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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.