Renewing My Gym Membership

A few weeks ago I renewed my gym membership again. The sales staff has been after me to re-up for months with phone calls and email messages offering “today only!” special deals. I fell for the “today only” thing the first time I renewed. Four years later, I know better. They’ve had the same specials since I joined.

Pushy sales people annoy the hell out of me. For years, the high pressure tactics employed by gyms kept me from checking into memberships. I’m especially skeptical when the cost of the item/service being sold is not public information. Keeping pricing plans secret tells me one thing: the range is wide open.

I know a little something about invisible pricing. A long time ago, I was front desk manager for an allegedly upscale hotel. The chain had a good reputation, but rather than corporate owned, the hotel where I worked was a poorly maintained franchise.

Anyway, when a guest asked about a room, my immediate response was to quote the highest rate we had. If he or she balked at the price, I’d offer a lower rate for a room farther from the pool, and if that failed, I’d offer an even lower rate for a second floor room. If the customer turned to walk away, I’d ask about AAA or AARP membership for a discounted rate.

I strongly suspect gym memberships work the same way. The basic membership cost me about $30 a month. I’m fairly sure some members pay less, but that’s the best deal I’ve been able to get. There’s also an annual “gym enhancement fee” which is basically a ruse for bleeding members of an extra $50 or so per year for no good reason.

As expected, the guy who renewed my plan tried to talk me into a personal trainer. The thirty-minute sessions (with a minimum of two per month for the duration of the contract) cost $80 each. I have it on good authority that, depending on how long they’ve worked for the gym, trainers get $10 to $20 per session. Charging more than they pay the trainers is understandable — but four to eight times as much sounds like a gouge to me. No thanks.

I get three free months tacked onto the end of my membership for paying upfront for a full year. The last time I renewed, I realized after the fact and too late to do anything about it, that I’d never received my free months. That’s what I get for not paying attention.

So I noted on my calendar when my membership expired. Eleven months later, I got the call about renewing because my membership was about to expire. I had to email the billing department five times before they added my three free months. Makes me wonder how many “free” months are never claimed.

Fool me once…