I was having a chat the other day with a client who recently started working with me and the topic of her previous gym came up. She was at a World Gym facility and we began talking about the type of environment and service that is typically provided. To put it bluntly, the services were poor. World Gym is just one example of a major franchised chain of fitness facilities that have multiple locations across the country. For reference purposes, these are called big box gyms. I can’t say that every big box gym lacks quality service but what I can comment on is how on average they fall behind standard customer care factors. The purpose of this article is to inform the reader of the pros and cons associated with not only big box gyms, but privately owned gyms as well.
When I think of a big box gym, the first one that pops in my mind is Goodlife Fitness. It is a Canadian franchise of fitness and health clubs scattered across the country that service the general population through personal training and group classes. World Gym, Planet Fitness and LA Fitness offer similar services and products. I can only assume that the quality of service from the above gyms are similar to Goodlife as people have commented on similar issues. I myself have had a Goodlife membership in the past and tried to become a trainer there thinking it would be good for side cash (I’m much wiser now). The truth is that I would never recommend Goodlife to anyone for anything. But first, like any valid opinion we must explore both sides.
The Big Box Breakdown
Yes, Goodlife is conveniently located across the country making your membership (if buying the high end one) valid at all locations. It is also true that the prices for memberships seem comparable and maybe even cheaper when looking at locally owned or private gyms. Finally, the size and amount of equipment are typically more vast. Although equipment is plentiful, the age old saying rings true in this case. You get what you pay for. Larger big box gyms are typically overcrowded and lead to patrons fighting to secure equipment. Big box gyms may have more machines with vast purposes, but they typically lack enough basic equipment for use such as benches, squat racks or just space! As for the convenience, many advertise 24 hours but typically close at 11pm. If they don’t offer 24 hour access, customers start scrambling to get a workout before close resulting in overcrowding. That’s the Goodlife alright. So if that’s just the convenience factor, what about service?
Well, it’s pretty poor. I can’t even describe how terrible Goodlife is with regards to their standards of customer care and even employee well-being. Let me walk you through my experience. To become a trainer, you apply, Goodlife hires you and you begin. What about certification? Well, Goodlife sends you to a weekend course. You may have heard of it: Canfit Pro. Is it a valuable accreditation? I personally think not. That’s not to say some decent quality trainers haven’t risen from it, it’s just that the certification requires no background knowledge, degree or experience. You show up, take a weekend course, write a bullshit exam and tada! You are a professional! Why do they choose Canfit Pro? Easy. Goodlife invented it. They hire you, take your money to pay for your course and pocket it right back. This is why actual professionals struggle in the business. Poor stereotypes from poor trainers result in an industry clouded with doubt.
Moving forward. You are hired, waiting for next weekend to arrive so you can become an official trainer through your weekend degree. Do they make you wait to work? Nope. They give you clients to train right out of the gate. That’s right, the $3600 you just dropped to be trained by a professional went to a high school student who’s background knowledge goes as far as the gym class he took in Grade 9. Take that in for a minute. Customers of Goodlife have no clue of the burglary that is occurring when they purchase training. The trainers scan the floor to find a few naive individuals who may be interested in some one on one training. They then use sales tactics to coax them into dropping vast amounts of money on yearly training contracts so they can collect commission. Just like that, you are on the hook for months of frustration.
Now, I know I am making the employees sound like scum and that is not always the case. Although slime trainers exist at Goodlife (more so in management positions) many trainers there are extremely nice and are forced to play the game so they don’t lose their jobs. These trainers are simply protecting themselves because if they don’t get clients, they get canned. The turnover rate of employment is pretty drastic and many of the trainers are aware of it. The majority are just trying to keep a job. What’s worse is once the trainer is fired, that year contract you bought makes you an item to be passed along. You might end up working with several different trainers all putting the same cookie cutter plan together for you as the person you signed up with quit or got fired. Yup, they really put the customer first.
Now that I have you running away from Goodlife, where do you go? Well that’s the best part. You can now find a place that locally specializes in the demographic you would most likely fit in. There are many privately owned gyms and health clubs that would suit your needs. Some are more tailored for athletes, some more tailored for women. Some have bodybuilder’s grunting across the room while some have older adults partaking in fitness classes. There is a place that fits you where service is more tailored to your needs. So to keep things moving, let’s breakdown the pro’s and con’s of smaller gyms/fitness clubs.
Private Gym Breakdown
Let’s start with the downside of smaller gyms. First off, they are typically more expensive than your big box gyms. Many require a higher fee to partake in classes or utilize their facilities. What’s more is that some of them may not have much equipment for you to use. The equipment provided may only suit the purpose of the major demographic that is in attendance so anyone else may be getting the short end of the stick. Some may not have certain ammenities such as showers, sauna, or whirlpools because of the high costs. If they did, that membership price will grow substantially anyways. There you have it. It is understandable the costs of smaller gyms. Nobody wants to be paying high prices thinking they won’t use certain things or be able to utilize the equipment they want. However, one must do research in their local community and explore the niche gyms. They will often give free tours and outline their specialty.
The benefits of privately owned gyms are simple yet grand. They put the customer FIRST. They are one business that need to keep happy clients. If not, the lights go out and the building goes up for sale. A small gym that’s been running for a while typically has happy customers. Second, 24 hour access. Most gyms need this to compete. The convenience of accessing the gym at 5am before work or during holidays pays dividends to the avid fitness enthusiast. Thirdly, less crowding. They don’t try to appeal to everyone and so the amount of people using the gym are usually the few who the atmosphere fits. There may be less equipment, but fewer people and greater access lead to the customer getting the workout they want using what they want when they want it. Plus, you may find a gym where policies allow you to grunt when lifting heavy (which is necessary, it can’t be argued).
If you want personal training, I would recommend checking with your local small gym owner. Typically trainers are subcontracted meaning they simply compensate the gym for their clients using the facility. What this means is that you are getting only ONE trainer who is always giving you their best. They are an independent meaning they themselves are their own business. They don’t have clients given to them meaning every person is top priority. Remember the higher membership fees previously mentioned? Well, many private gyms offer classes for their members and must hire the best instructors and coaches available to stay in business. Although you pay a bit more for a membership, you get better quality instructors and trainers. The majority of private gyms want to know they have better trainers who offer better classes than big box gyms as that’s what will draw in more customers.
Before choosing your facility, do some digging. As long as all factors that matter to you line up you won’t be disappointed. I am definitely biased in my choice however I am aware that others may not feel as strongly or care as much about certain qualities that I do. Like everything else, take the time to explore and ask questions. It’s a big investment and you want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. The fitness industry is a service industry and therefore customer care is top priority. If you aren’t being serviced professionally, then look elsewhere.
The good life is out there, just do diligence.
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