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How Poor Fitness Center Management Drove This Long-Time Member Away

Listening to member concerns is crucial to retaining loyal gym members.

During the early days of the pandemic, the fitness center where I’d worked out for 30 years closed for a year. At first, I stayed fit with daily walks and by riding a stationary bike at home. Eventually, though, I craved the total gym experience again.

Since my fitness center hadn’t reopened yet, I joined another gym with nice equipment, a walking track, pool and steam and sauna spaces in the locker room. That gym served me well,  but when my annual contract terminated, I was eager to return to my reopened fitness center that I loved, mainly because I preferred its relaxing pool, steam and sauna area.

When I returned, I expected that lost memberships due to the pandemic would make the management eager to stand out from the competition with great service and improved facilities.

Instead, I returned to a fitness center that now suffered from poor management. The gym had replaced the former director with a new one, and the result was chaos over consistency.

The pool was closed arbitrarily due to a lifeguard shortage on days when it was normally open, for example. In fact, unexpected (and unannounced) pool closures seemed to happen at least a few times a week. One day, the chlorine level was too low to remain open. Another day, the pool was closed for lifeguard training.

Every time the pool closed, so did my favorite amenities: the sauna and steam rooms. The staff was friendly, however, and I’d gone there for so long that I kept giving the gym chance after chance. That is, until the pool was closed every time that I visited in one week.

I’m a loyal customer, so I hoped that voicing valid complaints about fitness center services that I paid for being closed arbitrarily might alert management to address the obvious problems. Also, I asked for a one-week extension of my quarterly membership, since I was unable to use the amenities that I enjoyed the most for a full week.

I thought the director would understand why an extension was in order. Instead, she sent this reply:

“While we understand it is frustrating when a space you utilize is closed, we unfortunately cannot provide membership extensions. Our memberships are for the entire facility, not just the Aquatic Center. We encourage members to explore spaces in addition to the pool, especially on days the pool may be closed due to staffing or safety concerns.”

There was no apology for the inconvenience. No validation that my concerns were legitimate. Only the direction that I should use other areas — which I already used regularly — and a list of lack-of-accountability excuses for the closings.

I was so put off by this that I didn’t renew my membership, returning instead to the competitor where I’d been working out while this gym that I was formerly loyal to was closed.

While the pool, sauna and steam room closings were my main concerns, they weren’t the primary reason for my departure. I left because of the director’s disregard for my guest experience and her lack of appreciation for my business and decades of customer loyalty.

Would it really have been so hard to extend my membership for one week, especially since I was unable to use the amenities I paid for as a member, to keep me satisfied and renewing my membership each quarter?

That would have been all I needed to feel my concerns were heard and renew my membership.

Instead, I’m now working out at one of that gym’s many competitors. The sad thing is that many other guests felt the same way I did (and left without letting management know) but I was the only one who expressed my discontent — which fell on deaf ears.

Sometimes, all it takes to keep a guest happy (and paying membership dues) is an ear for their concerns, an apology for problems they’ve encountered and a promise to address the issues, along with a “We value you as a member” statement.

Otherwise, your fitness centers’ loyal members may disappear for reasons unknown to management — but obvious to other members on their way out the door for the last time.