Monday, June 30, 2008

Mare at 17...and 36.

I was rummaging through a box of high school memories the other day, and came across a pic of myself at seventeen years old, taken in the summer after high school graduation. I thought I'd post it for fun and for self-serving purposes. Fun because, haha, who doesn't like showing pictures of themselves at seventeen, when they were young, dumb, and didn't know any better. And self-serving because, well, I really don't look that much different at 17 than I do now at 36, almost 19 years later. Of course, there is the fact that back then, my eyebrows were unkempt and the hair above my upper lip was positively...manly. Or that I am definitely about 25 pounds heavier now, and it shows in my fuller face! But substantively, I am still recognizable in these photos as Mare. I think it's a great testament to the efficacy of regular facials (which I started at age 20).

So if you haven't started getting facials yet...what are ya waitin' for???? Life is long!

Friday, June 27, 2008

About Tipping

This is a tough topic for me. I can see it both ways, now that I've owned a spa for the last 5 years. Actually, I can see it three ways, because there ARE three perspectives: the client, the technician, and the spa owner.

This is how I feel as a client: "I'm already paying $100-$150 for my (insert your service here). If I have to put a 15-20% tip on top of that, then my bill is skyrocketing to $115 - $180. It costs way more than at a restaurant ($115 - $180 is a meal for 3-4 people), so I don't really want to tip that much. Besides, these therapists make a lot more than minimum wage, unlike the wait staff at a restaurant who depend on gratuities to make a living."

"I work hard. Giving a one-hour massage is the equivalent of working out for an hour. Unlike the wait staff at a restaurant, I actually had to go to school to develop my skills. And as a trained professional, I had to pay for a license as a (insert your profession) to gain the knowledge of (insert skin care, anatomy, nail care, sanitation, as appropriate) in order to provide therapeutic services. So I definitely deserve a tip!"

Ugh. Talk about monkey in the middle. I can't stand when my technicians look eagerly in their tip boxes to fish out their gratuity envelopes, only to turn away in disgust when a) their client has not tipped them; or b) their client has not tipped them "enough." To me, any amount greater than $0 is a blessing because a) it could have been $0; b) some cultures do not tip - in fact, most cultures don't, including those in Europe and Asia; and c) a tip is supposed to be an expression of appreciation for a service. It should not be expected, it should be earned. And most of all, it should be appreciated by the receiver.

Of course, tipping is a big part of a technician's income. I think I figured out that tips are about 25% to 33% of their paychecks each month, so that is a huge deal to them. It's also a huge deal to me because I pay an additional 13.45% of their tip in payroll taxes, without receiving ANY economic benefit from their tip. And that's BEFORE any credit card charges are figured in either. It is literally a straw that can break the camel's back.

So from a financial perspective, I am on the fence about it. Sometimes I think, "Don't tip! If you tip, I'll have to pay taxes on that tip." Other times I think, "No, tip them...they work darn hard and do an outstanding job and deserve the extra money."

But bottom one should *expect* a tip. EVER. And when they get one, they should be grateful. And when you, the client, come to our spa, you should NEVER feel like you are obligated to leave a tip, unless you really really enjoyed your service and want to let your technician know it.

So there are my two cents on tipping.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stress, Digestion, and Plane Seat Assignments.

Bear with me: I am having one of those stream of consciousness days. What can I say, I am on my cycle, so it is going to be a barely coherent blog entry. My husband was getting ready to leave for Orlando this past Saturday, and he wanted to secure his seat assignment on the way back. He called up the airline (think it was American), who told him that if he wanted to secure his own seat assignment on-line, then it would be free, but that if he was going to call up and have his seat assigned by an agent, then there would be a charge. My husband replied, "Well, if I had been able to do it on-line, I certainly would have, but it isn't letting me."

Wait a second, that wasn't my point. My point was that they're even taking this vestige of customer service away from us! How many more human interactions are going to be reduced in the name of corporate profits? We don't go to tellers anymore, we go to ATMs. We don't really call up airline agents anymore, we book tickets and fares online. We don't even talk to a live human being when we have a question about our electric bill before we punch a long string of numbers into the keypad or listen to an interactive voice response system that has me (usually) shouting "NO! NO! NO!!!!!" at the top of my lungs into the phone. And even that isn't really my point. So let me get to it: with less and less human interaction, human touch is even more important. Trust me, we are here on this Earth for each other, and no other reason. I don't care if you had all the blessings in the world, money, cars, clothes, your health, toys, private jets, land, buildings, mansions, yachts, it would not be worth one iota to you if you were the last human being alive.

It breaks my heart to think of all the people who go through life without sufficient human touch. And our lives are getting more complicated, not less. Truly. I was doing herbal consultations all night long at our Midsummer Night's Dream spa party, and what do you think most people wanted as their customized tea blend? EVERY SINGLE CLIENT I saw said she had trouble with stress, anxiety, and digestion. EVERY SINGLE ONE. What does that tell me? Well, we all know stress leads to indigestion. Of course it does, because all the resources that are normally used to properly digest food are being diverted to galvanize us into action, to achieve more and deliver sooner and accelerate our advancement in...whatever....faster. So every single blend I made was pretty much nervine (valerian root, skullcap, chamomile) and digestant (peppermint leaf, licorice root, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and marshmallow root). I had oodles and oodles of juniper berries left over! Okay, I am digressing again.

Anyway, this all means that spas are more relevant in this day and age. And not just any spa. I am not talking about the kind where you pay to get a MACHINE to work on you. I am talking about the kind where a real person, a human being with a talent for creating a healing sanctuary and the attention to detail to tailor it to your needs and the skills and training to perform a therapeutically excellent service gives you an hour of bliss.

I never understood these spas with machines and such. Why do people pay to be zapped, squeezed, injected, lasered, or rubbed by an electronic device anyway? I never got that and I never will. That's not a spa, that's a....that's what we call torture in some countries.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A beautiful Midsummer Night's Dream.

It's 11:21pm, and I have just gotten home from our spa solstice celebration: A Midsummer Night's Dream. It went splendidly, with all 18 clients leaving extremely happy. I must say, as fun as it is for the clients, it is equally fun for the staff. It really is true that when you give, you also receive (if not more so).

Claire was solidly booked for the night, with all 9 of her available slots taken by clients interested in learning more about BodyTalk Access. Next was Sarah, ever popular with the mini-massage. So popular, in fact, that we had to co-opt Annie into doing quite a few of them as well. Shelly did mini-facials, with Annie backing her up, Sushila and Teri did Tarot, and I did all the herbal consultations and custom herbal teas (because poor Bridget had a death in her immediate family and had to pull out).

The most rewarding parts of the night were when a client named Stephanie said to me, "You have a great staff! They are all just so wonderful." And another client, Donna, who came all the way from Florida, said, "Your business should just be doing fabulous. There is such a loving energy here, you can really feel it." Oh goodness, it meant so much to me to hear that. My heart was full to bursting.

I didn't realize my little manager-on-duty Julia was such a great cook and an obvious Foodie. She made watermelons with balsamic, feta, and mint! Good Lord, that is a concoction that I would never in a million years think of throwing together. I guess this is how you find out about your staff's hidden talents! Phew, I am exhausted, but really happy. What a great midsummer celebration it turned out to be.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I have a great staff. :-)

I was really touched on Saturday and today by the caring hearts and minds of my staff. On Saturday, a client called same-day to cancel, and instead of being upset at this client, the technician that was affected said that the client was going through a difficult time and we should not charge her our cancellation fee. This particular client had gone through the death of a spouse and whenever she does come to the spa, she spends a lot of time during her treatment crying.

Immediately, when this story was related to the staff members standing nearby, these other staff members volunteered to do healing work on her, whether massage, Reiki, or just general take-care-of-the-client services. I was so touched I started tearing up myself at their willingness to expend their precious energy healing someone else for no money.

And then again tonight, we had a client faint twice during her time at our spa. There was an army of staff surrounding this client, getting her juice and food, putting cold towels on her, holding her hand. It really made me so proud to hear how much concern my staff had for her, and to watch all of their faces bearing those angelic, loving expressions. They were really ready to jump through hoops to ensure this person's health, safety, and good experience. I *know* that anyone who does come to us is getting wonderful service. I know that for a fact, and I am so proud and honored to be working with such people.

It's days like these that I get to see their true colors and I really like what I see. I hope all my clients see this as well, and appreciate them for the gems they are.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I have never terminated a single employee in the last 5 years of owning the spa. This past month, I terminated two. Talk about gut-wrenching, unpleasant, yucky, stressful, sad....just "ugh."

I have always put people first, even if it is at my own expense, or that of my business. I attempt to be flexible, understanding, even-keeled, and lenient. I think that gets taken advantage of, big-time. I was saying to one employee that instead of, "Three strikes you're out, I'm more like 25 strikes and then you're out." The employee said back to me, "No, Mare, you're 25,000 strikes and then you might get a slap on the wrist." That's a very telling statement, and eye-opening, to say the least. If that is how I am perceived, then no wonder I experienced all these problems.

I had this one employee who was chronically tardy. You could basically count on her to be tardy at least once or twice a week, and she only worked four days a week. I mean, come on. How hard is it to be on time? But I put up with it, giving her verbal warnings and my version of "tough love." Did it work? No. The problem only got worse. It got so bad, in fact, that a client stormed out of the spa in a fury because this particular person showed up more than 30 minutes late to her appointment. It made us look ghetto and low-class. I don't blame that client in the least. I probably would have done the same thing myself.

The other employee, well, I have this habit of tolerating "physical limitations." Other spa owners could care less if you're in pain or hurting, you are going to be working your entire shift no matter what. Business is business, after all. Well, not me. If someone came to me and said, "Mare, I don't feel well, can I leave after my last appointment?" I usually say "Yes." My rationale is, if you're in pain, you're not giving a good service anyway. Secondly, it's less of a workers' compensation risk to let that person go home, even if it means turning away same-day business.

Well, I went away Memorial Day weekend, and this other employee asked to be let out early. When the front desk did not accommodate her request, she went ballistic. She said, and I quote (well, this is secondhand, of course): "F--- this shit! F--- this place! I am so over this place." Wow. When I heard that, I was on my way to a wedding in Washington, D.C., and my heart sank into my stomach and made a hole there. Even worse, it was a client who told me that she had overheard this while sitting in our lobby!

I felt mortified. I felt furious! I felt ... pretty much worse than I've felt in a long time. So, needless to say, I had to terminate that employee as well.

I don't choose to run my business this way anymore, or treat my clients this way. They deserve better, and they will get better. If it means I have to toughen up, then so be it, I will toughen up. I have never wanted to be one of those employers who just mowed through employees, but I think I need to a) manifest the right people in the first place and b) remain conscious and true to my clients. I had hoped that by taking care of my employees, they would, in turn, take care of my clients. But that is evidently not the case.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Odds and Ends

Wow, I am surprised at how much support my 1-star review of Yelp has gotten. Lots of compliments, sympathetic private emails, and even 12 Useful, 4 Funny, and 6 Cool tags. Just goes to show you that when one person thinks a certain way about you, at least 10 others do as well. Which is why we have to be careful about pissing clients off...they'll also go TELL 10 people about it.

In this particular case, that of Ms. Angela Frenkel, it is a totally different story. I am just amazed that a person exists in the world who can hold a grudge for so long over something that never actually happened. I think that must actually be a real skill of some sort.

Well, onto happier topics. The May 18th spa party was so successful that we are doing another one June 22nd. This time, we're calling it Midsummer Night's dream, and it will be a Tarot/Dream/Herbology/Energy party, mostly. Details are in our June newsletter, that I just killed myself to get sent out yesterday (June 3rd).

What with consulting 28 hours per week at NetApp and finishing up my Master Herbalist classes and also finishing up ROI models for two telecom clients, I don't even have time to go to the bathroom, let alone write thoughtful, witty, and useful newsletters on time. Or blogs, for that matter. But I will do better!