OMG: Luxury Hotel “Hard Selling” Off-Menu Spa Services

Ben and I are in China right now, and overall it’s been a really fun trip. We stayed at a couple of beautiful SPG properties, and decided to get Chinese massages at one of the hotel spas. I’d never had a Chinese massage before, and was excited to experience it, as a massage in a high-end hotel is a rare treat for me. Unfortunately the ordeal ended up being more red-light district than Red Door.

Things started off a little rocky, but not too bad. Clearly there was a language barrier. The massage therapist picked up her phone and spoke into a translation app, asking me to take off my clothes and lay face down. Typical spa stuff, except then she stood there and watched me while I stripped.

There was no music in the room, so I heard some of the ambient noise of guests in other parts of the hotel. She also received several text messages, and must’ve forgotten to silence her cell phone.

After about 35 minutes of a rigorous but perfectly fine massage, she pointed to my…erm…genital region. She asked something in Mandarin, which I obviously could not understand, but I thought she was asking for permission to touch that area, so I said no thank you. She asked again and I said no.

She seemed puzzled, as if she thought I was misunderstanding the question, so she grabbed her phone and spoke into the translation app. It did not work well. Initially it seemed that she was asking me something about a witch (Halloween is just a few weeks away, after all). But then, after a few tries, she got the app to say something like, “I have been rigorously trained in the technique. Your whole body will feel very good and relaxed after! But I will need a tip.”

Now, if there were no communication issues here, I would have tried to defuse the situation with some humor, because in my mind I was thinking, “lady, I highly doubt you’re as proficient at it as I am.” But instead I just said no thank you.

There were a couple more hard sell attempts (no pun intended), where she said something like, “Are you sure you just want a 60-minute massage without this service?” Ugh – I thought we had moved on with our lives. Hoping to put a stop to this line of inquiry, I said into the translation app, “I will give you a tip, but I do not want the service.” She resumed massaging the parts of my body that are not involved in the reproductive process, and I was able to start steeling myself for the awkwardness of the remaining 25 minutes.

Then, after a couple minutes, she took some oil from near the sink, brought it over, and began gesturing again to my most prized possession. Yet again I firmly said no. (To clarify, the “no” was firm – I assure you nothing else was.)

After that she seemed to be a bit deflated. She responded to some texts, flaccidly massaged me for about 10 more minutes, and then said “ok” and walked away. It was about 10-15 minutes before the treatment was supposed to end, but I did not feel that I’d been shafted. Instead, the sweet release I felt knowing it was over was better than any other happy ending I could imagine.

I sat in the waiting area until Ben’s treatment was finished. While I was there, I began to reflect on what had just happened. I texted him, and was relieved to find out that he had a similar experience (I was worried he wouldn’t believe my story!), though it sounds like the sales pitch wasn’t quite as aggressive for him.

At that point, we left the spa to compare notes and have a stiff drink. And now I’ll hand it over to Ben to share his experience.

Ben’s experience

I’ll keep this short, since I got off easy compared to Andrew.

I love massages, and get them all the time, typically not at hotels. The simpler the massage place, the better. There’s nothing I like more than a simple Thai or Chinese massage place in a strip mall.

Personally I’m completely unfazed when a random massage place offers a happy ending. They’re subtle about it, I say “no thank you,” and we move on. However, this was my first time experiencing something like this at a luxury hotel. Not only that, but I’ve never had such a high-pressure sales pitch.

For me the first 40 minutes of the massage were normal. As I was laying on my back the masseuse spent a lot of time rubbing my inner thigh. I didn’t find that unusual as such, but she got a lot closer for a lot longer than I’ve ever had in a massage.

Then a couple of minutes later she pointed in the direction of my you-know-what. Oh! She didn’t speak any English, so I said “no thank you” and motioned with my hand that I wasn’t interested. If that were the end of the story, this would be a non-story for me.

She didn’t seem pleased with the answer, or apparently assumed I didn’t understand, so then she made a “jerking” motion with her hand. Again I said “no” and motioned that I wasn’t interested.

I figured we could move on, though then she spent another 10 minutes massaging right around my groin, before once again making a noise to make me look up, and then made a “jerking” motion. Again I said “no thank you.” She seemed disappointed, though unlike Andrew’s masseuse, she let it go at that point and finished the massage in a pleasant way.

I’ve had a lot of massages in my day, though this was a first for me. For one, it was the first time I’ve ever been offered something like this at a luxury hotel. Beyond that, though, I’ve never had a masseuse be so persistent. Based on the fact that we were offered these by two masseuses in two different rooms, clearly this isn’t a one-off. Does the hotel really train their employees to offer this?

How would you have handled this situation?

Comments

  1. I had the exact same experience at an SPG hotel in southern China last year. I filed a complaint with the hotel gm and he promised a response and that the issue would be addressed. Never heard back and I never ended up following up. Quite disgusting, and an overall uncomfortable experience. I suppose that’s the norm for the area, but I expected better of SPG.

  2. Not sure why you folks are so “shocked”… welcome to the real World people. It’s quite cultural to provide happy endings there – why do you think all the dodgy spas in the US are Asian?!
    Be less prude and more realistic!!

  3. If she persisted like that I would have used the translation app on the phone to say, “How do you say ‘syphilis’ in Mandarin?” I only got a massage once in my life, a couples massage with my wife at a very high end hotel. I never imagined this happened at that kind of property.

  4. Uhh… What hotel? I travel often in China, often getting massages, and I would like to avoid the situation altogether.

  5. I generally tend to find sports masseuses… not “enjoyable” in the same way, but almost certainly not going to result in any confusion about happy endings!

  6. Often get massages with my wife and we always get a couples room. Would of made for an interesting situation with my wife there. Would they offer her the same service. Only fair right?

  7. Don’t we all travel internationally to immerse ourselves in the foreign culture? Indulge. Its definitely not something to complain about.

  8. It’s normal in China, most luxury hotels will be like this and some 4 star hotels even have brothels (I remember a well known 4 star hotel in Guanzhou where a lot of foreigners went while waiting for the paperwork to adopt children that had a brothel and that would slip advertisements in the rooms of single customers).

    It’s actually relatively hard to find a massage place where you won’t be offered an happy ending, there are few chains that really specialize in professional massages and won’t do that and in actual beauty parlors (the real ones, not the fake ones targetting men), you usually won’t have that.

  9. Never had this luck. In which hotel did this happened? This would be a greater selling point to me than 10k SPG welcome bonus. 🙂

  10. Just let them jerk you off. What’s the harm in that. Were either of you aroused? If you’re laying there with a boner, why not let them finish you off.

  11. As others have said, this is quite the norm in the area, although I would have expected the staff at a hotel spa to have handled things a bit better. I remember on one occasion at a fairly upscale spa in the mainland I was presented with a menu of options by the English-speaking employee who politely informed me that “full service” was also available for a slight charge. I’ve never actually had staff that wouldn’t take no for an answer.

  12. This does have something to do with where you are in china, places in southern china are likely for this to happen, guangzhou, shenzhen, and the old pleasure city of dongguan. its very odd that this happened at time of the year, as its National Day 10/1 national week and crackdowns are being performed in large cities like shanghai for the holidays.

    care to divulge which city occurred in?

  13. “She responded to some texts, flaccidly massaged me…”

    “but I did not feel that I’d been shafted”

    10/10 writing

  14. So you can imagine how much massage foreign straight guys must get whenever they are in this part of the country, lol.
    I would be terrified.

  15. I was offered this once by a male massage therapist at the Palms in LV. I’m cool with a dude lending me a hand, but not for a fee, and was a bit taken aback since I couldn’t recall any part of our interaction until that point that would have suggested I’d be interested in this finishing touch. I guess some people just have perfect gaydar. When I declined the service, he didn’t press the issue further.

    FWIW, in the US “happy endings” are often referred to in the penal code as “masturbation for hire” which is a misdemeanor.

  16. Overseas, esp in China ,Thailand, Vietnam, most think Americans want the extra treatment.
    And depending on their looks, sometimes willing to go for it.
    But when it’s a NO, it’s most definitely a NO.

  17. Staying at a -star hotel international chain in India, with a group of colleagues: We were amazed that both men and women in our group were aggressively offered “off menu” selections at the spa, from “happy endings” to full-blown intercourse. Local flavor, I guess.

  18. A lot my Asians friends have told me that it is common but not for a sexual reason entirely. The idea being that your whole body is relaxed except one part, so the goal is to completely relax you allover.
    Again, this is what I have been told by am Asian friend.

  19. That is why i never had a massage anywhere ,let alone at an asian hotel. As far as i know even the high end hotels in china sometimes outsource their massage services.
    Right now i am in Budapest well known for spa but still that is not my cup of tea 🙂

  20. I was at a five-star hotel in Kunming (A Chinese brand, not Western) a couple years back and got a massage. They were definitely a little more, uh, aggressive in terms of where they massaged, but, trying not to be a prude American, I let it go. Until it came to the solicitation. At which point I said no thanks, there was a back-and-forth and I decided to leave. A friend/colleague was also getting a massage at the same time in a separate room and had a similar experience.

  21. I think people should be careful about generalizations about “Asia.” This is unacceptable in Japan and if you asked, would probably get you in trouble. I doubt this occurs in Korea as well.

  22. At least she asked… !

    On my first int’l biz trip (ripe age of 21), my colleagues thought it would be a riot to break in the new guy. We went to one of those male beauty spas… walking distance from our Shanghai city center hotel.

    There were five of us. Each guy was led away to a private massage room, where we were told to disrobe. Standard enough.

    I always fall asleep during massages, so you might imagine my surprise waking up to a middle-aged Chinese woman rubbing my junk. Emerging from a dead sleep to discover a matronly woman all up in my business must have registered some serious disgust on my face, as the lady quickly backed into the corner of the room (as I covered my non-aroused self). I can’t really describe her face as I gestured a no-fly-zone over my Green Card maker. She seemed to take it personally–as if she had failed in the line of duty (it’s nothing personal lady, but I’m not the type of dude who has to pay for this service). We got back to some non-sexual rubbing, but it was totally phoned-in on her part. After 10 minutes of enduring her half-assed efforts, I got up and waited for my colleagues on the street. I don’t think I got more than three words out (“Do you know…”); my coworkers were keeling over in laughter. They tried to convince me that they arranged for the oldest, mom-like masseuse, though I didn’t buy it.
    Worst part of the whole experience? Shortly after I got home, I noticed that I was severely itchy. Went to the dermatologist, and learned that I had some home with Scabies. Likely contracted via dirty sheets, the doc said. I no longer do off-broadway massages. Unwanted hand jobs are manageable. Dirty sheets are mind-blowingly sick.

  23. WMLA , are you kidding me? This type of “service” was invented by Japanese and Korean, for the American soldiers. Nowaday, it is still widely practiced in Japan but you need to know the code; while Lorea is much more open about it. What do you think? who opened the most Asian massage parlors in US ? Korean or Chinese? take a guess.

  24. Had the same offer happen when having a massage in a Marriott property in China. On another trip and staying in the same hotel, the wife and I did a couples massage and no happy ending offered.

  25. I find this post rascist and an attack on Asian Woman. To assume anyone would want to touch you is disgusting and disgraceful.

    In any event these woman were obviously very old and completely blind.

  26. @Lu
    True, but not true at 5-Star chain hotel spa in either Korea and Japan. Shady massage shops? Of course. Westin Seoul or Prince Gallery Tokyo spa doing this? No way.

  27. >“lady, I highly doubt you’re as proficient at it as I am.”

    I love you.

    But you guys can’t post stories like this, because the image of you boys naked on those massage tables is way too much for Ben’s posse of 50-somethings to handle. Especially now when they’re busy trashing poor Daniel.

    In all seriousness, though, you need to out the hotel in a big way. They’re obviously being told to do this and it’s probably happening under intense pressure. By not naming and shaming the hotel, you’re contributing to forced prostitution.

  28. in response to “Lu” my family lived through US Occupation of Japan and so I know first hand what occurred. The Japanese have practised “Shiatsu” massage for centuries and it does not include a “happy ending.” There are prostitutes in every Country. And it is common for women to fall in love and marry occupying soldiers. But sexual favors during a massage in Japan will land you in prison. If you don’t believe, just ask next time you are at a Luxury Hotel and then tell us how the conditions are in Japanese prisons.

  29. @Dan Allen – right on, constant theme in this blog. Every time Lucky writes about how an Asian flight attendant talks to him I can practically see him pulling up the corners of his eyes and speaking in some pidgin version of whatever the FA actually said. Not surprising the other (male) writers are the same.

    @CP is right. I lived in Japan for the first 35 years of my life and never once was propositioned in a regular massage place. There are plenty of places to go (in Kabukicho, wherever) to get special services…

  30. Lu, no high-end hotels or even mid-level hotels in Korea or Japan would offer this kind of service period. Looking at your name, it sounds like you are Chinese and getting quite defensive for no reason.

    Although Korea and Japan do have rather flourishing red light culture, they don’t offer services as described in this article ever. Imagine Park Hyatt Tokyo or Seoul’s SPA providing such service. You can’t because they don’t.

  31. I would like to put in an official request for Andrew to write more on this blog! Please. I love the way he creatively uses the language.

  32. I suspect if it had been a masseur, rather than a masseuse, this story would have a completely different ending.

  33. This was the perfect set-up to borrow the line from Big Bang Theory:”I’ve been responsible for my own orgasms since…”

  34. Really this shocks you? Maybe I’ve lived in Asia too long (SE, not North, but same difference re:China) but I’d be shocked now if it wasn’t offered.

    I’ve been offered at everywhere from Ritz Carlton to Conrad to Shangri-La in the region.

    Whatever you do please don’t complain to corporate and get these girls in trouble – they make only a few dollars a day for what is an extremely tiring job, if they want to earn substantially more money for something that really is quite harmless who can blame them.

    Remember, not every culture subscribes to America’s puritanical prudish opinions regarding sex!

  35. Is it normal to be fully naked in an all body massage? I’ve only had one once in Thailand where I was offered some sort of a net underwear but chose to keep my regular one on. It was a great massage btw.

  36. I once was in a very nice luxury hotel in Honk Kong and decided to get a facial. I mean, have may facial skin clean of oil and comedones and so on and so forth
    I was amazed when the woman told me to undress and put on a thong. :O
    There were body massage involved lol

    I just found out that sometimes a facial is not really just a facial.

  37. This happened to my husband in Penang, Malaysia, and to me (who is female and had a female massage therapist) in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Never happened to us in Indonesia, Hong Kong, or Singapore, though.

    We agreed it was the opposite of “relaxing”!

  38. On or about 2005, I was having a massage at the Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. At the time, it was THE and only five-star luxury hotel in Siem Reap. The masseuse after about a half-hour, asked me if I wanted him to use his tongue. You never saw a woman run out of the room so fast… I was mortified and regret not saying anything to the hotel.

    When I book my massages now, I am very clear that I do not want anything “extra” included.

  39. What they offered you was a “lingam massage” and its very popular in Asian and Indian massage practice. It is not a simple rub and tug like the usual happy ending. And Andrew, while you may be proficient at your own happy endings, a proper lingam massage performed by an experienced massage therapist is something else entirely. Try it sometime!

  40. As some others have posted, the puns are hilarious!! 😀

    Am I the only one who doesn’t understand what “Jay fbished” means in the iMessage between Andrew and Ben? And, what’s with the censoring? 😛

  41. A) Excellent punage. Well done.
    B) I just got off a plane from Southern China, where I stayed in a SPG property. I’ve been having back problems for weeks, and the first night there I told my wife I was thinking of getting a massage in the hotel since they left a coupon on the nightstand. SOOOOO glad I opted against it.

  42. LOL at those saying this is part of “traditional” Asian “heritage” etc. Prostitution is less taboo in Asia than the West but getting offered a hand job is not some mystical “Mr. Miyagi” style heritage or learning experience, hahaha.

    This is totally normal, with varying levels of discretion, in massage parlors, “barber shops”, “soaplands” etc in the region, but I think it’s a bit unusual to get such a “hard sell” in an international 5-star chain hotel. I would personally have politely declined but then left a comment on corporate website, it’s not a matter of getting the girls in trouble but also of maintaining standards that make guests comfortable.

    @Daniel totally agree in both Japan and Korea I could not imagine this being offered so overtly at a top-level hotel property and would expect the guest to potentially get in trouble for asking.

  43. No top-luxury hotel in China will offer this. I’m talking about hotels like Park Hyatt Shanghai etc.

  44. I could say it’s common knowledge the massage girls in a lot of Chinese hotels can be half service girls in the spa, Or they can end up being full service girls if you request them to come to your room for the massage.
    At first I was dumbfounded by this when a girl came upto my room and the way In the way she started massaging me. I was only after a massage and didn’t see this woman I just called up the spa.
    I quickly learnt and found out after my experience what it’s all about especially after talking with more seasoned travellers in China.

  45. @Tennen – I think that “Jay fbished” means “just finished” (it’s the kind of typo I make that autocorrect doesn’t catch).

    I’m still laughing! Andrew, please keep writing often!

  46. @AJ yep, pretty normal.

    I just always hope I get a very ugly woman when getting full body massages cuz I get turned on SO easily and then when she asks me to turn around, its so embarrassing and hurts my penis so much….but Ive never been offered a happy ending (granted ive only gotten massages in America).

    Ben, Andrew, why not let them just finish you off?

  47. Had the same experience at T2 Max at PVG. Aggressive upsell and pretty sure got charged for the upsell even though not performed. $130 for 30 minutes (had to catch flight). The masseuse also wrote down her WeChat ID.

    Got a massage at place prior to security. Upsell at check-in for two ladies that I accepted. They were suggestive but not pushy and did not ask. Again limited time because had to catch flight.

  48. I had the same experience as Andrew and Ben on a 2005 trip to Tibet. I can’t remember what little town we were in, but it was the same deal. The hotel was a “luxury” property built and owned by the Chinese Communist Party. After some perfunctory work on my back, the girl pulled off her dress and said in broken English, “We make love now.” I politely declined, she insisted, I thought I’d be funny and said, nothing against her, but if the (very hot) doorman was willing to come up instead, I’d reconsider. I’m not sure she understood, but she left and 10 minutes later her “manager” was banging on my door demanding to know what was wrong with the girl. I just laughed and shut the door and that was that.

  49. I’ve had this happen every time I’ve visited a hotel spa in China, other than Amanfayun or Aman Summer Palace. Having spent far too much time In China for work over the past decade, I contunue to marvel at the crass nature of contemporary China. Everything is for sale or on the menu (not just sexual services, but also all of the world’s endangered species). Capitalism in China is an ugly, ugly thing.

  50. This is pretty typical for China in my experience, and other parts of SE Asia as well. I would say from experience that these attempts are even more common in luxury hotels. Last time I was in China, I was given three options (standard massage, happy ending, and more).

    My first time visiting China, the hotel spa was closed, and they walked me to a spa across the street that was in a basement. After walking past what looked like a gambling room, I was offered two types of massages. Thinking about it more, I don’t think I’ve had a massage in China where there was not an attempt to upsell…

    In Bali on my honeymoon with my wife, we had a couples massage and they were particularly attentive during our massage.

    I don’t think I would suggest outing the hotel as I think it’s far too prevalent in that part of the world.

  51. Look, as seasoned travelers, both of you should be aware of local customs. Anyone who has been to Southern China even a couple of times knows that these practices are common in a variety of settings. You can do what you want, but I would refrain mentioning it to corporate.

  52. This is common in China but am surprised with the upcoming Congress. Been a 2-month vacation until October 18.

    Usually i ask how much and get quoted an outrageous price so I just tell them I’ll do it myself for free.

  53. Welcome to Asia. This is normal in ANY Asian country you go to, especially if you’re white. But “freaking out” all because she wanted to offer you a bit of pleasure? Seems far fetched. Can you blame these massage therapists though? They make a few hundred dollars per month, work 7 days a week, 12-15 hour shifts with zero days off. That extra $30-$50 dollars you would have paid her would be her savings that she would send back to her family who she is away from trying to eek out a better life so her family can survive. They depend on these “tips” not because they get a thrill jerking you off but because it’s a matter of life or death for most of them. Not saying it’s right to give in to paying for sexual services but for many of them in these types of “spas” look forward to earning more.

  54. @Tom

    I agree with you. I’ve been living in SE Asia for 14 years and I too get offered “extra” services at almost every massage place I go too, including in high end hotels like the Shangri-La. This is normal in this part of the world and acceptable especially as these China women hardly make any money.

  55. I assume this is illegal. Seems a bit strange that so many people are OK with it if that’s the case.

    Also, not doing the “western businessman” image any favours here either… 😀

  56. Yes, it is illegal but the police turn a blind eye to this sort of thing because it happens behind closed doors and unless numerous complaints are lodged, the police won’t likely raid the place. Besides they would have to catch the massage therapist in the act before anything actually happens.

    This sort of thing you can find anywhere in Asia. You just learn what places not to go to if you want to avoid happy endings.

  57. Welcome to China whereby it’s a like market place to buy what you want for a price. Those Chinese can be very persistent and annoying at times, I am a Chinese from Singapore and so I’m not racist but just saying it from experiences of myself and what I’ve heard from friends etc.
    I won’t say that’s a common thing offered in Asia, SE Asia ermm will be likely, depending on which part you visit, some places more some places neh. It does reminded me of a very funny experience couple years back when Me and my husband were in Singapore visiting. We were walking along the “shady” part of orchard road in Singapore and my husband is an American, I got side tracked while walking beside him and so I was behind him walking slowly still looking around at the changes of the area. Then there’s a lady walking up to him talking to him, I saw him kept waving his hand no and shaking his head no to her but she kept following him until he stopped and pointed at me. From the looks of both I knew what happened and smiled at them both and walked up to beside him and that lady turned and walk away. I didn’t even have to ask him what she’s asking him but told him this area wasn’t the glamourous part of orchard road and it’s common for it to happen.

  58. Ah yes. The “shady” part of Orchard Road, otherwise known as Orchard Towers, or by the local term, “The Four Floors of Whores” 😉 I live in Singapore, and along Orchard Road, so I pass by this place daily. Daytime it’s a ghost town but at night, it comes alive with some very interesting characters. Getting approached by these ladies is a common occurrence.

  59. @Yvonne Of course you are a racist – You are NOT Chinese. You are Singaporean. And besides, it is possible for a person to be a racist to her own race – especially if she has already long disown her own people.

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