How to handle a negative online review of your spa (+ 5 examples of terrible spa/salon experiences)

In the spa and wellness business, your guests are everything. Without them you have nothing, and they can be your greatest evangelists or your worst detractors.

This means that your guest experience should be above reproach. But sometimes, no matter how hard you work to provide something wonderful, someone is going to hate it, and make noise about hating it. And these days, when that happens, they can spread the word — through review sites like Trip Advisor, on their own blogs and websites, and on social media pages, including yours.

These bad reviews affect your reputation and your business. So, you can’t just let them sit there. You have to take action.

You’re very unlikely to be able to get a bad review taken down, however, even if it’s all a lie. This is because it’s up to you to prove it’s a lie, and that’s usually impossible. But you might be able to change the reviewer’s mind and get them to change their tune, or take it down themselves.

Here I found an excellent article by entrepreneur and connector John Rampton in Inc.com about handling bad reviews. He seems like quite a people person, so you can trust him.

And here are seven industry specific tips for dealing with the same for your spa or wellness business.

Ask yourself if it’s true. Before you get defensive, or assume the negative review is unwarranted, ask yourself if there is even a grain of truth to it and whether something about your guest experience needs work. Look into the situation internally and get the story from those involved.

Don’t get angry or lash out. No matter how bad, unfair, or inaccurate the review, you can’t respond with anger. It just makes you look worse than the reviewer, and you don’t need that right now.

Respond. Do respond, as suggested by John Rampton, with an apology about the bad experience and suggestion that you discuss the situation with the reviewer by phone or email. Keep it brief, and don’t start arguing, defending yourself or your business, or making accusations. In his article, Rampton recommends a simple message reading: “We are so sorry to hear you had such a bad experience at our establishment. Please reach out to us at so we can discuss this further.” .

Responding also shows the rest of your online audience that you care and are making an effort, diluting the negative review. Make it about the guest’s experience, not about you.

It’s true that once in a while one can win with a clever, scathing retort, debunking everything in the review – see this example of the Hotel Doolin in Clare, Ireland – but this sort of thing is, in most cases, equally or more likely to backfire.

Also, there’s no harm in thanking people for positive reviews while you’re at it.

Communicate with the reviewer. Contact the reviewer directly if you can, or have them contact you to discuss their experience and how you can make it better. Most people leave negative reviews in the heat of the moment, and later they might calm down and regret it. Also, it’s much easier to be cruel or nasty when you don’t think about the actual person on the receiving end of your review. The internet provides that degree of separation, which can often be removed by a kind and thoughtful response from a real person with a name. People can be disarmed just by the realization that they are hurting someone or being unfair. They will also appreciate that you made an effort.

Bury the bad reviews with good ones. Short of having it taken down, the only way to get rid a bad review is to push it down and bury it in good ones. How to do this? It depends on the site and on you. Yelp cautions against actively soliciting reviews, while Trip Advisor seems to encourage it. But some methods include following up on the visit with an email featuring a link to the review site, featuring quotes from great reviews on your website with a link to the review site, and displaying badges or logos of review sites online.

Note that reviewing your own business or offering incentives in exchange for a better review are among the things that may be considered fraud – more here – so, go about it honestly.

Take the high road. Here’s the deal, some people are just awful. If you can’t get the reviewer on your side, move on.

Prevent, don’t cure. Finally, it’s obviously best to avoid bad reviews entirely by focusing on your guest experience and paying close attention to everything that’s happening in your spa, salon, or wellness business. Don’t give customers reason to trash you. This might not prevent it happening entirely, to be honest, as some people are never happy, but it’s the most you can do.

If you’re wondering what a bad spa or slain experience looks like, here are five from a Reddit thread on spa/salon horror stories.

“We get there and are greeted by this snooty girl who … couldn’t find a record of the appointment we booked and is generally giving us attitude…. we tell them we’re there for the special we saw on their website. None of them are aware of it and after 20 minutes of having them check the website, call the owners and asking us the same questions over and over about what the special package included we finally get started. My facial and massage were a nightmare as Miss Snooty had one inch long acrylic nails with dangly crap all over them that kept scratching me. I ended up breaking out like crazy all over my face and back afterwards. My friend was in pain after because her girl massaged her using only her elbows…Our manicures were done so bad and half assed that we just skipped the pedi’s and decided to leave. When we went to pay afterwards we asked for a discount since the service was so horrible and they refused.”

“I was having some hair on my neck lasered and somehow my hair or maybe some lint from my shirt burst into flames…I had a burn on my neck for a while going right across my throat which made it looked like a scar from somebody slitting my throat or something.”

“My husband bought me a mani/pedi voucher when I was eight months pregnant. They cut my cuticles and left four fingers bleeding. They filed my nails down below the tips of my fingers and painted the fingertips red on the off chance I wouldn’t notice. They pumiced the tops of my feet till they bled but left the callouses on the soles alone. They took my gift voucher and then tried to charge me an extra €40. Leaving the salon, I went to grab my phone. It wasn’t in my bag. I went back to get it, they said it wasn’t there. I insisted on calling it from their desk phone and we followed the ringing … to my pedi lady’s handbag. Not even an apology.”

“I was on vacation with my family in Florida, staying at a nice resort. My mom and I went in for massages… The guy I got would not stop talking. and I could have dealt with chit chat, but he was just bad mouthing all the snow birds (and old people) who come to florida, but he likes that he makes a ton of money off of them. Then he got, and took, three cell phone calls during my massage.”

“[I] went… for ombre highlights. They told [me] it would be $80. Then they stuck me with an almost $250 dollar bill. I had to call the headquarters and the salon staff called me at home leaving me threatening messages and calling me a liar.”

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