The first thing I noticed after I moved to Vancouver two years ago was that Vancouverites love being fit: they run, bike, hike, ski, snowboard, skateboard, do yoga, and they manage to fit all that in their hectic schedules. That kind of athletic engagement struck me as a surprise even though I am a former athlete and a national team player. Canadians love sports. Gyms? Not so much.
Let me explain myself. Not so long ago I decided to get a gym membership. When I told my friends about my intentions, they were quite skeptical and clearly did not share my enthusiasm about gyms. They tried to talk me off it, offering to go running in the morning or biking together; but I was tenacious. Since I was a kid, I had memberships in various fitness centers, and the idea of shiny machines, friendly instructors, loud music and group trainings was somewhat romantic and nostalgic to me.
I decided to prove my friends wrong, however, and try my luck at the gym by my house. As I went in, a handsome guy at the front desk greeted me with a big smile on his face. I thought to myself, “This can’t be that bad, really”. As soon as they found out I was looking for a membership, they gave me a huge questionnaire to fill in and asked me to wait for a sales manager. As I sat on a chair listening to music pumping from the speakers and answering multiple questions about my lifestyle, fitness goals, and health, I looked around and everything was just as I recalled it: people hurrying to group trainings, treadmills making their usual rattling noises and a lot of advertisements of healthy lifestyle on the walls.
What I did not know about getting a membership was that you need to go through an unnecessarily long and unpleasant “tour around the facility”, during which you will be a victim of salespeople who will try to sell you literally all the services they have. The more, the better. Sales people will make sure to encourage you to sign up for all classes not included in the membership. Like those Zumba classes, “they are not a part of your $100 a month payment but make sure you sign up for them, they are really good for you.”
My sales manager, appeared shortly and offered me to walk around, “while getting to know more about me”. Our conversation started with him going through my answers in the questionnaire and asking:
Manager: You said you were in your best shape when you were 17. What has changed since then?
Me: Well, you know, until I was 17 I played in the national team and practiced 3-4 hours every day. I don’t do that anymore, that’s probably what changed.
After that we had a little chitchat and a laugh about how professional athletes struggle with weight issues and put on weight after they quit playing sports. I smiled to myself: “this is going really well”. Until I heard his next question:
“So have you ever been to the gym before?”
I will never be able to explain how I managed to calmly smile and reply to him: “Of course” while in my head I was screaming: “DID YOU EVEN HEAR MY ANSWER TO YOUR PREVIOUS QUESTION?!” His next questions were getting more and more ridiculous, like “have you ever worked out?” and “have you ever had a personal trainer before?” I just smiled, nodded, and thought about the good-looking guy who works at the front desk.
When I inquired about prices, it got even better. For some reason, he decided to discuss with me my body weight and (how dare he!) the percentage of fat in my body. The funniest part is, that he is a graphic designer graduate (and a sales person, huh?) and probably knows significantly less about working out than I do. I could not remain calm anymore, and exploded, “Why are we having a conversation about my weight? I just want an effin’ membership. That’s all.”
After that he did not ask me any more silly questions, he gave me a lot of free memberships that I could give out to my friends. But do not get tricked by those either. My friends still don’t talk to me after their “tours” and steer clear of that place. They also keep getting phone calls about when they will come and get a membership, or if they want another trial membership.
Now it makes sense to me, why Vancouverites prefer running or biking outside even in the most unappealing weather. I am not generalizing of course; let’s hope that there are perfect places to work out. One thing I know for sure, though, I will never forget that guy, and how terrible he made me feel about myself. I don’t know whether it is a part of their selling strategy, but clearly it is not working. If I were the administration, I would definitely do something about those pushy and ignorant sales people that scare away so many customers with their attitudes and inappropriate questions. Maybe they should give that good-looking receptionist the job. I bet he would be better at it.
What You Want in a Gym:
- reasonable pricing which would include a number of group classes you are interested in.
- positive and healthy environment
- good deals and discounts
- high quality machines and friendly instructors (boy, some of them are scary)
What You Don’t Want in a Gym:
- pushy sales people
- being asked too many personal questions
- too long of a process to get a gym membership
What do you think? Have you recently gone looking for a gym membership? Share your experiences below!