had picked purple, hadn't I?

The presentation was also thoughtful and detailed. On the bed was my very own tray with my own flower essence, herbal tea, and aromatherapy diffuser putting out a fabulous, heavenly Jasmine-and-Lemon scent into the air. She gave me a "shot" of Vine flower essence under my tongue, then had me sip the tea, then had me climb onto the table and remove my robe (she held up the blanket on the bed so I could do this in privacy). She then began the service, which called for applying the Bach flower essence to different "chakras" or acupressure meridians on the body, and then on top of that, a relaxing Swedish-style massage with essential oils. I got SO relaxed that I actually fell quite asleep, and that NEVER happens.

After I was turned over, she used a different set of essential oils for my face and decollete, and gave me an awesome scalp massage with a hairbrush - SO relaxing and good for you - and then a hot stone/cold stone massage on my face (I think this was an add-on service, though...). At the end, she sat me up and did some more cold stone work on my back to finish the service. She helped me slip on the robe, walked me back into the locker room facilities, and placed some delicious cookies and another carafe of herbal tea on the table for me. So basically, I was never once left alone in the room, and I was cared from beginning to end. Like I said, AMAZING.

I don't know how much of this would fly in the States, but I definitely know quality when I experience it (having gone to tens of spas and had hundreds of experiences at spas), and I am going to copy copy copy!! Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I know this has absolutely NOTHING to do with being a day spa owner, but I just have to gloat for a bit....STANFORD BEAT USC AT HOME TODAY!!!! I was following the scores from here in Taipei and screaming my oversized head off at the ESPN screen. 24-23, very close, but woo hoo - we'll take it!

The most arrogant, vainglorious, and puffed up team this century has finally been brought low, and by none other than my alma mater...I love it! It doesn't get any better than this. My husband told me that the look on Pete Carroll's face was absolutely priceless. He recorded the game for me so that when I get back Stateside, I can savor every single nerve-jangling minute of that richly deserved Trojan humiliation. USC is a great school, but the football hype is just completely overdone. And now it's being hailed as potentially the greatest upset EVER in college football - we were 41 point underdogs! Check out this article...I am soooooooooooooooooooooooo happy. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HA.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Much better...less ouchy massage.

I decided to try out one of Taiwan's day spas last was called "Jour de Ness," and is one of a large chain all across Taiwan, and even has 600 locations in China.

I had signed up for an 80 minute full-body massage, but I was on my period, so they decided to forgo doing that and only wanted to do my back for 60 minutes. As soon as I checked in, they handed me slippers to wear and a drink that tasted like sweet and sour plums, which was actually quite good. I had to fill in an intake form (which was a bit tough for me, since my Mandarin is not perfect and yet I have to pretend all the time that it is!).

Then, my service began by having me lock up my items and lie face down on a massage table. My only thought was that the table was extremely short...even at 5'4ish, my feet were touching the wall...that is very strange. There are plenty of people walking around here taller than me...what happens to them?

My massage therapist was extremely pleasant, she rubbed an oil containing menthol on my back, and also swung over an infrared lamp to "knit my bones back together" in my back. The massage was a lot more like acupressure, concentrating on certain meridians and "pressure points" - was actually quite painful in the sense that those parts are very sensitive. She told me, in one particularly sensitive spot, that that spot corresponded to the general health of my ovaries and my uterus, and that mine were "not optimally healthy." I told her, despite the pain, to press it some more - hee hee!

I was pretty pleased with the massage, except that at one point, my massage therapist got up in the middle of the massage to go into the hallway and talk to her younger sister. I thought that was a little strange, and not something we would countenance doing in the States. I asked if she had an emergency, and she said it was just to say goodbye.

After my massage, the management corraled me and tried to get me to buy a 15-service series. Apparently, yesterday being my inaugural visit to their company, I was charged the ridiculously cheap rate of 450NT, which is something like $15 USD. However, each and every time in the future that I wanted to go would cost 1500 NT (or about $50 USD). So they wanted to sell me a package of 15 for 11,300 NT...and they were quite assiduous about it and would not let up, despite the fact that I don't even live in the country and only return once every 2 years or so. They spent a lot of time trying to convince me that it would still be worth it!?!

Well, I have to give them kudos for trying. It is certainly one way to "wrap" the customer around your finger and lock them into your services, but I got the sense that they just wouldn't take no for an answer, and that the only reason they did was that I did not live locally. They even said, "Well, you can gift the services to your family who live here!" Haha, good marketing, I have to admit - pull them in too!

I don't know if the hard pushy sell is something that would work so well in the States, but this makes me think perhaps I should be marketing series more. Hmmm, food for thought.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Massaged = Pummeled????

Having been jetlagged to the utmost max last night, one of my brothers and I decided to get a massage to help us go to sleep. Our cousin suggested a place called "Teacher Deng" (well, that is the best I can do in terms of translation), and we cabbed there with our hopes up for a relaxing experience.

First off, you get your feet soaked in a basin in a row alongside several others. The water was red, and when I asked why, they told me it was essential oils. Pfah! Essential oils aren't RED. I asked them which ones, and they said "Bergamot" (which was complete B/S, because Bergamot is orangy-yellow, and doesn't leave a red color in water), and then they said "Rose," which is even worse, because that is actually clear. So pretty much, they put rose perfume oil in the water, which has no therapeutic effect whatsoever (don't mess with me! I'm the Queen of Aromatherapy!)

Next, we were led upstairs into a common room (which was fine, there were 4 in our party), and asked to change into pajama-like clothing. Then, a massage therapist came in and spread a thin sheet over us, and this was what they massaged us through, with GREAT force. We are talking: pummeling, bruising, etc. etc. They basically ran roughshod over us. I had too much pride to say, "That hurts," but my cousin in the corner was screeching, 'Please, not so hard, not so hard.'

After a while, as I was gritting my teeth from the pain, I heard my brother's massage therapist let out a long, low belch. NICE. Then, the phone in the room rang, and one of the massage therapists picked it up, and after that, a conversation ensued about which massage therapist was actually in the room. Then, all of them who were massaging us talked about where to go for a beer after work, accompanied with much laughter and jesting. We, the clients, were afterthoughts.

After the extracurricular activities were settled, my massage therapist proceeded to get the sniffles, and I could tell she was blowing her nose into her hands. It felt like she was wiping them off on my back, but I couldn't tell. I was thinking to myself, "OMG OMG OMG, thank goodness there is a sheet between us and I am wearing clothes that are not my own." And then she started massaging a sensitive part on my neck and I involuntarily brought my fingers in close to my chest and I could feel her snot rag under my shoulder. I nearly jumped off the table!

Thankfully I didn't have to do that, because after manipulating me around a few times and cracking a few spots in my spine, the massage was over and I was out of those clothes, back into my own, and flying down the hall to a bathroom so I could wash wash wash.

Wow, that was kind of terrible. Granted, it cost about $31 US, but that is still not SO cheap that you would be willing to undergo gaseous intestinal disturbances and explosions of mucus from your caregivers!

I will try another place when my body stops feeling so sore.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Made it to Taiwan safely!

Got in late-night 10/2 at 10pm after a rather uncomfortable plane ride, but at least I am here safely. I had every intention of going to the nearby park and participating in the morning T'ai Chi with the denizens here, but that did not happen...didn't sleep until 1am here but sat bolt upright in bed at 5:20am, with no energy whatsoever. Woo hoo! Jet lag! I have been rubbing my temples with the Travel Aid blend (Rosemary, Lemon, and Peppermint essential oils in jojoba oil), and it has seemed to help.

Okay, I am going to get a massage tonight to help me sleep. It's 800 NT here per massage (that translates to roughly $24 US)...seems rather inexpensive, except that in Shanghai we could get them at $5 per hour?!?!

I also need to check into a few spas here. My former esthetician, Christina, recommended a couple so I will need to go and check them out (after all, have to justify this trip as a write-off!).

Oh yes, that's a good perk of owning a spa...all your spa treatments can be "competitive research" (if performed at other spas) or "education/training" for your staff (if performed at your own spa). Pretty cool!

Ugh, it's 10:15am and I am feeling sleepy. Have to power through!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Leaving for Taiwan today...

but before I can go I have a mad rush of things to do. Send out the Pavia newsletter, back up and ship the Ebay items (to Australia, yuck! Means I have to stand in line at the post office), try to see a doctor (an "advice nurse" will call to talk to me over the phone - she hasn't done that yet), pick up a prescription (if there is one), get my tax information together for my accountant (YES - we filed an extension) and then haul my butt up to the airport by 2:40pm.

I better put on my cape. And call on my superpower ability to be in 3 places at once. And pack.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

@#$%$-ing Bladder Infection!!!!!

I am leaving for Taiwan tomorrow to visit my grandmother and whaddaya know, my bladder infection is back. I had to work the full day at the spa yesterday at the front desk while sporting a 100-degree temp and severe body rash as well as that awful discomfort and general malaise that you get when you contract one of these UTIs. I don't know what I'm going to do, I have to see a doctor before I get on that plane, because there is no way in HELL I am going to be laid out in a foreign country feeling this horrid.

And I had no idea that these were contagious - through the phone - because my mother got one last week too! (LOL, just kidding. They're not contagious. That would be....ewwwww).

Note to future spa owners: You can't get sick. Even if you do get sick, you must work. So you can't get sick. Period.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The "Rolls-Royce" of Body Lines

I met Tasha Noriega of Tasha & Co at the recent Face & Body show in San Francisco. Mostly, I walk jadedly by all the booths selling body products (truly, they are a dime a dozen), but hers had such a cool presentation that I was drawn in immediately. The body scrubs, bath salts, and bath bombs were so well packaged - they had pieces of the actual botanical used to scent the product contained inside it. For example, there was a sprig of red currants floating in the Red Currant body scrub, while a eucalyptus leaf graced the sac of Eucalyptus & Lime bath salts. I don't know why, it just made it look extra beautiful and special. I so wish there was a picture available of this fabuloso stuff - I'd post it here in a heartbeat.

But my goodness, the SCENTS! Ooh la la, the scents...truly, truly spectacular. Body products are particularly difficult to retail in my spa for some reason. Skin care flies off the shelf, but body products have always had a hard time moving. So I'm not usually interested in picking up new lines of body products just to pick them up. However, these were so well-packaged and so wonderfully scented that I bought several just to give them a try.

Well, I am IN LOVE with the Vanilla Milk & Grapefruit Salt Scrub, but my favorite is the White Tea & Grapefruit Scrub...I even bought this in every incarnation possible: the scrub, the salts, and the body oil. Love love love love it. I wear the body oil as a perfume, and also the White Gardenia body oil in my hair. Talk about feeling sexy!

I asked Tasha how she got started doing a body care line. She said she had sensitive skin, so she was committed to making a skin care line that would cater to that - she uses only paraben-free products and an organic, unrefined jojoba oil base. I asked her whether she used any synthetics - for example, there is no "Red Currant" essential oil, but there are plenty of synthetic "Red Currant" fragrances. She said that she used only skin safe perfume/fragrance oils. Finally, I asked her how she got the products to smell so DARN GOOD, and she said she used a LOT of pure essential oils and fragrance oils in the products, so much so that her items are actually quite a bit more expensive than competitors.

That's the one thing keeping me from taking the plunge and bringing her line in: $48 for a body scrub!! Are you kidding me?!?! I asked her how to explain to a customer that they should pay nearly $50 for a scrub...she said to tell them that it was the "Rolls-Royce" of body scrubs. I've tried it now, and can tell the world that it most definitely is the best body scrub, hands down, that I have ever used (the scent stays with you a LOOOOONG time and is so pure and fresh and inviting), but I still don't see how I can justify selling a body product for almost as much as a skin care product!

May God strike me with inspiration so that I can bring this wonderful woman's wonderful line into my spa. Until then, I guess I will wait it out...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My guilty pleasures...

No wonder I haven't gotten around to writing a book, I keep indulging in my guilty pleasures as an escape outlet for the stress I experience around owning my own business. Here are my Top 3 (at least I have only 3, who has time for more):

1. Toontown Online: Disney hooked me with this massively multiplayer game...originally I bought a subscription and created a toon to play with my nephew Austin, but then he lost interest and I became addicted! Now I spend way more hours than I would care to admit on building up on my fact, my beloved toon, Aunt Mare, is the one who graces this particular blog entry!

2. America's Next Top Model: I have no idea why I am fascinated with this show. Perhaps it's the drama created by shoving 13 beautiful girls into one house and having them compete on how photogenic they are. Perhaps it's Tyra herself and the wisdom she dispenses as a supermodel. Yes, Tyra, easy for YOU to say that beauty is all've got it all hanging out as well!

3. Fantasy novels: Yes, I love love love to read, and I love to read about people and places that are not in this world. But I don't like science fiction, I much prefer the sword-and-sorcery type fantasies. My latest favorites: The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Firethorn by Sarah Micklem, The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone quadrilogy by Greg Keyes, and of course, the Song of Ice and Fire by the greatest, George R. R. Martin (this one is supposed to be septology).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Things I Really Should Get Around to Doing...

Maybe putting them down in a somewhat public place will motivate me to get these done! Why is it so hard to accomplish anything at all when one owns a business? Where does all my time go?

1. Get the essential oil private labels finalized.
2. Get Pavia-labeled shoppers from Miss Bagbox. Why hasn't she called me back yet?
3. Figure out how to take Discover cards!!!
4. Set up a 2nd check-out station/computer...
5. Contact the carpet man about the final estimate.
6. Bring Bach flower essences into the spa.
7. Fax back the Mackey Water Systems order to George.
8. Finish Aromatherapy brochure & letters.
9. Publish a book - I was thinking "365 Days of Sanity" since it is consistent with our "Sanity, not Vanity" motto.
10. Buy Hampton window sashes to use as ceiling coverings.

Okay, I am going to check on myself in a month (on October 13, 2007) and see where I have gotten with all of these...and find a suitable way to punish myself for the things not yet done.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Wow, Dad, can you believe that you're turning 40 - again? You've accomplished so much in only 40 years...including having a 35-year-old daughter, hee hee. Thank you for always supporting me, even when you didn't agree with my choices. I know the last several years have been hard for you, I know that you want me to "use" my MBA and go climb the corporate ladder somewhere, and I know that you want me to lead a life of luxury and wealth.

But please know that you raised me well - even though you may not have known it, you raised your daughter to be brave and adventurous and curious. So much so that I went to buy my own day spa business, and despite the (temporary) financial hardship it has caused me, I have learned so much and enjoy it so much. I have a business that lets me learn about natural health, I have learned to be humble where I was once arrogant, and I have met people from all walks of life and broadened my horizons. Most importantly, I am in service to others...what higher purpose can there be than serving others?

Anyway, thank you for being a caring father. I wish you a wonderful day, and remember just to enjoy the life you've created for yourself. You deserve it! (And don't be too mad about Mom having the trees cut down along the side of the's your day to relax and be happy). Happy birthday, Daddy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sept. 11 = Day of Thanksgiving

Six years ago today, my husband almost died in the World Trade Center. He was in New York for a business trip, working for Morgan Stanley, and attending training in their headquarters on the 61st floor of the South Tower. That was the 2nd building to be hit, but the first to collapse.

I will never forget that harrowing day - I was on an airplane ready to fly to San Diego to speak at a conference, and when the pilot came on to tell the passengers that we were not going anywhere due to a terrorist attack, all of the hairs on the nape of my neck stood up. At the time, my husband was my boyfriend...we had put off getting engaged and married because the NASDAQ was in the toilet, and we wanted to wait until it came back around before having a wedding.

Well, when I learned 3 hours later that he had lived, I told him on the phone, "Get your a$$ back to California because we are getting married as soon as possible." He formally proposed on October 6, 2001, I bought the first wedding dress I tried on, and asked when it would be ready. The answer was April 30, 2002, so we set the wedding date for May 10, 2002. And that is our happy story.

There's more: Sept. 11 also inspired me to live my life in the now, to stop waiting for "circumstances to be right." I decided a year after we got married to stop postponing owning a business, and to follow my dream of owning a day spa (something I have wanted to do for years). I got out of high-tech, put all of my money into buying Pavia Day Spa, and here I am almost 4 years later, happy and fulfilled and joyful every time I walk into work.

I know that for others this was a day of heartbreak, loss, despair, and disaster. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about the families who lost loved ones in the WTC, in the Pentagon, and on United Flight 93. I will never, ever forget Sept. 11, but on this day, I will always give thanks for the life of my husband, for the lessons that it brought to me, and for the wonderful marriage I now enjoy.

The above was a shot taken on our honeymoon in July 2002, 3 months before the tragic bombings there. Sheesh, terrorism follows my hubby everywhere!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Negative Reviews...Ouchy Ouchy Ouchy...

I hate negative reviews...and when you own a service business, you will get them! You will not have 100% happy customers, and you must accept that you cannot please everyone all the time. Still, even knowing this, I do seem to take negative reviews very personally. I hate them for several reasons:

1. I wish people would resolve problems with me first before spewing out their frustrations to the rest of the world. Often times, we can come to an equitable solution. But day spas are such a word-of-mouth business that good reviews are important, and while your happy customers only tell 3 other people, your unhappy ones will tell 10 others....worse yet, they will go on-line and tell the world.

2. You can't respond to negative reviews publicly...I mean you could, but you would look bad doing so because it would be perceived that you are arguing with your customer. So you must just pump your fists and beat your chest in private.

3. Sometimes, as on, you can contact the reviewer to try to amend the situation. I've done this with each and every negative review on our page, but have had a response from only 1 of them. That's strange to me - if you are unhappy enough to tell the world about your negative experience with a business, why would you not respond to the business owner reaching out to you to try to make you happy?

4. Sometimes, they respond in the strangest ways. A case in point is a 2-star review (OUCH!) on Yelp! by Kelly K., whom for the life of me, I cannot find in our database. In her review, which I have taken a screenshot of and posted above, she obviously has had some kind of waxing and a massage. Well, armed with her first name, last initial, and her services, we should be able to find this person if they've come to our spa over the last 4 years. Nothing doing...couldn't find her at all.

As for my response, here is what I wrote:

Dear Kelly,

I'm Maryling, the owner of Pavia, and I just wanted to take a moment and apologize to you that you did not have a great experience with us. It IS really unprofessional if I was speaking to an employee in front of you in Chinese, and I completely accept your criticism of that. I usually try to communicate only in English to employees (only one of whom even speaks Chinese), but sometimes I will speak Chinese to customers if it is more comfortable for them.

As for your dissatisfaction with your services, is there any way you could tell me whom you had for the waxing and the massage, as well as what kind of waxing and what kind of massage you had? I would really like to know how I can make it up to you and what I could do to persuade you to give us another chance. I know we can't make 100% of our customers happy 100% of the time, but I can surely try. Thanks again for your time.

In other words, I was inviting her to name her price...if she wanted another waxing and/or another massage, I would have said YES. Instead, she writes back:


I do really appreciate your earnestness. Unfortunately, I do not remember who my esthetician was but it was a brazilian and an eyebrow wax. There was still wax on my skin when I left and the strip I left on my Brazilian was crooked.

Please do not worry about making it up to me. It was not the worst experience I ever I had I just felt it was necessary to post another perspective on Yelp. And to be quite honest, I felt it was necessary to do so because I felt there needed to be a balance to your own postings.

I apologize for not being able to be more helpful. I wish you the best with your business."

Using the information that she had a Brazilian, an eyebrow wax, and a massage, I still could not locate her in our database so that I could speak to the esthetician/massage therapist about it. I am telling you right now, there is NO ONE with first name Kelly (of any last initial), who has ever had that combination of services at Pavia! And, she said that she was only posting to balance my own postings on Yelp - THAT I do not get. I only posted once, I named myself the business owner, and I only gave my own spa 4 stars (out of 5) what balance is needed? So A) she was only doing it so that people would not be swayed by my own opinion of Pavia and B) she may or may not have even come to our spa as a patron! (Mare scratches her head in futility)

ARGH! What gives?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

LOL, Can't Get Into My Own Spa For a Massage!

Honestly, you'd think owning a spa would mean you could get in for a massage at your own place. Plus, I really need one, given that my right butt cheek has been hurting me for days (don't ask...I have no idea why).

So I booked myself and my hubby simultaneous massages today, Sunday, at 2:40pm. Mine was with Daniela, our uber-massage therapist, Ph.D., Neuromuscular Therapist, Medical Exercise Specialist, and all-around stud. She does the Advanced Massages at Pavia, and has for the last 3 years. And whaddaya know, I get a call from my Sunday spa coordinator today that I've been bumped. LOL! Well, at least my hubby still got one. Oh well, can't be helped, customers must come first. C'est la vie!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

OMG, Could We Have Screwed Up Bigger?

When you're a spa owner, think twice about going on vacation, because chaos ensues in the wake of your departure. Case in point: my trip to Ojai last week. I come back to find out that we've made a mistake of astronomical, disastrous proportions.

1. One of my spa coordinators (let's just call her "Anna") quoted a package price for our Superwoman's Revenge of $330. A client (let's just call her "Flora") books it for 8/31/07.
2. "Anna" puts the wrong services on the calendar for "Flora's" package, causing the price to be inflated to $380.
3. When "Flora" goes to check out, she sees her credit card slip and says, "That was supposed to be $330." (Which it was!)
4. "Anna" then voids out the sale, and tries to run through a second one for $330.
5. Except that she enters the wrong key and punches in $230 instead.
6. So "Anna" then voids out that sale and by this time, "Flora" has added her tips, making it a total of $405.
7. However, the credit card starts declining every time "Anna" goes to charge the $405.
8. We then try the card again for the next two days, only to have it decline each time. I instruct "Anna" to call the original client and ask her to help us.
9. Well, "Anna" manages to call a totally different client (let's call her "Fauna"), who had nothing to do with the situation, to ask HER for HER credit card, and charged $405 to "Fauna."
10. The next day, "Anna" sits bolt upright in bed, realizing that she had made a terrible mistake. So even though it was Labor Day, she dutifully came into the spa to reverse the charge to "Fauna." In fact, "Anna" is so conscientious and feels so bad about the mistake that she charges HERSELF the $405!!
11. And the day after that, we find out that the reason "Flora's" card was cancelling on us was that we had made so many mistakes, Citibank thought we were committing fraud! I had to explain that no, we weren't fraudulent, just incompetent.
12. Yikes! We had to call the merchant processor for an approval code, and finally all went hunky-dory. Except that "Flora's" credit card company is telling her that she still has the $230 pending and 2 charges of $405 pending.
13. So I call my merchant processor and they tell me that only one charge of $405 has gone through, and that "Flora" need not worry. I ask them for a printout, but their printer is broken! AARRRGH! Could this be any more problematic?

Well, hopefully this Monday the printer will be restored, as will "Flora's" confidence in us. I sent her a $50 gift certificate because I felt so bad that we had caused stress, and not relieved it. I also am inviting her in for a salt glow, so hopefully she will end up blissful again.

Okay, well, let's chalk this one up into the annals of the majorly, galactically stupid mistakes that a spa (or anyone) can make...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wow, Watsu is amazing!

I went on vacation last week with my spa business partner, Albie. We went to the Oaks at Ojai, in Southern California. As always when I go to new spas, I like to try out services I've never experienced before (how ELSE can I steal other people's ideas? Haha).

I've always wanted to try "Watsu," or water shiatsu. During this service, you and a Watsu therapist are alone in a heated pool, maintained at 96-98 degrees. The Watsu therapist uses the force of the water and your own buoyancy to stretch you and provide gentle mobilization of soft tissue and joints. You basically get dragged through the water quite a bit by your occipital ridge, and it feels AMAZING.

It's great for people who've just had surgery, who have MS, who are in a wheelchair, who are undergoing physical therapy, etc. It definitely increases your range of motion, and more than that, it's so therapeutically relaxing. I felt like I was floating in my mother's womb again (not that I remember it the first time), but I was completely at ease and the stretches felt absolutely wonderful. I could touch my fingers to the floor afterwards, just like I can after a Yoga class.

My therapist was Cyrena Hausman, an ex-Hollywood casting director turned physical therapist and Watsu practitioner, and she was just ... wow! I don't have the words for it...she knew what she was doing and she was extremely skilled. I wish I could have Watsu every day...I wish everyone in the world could have a Watsu at least once in their lives...and I wish we had a heated pool at the spa so that we could offer Watsu to our clients!

Well, I did locate a Bay Area Watsu practitioner, but have not yet been to her, so I will update this when I do. In the meantime, the picture above is a shot of Cyrena performing Watsu...I'm glad no one took my picture during my session! I would have looked like a grinning idiot.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


I am one of the few spa owners around with no training in esthetics, massage, or nails. The only services I am capable of doing at my own spa are 1. Aromatherapy Consultations & Blends, 2. Tarot Readings, and 3. Make-up Lessons. I am pretty good at all of these, but they are admittedly outside the purview of most day spa-goers. Needless to say, not that many clients have services with MOI.

So, I decided to make myself a bit more useful and train myself in giving salt glows. I went through a training with a staff member of mine, and then decided to take the plunge and GIVE the service myself. My spa coordinator, Julia, became my guinea pig for my inaugural "Forbidden Fruit" glow, and away we went. LONG STORY SHORT: it's so much harder than I thought!! Yikes! My waist and lower back were hurting, and midway through the service, I was panting like I had run a marathon.

At the end of the treatment, I was looking like a drowned rat, sweating, and breathless. And I realized I had made a couple mistakes: I forgot to scrub her abdomen, and I forgot to put the protective eye towel back on, so she suffered through the heat lamps through the entire Vichy Shower section. DOH! Bad Mare, bad Mare...

Well, each night since then, I have gone to bed visualizing how I'm going to perform my next glow. Yes, I have been mentally PLANNING them, like any star athlete, seeing myself scrubbing, rubbing, draping, showering, and toweling off the client in my mind's eye. It was so physical, and SUCH good exercise, that I think I am going to aim to do one per day as part of my fitness regimen! LOL!

PS - Has this made me more sympathetic to my staff, who often tell me that they're tired and overworked? Okay...I'll admit it...yes. But at the end of the day, it's still a business, and they make more for performing more there.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ouch! This email depressed me for days.

I got an email last week that I am still not quite over. My feelings were so hurt that I actually almost cried. Okay, I'll admit it - I DID cry. Before I paste it here, though, I should give a little background: recently, I decided to try a different pricing structure at my spa...a very pioneering one, I might add. I decided to separate pricing into "Peak" and "Off-Peak," to reflect the difference in demand for services during traditionally slow times like Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays before 5pm (these I designated as OFF-PEAK). All other times are considered PEAK times, because people want to come after work and on weekends.

So, in order to arrive at the prices, I took most massage prices up by $5, and all waxing services up by $1-2. I left body treatments, facials, advanced massages, nails, make-up, and soul therapies all the same (and some services, like advanced massage and nails, don't have an off-peak option because they are performed by only 1 or 2 people on my staff). These were the peak prices. Off-peak is actually 20% off the peak prices. With that said, here is the malevolent email from D.S. that I got, and I am not censoring it, so be forewarned that he drops a couple of F-bombs:

"You guys are a fucking joke. "off peak"...So you keep your prices the same call then "off peak" then raise the price on everything 30% during the only times NORMAL fucking people go, and call yourself a business....

You can consider yourself a rip off and just lost a half dozen customers."

My first reaction was, "Holy cow, what did I do to deserve your wrath?" My second reaction was, "Wow, I am completely underwhelmed by the quality of your upbringing, as evidenced in your imaginative use of the English language." And my third reaction was, "If you're going to cuss at me, then at least get your facts straight! What you're saying is simply not true, not even the smallest bit." And then finally, "You are not fit to lick the spittle and scum off the bottom of my shoes."

But of course, none of these things can be said to a "customer." I wrote him back and very politely explained what I had actually done with the pricing structure, and offered to send him pricing lists from last year and this year so he could make a more accurate assessment. And then I was still so bothered that I wrote him again and actually attached two .pdf versions of my price list from 2006 and 2007 so he could "compare for himself." What do you know, I got no response.

But my goodness, the tone and hostility in the email still has me smarting. Generally our customers are extremely happy, and even when they call to complain, they don't use any vulgar language. But this guy, who has set foot in my spa exactly ONE TIME, to buy a measly $55 gift certificate, has the nerve to blow up at me for trying to revamp my pricing structure so more price-sensitive clients can come visit us???? Give me a break!!!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Evolution of the Pavia Logo

Ha! Want to see something cool? I was cleaning out files from my computer and found our initial logo illustrations...I had told my AWESOME graphics designer that I was looking for an image of a Roman-looking woman, in profile, on a Roman-looking coin. These were the illustrations that he sent me initially.

I liked the hair on A, the nose on B, nothing much about C, the hair and eyes on D, E was strange all around, ditto on F, I liked the eyes on G, and the nose and mouth on H. Cool, huh? When done, we finally ended up with the last, right?

Well, I loved it (and still do)! It's even nicer in color, which you can see on the Pavia web site, in the upper left-hand corner.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Alarming reaction to Chamomile...

On Wednesday I did a customized Aromatherapy consultation and blend for one of the spa's really good clients. Her concerns were wrinkles, increasing dryness, and aging (age spots, hyperpigmentation, and tonus). She told me her skin was sensitive, and that she was starting to see thread veins.

My first thought for a blend was to use Carrot Seed (for its beta-carotene precursors), Rosemary verbenone (for its stimulation of the dermal layer), Blue Chamomile (for sensitive skin that has inflammation and thread veins), and Niaouli (for firming and for its anti-bacterial properties).

Before I make up the blend, I always test the client for sensitivity by putting a drop of each essential oil I am planning to use on their inner elbow and having them hold the elbow closed for 5 minutes. This way, I can be sure that the blend does not irritate them, and that it is always specific to their concerns and needs. In fact, I've had really good testimonials so far on my personalized skin blends.

So I went to test the oils, and believe it or not, the BLUE CHAMOMILE created a burning sensation and huge red welts on the inside of her arm! She looked like she had been bitten 7-8 times by a mosquito. I asked her if she had a Ragweed allergy, or was allergic to Chamomiles, and she said that she drank Chamomile tea and had never had a problem. Well, the thing is, the constituents in the Chamomile herb are not exactly the same as are in the essential oil, because during steam distillation, chamazulene is created.

So I tried another route: Blue Tansy. Another member of the Asteraceae family, also with high amounts of chamazulene (and also blue), and also good for sensitivity and thread veins, etc. This time I used her other elbow, and after 5 minutes, she felt no irritation. But when her arm was unbent, several little red pustules were although she felt no irritation, they were still there. I've never seen someone so allergic to such gentle oils.

Well, I've definitely learned something, and hopefully she did, too. I think she has an allergy to the Asteraceae family...I had to keep coming up with different oils and testing them, such that the final blend was completely different than what I had envisioned! We ended up using Geranium, Lavender, Cistus, and Niaouli in a base of Evening Primrose oil. A very interesting learning experience!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Exhausted, but Happy

It's 10:43pm and I've just gotten home from the 4th annual Healing Touch Spa Party, which Preston Wynne Spa puts on at their Hotel Los Gatos location. The purpose of the evening is to raise money and awareness for Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, a group that aids victims of domestic abuse. Theresa and I did Tarot Readings all night long...I think each of us saw about 10 clients.

Phew, what a whirlwind! I'm exhausted, but happy. It's that really satisfying feeling of knowing that I spent my time well, volunteering for a good cause. Many of the Tarot readings I did tonight were right on, too, which always makes for a good feeling. One client even seemed to tear up a bit, because the cards said she had to let go of something that wasn't serving her, that she was being pushed to the point of exhaustion, and that she needed to start from scratch. It really resonated with her, and I could tell it was a painful topic and she shied away from sharing too much.

But there were a couple clients for whom it wasn't that apropos...those are always hard, because I always feel like I've done a bad job. Usually the cards are not wrong though, so perhaps it is simply that the person I'm reading for doesn't want to admit to their truth, or is not yet aware of their truth.

In any case, I was glad to see several Pavia clients there...apparently they had seen my newsletter and decided to join in on the fun. I know our goal was to raise $50,000 in one night, but this year they took the ticket prices up so attendance was much lower. Of course, that meant we could do 15-minute readings instead of just 10, so we were able to delve further into a topic. Overall, I am satisfyingly tired - reading for clients like that takes a huge amount of energy - I just hope I don't get sick because I'm covering the front desk for one of my staff tomorrow. Off to bed!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pedicure Towels = Facial Towels? Yuck.

I bought a day spa with my best friend nearly 4 years ago. We were armed with Stanford MBAs, a lot of hubris, more than enough arrogance, but not nearly enough working capital. 4 years later, I am still struggling to make our spa profitable (my partner has long since gone back to working in "the real world"). With so much competition surfacing daily, it is harder and harder to stand out in the crowd. As a low-margin business to begin with, there is not a lot left over for the spa owner to take home, let alone to re-invest for marketing. In my case, I simply choose to take home a pittance and put everything else back in for marketing and other loyalty programs.

The thing that strikes me the most is the number of things that go on behind the scenes to make our customers' experience better, but which the customer doesn't even know about! A case in point is this: two representatives from Cintas came to visit me yesterday. They wanted to offer me a towel service, in which they would make weekly deliveries of white hand towels so that we would not have to launder them on-premises.

Well, I asked them if they could offer us 4-colors...they appeared to look blank and were even a little surprised. I explained that we used color-coded towels at Pavia: white for facials, brown for pedicures, green for body treatments, and beige for massages. This is so that a towel that was used on someone's feet isn't subsequently used on someone else's face...I mean, isn't that gross? Even if the towels are laundered and dried, it still just me. Well, they ended up agreeing that their service would not be a fit with our needs, but their extreme surprise made me think that other day spas don't take this into account. Anyway, that is my revelation of the day: that not every spa out there separates their towels so that different body parts aren't "mixed up!" It may be cheaper to just use all white towels than to launder and replace 4 different colors consistently, but I feel much better knowing that my clients are given this small consideration behind the scenes.