Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Customer Service

I have often mentioned that customer service is going down the toilet, and this week proved that is still the status quo. I have belonged to the same gym for almost a year and a half. I attend the gym 4-5 days a week, sometimes even 6 days. I also tan using their tanning beds and pay for that separately from my membership. I paid the upfront fee to start my membership. My fiancé would now like to join me at the gym in the mornings, as his schedule has recently changed. I approached my gym with out interest, and was informed they did not have couples memberships, only individual memberships. This surprised me, but I was confident they had to have some type of referral program in order. I was informed that because my fiancé was referred by me, instead of paying the $135 start up fee (which apparently pays for some pretty expensive paperwork), he would only have to pay $50. The monthly dues were due at the same time. He would pay for a base membership, the same price that I pay, no discounts. I was surprised, but figured that was the up-front talk. I explained to them that I paid the $135 fee for membership already when I joined last year, and that while I not happy with the monthly costs, I certainly was not going to pay another up front fee. They informed me this money covers the cost of paperwork and setting up the automatic debit. I responded that since the automatic debit is already on our account, they would only need to increase the amount being removed from my account, and they would not need to give him a tour or answer questions, or even bother with the new member training. My fiancé would never have sought out a gym membership otherwise, and no advertising costs they incur could have attracted him. I am literally bringing them a new member. Discovering their reticence to negotiate on the up-front fee, I called the more popular gyms in the area and asked them what they would do to get my business – given that I am coming in off the street, interested in membership. Every single gym I called was willing to negotiate. All of them either waived or adjusted the cost of the up front fee (none were near as expensive as my gym) and most were even willing to negotiate the monthly fee. All but one were cheaper than my gym. They were all near equal, equal or superior to my gym in aesthetics and amenities. So, having accomplished my research, I approached my gym again, with the information in hand. I let them know that I was not looking for anything free, but simply did not want to pay another up-front fee, or I would prefer a discounted monthly rate – either/or. I was informed I could visit the other clubs, and see how superior my gym is to the other gyms in the area. Let’s get some perspective here. I attend the gym at 5:30 in the morning. My interest in how attractive my gym is at that point is minimal. I am concerned with staying awake, working out, tanning, and showering. While aesthetics are nice, they are certainly not the driving force behind my interest in going to the gym. If I can get an equivalent workout at another facility, have the same options and classes available, and have moderately clean facilities in which to shower, why would I pay more money for my current gym? In addition, the gym that they were specifically referring to when they suggested I “go down the road and look at that other place” is actually being remodeled. It is much better than it used to be, and while it is not the eye candy that my facility is, it certainly will give me an equivalent workout, with better class times on the odd days when I attend a class. My current gym will not budge off of their policy. Needless to say, I will be canceling my membership in the morning and enrolling in the new gym, “that other place.” My loyalties and advertising will now go to another gym, and given that I will belong to a gym for the rest of my life, my gym will be losing out on a huge investment.