Ben and I are in China right now, and overall it’s been a really fun trip. We stayed at a couple of beautiful SPG properties, and decided to get Chinese massages at one of the hotel spas. I’d never had a Chinese massage before, and was excited to experience it, as a massage in a high-end hotel is a rare treat for me. Unfortunately the ordeal ended up being more red-light district than Red Door.
Things started off a little rocky, but not too bad. Clearly there was a language barrier. The massage therapist picked up her phone and spoke into a translation app, asking me to take off my clothes and lay face down. Typical spa stuff, except then she stood there and watched me while I stripped.
There was no music in the room, so I heard some of the ambient noise of guests in other parts of the hotel. She also received several text messages, and must’ve forgotten to silence her cell phone.
After about 35 minutes of a rigorous but perfectly fine massage, she pointed to my…erm…genital region. She asked something in Mandarin, which I obviously could not understand, but I thought she was asking for permission to touch that area, so I said no thank you. She asked again and I said no.
She seemed puzzled, as if she thought I was misunderstanding the question, so she grabbed her phone and spoke into the translation app. It did not work well. Initially it seemed that she was asking me something about a witch (Halloween is just a few weeks away, after all). But then, after a few tries, she got the app to say something like, “I have been rigorously trained in the technique. Your whole body will feel very good and relaxed after! But I will need a tip.”
Now, if there were no communication issues here, I would have tried to defuse the situation with some humor, because in my mind I was thinking, “lady, I highly doubt you’re as proficient at it as I am.” But instead I just said no thank you.
There were a couple more hard sell attempts (no pun intended), where she said something like, “Are you sure you just want a 60-minute massage without this service?” Ugh – I thought we had moved on with our lives. Hoping to put a stop to this line of inquiry, I said into the translation app, “I will give you a tip, but I do not want the service.” She resumed massaging the parts of my body that are not involved in the reproductive process, and I was able to start steeling myself for the awkwardness of the remaining 25 minutes.
Then, after a couple minutes, she took some oil from near the sink, brought it over, and began gesturing again to my most prized possession. Yet again I firmly said no. (To clarify, the “no” was firm – I assure you nothing else was.)
After that she seemed to be a bit deflated. She responded to some texts, flaccidly massaged me for about 10 more minutes, and then said “ok” and walked away. It was about 10-15 minutes before the treatment was supposed to end, but I did not feel that I’d been shafted. Instead, the sweet release I felt knowing it was over was better than any other happy ending I could imagine.
I sat in the waiting area until Ben’s treatment was finished. While I was there, I began to reflect on what had just happened. I texted him, and was relieved to find out that he had a similar experience (I was worried he wouldn’t believe my story!), though it sounds like the sales pitch wasn’t quite as aggressive for him.
At that point, we left the spa to compare notes and have a stiff drink. And now I’ll hand it over to Ben to share his experience.
I’ll keep this short, since I got off easy compared to Andrew.
I love massages, and get them all the time, typically not at hotels. The simpler the massage place, the better. There’s nothing I like more than a simple Thai or Chinese massage place in a strip mall.
Personally I’m completely unfazed when a random massage place offers a happy ending. They’re subtle about it, I say “no thank you,” and we move on. However, this was my first time experiencing something like this at a luxury hotel. Not only that, but I’ve never had such a high-pressure sales pitch.
For me the first 40 minutes of the massage were normal. As I was laying on my back the masseuse spent a lot of time rubbing my inner thigh. I didn’t find that unusual as such, but she got a lot closer for a lot longer than I’ve ever had in a massage.
Then a couple of minutes later she pointed in the direction of my you-know-what. Oh! She didn’t speak any English, so I said “no thank you” and motioned with my hand that I wasn’t interested. If that were the end of the story, this would be a non-story for me.
She didn’t seem pleased with the answer, or apparently assumed I didn’t understand, so then she made a “jerking” motion with her hand. Again I said “no” and motioned that I wasn’t interested.
I figured we could move on, though then she spent another 10 minutes massaging right around my groin, before once again making a noise to make me look up, and then made a “jerking” motion. Again I said “no thank you.” She seemed disappointed, though unlike Andrew’s masseuse, she let it go at that point and finished the massage in a pleasant way.
I’ve had a lot of massages in my day, though this was a first for me. For one, it was the first time I’ve ever been offered something like this at a luxury hotel. Beyond that, though, I’ve never had a masseuse be so persistent. Based on the fact that we were offered these by two masseuses in two different rooms, clearly this isn’t a one-off. Does the hotel really train their employees to offer this?
How would you have handled this situation?