Are You Making Claims That Could Land You in Court?

By Casey Olsen Owner, Spa Sources | June 15, 2010

In the late 70's to the early 80's the American spas took what was to date a more European hot water approach and melded pampering treatments with exercise and diet facilities and beauty regimens. We saw the validity of combining a total wellness concept rather than segregating these aspects.

During this evolution, cosmetic manufacturers saw this emerging opportunity to create a more spa focused product rather than just mass produced department store cosmetic lines. Fitness equipment manufacturers emerged with more and more sophisticated lines to meet the growing demand for our body conscious society. And, most importantly, stress became the key word in disease prevention analogies.

In the 21st century, American spas have had over 20 years in development and have expanded to a more sophisticated venue. But by creating this menu of enticing services, have spa managers and product companies traveled too far in their claims? I think today's spa guest well understands, for example, that by applying a daily moisturizer helps to keep the skin healthy, but will not reverse the aging process. When a spa list of services makes unrealistic claims such as this, or, stating that a product or a treatment will cure your ailment, you begin to tread dangerously in the liability arena.

Whereas, we know that exercising will indeed show positive results, treatments such as facials, massages, wraps and scrubs show no definitive immediate physical adjustments except for relaxation. Stating that a cream will eliminate cellulite is a risky comment. Purporting that repeated skin care regimes will eliminate wrinkles is also a step towards the unrealistic.

Unfortunately, we live in a litigious world and the unhappy guest that challenges your claims in court is becoming a reality. Numerous resorts now have to defend their miracle claims with legitimate studies supporting their beauty assertions. There is a general feeling among the public that they are so deluged with untruths infiltrating their own living rooms through television ads, that this has given rise to intolerance. Your spa is supposed to deliver to your guest an escape from the maddening world. By alleging product and treatment untruths, you actually diminish that respite.

Claims often made regarding the hot stone massage state that this therapy "soothes, relaxes and also stimulates and opens the energy centers of the body." Certainly, this demonstrates a clear assertion that is actually quite vague. Exactly where are the energy centers of the body? And how are they opened when warm rocks are placed on them? What scientific data do we have to show that this actually occurs, and, if indeed this happens, are we sure that "opening the energy centers of the body" is a good thing?

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.