Spa Etiquette

The invitation gives the time, place, requests an RSVP and denotes that the party is black tie. We will expect to use a different utensil for each course, a different glass for each wine and water, and we know what to wear and how to behave. If we have never attended a gold service dinner before we have the security of observation on our side - simply follow the lead of everyone else at the table, especially when it comes to soup! But this is not possible in a spa since treatment rooms are private.

For example, though a recent dinner invitation clearly stated black tie, a spa gift certificate did not say "no clothes!" Sadly, there are many first-time spa experiences on behalf of guests whereby the man kept his T-shirt and shorts on throughout a massage ¦ the treatment on behalf of a physically challenged guest was changed because the therapist thought the service requested would be too difficult to perform, just to name a couple of examples.

Here are some pointers for both the spa guest and the spa operator/therapist:

What is spa etiquette?

¦. is giving each and every client 100% of total attention, showing them that you honestly care and perform spa services that truly benefit them. Considering the spa experience, the staff should know to: *give a warm greeting * explain the service and procedure * use the proper utensils and personalized products during the service * adhere to required draping techniques * close with questions, answers and home routine recommendations * assist with coats and clothing * send a thank you note.

Complete ambiance

¦. conveys and requires complete ambiance with stellar guest service. Here is an example: candles, essence of lavender diffused in order to add to the tranquil atmosphere. Guests are escorted to their locker rooms and enveloped by the staff in luscious robes. Water and juices are served in crystal glasses with a napkin upon a silver tray. Two sets of china are kept in some spas ¦ one for regular use while the other is for special package guests. Spa assistants carry out the fastidious spa etiquette via gentle questions and suggestions prior to and during a guests' service so that the guest knows exactly what to expect upon arrival and during the visit in the spa.

What is client etiquette?

As a spa guest you are expected to:

  • Arrive on time or early for your appointment, to enjoy the facility.
  • Generally, undress completely for body services, your therapist will keep your body draped in dry services and only expose area to be worked upon, however in wet services such as body scrubs, body wraps and hydrotherapies you will not be draped in order to reap maximum benefits. (Swimsuits are optional in some of these services).
  • Allow the therapist to perform a service as reserved and timed.
  • Give the therapist feedback as to your comfort and special troubled areas.
  • Relax ¦ that's generally why you are in the spa.
  • Enjoy, benefit and allow others to "do for you".
  • Know that you are in a professional spa therapy operations and do not expect anything other than therapeutic or spa services.
  • Know that you may be silent or quietly talkative.
  • Share public space respectfully with other spa goers.
  • Do not bring children and leave them unattended, this is very disruptive to other spa goers and unsafe for children.
  • Know if gratuities are included or not and be prepared according to your experience and desire to tip or not.
  • Relax, yet respect that the room must be prepared and used for the next client; so know that you must vacate treatment room upon completion of service within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Give honest feedback to the therapist, owner, receptionist, etc., as operation personnel cares to know if your spa experiences was as expected.


As in all services-related businesses it is common practice to tip the person who has done a good job to the satisfaction of the customer. The rule of thumb in day spas is 10%-15% of the cost of service, or about $10.00 to $15.00 for a one hour treatment. Spas usually provide an envelope at the front desk when checking out for you to place the gratuity into it with the therapist's name. You do not have to carry money around with you and worry about this while enjoying the spa facilities. Note: Some spas will include tips in their package prices ... this is common practice at Destination Spas that offer complete spa packages. Be sure to read the fine print.

Unacceptable behavior

What client behavior would be considered bad manners? When should a guest be removed from the spa?

  • Lewd behavior
  • Inebriated
  • Demeaning and abusive behavior toward receptionists or therapists.
  • Guest insisting upon services without an appointment when spa is fully booked.

Such behavior does not conform to spa etiquette, but even with such behavior it is important to first fix the person and then the problem. This is a service industry and as such, the motto remains, "customer first." In the above situations, advocate addressing the situation with respect and an agreeable outcome. Remember, its not the one client that needs to be "managed" that is lost, it is the 10 others that they complain to about their experience that are then lost too. Word of mouth is powerful.

Offensive staff conduct

What about staff etiquette? What in the professional opinion is a probationary or firing offense within a spa regarding spa etiquette?

  • Blatant discrimination such as refusing to give a service to a guest because someone is physically challenged or overweight, or because of medical history listed on client card.
  • Switching guests from one therapist's docket to another because the therapist doesn't want that particular guest for whatever reason or does want them (often because they know that the guest is a big tipper).
  • Saying the spa is booked because a therapist wants to go home early!
  • Pointing out to a guest that gratuities are not included or simply asking for a tip.
  • Poor personal hygiene-unkempt appearance, body odor, poor dental care, etc.
  • Personalizing services so that they do not conform to established spa standards and, as a result, causes dissension among guests.
  • Discussions or comments about employment, staff and spa operation that are negative (either with guests or co-workers)
  • Continued overuse of product and supplies thus differing guest services as well as drastically affecting bottom line expenses to revenues on behalf of the spa.
  • The spa operator, director or owner will learn of these things from witnesses, guest complaints or co-workers' reports. Just as one is schooled in proper table manners, constant training and emphasizing protocol from a spa service point of view is vital to the success of the day spa industry.

Clients' education

How do you accomplish this on behalf of staff and guests? Guests must be educated as to how they may benefit from their spa experience and what to expect. This can be done either with literature or over the telephone as they make their appointment. Suggestion: always (gently) inquire as to whether or not this is their first spa appointment and if so, would they like to receive a "guest journey journal" or information about services prior to arrival.

Here is an example: A spa derives great pleasure in serving their guests a healthy dose of education as well as special touches throughout a clients' visit. Upon entering the spa and being greeted by the receptionist, the client is introduced to the staff who shake the clients' hand and immediately tour the spa, explain their spa "menu" of the day as well as what to expect, how to prepare and what to wear (or not wear). All treatments begin with a special touch - a scalp massage. Clients are encouraged to share their personal quest so that the spa may adjust future treatments and schedules accordingly. Upon completion clients are always escorted to the door, thanked for their visit and receive educational literature on all of the spas programs.

Do a "test-run"

It is imperative that each and every staff member goes through a typical spa guest journey as well as counseling and training on behalf of the operations defined and expected spa etiquette. Do not assume that clients or staff know what to expect, how to act, or what to do. Here is an example: every single need a client might have and what the experience should be prior to opening the spa component to their chiropractic health center, Management thought of in advance. The training of staff in spa etiquette involves scripts and actual patient experiences. They are even taught how to close a conversation and appointments with patients. The spa believes it is the responsibility of every spa owner to assume that everyone (staff and clients) are new and uninformed as to the spa experience.

Lead by example, train in detail. Guests and staff will follow with impeccable manners.

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