For the love of freebies

22 October 2010

After falling out of love with my old gym, mainly due to its £76.95 a month membership, I embarked on a spot of gym–surfing over the summer. With voucher websites and the gyms themselves offering plenty of free trials I could delay tying myself into a long contract and try out a few different gyms with the view of potentially joining one later in the year.

Once again though, LA Fitness found itself in my bad books (see previous blog to run or not to run) but for very different reasons. While my former gym in sleepy Northwood suburbia riled me with its lack of communication or ability to handle queries with anything approaching urgency, LA Fitness Leadenhall wouldn’t leave me alone: call it the Yorkshire Terrier to Northwood’s dopey Dulux dog. 

Seeing a free five–day pass for LA Fitness on uk I clicked on the link “download your free pass here”. Instead of getting a voucher straightaway I had to fill in some contact details and even after that I still didn’t get a free pass, I got an email telling me to go into the club to collect it instead. The super keen sales team must have then waited all of five minutes before ringing my mobile number to chat to me about my “interest in joining the gym.” Huh? I just want my freebie. 

Undeterred, the following week I went along, gym bag in tow, to collect my free pass. Obviously it wasn’t that simple. Helpful Alison gave me a quick tour (“there’s the gym,” accompanied by a finger gesturing to the gym that is already right before my eyes, “and the changing rooms and pool are just through here.”) She then took me into her office/pressure chamber to chat/force me to sign up to one of their great  membership deals.

At this point a workout was superfluous thanks to Alison’s guerilla membership sales tactics. A small voice managed to get out “I’d just like to see what the gym’s like first.” And she let me go – for now. In a cunning move she still hadn’t given me my free pass, meaning I’d have to brave her sales assault again if I wanted my five–day pass. 

Day two: despite listening to ‘Eye of The Tiger’, Rocky style and repeatedly telling myself I would not cave in to Alison’s barrage of sales gobbledy gook, I nearly did. I could tell she was getting fed up with me: how dare I presume my FREE pass was free? It was merely a marketing ploy to lure in fresh blood then put on the hard sell until they relent and sign up to a 24-month contract. Ker–ching!

After yet more attempts to get some money out of me, she finally realised I wasn’t going to budge and let me go. Although she only (stroppily) gave me my free pass when I asked her to. 

In a similar scenario, a new budget gym Fit4less has opened close to Tower Hill. Again I clicked on the link ( I know, what a fool) for my free gym membership pass and instead of getting said free pass got a barrage of emails, texts and phone calls, in response to my “gym membership enquiry”. Seriously.

Joining a gym close to my work would be handy but a part of me just doesn’t want to let Alison and co win. I appreciate these freebies aren’t handed out for the sake of it but are used to attract new custom. However, I think the sales teams are so aggressive in their approach that they actually put off people who may genuinely be interested in joining.