Living with credit, Protecting yourself, Shopping

Charge a series of spa treatments to protect yourself

Erica Sandberg

If you’re like most people (me included), you want to look and feel your best. You also may want to get the best deal by signing up for a package of wellness services.

What’s wrong with that? If your first massage at a spa is a bust, your credit card may have your back.

Let me explain…

One of my sisters recently talked me into getting something called a “hydro-facial” for $300. It was at a high-end spa, and even before handing over my credit card I sensed it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I shouldn’t have ignored that inner voice.

Instead of the promised glow, my skin was red and blotchy. By the time I paid my credit card bill, my face looked no better than it did before the treatment.

While I was there, though, the eager aesthetician tried to convince me that one facial really wouldn’t do the trick. I should really get a series — that’s when I’d see the results! Even better, I could get a price break by paying for a bunch at a time. It was a tempting proposition. 

When a discounted series of treatments isn’t worth it

Whatever the cost reduction on the series of services is, odds are the outlay is still expensive. Your freshened-up face could wind up costing you an arm and a leg (if not several hundred or thousands of dollars).

It’s important to determine if you can afford a wellness program, so review your budget carefully. As long as a wellness program won’t impede your ability to meet necessary bills (and the reviews of the service provider are positive), consider it – but make sure you use your credit card.

Yes, you read that right. What at first seems terrific can turn out to be terrible. You may not want to follow through with more than the initial session because:

  • It was painful or you hated it.
  • The results were not as promised.
  • You had a legitimate problem with the service provider.
  • You discovered that the treatment is harmful.
  • The facility was unhygienic or not up to code.

In any of these circumstances, contact the company immediately and request to be reimbursed for the unused sessions.

Cash versus debit versus credit

Hopefully, the service provider will repay you for the unused services, but if you handed over cash, you likely have little recourse if the service provider balks at a refund.

If you paid with your debit card, you could be out the money, too. Why? When you signed the debit receipt or entered your PIN to pay, you authorized the bank to transfer funds in your account to the company. For the cash to be replaced, the business would have to give permission, and the spa or wellness center could choose to be difficult.

Conversely, if you charged the cost of the package, you’d have a better chance of not having to pay for what you no longer want.

Always attempt to work out a resolution with the company first, but if you get nowhere, appeal to your credit card issuer. It can mediate between you and the service provider. You may end up with a chargeback for the amount you no longer want to pay.

Know before you go

A better solution, though, is to be knowledgeable before purchasing a series of anything, from a physique-improving boxing class to a hot new fat-melting procedure.

To get the right results, many such treatments and programs are designed to be done over time. If you purchase just one session, you could be wasting your money.

Laser hair removal, for instance, can require six to nine appointments to be effective. Go once or twice and you’ll be disappointed – and hundreds of dollars per session poorer.

Tips from a treatment provider

“Don’t buy a series of anything before testing it out,” says Dr. Sheena Kong, a board-certified cosmetic surgeon who has a med-spa in San Francisco that offers discounted treatment packages.

“Ask to get one at the regular price, and if you like it, see if they will give you the package price and then prorate the rest,” she says. “So, if you should have four of something, the first you had should be included in it.”

Review the refund policy, too. “For a series, look for a ‘no questions asked’ money-back policy on what you haven’t had done yet,” King says. After all, “$500 is a lot of money. You should be able to change your mind!”

Charge your wellness treatments to protect yourself

If you do pull the trigger on a slew of wellness treatments or fitness sessions, do it with your credit card. This way you can avoid a very ugly fight with the company, since your credit card issuer has your back. As long as you charged it, you should be able to slide out of the series.

Next time, I’ll think twice before agreeing to a wildly expensive facial. But just in case I cave (I am human, after all) to the lure of lower pricing when buying in bulk, I’ll be sure to use my credit card.

See related: How to cancel a gym contract without hurting your credit, Cards may help jilted Alfred Angelo brides recover their dress costs

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