A massage is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, period. After all, most don’t come cheap—you’re paying for your pleasure. Unfortunately, as witnessed by the real people in the following anecdotes, some massages are downright disastrous. If any of these sound like one of your past experiences, Traci Bierbach, managing director of Daireds Salon & Spa Pangéa in Dallas-Fort Worth, which works out the kinks of celebs like Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, advises on how best to handle it next time or moving forward.
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Disaster 1: The Pain-in-the-Neck
“My massage therapist literally pushed my neck all the way down on each side. The next day, I couldn’t even move my neck. The pain lasted for a week so I contacted the office, which refunded me the cost of the original massage.”
Damage control: Before having another massage, call and speak to the spa director or massage therapist and explain your concerns and previous experience. Ask for credentials and the amount of experience the therapist has. In most cases, just making the phone call and expressing your concerns will ensure that the spa director schedules your massage with a massage therapist that they think will best suit you.
Disaster 2: The Chatty Cathy
“I learned my massage therapist’s life story during my hour-long appointment, including that she has ADHD, but was not taking her drugs. Not OK!”
Damage control: If you are comfortable speaking up, you could politely say that you would rather not have any conversation and would like to quietly relax during your session. Massage therapists are taught to let the client set the tone—if they initiate conversation, then it is OK to respond, but if not, it is common practice to remain quiet. A therapist shouldn’t be offended by a request to relax, especially when asked politely. Also, if you’re asked to fill out a form prior to your session, note that you prefer “quiet massages”—works every time.
Disaster 3: Too Cold for Comfort
“While this wasn’t the massage therapist’s fault, the room was freezing! They apologized and said there was nothing they could do about it. It ruined my spa experience because it’s all I could think of.”
Damage control: Depending on the establishment, the therapist may not have been able to adjust the thermostat. However, they should be able to provide extra draping with a blanket (if they don’t offer, ask!) to keep you warmer or turn up the heater on the massage table if it is equipped with one.
Disaster 4: Scared Stiff
“I went to a Thai massage studio and the guy straddled me and sat on my butt. It smelled like the worst burning garbage you can imagine and then he chewed gum in my ear. I spent 45 minutes in fear for my safety. I could go on and on.”
Damage control: Before scheduling a service, drop in and ask for a tour of the facility so that you can see what the environment is like. Walking through it, you should be able to tell if it is clean and pleasant and somewhere you would feel comfortable. If anything looks unsanitary or the staff does not appear professional, then odds are you probably will not enjoy your experience and should not schedule a massage there.
Disasters 5: Forbidden Territory
“I understand that the Europeans aren’t as body conscious as the rest of the Western world, but sheesh, give a girl a heads up before you massage around her boobs! Didn’t see that one coming when I went to a European spa.”
Damage control: If you ever feel any inappropriateness from a therapist, you should immediately say that you are not comfortable and you would like to end the session. Ask to speak to the spa director so that they can address the issue with the therapist. It is extremely important that the management be aware of any situations like this so that they can evaluate if they should continue the employment of the therapist. No reputable spa would want a therapist that was unprofessional representing their establishment.
Disaster 6: Germy Jane
“My massage therapist hacked and honked from an apparent sinus infection during my entire massage. Hardly relaxing!”
Damage control: As a rule, if a therapist is sick, they should not perform services on you. However, there are occasions where a therapist may experience some allergy symptoms that they may not be able to keep under control. In this case, the therapist may need to apologize and offer to stop the session. You can always request to stop the massage and to be rescheduled with another therapist. One thing you need to keep in mind, though, is that the spa may not have another available therapist that can take over immediately —it may require rescheduling for a different day or time.
Disaster 7: Indecent Exposure
“I’m pregnant, and my masseuse asked me to get on all fours so she could adjust my belly pillow. Well, I’m pretty sure she saw EVERYTHING! I was so embarrassed.”
Damage control: A therapist who has been trained properly should be able to maneuver the sheet and the cushion while still maintaining your modesty. If it makes you feel more comfortable moving around on the massage table, wear underwear during your massage.
Disaster 8: The Late, Great Masseuse
“I was lying on the table ready for my massage for like 10 minutes! I’m not sure what was going on but there wasn’t an apology or anything when the therapist came back inside the room.”
Damage control: You should always speak up and let the spa director know if there was anything about the service that did not meet your expectations. If a therapist starts late, they should make up the time and give the guest the full time they were scheduled for. Keep in mind, though, that if you arrive late, it can impact the length of the massage since, oftentimes, there are other guests scheduled right after you.