A Lesson in Hospitality: How NOT to get new members at LA Fitness

A Hospitality Lesson for LA Fitness

This morning my partner and I decided we would go to LA Fitness to take a yoga class. He’s been a member for a long time and I keep talking about switching gyms so I figured I’d go as his guest and give it a try.

We rode our bicycles the forty minutes there and in Florida heat I felt like I’d had a bit of a workout already but was looking forward to a cool room and some yoga – which I’d never tried before.

He presented his membership and said I would be his guest.  The young girl was pleasant enough behind the counter and asked if I had a driver’s license to which I responded that I did.  She then asked to see it and if I’d been to the gym before which I hadn’t and gave her my card.  She then gave me a framed outline of the Guest Rules and told me to read them.

My partner went off to the bathroom and assumed all would be fine when he got back.  She told me that it would be $15 for a guest pass but that I would have to make an appointment first with a sales counselor to come back to use the guest pass and that I could make an appointment if I’d like.  Quite surprised that a potential new member and a guest of someone who had been a member for many years (since 1990 as a Bally member) would be routed through such an obstacle course just to try the gym, I made sure I understood what she was explaining and she nodded.

I said I wouldn’t like to make an appointment to speak to a sales counselor and that I couldn’t understand why potential new members would be asked to make and appointment, then come back when the appointment was scheduled and then pay $15 to try the gym as a guest.

LA Fitness in the Tyrone district of St. Petersburg, Florida.
LA Fitness in the Tyrone district of St. Petersburg, Florida.

When she realized I was a potential new member (wouldn’t anyone who isn’t a member be a potential new member?) she said she might be able to get me in to talk to a sales counselor.  I replied that after going through this process (and still having the framed rules and regulations printed and framed in front of me that I was told to read) I wasn’t interested in being a member and I really didn’t need to schedule an appointment to return to speak to someone before I could try it out.

So I waited there while my partner returned and he wasn’t able to do anything further with the clerk at the desk.  She even said he didn’t have guest privileges but that she could “turn them on” in the system.  He walked over to the sales area and was going to speak to someone higher up but I told him it wouldn’t matter to me – a policy and procedures focused business as opposed to a customer focused business wasn’t something I needed the privilege to pay for.

I’m perfectly happy with my little gym.  The company entered the Tampa Bay market and swallowed up some Bally Fitness properties and most recently Lifestyle Family Fitness centers and therefore in the large scale gym category it has a monopoly in the Tampa Bay area.  If you want a big gym, you have no choice.

There obviously has to be some logic behind this policy and the treatment of guests.  Perhaps some members were continually bringing in guests who never joined.  I don’t know but this is a possibility.  The reality of rules and regulations focus is that this potential member (who quite frankly was just looking for an excuse to drop my small gym membership for a big gym with pool, yoga and a lot of equipment) just realized how much nicer a small gym actually is.

Ironically, I went to the LA Fitness web site to see if that could shed any light to this incident and it just became worse.  There is a three day guest pass option that you can print and bring in (a little old fashioned for a large company, but still it was available).

The lesson here for others is that prospective members of any organization should be treated to great customer service and a welcoming attitude.  Apparently my experience isn’t exceptional as I found 633 complaints about LA Fitness on Consumer Affairs web site and 416 complaints on Ripoff Report as well.

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4 thoughts on “A Lesson in Hospitality: How NOT to get new members at LA Fitness

  1. Thanks for posting this. My gym closed and I was looking at LA Fitness as an option – today. And even more timely was that I was informing TJ of why I thought I had to pass on LA Fitness, at the exact time your post went live! Although I wish that there was better news, I think they’ve done both of us a favor. I read soooo many horrible things about them on the internet when researching them today that I just can’t see a reason to give them a dime. Thanks again!

  2. L.A. Fitness needs an overhaul on their system, obviously. I’m glad you were able to simply state that you were not interested. Others would have paid up or complied. More people should do as you have done: take your money where it will be appreciated and they will show they appreciate it.

  3. Yeah I agree the guest policy at LA Fitness is a bit silly. I’ve never been to the one in Tyrone Square but I’ve been to the one in South Tampa as well as Lutz. I experienced the same “business first” policies there when it came to guest passes. The one in Brandon actually seems to have the best customer experience from what I’ve found. I would go there often with co-workers to play racquetball and since most of us had memberships, we were usually covered when a non-member wanted to tag along.

  4. As a member, I can think of no other companies I give money to more grudgingly than LA Fitness except maybe the airlines. You are right..they have a monopoly here. And these archaic sales practices are insulting already especially when you’re 53 years old and have seen it all a million times. We aren’t idiots. It’s the same with their fake free personal training. It’s just there to sell more personal training as some 22 year old with a certificate they probably got off the internet takes you through “an assessment” for the bazilionth time in your life . But it must work since they just keep selling memberships until the gym is actually unusable due to the crowds. Thanks for reminding me I wanted to check out other gyms. Something to do today! Plus I’m sure in other predatory pricing practices, I will need to resign LA in writing and it will take two mos. so i better get on it. Why doesn’t someone open a gym that costs more and limits their sales??

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