By James Fell AskMen
Recently, I was invited to attend some event at Huntington Beach with the Kardashians. I replied to the publicist that I would rather stuff my private parts in a hornet’s nest.
True story. Since I do a lot of celebrity fitness interviews for the L.A. Times, publicists just naturally assume I live in Los Angeles, and so I am regularly invited to all sorts of parties, events and grand openings that have celebrities in attendance. Once I was actually tempted to fly down from Canada because Borg Babe Jeri “7 of 9” Ryan was going to be there.
I digress. My latest email from a publicist was from a casting agent for reality TV shows. They were inviting me to audition for a new show called Gym Rescue in which they take crappy, failing gyms and turn them into good, profitable ones, or something like that.
This show is about “mom and pop” type gyms that are struggling, but it got me thinking about how to make a gym profitable, and how large chain fitness clubs really screw people over in the quest for improving the bottom line.
Here are four ways gyms -- especially the big franchise gyms -- screw you over:
1. The Activation Fee
Say you’re out gym shopping, and you see a place advertising a special rate of $30 a month, and you think that sounds pretty good so you drop in to discuss buying a membership. There is lots of hype about all the awesome stuff this gym has to offer, and how it’s going to become your new home away from home, and the people there are going to become your friends, and the hot girl at the check-in counter is going to seem like maybe she’ll date you, and … And then after the tour and contract discussions, they spring the small matter of the “activation fee.”
$199 seems to be a popular amount for this fee. What is it? Is it to pay for those little plastic swipe cards they give you? In reality, it’s just a bullsh*t “We’re going to charge you this fee because we can” fee. They get you all hyped up, and then try to milk a couple of hundred extra bucks out of you.
How to avoid it
Refuse to pay it. Say it’s bogus. Say it’s false advertising. Say you’re going to shop somewhere else for a gym that doesn’t charge a fee like this.
There is a good chance they’ll waive it.
2. The Never-Expiring Membership
A gym membership can be like herpes -- impossible to get rid of. You can jump through all their hoops and do the cancellation procedures, and some places will still keep charging your credit card or debiting your bank account.
They don’t care if you ever use the place; they just want to keep charging you that monthly fee. And if you come in to try and cancel, they might guilt-trip you about “giving up on achieving your goals” or some crap like that. There was an episode of Friends that poked fun at this phenomenon, and I’d link it, but I think anyone with testicles and a brain hates that show, so I won’t.
How to avoid it
Pay close attention: ONLY PAY CASH!
Chances are, gyms are going to get you to sign up for a full year. The pay-by-month plan is sometimes available, but the fee is so much higher that it’s not worth it. Quite often the way to go is to sign up for the full year because it has the best rate by far.
But there is no law saying you have to pay month to month on your credit card or, god forbid, letting them debit your bank account. Just pay for that entire year upfront, in cash.
As a warning, they might not like this.
At my last gym, before I finally went home gym, I did this, and they pressured me for my credit card: “It will be easier to renew your membership if we have your credit card on file,” she said. Me: “Easier for whom? If I want to renew at the end of the year, then I’ll just buy another year then.” It turns out, I didn’t want to renew, and after my year was up, all I had to do was walk. No cancellation paperwork or other crap, because there was no way for them to keep charging me.
Again, never, ever let a gym debit your credit card or bank account.
3. Personal Training
I can’t tell you how many trainers of former big-box gyms I’ve spoken to who left their place of employment in disgust. Here is the reality of personal training in a large franchise gym: the trainers are valued far more for their ability to sell more training than their abilities as actual trainers.
These trainers do not want to lose you as a client. Ever. So they teach learned helplessness. They teach you to be dependent upon them by constantly keeping you off balance and always having some new repertoire of bullsh*t exercises to teach you. These trainers have quotas to meet. There are meetings with sales managers where they discuss strategies on how they’re going to sell you ever more sessions. You are viewed as a cash machine.
How to avoid it
Don’t ever use the trainers at a large chain. Many (not all) have only pathetic, weekend certifications and don’t have a proper understanding of exercise physiology, but they sure can sell.
And when I say never, I mean don’t even take the offer of “two free sessions” that come with the new membership. That’s because those sessions are going to be sales pitches for more training. It’s OK to have a membership at a big box gym, but get your training elsewhere, like a community center, a university gym or a personal training studio. Get someone with top-notch qualifications and discuss a plan on how you’re going to “graduate” out of needing their assistance after an agreed upon number of sessions.
4. Supplement Sales
I don’t take any supplements at all, so perhaps I’m biased. If gaining mass is your goal, then creatine can be helpful, but it’s worth knowing before you take it that most women, while they like muscular men, aren’t into “huge.” And fat burners? Well, they either don’t work, nuke your liver or possibly lead to psychological disturbances or even death. Seriously, these things can be tainted with all sorts of bad crap. And protein powders? Are you sure you really need them instead of just, you know, food?
How to avoid it
First off, get informed and decide if any of these supplements are even worth taking. A good site for checking out the efficacy of supplements is Examine. If there are supplements you favor taking, realize that your local gym is likely a far more expensive place to buy them than just about anywhere else.
Read more: http://www.askmen.com/sports/bodybui...#ixzz2a9jgThnG