Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Weighty matters

When my cellphone rang in my car with an incoming call from an unidentified number I didn’t recognize, I answered it anyway, hoping that it was who I thought it would be.

It was.

It was my gym.

On the electronic survey I’d filled out, they asked when I’d like to be called, and I said 6 to 9 p.m. The call came in at 3 p.m. The fact that they got that wrong? That’s what confirmed for me that it was them calling.

In many ways, I like my gym:

  • First of all, there are locations in almost all the areas I frequent around the country (except where I grew up; I have an additional membership to a local gym there).
  • Secondly, they’re open 24 hours. That works with my schedule!
  • They have free classes, one of which I look forward to every week.
  • They’ve got a full menu:  free weights, lots of cardio machines, a pool, a sauna, a steam room, a basketball court I don’t use, and more.
  • I’ve never had anything but a positive experience with other people working out there.
  • There’s plenty of free parking.
  • It’s not a meat market or pickup scene. All different shapes and sizes and and ages and types come to this gym, and I like that. I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds myself, and I’m always rooting for the people with much larger challenges than I have who are there and committed to what they’re trying to do.
  • But it didn’t hurt when, a few years ago, a woman who was new in town propositioned me in the steam room about joining her on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t accept, but the flattery added inches to my ego.

What I don’t like about my gym, well, I’ve written about it here several times, and you’re about to hear it again.  So when they blithely announced via an email that they were raising my monthly gym fee again, and then sent me that survey, I took the opportunity to tell them what I thought. When the survey asked if I’d like to be contacted, I put in my phone number.

And then more than a week went by. I just figured that, once again, they weren’t going to respond to anything I had to say. Until, that is, they called.

The woman on the phone was named Kendra and was a new assistant manager, and before she could get too far, I told her how glad I was that she’d called, because although I’d responded to their surveys before, and posted comments here and on Facebook and on the local groups on Facebook, and had used Twitter to voice some concerns and at-tagged them, and dropped comments in their suggestion box with my name scrawled onto them, and had even spoken directly to people working the front desk, nobody had ever responded to or dealt with anything I’d brought up.

“Kendra, I’m on my way to a meeting, so I’m sorry to rush, and I’m very glad you called me, but I’m going to dive right in because I’ve got about three minutes.”

“Okay,” she said.

“Twice, I’ve found shit in the showers. I know you can’t control whether or not people are going to shit in the showers, but you could run a check more frequently and clean it up. The soap and shampoo dispensers are usually empty — so now I bring my own, which is a cost. You got rid of towel service, so now I bring my own, which is also a cost.  There’s a lake of urine and mud in front of the urinals at all times. It’s revolting. The men’s locker room is disgusting. It’s never, ever, clean.”

She apologized and said that she’d been back to work for this gym after being away for some time and had been hired expressly to manage this better. She was just now getting to call people, and said she’d work to make sure that the men’s locker room and everything connected with it would be better.

“Given all this, how do you justify raising the price?”

She started by saying “inflation” and I immediately cut her off:  “Inflation is 1.8%.”

When she started to fumble around for something else, I told her, truthfully, that I was shopping around for a different gym. “Do you have any incentive to keep me while you’re addressing these issues?”

“I can discount your membership by 30% for the next three months.”

“Great!” I said. “I’ll take it. At the end of 90 days, we can both see if the gym has gotten cleaner!” I thanked her and hung up.

Later that night, my first stop in at the gym was to see her and thank her.

“I want to thank you for calling me,” I said. “I know it’s hard to call a list of people and listen to complaints, so I have a lot of respect for what you’re doing. This is the first time anyone has lent an ear, and I’ve been a member here for six years or more.”

“I know, I checked,” she said.”

“I like the gym. I’d rather stay. I just don’t want it to be so disgusting that I’m having a weekly chat with one of your own instructors about how disgusting it is.”

She told me she was instructing the front desk to do a better job — I had told her that when the “service announcement” goes out every hour, beckoning staff members to do a cleanup, the fit friendly good-looking young people at the front desk mostly just stand around and chat. She said she’d fix that, and that she was also having a meeting with the outsourced janitorial crew to make it very clear that they had to do a better job of servicing all areas of the gym or she’d replace them. Finally, she apologized for calling me at the wrong time, even though I was just glad to be called at all and hadn’t brought it up. I was impressed she’d noticed.

“Thank you,” I said, sticking out my hand. “I appreciate it.”

So we shook hands and parted as new friends and I felt really good about it. It was all friendly and businesslike, and now I could continue to enjoy the gym — with a discount that far outweighed the proposed price increase — and I would have a better response to local friends and acquaintances who occasionally say to me, “Ugh! How can you even go in there?!?!?”

After my workout, thoroughly pumped up from this little negotiating success, and after showering and changing, I got into my car and saw that I had a text from my business partner, wondering if I had tried to buy about six hundred bucks of stuff at Target. As if. The last thing I ever bought at Target, so far as I can tell, was… nothing; I can’t even remember the last time I went to Target. Then I got a text from Chase about my personal credit card, asking if a different charge, also at Target, was actually mine. One of these messages said that my card had been present, so I pulled out my wallet — and sure enough, my three credit cards, my ATM cards from two different banks, and my Macy’s card were all missing from my wallet. It had happened while I was in the gym.

I immediately went home and canceled all of those cards. That’s one gym experience I don’t think Kendra can help with.

Gods of karma, I attest to you that I was pleasant throughout and completely justified in my dealings with the gym, and in no way deserved this.

One Response to “Weighty matters”

  1. Dan Says:

    This sounds like the stat of a Hallmark Christmas movie, as Kendra struggles to save her nasty little gym and a precocious street urchin confesses to using your card to buy food for the needy…..

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