Thursday 21 May 2009

Hands-Free Approach Dominates Bathroom at Massage Envy

Massage Envy - Hunter’s Creek
4101 Hunter's Park Lane
Suite 404 MM# 22422
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

A bit similar in location to D-Lites in Tampa, in that you have to walk down a dimly lit hallway to the very back of the place. Only the vibe couldn't be further from that creepy place.

Pass through the front entrance. When you do, you'll come face to face with the greeting counter, which spans the length of the business' lobby area. In the far right corner is a door that leads to an office. In the back left corner is a door leading to the massage parlor rooms.

To reach the bathroom, go through the left door. Once you do, you'll see a tranquility room on your immediate right (essentially the waiting room) and a long, long, long, dimly lit hallway before you.

Follow that hallway to the very back of the business -- about 100 ft, if not more. As you walk, you'll see several hallways and doors to your right, each of which lead to the various massage rooms inside the business. (It's dark in this hallway, so try to avoid any temptations and keep going straight, no matter what.)

At the very end of the hall, turn right (it's the only directly you'll be able to go unless you have a key to the employee break room, which is in the back-left corner of the place). The bathrooms will be on your left after your turn the corner, about two doors down and marked by signs on the wall.

What's it like?

This massage parlor chain offers great deals for rub downs, especially for those who don't like the usual cost of massages and are still looking for quality work. Design-wise, the place looks and feels like a hip cafe, only with more purple and gold in its branding. Think Barnes and Noble, only without the books and cafe and with a look that's more feminine, and with newer facilities and an area that's better cleaned and more simply presented (and lacking teens who who have nowhere else to go).

The setup is simple: Sign a year-long plan and get a massage once a month at a fixed rate of $39 (as of this writing). For those whose bones ache, it's a welcome relief from the usual $120 one gets for a massage in other places. The fact that the massages have quality make the deal even sweeter.

The irony here, of course, is that in a place where you go to get hands-on treatment, the bathroom is nearly hands-free. Not entirely but as close to it as I've seen anywhere else.

Not that the hands-free items all successful either. But they're still nice touches (get it?).

This is a one room chamber that looks like a cross between the toilets at Pearl and Pottery Barn Kids, with a touch of IDC's creativity thrown in for good measure. The lower walls are covered in a rustic brown and white tile, the upper walls in walls are gold-painted drywall (matching the gold in the company's branding colors).

The chamber itself is roomy, on par with what was seen at Pottery Barn Kids or even Golden Krust Bakery. You can really stretch out here.

There isn't much on the walls, outside of the practical things (soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, toilet seat dispenser), but like Pottery Barn Kids there some white furniture to be found, including a cabinet in the front half of the room to hold supplies. A nice touch. Add-ons like this make this spot very cozy and classy, and it's that sense of coziness, and cleanliness (which is done without a sense of clinic-based sterility, which can sometimes overtake such surroundings in such businesses) that makes it memorable and worth venturing to. (Like IDC, you may have trouble getting back here unless you're a customer, however.)

The rest of its features are good, but the many hands-free automatic items are kind of hit and miss, in that they don't all work well. Good planning and intentions, but half-baked execution in some parts.

The back half of the room is all about the facilities themselves. In the left corner sits the white porcelain toilet with manual flush -- one of three two items in the room that isn't automatic (the other being the toilet seat cover dispenser -- carrying "Tough Guy" toilet seat covers, which I found an amusing name for such a product -- and the sink faucets). In the right corner is the white porcelain sink and plain mirror mounted overhead.

On the floor between the toilet and sink stands the trash can with automatic open lid. It's an item you see here and there (something you might actually find as a tester in a bathroom at Bed, Bath and Beyond) but never actually use. Here, it's supposed to ensure that your hands stay clean after washing them -- sadly, the effect is similar to what you find in that bathroom at Bed, Bath and Beyond, in that the product doesn't really work as well as it should. After drying my hands, I tried repeatedly to get the auto-flap to open and it never did, so I had to manually lift the lid to the can to through my towel away. (It opened after I walked away, of course, making me a further believer in the irony exhibited by the design of the place.)

The paper towel dispenser, which hangs on the wall between the sink and toilet, works just fine -- as well as just about any other automatic paper towel dispenser I've used.

Just below that is an automatic foam soap dispenser. Placement is a little awkward, since I'd prefer it to be closer to the sink in case the soap leaked from my hands, but the effect is nice. The soap foam is soft and relaxing and well-scented and the dispensing is full, not skimpy, and satisfying.

The only other automatic item is the automatic light switch, which turns on the lights to the room once you step into the door (it's on a light sensor similar to the one seen at Nona Sushi, among other places).

Of course, the lights inside the bathroom are far brighter than those that await you in the hallway when you leave. As such, you need a moment to re-adjust to that dimness. It's a bit creepy at first, since you feel how far away from the lobby you are in that moment -- but it's still not nearly close to being as creepy as being in that long hallway in D-Lites in Tampa. Another plus for this place.

Marks out of 10:

8. Great design, even though the hands-free stuff didn't quite work as advertised.

Comments to the Management:

A very comfortable, private-feeling bathroom. Now just make it fully automatic (and make sure the existing automatic items work properly) to close the deal. Auto faucets and flushes should be easy to install (not a hand drier because the sound of it would disrupt the quiet of the place), and how about an automatically opening door (inward, not outward into the hallway, which may cause an accident), like what was seen at Stonewood Grill?

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