Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Being vulnerable about money

Wherein I talk about my ladybits.

Yesterday, I had my Spa Week appointment for laser hair removal. Spa Week's deals are $50 flat for services that often cost more than $200--a significant savings, unless, of course, you weren't intending to spend that money in the first place.

I've had laser hair removal four or five times now, I think, all at different spas during Spa Week. (I feel bad going to the same place over and over again for such a discounted price, although I always tip generously and on the full price of the service.) Some places are better than others--last spring, the location was owned by two sisters and they didn't accept gratuities. Their machine was basically painless and they were the most thorough of any place I've ever been. I wasn't as happy with the overall results, however--the hair seemed to grow back faster than usual. Other places feel a little impersonal and money-grubbing, but the results are phenomenal--this is the type of place I went to last night. (Well, impersonal and money-grubbing, anyway--we'll see about the results.)

Laser hair removal is tricky because different spas mean different things using the same words. I've had hair removed from my underarms and bikini line. I've been focusing on the bikini because I have very sensitive skin and other forms of hair removal cause a lot of irritation that has actually led to scarring. I'll try not to get too graphic here, but...well, the very thorough place I went to last year zapped ALL the hair down there. Like, well...everything that I wanted gone. Think total Brazilian wax except for my preferred coiffure, and you've got it. Some of the other places that I've been to differ between bikini, extended bikini, and brazilian and charge accordingly, and the place I went to last night was no different. I thought I clarified everything when I called to book the appointment, but the esthetician didn't bring this up with me until I was pantsless on the table--"Oh, so this is the area you shaved? Well, THIS [indicating not nearly enough area] is the bikini--you need the extended bikini, and that's $50 more."

Now, what to do? I'm sitting on a medical exam table, wearing idiotic sunglasses, nude from the waist down with goose pimples. Do I argue with her? Wrap a towel around my waist and stalk out to find the guy who I talked to on the phone when I booked the appointment? Pay what I planned to pay and only get part of what I wanted done?

I ended up looking at the brochure where it is clear that what the guy on the phone told me was wrong, and the service I am expecting does cost more, and I'm getting it for a really good deal (about 30% of the full cost). Even though I was half-naked, I bargained a little due to the misinformation I was given, and settled on a price I can live with. I felt that she was thorough and careful during the procedure, so I tipped the esthetician well. And I managed to turn down a really good deal on a full package of three additional treatments (basically pay for one and a half, get one and a half free). It's just not in the budget, alas.

Now I just have to watch to make sure that my credit card is charged properly--I'd already paid the lower cost and signed the slip before the service, then they rang up the higher price when I was done and I signed that slip. So I need to make sure that the initial lower charge is reversed.

The experience made me think a lot about talking about money when someone is at a disadvantage or somehow vulnerable. Asking for money exposes a lot of vulnerability. Bargaining for a starting salary or raise feels a lot like sitting half naked on that table talking to a woman who was about to get all up in my business. Being caught at a checkout without enough cash or getting a credit card declined can be very embarrassing. Exposing our financial faults to loved ones is scary to think about. What about being in a situation where you just don't know a lot, like investing for retirement or applying for a mortgage? It's easy to feel taken advantage of when you don't know how to tell.

Mostly though, I hold to the motto that no one cares about your money as much as you do. The people at the spa last night did not care about getting my money as much as I care about parting with it. So it's important that I know what I'm paying for and why, even when I'm bare-assed. Even when you feel you're in over your head, you need to put on your big-girl pants (clearly metaphorical in my situation) and ask for some documentation. Be willing to pay what you owe, but do some research as well.

Hope that wasn't TMI!


  1. Ooh! Thanks for clueing me in to SpaWeek!! I hadn't heard anything about it.

    So you went 4 or 5 times in one week to get the laser hair removal? There's no waiting period? (you don't have to spend a couple weeks healing?)

    I would love to get laser hair removal for my bikini line (like you, I have really sensitive skin), and I'd love to get it discounted.

    Any other tips you can give? Anything special I should or should not do the day/night before I go in to have it done?

  2. No, I've been doing laser hair removal at Spa Week for almost three years now--I go once each season (Spa Week is in April and October). Going more than once in a week is pointless due to the hair growth cycle.

    There's not really any healing time--the procedure is not exactly painless, but within 10 minutes you feel normal, and within a week or two, all the hair falls out. I usually experience some discomfort for a few days since you have to shave the area you want treated two days before the procedure, but the hair that grows back falls out pretty quickly. Then it's almost totally hair free for 4-6 months!

    I'm not doing the cycles like you're "supposed" to--six to eight cycles in six to eight months or something, but I've still noticed a significant decrease in the amount of hair and the hair that does grow back (MONTHS later) is finer and easier to deal with.

    It's not too late to book your appointment for this Spa Week--do it! The procedure itself feels...sort of like being snapped with a hot rubberband. So it's a few little stings but totally bearable. My underarms were much more sensitive than my bikini line for some reason.

    Does that answer your questions?

  3. Yes, thank you! I'm definitely going to have it done next week. :)

  4. This is a great blog, thank you! I was looking for laser hair removal surgeons recently and ran into The Patients Advantage. They have a great way to find the best surgeons and it is completely free. Check them out (


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