Archive | December 2011

It’s the Staff, Stupid!

Never underestimate the human element in being able to infuse disaster into an otherwise sound business. That’s the theme of our discussion today. How a little thing called “people” can hijack the success of any company and especially a gym such as LA Fitness.

Gross Hot Tub

Who's Cleaning Up After Something Like This Goes On?

It’s pretty obvious that the people who run LA Fitness are very intent on achieving their goals. Whether their goals are to help people get fit and healthy or to make money is a topic for another day. Regardless, it’s obvious that even if money is the primary focus of this company, actually helping their customer-members reap real results must be a major focus. After all, if LA Fitness was able to help people drop weight consistently, if they had the “magic pill” that other gyms did not, then everyone would go there and the owners would become even richer than they already are.

I’m quite sure that there is a standard training system in place for both lower-level and management-level employees at LA Fitness. The curriculum is probably designed to yeild consistently good results where customer satisfaction is concerned. Yet, as is the case with any system that has a human component, it’s only a matter of time before the proverbial mice will play.

If we look at the story told by Erin about the LA Fitness Redlands CA, we get a clear picture of how well a gym can be run if the people there do their job correctly. Admittedly, it might be the case that Erin has a sufficiently low set of expectations in regards to how a gym should be operated that she could have hardly done anything but write a positive review, but there’s no way for us to know that.

Contrast this with the many stories we hear of the pool at various LA Fitness locations not being properly maintained or the locker room trash containers overflowing, or broken machinery, or pushy sales people, or imposing trainers. In fact, almost all of the complaints that are regularly levied against LA Fitness have a distinctly human cause.

The crazy thing is that LA Fitness may be one of the better gyms out there. These types of problems are not unique to this company.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I’ve only been at this for a few days now and I’m pretty sure that this blog is going to turn into a pool of negativity. The simple truth of the matter is that there’s a lot more dirt to dig up on LA Fitness than songs of praise. It might be true that this just goes with the territory, that there may be a lot more people who complain about this company than talk it up, but there’s no way to really tell.

Now, to be fair, every dog has its day and sometimes LA Fitness gets it right. Consider the recent story written by Lauren. Her remarks about her local LA Fitness are full of glowing praise. She talks about how nice the club is when compared to others in her area. I’ll give her credit too, she has been to other LA Fitness locations before this one opened up so she has some type of realistic base from which to draw meaningful comparisons.

After reading Lauren’s testimonial of the exemplary experience she’s had at the Mission Viejo CA LA Fitness, you might be tempted to think that all of the gyms in this chain are run in similar fashion. I hate to be the one to disappoint you, but this isn’t a realistic frame of mind to take. Just punch “LA Fitness” into the yelp search bar and start wading through the comments about the company’s more than 300 clubs. If the gym was consistently able to provide this superior level of service then they would have very few reviews coming in under 3 stars. This isn’t the case though, is it?

It would seem that what we have going on here is a company that invests a lot of time and money in new facilities in order to attract new members. It’s a good plan, if you have the will and means to set up multiple high-dollar facilities. Unfortunately, it would seem that things eventually go downhill from there. I guess that once a gym is filled to capacity, there’s just not the same level of motivation to keep the place (and the equipment) fresh and new. Funds are better directed to building new gyms, from a business perspective that is. So my guess is that if we check back in on Lauren in 10+ years (not really that long in my opinion) she’ll either not be a member anymore, or be a member who is a bit disenchanted with the place.

Fancy Buildings Don’t Equal Training

Everyone knows that LA Fitness is in the middle of a massive push to gain traction in all the major metropolitan areas of the United States. Just look around and you can see these big-box facilities popping up everywhere. This is happening in the middle of the global economic slump no less.

Whoever is running the ship over at LA Fitness world headquarters is a pretty slick cookie. Traditional gyms such as Bally’s and Powerhouse are closing up left and right. This means that people are quitting in such numbers that these smaller facilities can’t stay open. In swoops LA Fitness with new buildings and new equipment and they start snatching up members (and their monthly dues) left and right.

Gym Irony

But does this mean that these people are going to see significant results now? Is there some magic pixie dust that is sprinkled on these new, bright, shiny gyms that insures results? Will places like LA Fitness single-handedly break the growing trend of obesity in this country?

I think not. Just because someone saw the new LA Fitness South Arlington TX being built and were impressed enough to stop in for a test-run and got pressured into becoming a member doesn’t mean that they are a changed person. They didn’t actually show up at the old gym and do the work necessary to see changes in their life and health and once the new feeling of this gym wears off they’ll most likely do the same.

In the end, LA Fitness is just another globo gym with a new coat of paint. It’s following the exact same playbook that’s been used by Bally’s for years. Get as many people to sign up as possible, make it as difficult to quit as possible, and hope they don’t show up. These older gyms worked this model for more than 30 years. They screwed up by not figuring out what LA Fitness did….namely that they needed to tear down their smaller, older facilities and build bigger and better clubs. Unfortunately, I think that the size of the LA Fitness-type gym is going to enable it to milk this model for a lot more than 30 years.

Leave the High Pressure Tactics at Home

Spring TX LA FitnessOne thing pretty much everyone can agree on is that they don’t like high-pressure sales tactics. This applies whether buying a car, condo, or gym membership. This is the kind of sentiment Jaire Q recently wrote that she shared her thoughts on visiting the Spring TX LA Fitness to see if she wanted to sign up.

Jaire reports that she was frustrated in her search to find the right gym. They were either not close enough to where she lives, were stocked with people who didn’t seem to have a very good disposition, or both. She was glad to find, when she stopped in at the local LA Fitness that this wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately, she was disappointed to find that the person giving her the tour was also the person who turned into a high-pressure sales-guy as soon as the tour was over.

The girl stuck to her guns though and though some aggressive and shrewd negotiation tactics of her own she was able to negotiate a price for full membership at the Spring TX LA Fitness of just $30 per month with no initiation fee. Not bad.

By The Snitch

By The Snitch

Jaire confided that she knew going in that the people running this particular LA Fitness facility were not going to win any awards for proper attitude or customer service. This didn’t phase her though as all she cared about was getting into a setting she could work out in consistently and make a change in her health for the better. Jaire is an example of how someone who is motivated can take the good with the bad and get what they need out of almost any gym.

I Really Want to Love LA Fitness

4 Star RatingI’m really a big fan of the LA Fitness in San Diego,CA.  Unfortunately, I can’t really give it 5-stars.  Here’s why…

  • The free weight area is always a mess. Plates and dumbbells laying around all over the place. Come on strong people put your freakin’ weights back where they belong.  It’s not that hard.  Or are you just too weak after your half-ass session of lifting to do the right thing? To be honest, I don’t even go in there very much.  It’s all guys and they all seem to stare at your chest.  I know that there’s a lot of testosterone flowing there, but some common courtesy would be nice.
  • It’s way, WAY over crowded during the weekdays after about 5pm.  I can actually feel my stress level going up right when I pull into the parking lot.  Not cool.  I’ve actually had days where I didn’t work out simply because I didn’t want to deal with the parking issue.  That should never happen.
  • San Diego CA LA Fitness Review

  •  The TVs have no sound.  In fact, I can’t ever remember being able to listen to them.  Sure, you could plug your headphones into some type of FM receiver…but who has one of those?  Have the people setting up these LA Fitness clubs never heard of the iPod?  People don’t listen to a “walkman” anymore so they don’t have a way to get FM signals.
  • No Recycling – I see a lot of people grabbing drinks here.  Drinks that come out of machines.  In plastic bottles.  There are NO recycling containers.  Somehow, I doubt that the staff is taking the time to go through each bag of trash and fish out the plastic so it can be used again.  Bad form LA Fitness….bad form.

Now, lets get on to the good stuff.  I said I really wanted to LOVE this place, not dig on it, right?  Hi points of working out at this LA Fitness include…

    Ally Macarthy LA Fitness Review

    By The Snitch

  • Group Classes Rock! Hip I like pretty much all of them but the hip-hop and cycling classes are the best. Body works class is challenging and the instructor (can’t remember her name right now) really tries to pump a lot of energy into every class.  You can see that she actually cares about people to when she talks with them after class and stuff. If you sign up for this club don’t take a class, then you must be out of your mind.  That’s all I got to say.
  • The place is pretty much always clean.  Even in the peak hours when I’m there, you see people going around and taking care of the place.  I don’t ever get that icky feeling that has hit me at other clubs when I realize that the funky smell in the locker room is coming from a certain locker that has funky clothes abandoned at the bottom for months.  That’s just wrong.  Thank God we don’t have to deal with that here.
  • While the gym manners in the weight room need to see some improvement, the rest of those who frequent the other zones of the club seem to be top-knotch types.  They’ll wipe down the surfaces of treadmills and the circuit training machines like they’re suppose to.  People seem kind and willing to say hi and stuff, but they don’t bother you or distract you from your workout.  Best of all, guys don’t hit on you.  That’s always been a problem for me and I’m in a serious relationship.  I just like to avoid awkward situations like that.