I have been writing articles about the nuts and bolts of running a salon (marketing, customer service, employee issues, etc.) for NAILPRO, a salon industry trade magazine, on a regular basis–eight to ten features a year!–since 2006. (See?)
I have interviewed lots of people in the beauty industry over the years as a part of my research, from nail technicians who work out of their home or in rented strip mall booths to managers of mid-sized salons to high profile people like Katie Cazorla and Tabatha Coffey. The similarities and differences of successful salons and spas fascinate me.
Recently I was asked by the folks at The Peninsula Spa (located inside Chicago’s famous Peninsula Hotel) if I would like to come in and try a complimentary Bamboo Harmonizer Massage and consider telling my readers about it. Due to my status as a NAILPRO writer, my knowledge about how quality salons are operated, and, naturally, my appreciation for the opportunity to do something to which I don’t typically treat myself, I responded to them in record time.
I knew I was in for a treat from the get-go because The Peninsula Hotel is one of the best hotels in the United States. It has five stars and is on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 Gold List. The Peninsula is well known for its high standards of luxury and customer service; I assumed the Peninsula Spa would be a decadent experience.
I was right.
But let me tell you about the massage first.
Last month the nine worldwide locations of Peninsula Hotels (China’s first luxury brand) celebrated their heritage and the Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday also called the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival which is centered around the harvest and celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. As a part of that celebration, a special guest massage therapist, Tony Wu from the award-winning Peninsula Spa in Shanghai, spent some time in Chicago to introduce the Bamboo Harmonizer Massage. Mr. Wu is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor with twenty years’ experience, and during his time here he trained the massage therapists at Chicago’s Peninsula Spa on the treatment and personally performed the service on a bunch of lucky folks, myself included.
The ninety-minute massage uses traditional bamboo to target tense muscles and provide therapeutic relief to sore and stressed joints.
As you can imagine, it was heavenly. I can’t imagine that one would go to a luxury spa and not immensely enjoy any of the treatments there, so I don’t feel the need to go into too much detail about it because it was just as wonderful as you would guess. One of the things I loved about this particular service was the gentle clacking of the bamboo as Mr. Wu worked. That sound, along with the standard soundtrack of relaxing spa music, was just lovely.
Because I write about salon and spa procedures, I found it difficult to quiet my brain in the first bit of the treatment because I was wondering about things that most normal people don’t think about, like how many pieces of bamboo was he using, what did they look like, and how was he keeping the bamboo warm until he was ready to use it?
Eventually I made my brain shut down so I could just enjoy the experience, and at the end of the treatment I was a big puddle. It was amazing.
I couldn’t say goodbye, however, without asking Mr. Wu about the bamboo. He was happy to show me his tools of the trade. There were five pieces of bamboo in total. One was a large piece, for use on the back. There were two pairs of short pieces: one pair was cut in half lengthwise. The smaller pieces of bamboo were used for the muscles in the arms, legs, and shoulders to do work that was a little deeper. When each piece of bamboo wasn’t being used, it was on a heating pad. I enjoyed getting this little peek at the behind-the-scenes stuff: I was very appreciative to Mr. Wu for taking a couple of extra minutes to explain it to me.
If you are in the market for extremely high-end, luxury services, I highly recommend the Bamboo Harmonizer Massage. It would also be a great gift for a group of friends to “go in on” for someone’s birthday. This is not going to be for everybody because of the price (truthfully speaking, it’s not something I could afford on my own!), but it is BEYOND WONDERFUL if you’re able to go. (And they are offering a special introductory price until October 31, so if you’re ever going to go, NOW is the time!)
The Peninsula Spa experience as a whole is what blew me away: I’m sure I would have enjoyed absolutely anything on their menu because of the five-star service I was given from the moment I walked in the door until it was time to leave. The reception desk people were polite and respectful beyond compare, using my name repeatedly as they offered me a drink (water or tea), asked me to fill out the client information sheet, showed me to the locker room, and introduced me to Mr. Wu. The facility was sparkling clean–not unexpectedly, of course–and the locker room attendant stealthily came behind me within seconds, replacing things I used and freshening the areas I had occupied before and after going back upstairs for my massage. She was much like the servers in a fine restaurant, the ones who refill your water glass immediately after you sip from it: when I took one of the nine water bottles that were neatly displayed on a countertop, it was not even a minute before she replaced it. After I dried my hair and applied my makeup (post-massage, of course) at the vanity and walked away, it was mere seconds before she had that area straightened to perfection again. The pride she took in her job was obvious, and much appreciated. A girl could get spoiled with a caretaker like that!
When I was ready to leave I went to the reception desk to check out and the Spa Director came out to make sure I enjoyed the service. I have to say, this is how it’s done. If I were writing an article about five-star spa service, I could easily use The Peninsula Spa as a model. I was most impressed, and then a little disappointed (okay, a lot) that I had to leave at all!
Thank you so very much to everybody at the Peninsula Spa, from the reception staff to the locker room attendant to the Spa Director to Tony Wu for making my morning completely unforgettable (and, likely, a spa experience that will be difficult to top in this lifetime!).
Disclosure: As mentioned above, I was given a complimentary Bamboo Harmonizer Massage and asked to consider sharing it with my readers but the post was not a requirement. The picture was provided by The Peninsula Spa. All opinions are mine.