He wanted massage, but was offered 'special'
Heartland sleaze makes a comeback, as police raid neighbourhood beauty salon suspected of offering massage 'specials'. -TNP
His back was hurting and he was looking for a massage to ease the aches and pain.
What he didn't expect was to be pressured into taking up a "special" in the neighbourhood beauty salon, right smack in the Ang Mo Kio HDB heartland where he lives.
That was the "indecent" offer civil servant Brian (not his real name), 33, claimed he received last month.
"Special" is slang for sexual services.
Brian, who is married, alleged: "The Chinese masseuse made some small talk, calling me shuai ge (Mandarin for handsome boy). Soon after, she asked if I wanted a special service."
The rate: Between $50 and $70 for a "handjob".
Stunned, Brian declined the offer.
"That's when the masseuse turned sulky and clammed up," he alleged.
The boss had a go at him too, he added.
"She came into the cubicle and asked the worker why she had not 'settled things'.
Then the boss asked why I was so troublesome.
"It was so unnerving lying there while the women pestered me," Brian said.
"They were very overt too. I wonder if dubious sex joints like theirs are making a comeback in the heartlands."
He's not the only concerned resident.
Marketing executive Liz Lee, 25, admitted she has a poor image of neighbourhood beauty salons, massage parlours and wellness centres.
"When I walk past these places, I always wonder if they're doing legitimate business. Or are they up to no good?"
She claimed she noticed dubious businesses sprouting up in her Ang Mo Kio estate around 2006.
"There was a whole row of massage and spa places at the nearby block but they shut down after a woman was killed."
Miss Lee was referring to the case of hawker Eu Lim Hoklai, who had gone to his Chinese mistress Yu Hongjin's massage parlour to end the relationship. He ended up killing her.
He was charged with manslaughter and jailed.
Last year, The New Paper reported on young men offering "sensual" massages and sexual services to other men.
The services took place at an Ang Mo Kio flat.
When the TNP team went to the salon where Brian claimed he was offered a "special" two weeks ago, several men were spotted lounging on wooden benches nearby.
All looked to be middle-aged or older.
Customers would be ushered into an inner room, which was shielded by a curtain, by the female boss, who was dressed in a black lace top and skintight pants.
One man was observed leaving after spending 45 minutes in the room.
The boss unlocked the door for him to leave.
Last Wednesday, the police raided the salon in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 at about 6pm.
Two men, who appeared to be customers, were there at that time.
The female boss, who gave her name as Ms Li, was also there, along with a female worker.
All were questioned by the officers, who were in plainclothes.
When the officers asked if Ms Li had the appropriate licence to operate her business, she replied that she didn't know "about the rules".
Her worker, who gave her name as Ms Guan, told another officer that she had been working for three months, earning $1,200 monthly.
"A facial costs $40. Usually, we encourage customers to take a package deal," she added.
"You get a back massage scrub thrown in."
When asked by the officers why the need for a massage, she replied tersely: "It's like that."
But she did not have a licence or the qualifications to do so, Ms Guan, who is in her 30s, reluctantly admitted.
A police spokesman confirmed that massage services were provided and fees were charged for the services.
The boss was asked to assist police in further investigations.
"We are taking action against the operator for providing massages without a proper licence," the spokesman added.
After the raid, a visibly upset woman rushed to this reporter. She turned out to be the unit's owner, Ms Kat Koh.
The former video rental shop boss revealed that she charged Ms Li's beauty salon over $2,000 in monthly rent.
"She (Ms Li) just started this January. During the interview, she was very well-dressed and kept assuring me that she was running a legitimate business," Ms Koh said.
But friends working in neighbouring shops hinted at something fishy.
Said Ms Koh: "They said they've seen her and the worker dressing very provocatively. So they suspected something strange was going on.
"Then I got a call saying there were many people in the unit, so I rushed down."
After talking with Ms Li, Ms Koh told TNP: "She intends to wind up the business because there are too many problems. It's better this way. I don't want to be entangled in anything illegal."
A police spokesman said they take a tough stand on illegal massage establishments and conduct regular enforcement checks islandwide.
"When detected, operators of these establishments will be taken to task under the Massage Establishment Act," he added.
Under the Act, those who do not have a licence to operate a massage establishment can be fined up to $1,000.
They can also be fined up to $50 for every day that the offence continues after they are convicted. There were 1,365 licensed massage establishments at the end of March.
When told about the raid on Friday, Brian said: "I saw the shop was closed. It's one less evil. "Really buay tahan (Malay for cannot tolerate) the female boss' aggressive attitude... Anyway, their massage sucked."
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