This post serves as a warning to anyone who might possibly be tempted, or even contemplating signing up for a gym membership. I was a fool a year ago and fell for their marketing tricks, and now I’m more than 2000 dollars poorer for nothing. Let’s see what I could’ve gotten with 2000 dollars - a giant 50 or more inch LCD TV, an uber new computer, some SLR high quality lenses, or a long holiday abroad to exotic locations. Instead, I got a stupid card that lets me have access to a little building full of homosexuals, muscleheads and hamster-wheeling corporate zombies, and to add insult to injury, ONLY on weekdays before 5 pm. Well, at least I could’ve used the shower facilities there. I mean, if I wanted gay men with nicely chiseled bodies to stare at my skinny otaku penis.
Crest, fellow writer on Riuva, almost signed up as well at the same time as me, but he got away narrowly due to awesome advice from his parents. Their succinct wisdom? "Only gays go there." I’m not homophobic or anything, and I don’t think the problem is that at all.The problem is that health clubs or fitness centres are basically money-sucking leeches who hard-sell and use crafty sales tactics to trick hapless people into parting with their hard-earned cash. Let’s see, I’ll list down some of the things they do that I’ve experienced and have fallen for. Because I’m an idiot. But I don’t want other gullible people to end up like me, so I’m writing this post.
1. They use a very basic sales trick, known as the foot-in-door technique, to first get you in. The sales staff’ll say, "Come on in to take a free look!" and being curious cats, people’ll want to see the interior of a "trendy" gym. The staff know that at any point, once you say no, the deal’s dead so they’ll just progressively increase the request load. It’s human nature to be more likely to say yes multiple times, as we want to appear consistent. After the free tour, they’ll let you do a free body analysis, which is the same machine we have in the food science and nutrition lab. The trainers will then interpret the data for you and man, those fuckers sure are idiots. The thing is, all the trainers are muscleheads who don’t know any science, so the way they interpret the data is hilarious. So this one guy, whose name I forget because it’s a year ago, was telling me that my girlfriend is obese and needs to lose weight. She’s 40 kg and 1.6 metres tall. Obese? Seriously? Anyway, most people do listen to them because they speak confidently, even if it’s lies. In fact, the whole point is to lie because their aim is to attack the person’s self esteem and make him/her feel inadequate.
2. When it comes to pricing, they’ll use another technique, which is a combination of low-balling and "that’s not all". Lowballing is basically stating a cheap price but having hidden costs attached which come in after you agree a purchase. People normally don’t back out of agreed transactions, so low-balling is very commonly done by unscrupulous merchants. California Fitness is like a kingpin of evil sales tactics. "That’s not all", which is similar to "door in the face", basically involves putting forth a large request, thus setting an anchor point for expectations, then immediately before the person can reject it, they’ll quickly reduce the size of the request. An example is a salesperson charging you 10 bucks for a drink and you’ll be like "No way man!" but before you get to say that, he’ll say, "Oh man I’m really desperate so I’ll let you have it for 1 dollar!" Most people’ll take the deal, even if the salesman really wanted to sell it at 1 dollar in the first place. For California Fitness, what they do is first talk about the premium memberships. They’ll also not talk about pricing, but they’ll ask you what you think is a valid price to pay. They’ll then work around the price point you set. Most people are gullible and set pretty high price points, after which they’ll be pleasantly surprised when the sales demons quickly offer to cut it in half. The thing is, for them, there is NO cost price in signing you up. They run on fixed costs, so every new member counts, and they’ll so love it if you sign up and not go at all like me, so we don’t use their precious resources. For me, they claimed to have a student membership, and they said they’ll let me have it for just 60 dollars a month, which sounded cheap at the time. So herein lies the low-balling, the 60 dollars agreed upon did not include taxes, nor did they mention we needed to pay 3 months in advance. In the end, I foolishly paid for the first and last 2 months, and the contract stipulated a minimum of a year’s membership. So if you think about it, it’s 60 x 1.07 x 12. By a cruel twist of fate, I also paid for the girlfriend so it turned out to be a lot. To make things worse, they also have "processing fee" of 100 bucks each!! The most evil part is they make you think your contract ends a year later, but it goes on for all eternity until you go down to the gym, tell them you don’t want it anymore, and then you’ll still have 2 months, which you already were made to pay for. It’s amazing how they make money from fools like myself. Since it’s all in the contract’s fine print, you can’t really escape from their clutches of demonic greed.
3. Having signed up, they gain access to your phone number and they’ll spam you with requests to do personal training. Each session costs about 70 dollars! Imagine paying that amount for some musclehead to stand beside you while you run on a treadmill. Needless to say, the day after I realised I got conned BAD, I never wanted to go again. Many people do like the personal sessions though, it’s probably because they have lots of money to burn and are idiots. I think the real money for them to be made is via this personal training, so student money like is like a nice vitamin supplement for them. They also will desperately try to access your friends’ phone numbers, so if you really hate anyone, just give their numbers over so they can be disturbed like crazy all day long with requests of "Free gym tour!". Their more eloquent musclehead trainers will also try to persuade you to join, with their brand of logic and if you call their bluff and accuse them of hard selling, like I did, they’ll react strongly and puff out their muscles indignantly. They also talk a lot about their facilities and classes but always exaggerate the truth. The classes are pathetic but we were led to think that it’ll be awesome.
4. So at this point, we’ll all have realised we’ve been tricked. The natural progressive stages are denial, anger and then indifference. First, we’ll deny that we’ve been tricked and think, "Yeah I really need the gym! I’ll probably go really often and make myself look good." Then as we realise that the location of the gym sucks and there’s no way we’re going to travel an hour to the city area, with expensive parking, just to do gym work, besides the fact that I HAVE A GYM FREE DOWNSTAIRS, we’ll start getting into the anger stage. This is when we go "CONMEN, those people are CONMEN! HOW DARE THEY TRICK ME OF MY MONEY!". Obviously, we can’t do anything about it, and the anger prevents us from entering the building. Why would we go exercise at our enemies’ place? Finally, it’ll be resignation to our fate, and just waiting for the time period to expire so I don’t get billed with 130 bucks every month. But wait, this is playing right into their hands! Most people’ll then forget about it and go on with their normal lives, especially since the rule they remember is, "We can cancel after 12 months." This isn’t true however, and the contract states that we only have to pay until 9 months in fine print, which isn’t what the sales people say. Most people’ll get careless and let time run by, failing to realise that they could’ve cancelled months ago. They would also be under the impression that the final two months they paid for in the beginning would be used to cover the fees for months 11 and 12. However, this is not the case! California Fitness continues to deduct the money, until you go down personally to their office to cancel. And they will not return you the fees you paid for your last two months, and instead will state that you have 2 more months of awesome access to their great gym.
5. Asking you to go down personally to cancel is yet another ploy. First, people are lazy and possibly busy, so it might take a while for them to get their asses to the gym, and if it happens to run beyond the 15th day of the month, they’ll just deduct another month’s worth of fees. The other more important reason is probably so that they can directly convince you again not to cancel. Allowing cancellations remotely would make it too easy to get out of their death trap.
It’s not all bad though, because I’m really thankful to California Fitness for giving me a super painful lesson in life. From now on, I’ll never sign up for anything that requires me to pay stupid money (2 month deposits? What in the world was I thinking?) again. I’ll never sign up for something promoted by salesmen again. I’ll always treat sales people like the cockroaches of society that they are and reward them for their efforts with a smile and a sarcastic remark. I’ve also learnt many of the insidious marketing/sales tricks used in the real world and I think it’s important for all young people to know these as well. Which is the point of this post. So, a big thank you to California Fitness and here’s hoping you go bust very soon, sending all the musclehead and bimbo employees out onto the streets where their sole talents of having large mucles would be useful for real physical work.
Guys, do share this post around with your friends, even if they don’t normally read this blog. I just want people to be aware of the pitfalls hidden in gym memberships.
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