updated 4 Mar 2012, 18:54
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Mon, Oct 04, 2010
The New Paper
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Subtle branch closes subtly, upsets clients
by Bryan Sim

THE spa chain is called Subtle Senses.

But its decision to suspend operations at one of its outlets yesterday was too subtle - and abrupt.

Mrs Rohaini Hussain, 50, had gone to the spa's Ngee Ann City outlet to transfer her records from another chain, True Spa, which had been taken over by Subtle Senses. But she was shocked to see the shutters partially rolled down.

"It's so irresponsible of them to not inform us (of the closure)," said Mrs Hussain, an airline deputy station manager.

When The New Paper visited the Ngee Ann City outlet yesterday, two printed A4-sized notices were stuck on the shutters informing customers of the closure.

The 10 customers we spoke to outside the outlet had been caught unawares.

The notice said that customers' appointments would be transferred to the spa chain's Cuppage Terrace branch. Subtle Senses has a third outlet on Mosque Street.

The company spokesman said yesterday that these two outlets are still operational and that it was "business as usual".

He said the suspension of operations at the Ngee Ann City outlet was to maximise the use of its resources.

"These steps are being taken to strategically lower our costs and help the company handle changes better in this economic climate," he said.

But why so sudden?

The spokesman said plans were finalised only on Thursday afternoon.

Staff members at the Ngee Ann City branch said they were informed only on Thursday night.

"Friday was the first day of closure. We don't really know what will happen from here," said Ms Jalyn Neo, associate vice-president for customer relations for Subtle Senses.

The company spokesman said they started calling their customers on Thursday night and continued to do so yesterday morning.

"But clearly, we did not manage to reach many of them as they showed up today at the spa," he said.

"Much more could have been done to inform them of the changes in advance and we regret the current situation," he admitted.

Consumer trust

Mrs Hussain's confidence in the company has been shaken.

She said: "When True Spa closed down to become Subtle Senses, I was assured that such closures would no longer happen. But now this happens. What's happening?"

In April, Subtle Senses was among more than 20 spas that formed the Spa, Beauty and Wellness Alliance.

Subtle Senses CEO Gerald Lim, 36, had said then that they were "doing their best to win back consumer trust".

When contacted yesterday, Mr Lim said that Subtle Senses has been a "generally profitable business".

The chain has about 17,000 customers.

He declined to elaborate on the company's plans, as he said he was still in talks with its owner, HealthTrends Group.

"We're working out the details," he said.

Subtle Senses, which started in 2003, had taken over the operations of True Spa on April 25 this year.

When the takeover was announced, customers were upset that they had not been informed in advance.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been 30 complaints made to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) against Subtle Senses.

This is the highest number of complaints against the spa in recent years, said Case.

There had been fewer than 10 complaints against the spa yearly since 2005.

Case said that most had to do with customers finding it difficult to contact the business and make appointments.

One of the spa's customers, business development manager Irene See, 34, said she had difficulty making appointments even before the closure of the Ngee Ann City branch.

She said she couldn't get through to the spa on the phone "no matter what time of the day I call them".

This article was first published in The New Paper.


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The latest Spa that went bust - Wax in the City
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"I'm glad I made some checks"



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