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.