I am not a frequent spa visitor, but I have been enough times to know what to expect from a spa experience. When I booked the 75-minute Exclusive Utopia Pedicure at Spa Utopia in Vancouver I could not have been more excited. I was due a little excessive pampering. I was really nervous about the cost though. Unfortunately, I should have listened to that vocal warning going off in my head.
A pedicure for over $100 was a huge splurge for me. It was a luxury to be sure. I thought about canceling the appointment at least 20 times. I held firm. I rarely treated myself. With a second baby on the way I was not going to have time to do much pampering in the coming months. Needless to say this pedicure experience was rapidly building up in my mind. We were staying at the lovely Pan Pacific Hotel where Spa Utopia was housed. This spa must be amazing I figured. I walked in expecting greatness. Maybe that was the problem.
After waiting several minutes to check in, I was whisked in back to the lounge. Cushy chairs and couches took over the room. A trickling waterfall and candles set the mood. Tea, water and juice were available at a little beverage stand that I assumed I could help myself to. Stale almonds and dried cranberries also graced the table.
After flipping through a fashion magazine, my nail specialist came to fetch me right on schedule. Dori was incredible. She was professional and we bonded as mothers right away. We chatted about raising kids, the goofy language faux pas made when translating between English and Romanian, and how a second baby on the way definitely calls for some extra pampering.
My issue was not with Dori, she was professional at every turn. It was with the flow of the experience that had me wondering why I was paying so much. Everything was so precise and to the minute. I got a foot soak, clean toes, a very short foot and leg massage, then a paraffin wax. During the wax I was left alone for about 10 minutes. The hand massage that was promised in the service never happened. The one thing that swayed me towards going to Spa Utopia was completely skipped. Every other spa in town that I had researched did a very nice pedicure for much less, but with no hand massage. Dori was a reflexologist. I felt like I never really got to see her true skills at work.
The treatment room was cold and very cramped. No warm lavender-scented pillows behind my neck. No back support pillow for an uncomfortable pregnant mother. Granted I didn’t ask for one, but looking back I should have. An ugly plaid curtain divided the room taking away from the Roman spa décor they were going for. Although privacy was nice, I would have preferred an open room with several chairs and more atmosphere if that was the only way to achieve a little bliss. The nail polish fumes, although supposedly non-toxic, were nauseating to a pregnant woman. Even the high ceilings weren’t enough to ventilate the space.
Overall I thought I would get a pampered experience that could outshine the $20 pedicure I get at my local nail shop down the street. Instead I ended up spending $150 (after taxes and tip) on a pedicure that was only memorable because of the lovely company I had in my nail specialist. My feet were hydrated and smooth when I left, but I was not as relaxed as I had hoped or surrounded by the luxury the website had promised. Instead I was wracked with guilt over spending so much on so little. Needless to say I will be looking elsewhere next time we head north to Vancouver.
What do you think? Did I build up the service too much in my mind or could a little more pampering have been spared in the 75-minute service? Were my expectations too high?