Being an avid Groupon voucher shopper, I bought a voucher for a Spa package at Slimming Sanctuary for RM68 (worth RM348), which if you look at it, sounds like an incredible deal. Due to my incredibly hectic schedule of work and dance competitions, I was in desperate need for a massage, and I was fortunate enough (or at least, I thought so at that time) to be able to get an appointment on Saturday, 5th November, at the Damansara Utama branch.

I say fortunate because I had bought a few vouchers for massage and/or spa, but when I tried to make appointments, all of them tended to be fully booked right up to the end of the year – the reason being that because the voucher was so cheap, they were oversold on Groupon. One example was a voucher I bought from Lizkhan Spa – I had so much trouble trying to make an appointment with them although they had extended the expiry date from the initial October 21st to the end of December.

Anyway, so about Slimming Sanctuary. They have 16 outlets in 5 states, so I made my appointment at the Damansara Utama outlet because it was the closest to where I live. The voucher promised 2 hours of spa and massage, but I got less than that. I arrived at the outlet at 4pm, but I left before 6pm. Taking into account the time spent in filling in their client form and the wait I had before the treatment began, it meant that the total time for the spa and massage experience was way below 2 hours.

When I arrived,  I was asked to fill up a form about my personal details. This is normal for any service outlets as they like to keep customer details in a file which they can pull up later should the customer come again for another treatment.

I was then led upstairs to the locker area where I was assigned a locker to store my personal belongings. They didn’t have changing rooms though – I was told to go into one of the treatment rooms to change out of my clothes and into a towel. And this was the first part I didn’t like:  although the room was empty, this room had someone else’s clothes hanging on a clothes hanger on the wall. Evidently the girl who had changed thought this would be her assigned treatment room and left all her belongings there – I saw her handphone left by the sink. I voiced out my concern – I told the staff who was waiting outside that “there’s someone else’s clothes here” and was told that it didn’t matter, it was only for me to change.  Personally I thought this was unprofessional and it actually made me feel uncomfortable. Plus, although I was given a clothes hanger to hand my clothes, there were no other hooks for me to hang my clothes on because the only hook in the room was already in use. I had to hang the hook in what was literally a hole in the wall (I don’t know how the hole got there. It looked like someone had accidentally punched a hall in the partition wall). And just as I was about to step out of the room, the girl who originally used the room came barging in, and she looked rather surprised to see me there. I can’t blame her now, can I?

I was given a cup of water to drink before being taken to their steam room to sit for about 15 minutes. The steam was nice and hot – I’ve always enjoyed sitting in steam rooms when I used to be a member of a gym. After that, I was taken to a Jacuzzi bath tub where they added milk powder to the water and I sat in it for a further 15 minutes. To me, the steam and Jacuzzi were certainly the best parts of this spa experience. I felt totally relaxed.

One of the staff was already holding the hanger on which my clothes were on as she waited for me, and led me downstairs to the massage room. I was given disposable panties and for the first time, a piece of cloth “bra”. In all my previous experiences, I was usually just covered with a towel , which usually sufficed.

I was supposed to get 45 minutes of body massage, 15 minutes of scalp massage and 5 minutes of foot spa, but the masseuse gave me an option to convert the foot spa into an additional 5 minute body massage because the foot spa – as fantastic as it may sound – was merely “brushing the feet”. So I agreed because I love massages anyway. The scalp massage wasn’t a separate massage; it was part of the overall massage experience.

The masseuse – Rohaini – is a Malay lady from Teluk Intan, Perak, and she did traditional Malay massages. She had very strong hands and my body actually ached during the massage. However to me this was normal because in every massage I’ve been to, my body always suffers because I have various problems that I need fixed through massages. The masseuse said she was glad I understood that my massage was expected to ache after a massage; she said some clients who hadn’t known better had even blamed her for their aching muscles. I have a lot to say about this – I will write that after I finish writing about this experience. Please refer below at *!

Upon completion, I changed back into my clothes, and this time it was the sales staff led me back upstairs to get my things out of the locker. She hovered while I took my things, and hurried me downstairs to her office, without giving me any time to fix my hair.

At the office, she of course tried to push me into signing up for one of the packages – specially for Groupon users, she claimed – which I have to admit sounded very attractive. One package offered “buy 5 free 5″, another “buy 10 free 10″; both of which had 0% instalment payment options. However, considering how my experience so far didn’t particularly leave a good taste in my mouth, I refused repeatedly until she finally stopped trying to make me sign up. There was an immediate change in her attitude toward me; although she still stayed polite, I could see that all she wanted to do was get me out of the office.

*Now, about the massage experience. I was feeling fine all of Saturday and Sunday after the massage, and had even attempted a physical activity for a dance on Sunday. But starting on Tuesday, the muscles on both sides of my neck started to hurt, and I couldn’t turn my head left or right, as if I had a stiff neck. I slathered on heat cream and on Wednesday, the right side of my neck had healed, but my left side was even worse than the day before – in fact, it was swollen! I had to ice it to make the swelling go down. It was slightly better by Thursday, and it was only through diligent application of a Chinese wonder ointment called “Zheng Gu Shui” that I saw a slight daily improvement. But one week later, it still hurt.

So this brings to mind what she said – how some clients blamed her as their bodies hurt during the massage. In my case this time, I’d say, yes, she is completely to blame. She had also been so full of herself, saying how good she was at massage and how some of her clients always come back to her saying they prefer her massages to other types of massages (Balinese, Thai, etc).

I mentioned this experience to another masseuse later, who was horrified to hear about my neck. She said that I was very lucky not to have contracted a fever. She explained that the neck was a very sensitive area, and that the neck must never be pressed if the client has high blood pressure.

I am very thankful I hadn’t signed up for the packages. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend anyone going to Slimming Sanctuary given this terrible experience that I’ve suffered.

And yes, in some ways, I regret buying this voucher. My friends say – and now I do agree – that they never try a massage unless they have been recommended by someone they know.

Looks like the sale of these Groupon vouchers may not necessarily be a great thing after all.

Spa experience: 2/5
Massage experience: 0/5
Service: 1/5
Overall: 1/5
Recommended: No