Gyms as a service (GAAS): Finally, better gym options as product services

imgres-1Five years ago I walked into my 24 Hour Fitness Gym and filled out a cancellation form.

“Are you sure that’s all I have to do?”, I asked the front desk rep. “Yup, you’re good to go, good luck with your move!”

Six months later I got a call from a collections agency telling me that I had six months of unpaid membership fees needing collection. Needless to say, it was an awful experience. I am sure many customers end up foregoing upwards of $200 or more in that situation all the time – not me. After hours of phone calls and emails, I was relieved of my “obligation,” but vowed never to use 24 Hour Fitness again – what else could I do than that, right?

In a world when Taxi’s treated you like crap but you still rode in them every day, there wasn’t much you could do with companies like this. Except turn around, take it and walk away.

When I moved back to the area I was a bit hesitant to sign up at any gym, given my experience. I stayed true to my vow and avoided 24-hour Fitness (even though it was cheaper) and signed up at Crunch Gym instead. I had options! Or so I thought.

lsThe sales staff was friendly at Crunch and, as expected, paying for the initiation fee and last month’s dues upfront was a piece of cake. I was instantly a member and assured by the sales staff that, “there won’t be any hassles if you decide to cancel – anytime.” Since then, two years of dues that would have gone into 24-Hour Fitness’ pockets went to Crunch Gym; I had no complaints.

Then moving time came again and I went in to cancel my membership.

“Sorry, you can’t cancel your membership *in* the gym. You have to call this number.” The Gym rep handed me a card. It was a bitter tasting sentence to hear while watching sales staff effortlessly input credit card numbers for the Gym’s newest members.

I called the Crunch cancelation number. “We already charged you this month…” (I come to find this was NOT true) “… and we’ll use your deposit to pay for your last month starting in April. Plus a $2 charge for any differences remaining since we’ve increased membership fees.” It was March 2nd and I was now paying until May 1st.

robber_MGBasically, in one sentence, my “easy cancelation” turned into about $120 of dues over two months toward a gym membership I just canceled. Jackie had the same experience except with a higher monthly membership fee. Crunch Gym robbed $270  from our household. Poof, just like that, Crunch now has the money and we do not. There is nothing the service agent can do about it and he gives me an email address so I can contact a manager to “have it explained to me further.” Sorry, there is no explanation that justifies being fleeced. I asked for a write-up from him explaining why I am being charged for a service I am canceling so I can submit it to the BBB with my complaint. He said he couldn’t do that. He thanks me for my call and hangs up on me. Note: The things they can and cannot do at these Gyms seem heavily skewed in their favor. Weird, huh?

Jackie said let it go, but that very sentence gave me a pit in my stomach. How many Gyms use this tactic to make up the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue they see each year? They know most customers will let it go, so they keep doing it. I told the story to a few friends, and, not surprisingly, they tell me that it has happened to them with Crunch and other gyms as well. Have gyms formed a Mafia? I guess they have the muscle for it…

The problem that occurs when companies become monopolies (like Comcast) or mafias (like Crunch Gym and 24-hour Fitness) is that customers don’t have much choice in the matter. In this case, either take it or don’t work out.

Uber and Lyft finally gave us the tools to allow us to ditch Taxi cabs (poor customer service standards and all.) And Netflix, Google, and Yahoo are finally causing Comcast to AT LEAST start honoring their “maintenance window” as they try to prove their worth before judgment day. (Gosh, I sure can’t wait for the day Comcast cries about how unfair it is that Google is taking their business.)

Well America, good news. The new world is being filled with products that focus on value, access, customer service and quality. They are starting to aim their slingshots at the Goliaths we know as gyms.

You have options! You can ditch your P.O.S (and/or overly priced) gym and actually get more for less in the process! A membership where your patronage goes toward the local gyms, you’re experiences are of higher quality and customer service is a tent pole. Now that the game has changed, your “gym membership” can get you into specialty studios, access to activities like Kayaking and sports, and a truly “cancel anytime” philosophy that ensures people that have to leave do so as happily as when they joined.

Here are a few:
fitmob_color.fw_1) FitMobfitmob.com – For about the same price as Crunch (and way more friendly cancelation policy and service) this company offers a membership to a multitude of different gyms and activities. For example, you get access to a awesome yoga studio, or (like me) you can head down to the shore and go Paddleboarding for the day. All free with the membership.

Currently Serving: San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Portland, Philidelphia, Austin, Dallas, Seattle

imgres2) ClassPassclasspass.com – Founded by Payal Kadakia ClassPath offers access to a variety of studios you can register online for free with your ClassPass membership. What is great about this experience is  you don’t get a class thrown together by amateurs working for a corporate gym. Instead, you get to go to the best studios in town that specialize in an activity for whatever you want to do. ClassPath is on to something having just raised $14M in funding and growing exponential into more and more cities month after month.

Currently Serving: NEW YORK LOS ANGELES/ORANGE COUNTY SAN FRANCISCO CHICAGO MIAMI BOSTON WASHINGTON, DC SEATTLE ATLANTA AUSTIN CHARLOTTE COLUMBUS DALLAS/FORT WORTH DENVER HOUSTON MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL PHILADELPHIA PHOENIX PORTLAND SAN DIEGO LAS VEGAS RALEIGH BALTIMORE TAMPA ST. LOUIS ORLANDO NASHVILLE KANSAS CITY LONDON TORONTO VANCOUVER

Sorry Crunch, you had your day and just like the Taxi mafia – your time is limited.

More comments available on the public FB post here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152976618217107&id=704372106

**UPDATES***

March 3rd – Still no charges (or pending charges) on my credit card bill from Crunch. The support rep told me it was already charged and there was nothing he could do about it as a result. Nice tactic – untrue after 2 full business days.

(March 2nd) Crunch asked me to contact a store manager – this is what I sent:
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Update March 4th: If you’ve had a similar experience you can contact Jasmine <Jasmine.Vega@crunch.com>. Below is her email and my reply.

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March 4th

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