My Gym Gets an “F” for Customer Appreciation

Sixteen years ago, I purchased my first “The Firm” work out tape. I was introduced to the product by an ad in SHAPE magazine.  I paid $49.95 which was a LOT of money for a video tape, even back then.   It marked the beginning of my personal quest to restructure my body without the aid of a surgeon.

I was an AVID home exerciser until I gave birth to my third child the same week we moved into a new home to accommodate our growing family.  For some reason, that series of events threw me into a tail spin from which I have yet to recover physically.  In other words, I fell off that horse and haven’t been able to get back on for any serious stretch since.

Fast forward 13 years later. Over the past decade, I’ve made multiple “false starts” at regaining my “the Firm” physique.  Thanks to my hyperactive dog, I had slain the “I gotta exercise” monster but I wanted to add weight training to my cardio vascular walking work outs. After six months of false starts….last December, I joined a gym.. . hoping to achieve the goal to the left!

I told the gym’s owner up front that I was was joining for much needed accountability. THIS IS IMPORTANT: I was assured that if I went MIA, I would get a phone call from them.  We’re grading on a curve and they’re the ones who set the standard. I didn’t set up a false expectation… they did that for me.

In February, I contracted the Bataan death flu that was going around. Because I suffer from some kind of sick mental defect, I found it IMPOSSIBLE to stop working and rest … which meant my recovery took longer than anyone else’s on the planet.  Needless to say, I haven’t been to the gym in the past month.

Not only did I not get a phone call… when my birthday came and went this week, I didn’t even get a birthday card from them.

I used to get cards when I lived in Indiana from my insurance agent on my birthday. My husband would get them too and I have to admit… its only in retrospect that I recognize what a powerful marketing tool it was.  I never would have imagined that something so small would have such a HUGE affect on my loyalty to my agent. In hindsight, those silly birthday cards actually kept me from rate shopping on my insurance! I realized that as I begin to “rate shop” for the third time since moving to the Sunshine State. I’m ready to jump ship. The agent with whom I worked isn’t in that office anymore…. I have no connection… no loyalty… no reason to remain other than getting the lowest rate possible. It’s an ugly position from which to try to do business.

Back to my gym… it’s not that they’re not trying to grow their business.  After all, they are having a drawing next week to present a 50″ plasma television to one lucky member.  The way to enter the drawing is to either renew your membership (1 entry) or bring a friend who joins (2 entries). The problem is… a chance to win a television isn’t enough to get me to renew my membership OR bring a friend. On the other hand, the guarantee of a warm, personable staff would be MORE than enough… and that’s not what’s happening there.

The friendly faces I saw behind the counter in December when I signed up are no longer there. The helpful personal trainer is gone and replaced by a young man whose disgust and disrespect for the middle aged woman with whom he was demonstrating the proper use of the equipment was glaringly obvious.  The pleasant, friendly older woman behind the counter when I joined has been replaced by a surly teenager who sneers as he hands me a bottle of overpriced water.  Snowbird season isn’t over…. what happened to the friendly staff?

Because of what I do… I’m conscious of what’s going on. I’m taking note.  The other morning, I found myself watching an infomercial for The Firm. I find myself thinking, “You know… I could pull out my old tapes and try to get back on that horse again.”

OOPS!!!   Not only am I NOT bringing friends and family in to join “my” gym… I’ve already checked out myself. They may have gotten 12 months of membership fees out of me… but they won’t get a renewal at this pace.

The thing is… the gym owner and staff “set the tone” for the gym.   They set my expectations by assuring me they’d stay involved… but once my check cleared… they were on to “more important things”…. like recruiting new members.

I tell clients over and over again…. you can not build your business exclusively upon new customers.    If you don’t have repeat business… you’re dead in the water.  Whether it’s a gym… or a blog… repeat customers are the LIFE BLOOD  of any business!!!


  1. Unfortunately, what you experienced happens again and again at gyms – high turnover and low retention of the staff. I empathize with your experience and hope you can find a gym that gives you better customer support.

    And I can relate to the “impossible to stop working and rest” – that would be like stop breathing and take it easy. 🙂

    Best wishes,


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