I joined Pure Fitness during my senior year of college in 2005. I did very little research when I chose to join, above what facilities were closest to my apartment, and what the monthly fee would be. For the majority of my relationship with the gym (yes, I called it a relationship) I was largely content. They didn’t have the newest equipment, or the best staff or hours, but it served its purpose quite nicely. At that point, I would have done just about anything to avoid having to work out at the student rec center, which basically doubled as the set of a reality dating show/teenage beauty pageant.
Now, four years later, I am living and working in entirely different parts of Phoenix, and also have significantly less time to devote to exercise. I came to the conclusion that it made sense to quit Pure Fitness, and pledge allegiance to its key competitor, LA Fitness. LA has more locations, better hours and fancier clubs. They have a reputation of being more of a meat market gym, but if you can get past that, it’s a better deal. Naturally this realization resulted in a need to cut ties with Pure Fitness.
I’ve heard stories and jokes about the parallels between ending a gym membership and ending a relationship, and I now can vouch for the validity of those claims.
Attempt 1: On a Saturday afternoon I went into the gym, after finding out in advance that it was not possible to quit over the phone. I asked to end my membership and was told that this was not possible during the weekend. Why? The person who processes the cancellation paperwork is not in on weekends. Like any intelligent human being I asked why I couldn’t just fill out the forms and leave it for this person to process on Monday, and I was told it’s just not allowed. Mmmmk.
Attempt 2: On a Monday, I went into a different location and asked to end my membership. A man I’d never seen before was paged to the reception area, likely from a secret storage closet of salespeople, and asked me to sit down to talk this over with him. Oh boy.
Gym Guy: “Why are you thinking about ending your membership with us?”
Annoyed Jessica: “Locations…hours…equipment…You guys don’t have any locations close to my new house. Or my office for that matter. Your equipment is outdated and out of order, and your new hours are not as convenient as they used to be.”
Gym Guy: [shocked] “Really? Where do you live? And most of our equipment is new.”
Annoyed Jessica: “I live in Central Phoenix. And I work in North Phoenix. I’ve checked your Web site and there are no clubs within close proximity to either location. I’m also not happy with the equipment here. I’ve actually looked into three of your competitors and they all have newer equipment and fewer pieces out of order.”
Gym Guy: [now even more shocked] “Well that’s really surprising. Most of our stuff is new.”
Annoyed Jessica: “Yeah, you said that, but you have all the same cardio machines you’ve had since I joined four years ago! Your staff has been telling me for years it’ll be updated within the next six months, but here we are and it’s all the same.”
Gym Guy: [puffing his chest while unable to make eye contact] “I hope you don’t think you’re going to find a better deal anywhere else. If you think you’ll be happier at somewhere like LA Fitness you won’t be. You’ll be coming back here. I have people switching back all the time. We’re a friendlier gym and we really know our members.”
Annoyed Jessica: [not ok with empty threats] “I’ve been a member for four years, do you think one trainer in here knows my first name? No. “
Gym Guy: [getting serious] “Ok, I guess it’s your decision. So can you tell me one more time why you’re canceling?”
Annoyed Jessica: [through pursed lips]Hours. Locations. Equipment. Staff.
Eventually this dramatic little exchange ended in my favor. Somehow I’m still technically a member until the first week of June, but I still feel like it was a victory for the people. It must be hysterical when someone who works at a gym tries to buy a car, or vice versa; do the two powerful selling forces reflect each other like two magnets do?