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.

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