Our Experience with Massage & Spa Services During COVID
Yomassage Co-Founder’s Katherine and Tiffany decided to report back on their experiences post quarantine utilizing various personal services such as massage, facial, waxing, hair, and dental appointments. We hope their reflections give you insight into the client experience and some tips and tricks for reopening your own practice.
While I was in Arizona visiting a friend I decided to treat myself to a facial. My hotel’s spa wasn’t open yet, so I found a day spa near me. I was cautious as Arizona was a hotspot for COVID at the time, so when I was researching potential spots, I first looked at the website to see if they communicated what they were doing to make sure they provided a safe environment. This particular location had an entire webpage dedicated to describing what they were doing related to sanitization, what to expect in terms of mask requirements, common areas, communal refreshments, etc. The website stated that they were implementing cleaning protocols aligned with CDC guidelines, they have a strict “no mask no service” policy, they would be providing temperature checks upon entering, and they would offer private rooms to wait for treatments.
One day before my appointment, I received an email with a questionnaire related to COVID symptoms. When I entered on the day of my service (wearing a mask) they took me back to a communal waiting area with other clients. There was no requirement for me to wash or sanitize my hands. I did not witness any extra cleaning or see any signage related to cleaning. At no point was my temperature taken. Because I was receiving a facial, I couldn’t wear a mask during the service, however, my esthetician wore a mask throughout. I assumed she would want to limit my talking since I wasn’t wearing a mask, but she chatted with me throughout the service, which made me uncomfortable. The treatment itself was wonderful, but I left feeling like their website communication was mostly lip service. More could have been done to communicate that they were actually implementing the new protocols and were taking it seriously.
-Dr. Tiffany Ryan
Once massage opened back up in Portland, OR I couldn’t wait to schedule a massage at a massage clinic. When booking the service, the website’s home page had a message about COVID safety protocol to include a COVID symptom questionnaire being administered, staff wearing masks, sanitizing before during and after each appointment as well as medical-grade air purifiers and UB light sanitization.
I received an appointment reminder email that I never ended up opening, which I later learned had the COVID symptom questionnaire link in it. I was running late to my appointment (thanks to the train near our office!) and called to let them know. I spoke with the office manager who said I would need to fill out my intake form outside because I wasn’t allowed in the waiting area. When I arrived, my therapist (wearing a bandana unsecured on the bottom) opened the door and had me fill out the form in the waiting area. I noticed distancing signage and hand sanitizing stations throughout the facility. She walked me back to the treatment room and let me know I could begin face down without wearing a mask. She had me tuck the mask under the sheet so I would have easy access to it when I turned supine.
Once she left the room, I noticed a cleaning checklist on the back of the door, and another hand sanitizing station in the room. She came into the room once I was on the table and said she forgot to take my temperature and asked if I had any COVID symptoms (she did not ask about specific symptoms, just if I had any symptoms in general). I was able to easily put my mask on when I turned onto my side. She provided the most amazing side-lying neck treatment towards the end, but it included putting something over my eyes and ears. Normally I would love this, but having my mouth, nose, eyes, and ears covered at the same time made me a little panicky. At the end of the treatment my therapist apologized for how clunky the process was and said she was used to having the office manager there to assist with COVID related processes. Overall the massage was wonderful, and I could see they were making an effort, but I didn’t leave feeling confident that if I booked again it would be a smoother experience.
-Dr. Tiffany Ryan
I spent some time trying to find an open spa near Portland that is open for massage therapy. The two resort spas near Portland are still closed currently, but I found a Medspa downtown that is doing massage only. It said on their website that they are only booking massage right now, and we are able to book online. They didn’t really have any other information on their website about COVID procedures and precautions.
After I booked, I was sent a confirmation email, followed by a VERY long email that I skimmed and found the COVID questions and requirements, but did not take the time to read because it was 3 pages long. In addition to the normal intake and waiver they send me via email and had me send back via email, they wanted me to reply with my answers to their COVID questions:
Have you experienced a fever of over 100 degrees in temperature? Have you had any upper respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, or shortness of breath, and/or extreme fatigue? Have you been exposed to any person(s) that has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or suspected to have it? Have you attended a gathering of 25 or more people?
These are not great questions in our opinion because they do not specify the time range, and they asked me these a week before my appointment.
When I arrived, checkin was messy and I realized the massage was in an outdoor tent in the courtyard. My massage therapist took my temperature and was wearing a mask for PPE (no other PPE). It was not clear whether I was required to wear a mask the whole time, but I did anyway. I was not required to wash my hands when I got there, although it did say I was required to in the email, and I did not witness the therapist wash their hands or sanitize any equipment.
I really loved the outdoor experience, but I was thrown off because I was not expecting it to be outside, and the checkin was confusing and frustrating.
When restrictions were lifted for massage in Portland they were also lifted for waxing. I made an appointment the first week it was available and it was clear the business had been preparing during the time they were closed. The website had a pop-up on the home page that detailed their new COVID protocols that included waiting outside for your appointment, wearing a mask, no food or drink, and going cashless. They stated that they had implemented a new $5 PPE fee to cover new costs associated with COVID protocols. The receptionist called me 24 hours before my appointment to ask me a serious of COVID related questions and give me a brief overview of what to expect at my appointment.
When I arrived it was a hot day and I was about 5 minutes early. The receptionist saw me through the window and greeted me at the doorway. She took my temperature with a touchless thermometer and told me my waxer would come to get me when she was ready. Well, it turned out she was running late and got me about 10 minutes past my appointment time. I had been waiting in the sun and heat for 15 minutes. I didn’t see any signage about sanitization or cleaning protocols, but I was instructed to socially distance while waiting to check out. Overall, while I felt inconvenienced by waiting outside and the additional fee, I felt that the communication, professionalism, and following through on protocols earned my trust.
-Dr. Tiffany Ryan
Just like waxing and massage, my hair salon opened at the same time and I was excited to book an appointment. There was no information regarding COVID on their website, but after booking, my individual stylist sent me a very long and detailed paragraph form email regarding her new policies. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming! My takeaways were to wear a mask, that if I had symptoms I wouldn’t be seen, I might not be able to have my hair dried, and that I couldn’t enter the building without texting first. She texted me a COVID symptom questionnaire 24 hours prior to my appointment.
When I arrived I was instructed to text my stylist and they would meet me outside. It was another hot day and I had decided not to use my air conditioning in the car because it was such a short ride from the office. I was hot when I arrived and when she used the touchless thermometer it showed I had a temperature of 102! We moved into the shade for a few minutes and she then took my temperature again, when it showed 98 degrees. When I came into the salon, I was asked to use hand sanitizer provided.
While there wasn’t signage about new cleaning procedures, my stylist verbally told me everything that they had to do, and that their prices were raised due to their increased associated costs. I noticed that she has disposable face masks to purchase for $1 if someone forgot theirs. While her email indicated she may not be able to blow dry, she did in fact end up blow drying my hair.
Overall, I felt safe and that she was taking precautions seriously, however, her communication could have been simplified and more to the point to avoid any confusion for the client.
-Dr. Tiffany Ryan
This was the best experience I have had as far as communication goes. They were very clear to me in the confirmation emails about the expectations and they called me the day of to confirm that I knew the check in procedures.
I had to answer a few COVID screening questions over the phone the day of, and was informed that I needed to wear a mask, would have my temperature taken, and needed to call when I arrived and they would tell me when I can come in.
When I arrived in the parking lot, I called and they answered right away. They told me they would call me right back when I could come in. They called me a minute or two later and told me I could come in. There was no one else in the lobby. They had me sign a COVID liability waiver, took my temperature, and wrote my temperature on the waiver. Then they escorted me to my cubicle and they had me take off my mask at the cubical. All staff members were wearing masks and PPE, but this is normal for a dentist's office.
I was not required to wash my hands or use sanitizer upon entry, nor did the technicians sanitize in front of me.
This was another pretty seamless experience for me! It was a new hair salon to me about an hour outside of Portland. I booked the appointment online and received a confirmation email, but didn’t see any COVID procedures or precautions on their website, and didn’t get anything in an email about COVID. The day before my appointment, my stylist texted me a few COVID intake questions:
Have you had a cough? Have you had a fever? Have you had shortness of breath? Have you been in close contact with anyone with these symptoms or anyone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days? If your answer it noto all, simply reply no.
They also told me to bring a mask and that they would be wearing a mask. When I arrived, she greeted me outside with her mask on and had me use hand sanitizer before walking in. We were the only people in the whole salon. She let me take off my mask during the appointment.
Communication, communication, communication! This is so important. Not only written (website and signage in your space, and COVID questionnaire), verbal (before, during and after treatment), but also with your actions. One of the main takeaways from reflecting on our experiences is that not only is the initial communication with your clients important, but actually following through on those safety promises is critical. When we read about new protocols, but then didn’t actually experience them our trust in the provider was lost. When protocols were just done without communication (i.e. taking temperature without stating that you’re going to take their temperature) it makes the experience feel a little bit scary.
Provide a satisfaction questionnaire to your clients. What did they like and appreciate in terms of the new COVID protocols and what could have been improved? This will give you an opportunity to fine-tune your new practices and protocols!
Other considerations: Have masks available for your clients to either have or purchase. Make sure you and/or your other therapists are wearing legitimate masks that securely cover their nose and mouth. Keep your verbal and written communication succinct and to the point. The client can feel easily overwhelmed if there is too much to digest.
The questions we asked ourselves when creating this blog that you might find helpful when refining your COVID policies are: What was on the website about COVID? Were instructions for coming to service given to you prior? Were there additional COVID forms or questionnaires? Was your temperature taken? Was PPE worn by the provider? Were you required to wear PPE? Did you witness the sanitization practices? What were they? Were you required to wash your hands? Could you wait in a waiting area? What was communicated to you about sanitization while you were receiving services?
If you want to watch Katherine & Tiffany discuss these experiences on a FB live, find the recorded meeting in our Yomassage FB Group! We have MANY more COVID and reopening resources for you here with our reopening toolkit. And here in our other blogs.
We have created tons of other resources like Re-opening Toolkit and Are Consumers Ready to Return? to support you in your practice during this time. You can find them here.
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