I must have written this post over and over again in my head hundreds of times before finally sitting down to piece it all together. You see, I’m not really one to complain about beauty products and services. If I don’t like something, I simply don’t promote it. I am someone who would much rather spend my time promoting what I love. In this case, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Chicago last week, and it was a wonderful experience for me. I took to the Windy City very warmly, and I could honestly see myself living there someday. While I was in town, I decided to make myself an appointment at a spa…a spa that I normally can’t access in South Carolina since I don’t live near any major cities (Atlanta is 3 hours away). I chose Bliss Spa because I’ve seen their line in Sephora, used their products before, and heard about their spa treatments in fashion magazines. I booked myself a Hot Milk & Almond Pedicure that was to last a full sixty minutes. Even as our plane descended on the tarmac at O’Hare, I was looking forward to my spa treatment at Bliss, thinking it was going to be one of those really cool experiences I’ll have as a beauty enthusiast and blogger for the rest of my life. Boy, was I wrong.
Immediately upon entering the spa on the 8th floor, you are greeted with stark white walls and small open windows that look out onto Lake Michigan. The views are most definitely million dollar ones, and I couldn’t help but gravitate toward them and want to peek out. I politely asked the receptionist if I could take pictures and she said it was no problem.
Being able to see Lake Michigan from these small windows was so special. Unfortunately, it was probably the best thing about my experience. There are no chairs or couches along the front of the spa in this area, so when you walk in, enjoy your view, because you’ll be sitting where there are no window views or natural lights.
Once I was done taking in the view, the receptionist told me I could have a seat on one of the small benches further down the hallway. The entire hallway is composed of Bliss products on shelves, as if it were a retail location.
The employee’s were cordial, but just cordial enough. No one offered me a wait time or any idea of who would be performing my services. It reminded me almost of going to a doctor’s office: have a seat, the doctor will call you when we’re ready.
The nail area itself is open to the rest of the spa, toward the back where the waiting area is. I was fascinated because the chairs looked really modern and cool and I noticed TV’s and headphones. I waited about ten minutes before someone came and told me she was filling the pedicure tub up for me. As soon as she told me she was ready for me, I picked my nail polish color from a wall, sat down in the chair, and she got right to work.
Now listen, I realize I’m not Beyonce. I don’t expect the royal treatment, but for a spa so apparently “world class” and renowned, I was surprised that no one bothered to ask me if I wanted something to drink. Heck, no one even bothered to really look at me or ask me how I was doing. You’ll hear me compare this treatment to my local nail salon here in small town South Carolina, because quite honestly, it’s an amazing salon. My small town nail salon always asks me if I would like a glass of water or a glass of wine. They even ask you if you prefer red or white wine. I’m not looking to get a buzz on at my spa appointment, but quite frankly, I was definitely surprised that no one offered me anything at all. I had heard and read in magazines and from other bloggers that they were offered water and brownies. Imagine my disappointment.
I sat in the seat and she told me to put my feet into the “hot milk & almond” soak, which is where this treatment gets its’ name from. From the Bliss Spa website itself: “feet are softened in steamed whole milk and mega-moisturizing almond oil.” I sunk my feet straight into cold milk and almond oil. She never asked me if the temperature was too hot or too cold, or even comfortable at all. I found myself saying, “Maybe the steamed part comes later”. It never came. While the cold milk & almond mixture did make my feet feel soft, I was left to soak in this cold mixture for around ten minutes. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why not speak up and ask her to change the temperature of it for you?” To be 100% honest, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if the steamed part was coming after the soak or what. It was my first time ever being inside of a Bliss Spa to begin with.
I was more than happy to take my feet out of the cold mixture. It wasn’t relaxing and it didn’t feel that great. Sorry for the feet picture (I hate feet), but you know, I wanted to document the entire experience from start to finish.
After soaking in a cold mixture, my nail tech came over and started working on my feet. She was extremely rough on my feet and as she was filing my nails down I actually found myself squirming from pain because she was filing my skin. She never made conversation with me except to talk to the nail tech beside her who was also working, and they started discussing a shooting that just happened several blocks away. Great.
At this point, I was wondering why I was not told if the TV’s were for personal use. I was wondering why there were headphones on the chairs. Not a single person even said they were available for me to use. Again, you might wonder why I didn’t speak up. I was honestly pretty put-off and bewildered at this point in my treatment. No one had explained really anything to me and quite frankly, the nail tech seemed pretty short and cold with me, so I just stayed quiet.
When she started to buff my feet, she noticed that I had really rough heels. I work out and do a lot of walking and running, so my heels are always the worst. She asked if I wanted to add on the callus treatment for $15. I decided to do it because she made it sound like this wonderful treatment. Well, she up-sold me on a treatment that I wouldn’t have paid $5 for. She slathered this serum over my heels and toes, wrapped my feet in plastic bags, and told me to wait fifteen minutes.
Ah, another fifteen minutes of waiting. No entertainment, nothing for relaxation. At my salon here in my hometown, they have massaging chairs (PS, the massages are free). They have a television on, music playing, and offer you drinks. So I basically sat and stared at the wall at this point, not wanting to run the battery down on my iPhone since I would need the GPS for walking around town.
My wonderfully fabulous view that spent staring at for more than thirty minutes throughout the pedicure. I was honestly so disappointed and jaded at this point. I just knew that my experience wasn’t going to be what I thought it was, and I pretty much threw in the towel. My nail tech finished buffing my feet and polished my toe nails. After she polished my toe nails, she had another customer waiting for her. She told me to get up and sit at the original bench I waited on when I first got there.
Excuse me? My nails had literally just gotten a topcoat about twenty seconds ago and you want me to get up already? I hopped my way to the bench and she told me she would come and put nail drying drops on my toenails to help them dry faster.
In typical Bliss Spa Chicago fashion, that never happened. She took her next customer and she never looked at me again. She didn’t acknowledge me after that. I sat for about five minutes, hoping they would be dry enough to put my socks and sneakers on. I knew I had a long day of walking ahead of me and at this point, I just wanted to pay and get out of there.
Oh yeah, payment. If you’re wondering what this experience cost me, it was 80 freakin’ dollars. Now listen, I am originally from New Jersey and I know what it’s like for everything to be overpriced or marked up. I expected to pay more for services in Chicago because it’s a major city. But I also expected to get more out of my services because I was not only in a major city, but in a well known spa. I was so disgusted when I checked out and had to pay $80 (that doesn’t include gratuity) for a service that was below mediocre. I felt like someone had just ripped me off, and if you’ve ever gone somewhere for a service and been overcharged for a bad experience, you know just how violating it can feel.
I made it back to my hotel room that evening and my big toenails were smudged. It’s just a reminder of how pitiful the service was at Bliss Spa Chicago. Though I only had this pedicure done 2 weeks ago, I already want to go back to my local, small-town spa to get them redone, just so I don’t have to be reminded of my awful impression of Bliss. Oh yeah, and I’m going to be sure to let my local spa know how much I appreciate them now.
WHAT WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY MADE THIS EXPERIENCE “BLISS”FUL: (take note if you’re reading this Bliss!)
- Chairs or seats in the front of the spa, where the view and natural lighting is.
- Music that actually went with the theme of a spa. At one point, they actually had on Top 40 music. I want “relaxing” not “dance in my car” music.
- Employees that were actually attentive and friendly, and asked if it was your first time, explain treatments, extra’s, headphones, TV’s, etc.
- Offer your customer something to drink or eat, even if it’s just water or a small snack. It shows you’re going out of your way to make the experience worth it.
- Make sure your employee’s ask if the temperature of the treatment is okay. In my case, the “hot milk” was cold and certainly not steamed.
- Have employee’s check in occasionally to make sure the buffing, clipping, and filing is not painful or too rough.
- Do not ask the customer to get up immediately after finishing nail polishing.
- If your employee says they are going to do something, have them stick to it. It’s not the customer’s job to remind the employee. In my case, I never got those nail drying drops on my toes and I ended up smudging my polish everywhere.
- Make the interior of your spa more aesthetically clean, interesting, and pleasing. Half of my pedicure was sitting around waiting. This of course goes hand-in-hand with not being told I could use the headphones and/or TV.
- Smile. Your employee’s looked pretty miserable and no one bothered to smile or even say goodbye as I left. Life is good!
- Bring down the prices of your treatments, particularly if you are not going to take the above constructive criticism. My small-town pedicure’s cost me $30 WITH tip, and I get free water, wine, TV service, friendly service, and a massaging chair.
Lesson: If you’ve got a champagne budget with beer taste, by all means, go to Bliss Spa Chicago. I paid $80 without gratuity for a service that I honestly felt was worth less than $20. Not a single person went out of their way for me at the spa. The services, the features, and the treatments were not explained to me or even offered to me at any point. The spa’s interior was mediocre in terms of cleanliness and aesthetic appearance. I’m not entirely sure what I paid for at Bliss. I do know that I passed several other salon’s and spa’s throughout my trip and made it a point to go inside of them, just to see what they looked like and how they greeted me. I can say that I had a better experience in the first sixty seconds in those places than I did at Bliss Spa Chicago. I not only won’t be returning, but I will not be recommending Bliss Spa to anyone in any city. Quite frankly, I don’t think I can even look at Bliss products the same way in Sephora stores anymore without cringing.
And yes, you might look at this post and think, “First World Problems,” because trust me, I know there are far more important things to complain about. This is a beauty blog and I am a beauty professional, so it’s in my blood to assess and enjoy all things beauty. Just remember, though, when you pay to travel and have an experience, you expect to actually have a positive experience. No one wants to leave a store, spa, salon, building, or city with a sour taste in their mouth. Luckily for me, I absolutely adored Chicago as a city and Bliss Spa was simply an annoying blemish on an otherwise flawless trip.
Special thanks to Erin from Read at Home Mama for the clever post tagline.
[ALL PHOTOGRAPHY ON THIS SITE IS TAKEN BY REBECCA KAZIMIR. NO PHOTOGRAPHS ARE TO BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.]