What pisses me off: shady businesses and ads that misrepresent. E.g. YouTube videos inviting you to click into a link for “the happiest dog in the world”, only for you to find out that said video has nothing to do with “happiness”, “dogs”, “world” or any of the above combinations (see nigahiga video for example). Or businesses that say they’ll provide X service, promising you’ll save Y dollars, but you find out after using their services that it’s all a bunch of crap!
This post debunks a shady business: Health Touch Foot Spa & Nail.
With the goal of providing honest, first-hand reviews for fellow consumers, and attempting to kick these bad business practices, here’s a write-up of my recent foot spa experience.
- Provider: Health Touch Foot Spa & Nail (29 Sugar Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong)
- Service used: 50 minute foot massage with 15 minute foot spa (aka soak)
- Misrepresentation of savings: from the Groupon deal, for HKD148 you get a 15 minute foot spa and 50 minute foot massage. Original price is HKD248 as advertised. From the Groupon advertisement, you are supposed save HKD100 with the Groupon purchase. But you don’t. Although Health Touch Foot Spa advertises on Groupon as such (see image 1), it turns out their actual prices are not HKD248 as advertised (see image 2). Their usual prices are HKD178 for the exact same service on weekdays, and HKD198 for weekends. The maximum savings you can make is HKD50 (HKD198 – HKD148), not the advertised HKD100 per Groupon’s representation.
- They messed up the appointment time: despite me having made a phone call to reconfirm a few days before. In fairness, Health Touch staff made an attempt to rectify their mistake and managed to provide the service, though with a bit of unfriendly attitude.
- Spa period was shorter: despite the advertised 15 minute foot spa (soak) and 50 minute foot massage, a total of 65 minutes, the foot soak was merely 5 minutes, and the total treatment time was less than an hour. A small discrepancy – but in the spa industry, correct and accurate timing matters, because consumers are usually paying for a service based on hourly rates. Also, their clock on display at the centre of the treatment room, which is supposed to give customers an idea of when treatment finishes and ends, was 20 minutes faster than the actual time. Why wouldn’t they put on the correct time? SHADY.
- (FYI: you’re in a room with 10+ customers – it’s not a private or semi-private room, as opposed to what you may have in mind from the advertising photo – see below)
Things I liked:
- The lady who helped me was great – she was experienced and knew what she was doing. I felt relaxed afterwards.
- They serve tea and provide comfortable hot neck rests while you get a massage.
SHADY – BLACKLISTING. Service was good, and had their advertising been conducted honestly I’d consider recommending this joint. But based on Health Touch Foot Spa’s business malpractice – misrepresenting prices and the amount of savings on the Groupon advertisement – I wouldn’t revisit. The difference is merely HKD50 (which is USD6); but that’s not the point. The point: misrepresenting things on an advertisement when conducting business is not OK.
Hong Kong vendors can get away with a lot because we have weak, near non-existent consumer protection laws. Even if you are unfairly treated as a consumer, the chances of you fighting back and getting any compensation via the courts or the Consumer Council are small. Consumers very much rely on word of mouth and online reviews.
Lucky this case was just a price issue, and there weren’t any adverse health effects. More serious is the worrying gap in the laws regulating spa/medical beauty/facial joints in general, which provides anything from simple non-invasive skin care to more invasive laser/botox treatments. If you’re lucky nothing happens – you might pay a lot of money for a non-effective treatment (hot off the press today, there was a news report on TVB about a woman going into a coma after using liposuction at Dr. Reborn, a medical beauty treatment centre).
If not, you might end up with a sore face, swollen nose, or worse, infection from poorly conducted beauty procedures. Do not trust everything as advertised. Do your own thorough research before spending thousands of dollars on beauty treatments – Groupon or not. Consumer complaints are most effectively dealt with through the media. I suspect it’s this gap in statutory protection that rise to a necessity for the media to step in. If you’re severely wronged as a consumer (e.g. getting laser burned during a beauty treatment), your best bet is to make a complaint to Next Media, the Hong Kong media giant. If Next Media presents your case on their magazine or website, there’s a chance you’ll get your money back, or if not, at least expose the problematic business to warn potential buyers.
Just because Groupon is a platform to buy cheaper than usual goods and services, it doesn’t mean that you, as a consumer, should feel in any way like you owe the business an opportunity for them to upsell to you (upsell meaning, dissing your Groupon purchase, and shoving an “upgrade” or a completely different and more expensive service for you to purchase on the spot) . The business model of Groupon is that they promise bulk purchases to the businesses advertising with them. In exchange for a certain volumn of bulk purchases, each individual consumer’s purchase price is decreased. Economies of scale – it’s fair game for both the business and the consumer. Businesses get a surge of customers and new blood, and consumers get a cheaper deal. Groupon wins too – they get revenues through businesses advertising with them. Businesses that I’ve visited say the majority of the voucher you pay for on Groupon’s website actually goes to Groupon itself, and not the business. So Groupon makes a lot of money from this.
If the business is failing and needs to rely on Groupon as a means to increase traffic to their stores – that’s the business’ problem. Not yours. If such businesses rely on luring customers to their stores via Groupon and upselling keep their business afloat, you need to think twice before committing long term to their services.
You, as a consumer, should be offered the service or product, as is exactly advertised per the Groupon deal. That was the deal!
A few ways to protect yourself
- Print out the Groupon deal – fine print and the entire service/product description as advertised online. This is in case anything on the website changes for later dispute.
- If any disputes arise during the service or product use, refer to the Groupon deal and point it out to the business representative immediately. An example would be, if a massage is advertised as 60 minutes, and you only were provided 45 minutes, speak up then and there.
- Don’t use Groupon. From my experience there’s a very high chance that you’ll up upsold by aggressive sales staff. This is more prevelant for beauty related services such as spas, facials, hair removal etc. For one time products (like electronic gadgets), it might be still worth a try, but beware of warranty limits. If you’re looking for a relaxing, enjoyable experience at the spa, I suggest you pay via traditional means and avoid using Groupon (or any similar bulk purchase platforms).
I still use Groupon because I’m a frugal deal-loving Asian who can’t resist a bargain. It’s part cultural part personal ideology. Frugality isn’t a sin. And I’ve had some good buying stints – sometimes the deal is legitimately amazing. I’ll continue to venture trying Groupon deals from time to time, using my own body, my time, as an experimental ground. There are reviews out there, but they’re few and far between. I’m hoping this provides a bit more information for anyone contemplating trying Health Touch Foot Spa in particular, or other Groupon services/products in general. Until consumer protection awareness and fair business practices mature in Hong Kong, I suggest consumers do extensive research before buying any Groupon deals. Or just don’t do it – because you will get frustrated, and likely jipped. Unless, if you’re willing to take the risks and understand the likely nature of the experience – then go for it!
Health Touch Foot Spa & Nail 1/F, Grand View Commercial Centre, 29-31 Sugar Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (Tel: 852 2882 3433)
Links to other Groupon reviews on this blog:
- Studio Groupon (Photography, London based)
- Mioggi Spa (Facial, body treatment, Hong Kong based)
- Best Spas in Hong Kong (containing Groupon reviews)
- Worst Spas in Hong Kong (containing Groupon reviews)
Are there any bad business practices that you’ve come across that you’d like to share?