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.