Kathy Van Ness: On Pricing Up


The Golden Door Spa in Southern California has earned itself the title of “most exclusive spa in the world," and for good reason. The price for a week's stay is $9000, there are only 40 rooms on the entire 600-acre, Japanese-inspired campus, and guests will never pay less than full price.

In a coupon-centric climate where thirsty shoppers expect massive door busters every holiday, and buy discounted shopping vouchers on the regular, that firm price tag may come as a bit of a shock. Kathy Van Ness, chief operating officer and general manager of the spa, insists that pricing up and never wavering is one of the best ways to maintain a status brand's value, though. It also shows customers that you believe in the full value of what you're selling.

Golden Door Spa

“Status brands do not discount; they do not have deals," says Van Ness, who came to 60-year-old Golden Door in 2013 after working with prestige brands such as Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, and Ralph Lauren her entire career. “You should hold the value of your product if you believe in it, and keep empowering the brand."

Van Ness says that breathing life back into the seasoned spa, and turning it into a full-blown luxury experience worth every penny of its price tag, was her first order of business.

“One of the things we talked about early on was, 'What if we could do something that nobody else has done before?" she recalls. “The world loves brands that have big stories and big statements, and Golden Door is one of those brands. What if we could prove that a hotel brand could migrate to an experiential lifestyle that people could then aspire to in their own homes?"

There was initial resistance, but Golden Door soon saw a shift from “a hotel in a bucket of hotels" to an all-inclusive, fully immersive, life-changing destination that everyone wanted to visit. Now, a stay entails everything from cooking courses with top chefs to starlit dining in the shadow of a mountain, from one-on-one sessions with a fitness trainer to daily massages, facials and pedicures. Even the “basics" are accounted for. Outside of undergarments, shoes and a jacket, clothing is provided and laundered, and all meals are included.

When asked about the price, Van Ness says that it's a steal and convincingly breaks it down.

She says to consider $650 per day for a spacious, designer hotel room – comparable to other luxury hotel stays – and then $200 daily for fine food. That leaves you with $450 after meals and lodging, which is a deal when you realize that covers daily massages, facial treatments, waxes, mani/pedis, educational lifestyle courses, guided hiking, personal trainer and even an airport pickup and drop off. Add to that the fact that all net profits go to charities that support battered women/children and sex trafficking, and guests feel good about the money they're spending.

You can see, then, how a $9000 sticker suddenly starts sounding less exorbitant and somehow… inexpensive for what you're getting. Most important, though, is that guests clearly believe in the value. Golden Door boasts a 60% return rate, and even has some visitors who've stayed over 100 times. That's largely in part to Van Ness' “this is not a spa, this is an experience," vision, and her philosophy of pricing up to build and maintain brand value.

“this is not a spa, this is an experience"

The lesson here is that while it may be tempting to throw yourself into the Grouponed, Gilted pool, doing so as a luxury brand will actually compromise your customers' experience. Let value brands offer their products at a discount, says Van Ness, and instead focus on improving the quality of your product.


Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.

In a recent study conducted by, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.

Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of, believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.