Emily Post Goes to the Spa


The first time you were a no call, no show. This time, you’re only 15 minutes late because you came straight from the gym. You hop on the treatment table and your cell phone goes off. Do you answer? Of course. As your therapist starts applying massage oil, you scold her for using grapeseed oil and insist she find some jojoba. After your treatment and a noisy exit, you fail to leave a tip.

Ok, you are officially a spa’s worst nightmare.

There is a certain etiquette in spa-going. If you’re a first-time spa visitor, ever felt uncertain what to tip, always wondered if you really were supposed to get naked under there, or pondered if you should shave your legs, then this is for you. James Coleman and Giovanna Kupfer, owners of Spa Ja www.spaja.com, and Niki Tortoreti, spa manager of Oasis Day Spa www.oasisdayspanyc.com helped shed some light on spa. When I asked them to name their top etiquette issues, the results were almost unanimous.


#1- The No Call, No Show-er

This is a serious issue for spas, and is the reason that the majority of them require a credit card when you make a reservation. Kupfer told me that she has had clients who make appointments at multiple spas and choose the most convenient one at the last minute, leaving the rest with fragrant, empty rooms and idle therapists. Tortoreti asks clients to simply be mindful of the cancellation policy- it protects therapists and allows spas to be fully staffed. Spas understand emergencies happen, but the majority of no-shows don’t quite qualify. “We understand you had a problem. So did we- we had an empty room,” Kupfer jokes.

#2- Tsk, Tsk, Tardy

On the elusive heels of the no call, no show-er are the tardy. These women stroll in 10, 15, and 20 minutes past their appointment time, wreaking havoc on spa schedules. “Showing up late compounds problems, or starts them,” Coleman says. Appointments at 2 o’clock are scheduled to start at 2, meaning that you should be on the treatment table and ready for the therapist. Why gyp yourself? Arrive early (spa suggestions range from 10-30 minutes before your appointment) and allow time not only for questionnaires or changing in to your fluffy robe, but also to get the best experience. Take advantage of spa facilities and relax. Which, after all, is the point of your visit?


#3- Boisterous Babes

Noise is a major no-no across the board. Clients are paying top dollar to escape the clamor of their everyday lives and relax in a peaceful environment, and some spas invest in expensive sound barriers to drown out traffic, sirens, and the general mayhem that is New York. Tortoreti says that she sometimes has issues with group reservations- people will come after they’ve gone out to dinner (and had a drink or two, which is not recommended before a treatment!). “In a relaxation area, they tend to get a little loud,” she says. This noise is a disruption to other clients in that shared space.


To cap this list of uncouth behavior, we have a common culprit of bad manners- the cell phone. Coleman says it is rare, but there have been instances where a client will actually answer during a treatment. Kupfer says guests of the spa are asked to turn off their cell phones, but often don’t. “You’re having a massage, and then you hear the Star-Spangled Banner,” Kupfer says. “This is a spa, it’s supposed to be relaxing.” Make it easy for yourself and leave your cell phone and all its associated stress at home.


Finally, here are some frequently pondered spa dilemmas, demystified:

A Hair-Raising Experience for Therapists

Do you make an appointment with your razor before you visit the spa or show up cactus-style? If you are having any kind of scrub or salt treatment, nix the razor (or yikes!). Don’t feel self-conscious, therapists have dealt with a lot worse than stubble.


Underwear Under There?

Wonder what you’re supposed to wear? Spas often furnish you with robes and slippers, and sometimes even disposable underwear. Any good spa will tell you that it’s your comfort that matters. Therapists are trained to keep all you consider private, private. Different draping techniques ensure you won’t be exposed. Spas have different policies regarding nudity in shared spaces, so its best to check with each spa to ensure you’re meeting their etiquette requirements.

Tipping is not a City in China

As members of the service industry, therapists often rely on tips for a good portion of their livelihood. Spas agree that tipping is always at your discretion- but the average tip ranges from 15-20 percent of the service cost. Some spas accept only cash for gratuity- so call ahead to be sure or slip some bills in your wallet to avoid inadvertently being unable to tip your therapist for a job well done.

If You Want My Body

And if you think your therapist’s sexy, please, don’t let them know. Therapists are bound by ethical guidelines, one being that they shouldn’t have relationships with clients beyond the therapeutic aspect. No matter how hot your therapist is, don’t embarrass them or yourself with a proposition. There will be no happy ending here.

You’re Special

Remember to make special requests ahead of time. Also remember to alert the spa if you have any conditions like allergies, or if you’re pregnant or have your period. Some services cannot be performed for safety or sanitary reasons during those times.

Most etiquette is a matter of common sense. Respecting a spa’s policies will help ensure a pleasant work environment for your therapist, it’ll maintain the ambiance of the spa, and most importantly, help ensure you have a great experience. Ok, now you’re ready to spa!

Leave a Reply

Notify of

Deal of the Day!


By becoming a member, you'll receive special, members-only offers and discounts. You'll also receive our newsletter, filled with colorful insider info, delivered straight to your inbox.