Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Hard Sell

My search for gyms continues. After trying Pure Fitness, I wanted to give California Fitness a shot, as it is very close to my office on Wellington Street.

I asked to have a tour of the gym and that wasn't before I filled out a questionnaire about my fitness level, how often I exercised and what kind of workouts I did. Then I was subjected to a body assessment test similar to the one at Pure Fitness, and it also came up with the same numbers about my body fat, weight, and waist to hip ratio.

Billy, the guy doing my assessment looked buff enough in the arms, but it seemed like he only worked on his upper body than anything else. Then he had to gall to tell me that if all I did was run on the treadmill that my thigh muscles would get too large. If anything running makes your leg muscles leaner and it's a good way to lose weight.

Nevertheless he was correct in saying that I should vary my workouts more with other exercise machines like the elliptical and use resistance machines to build up more upper body strength.

Then I was handed back to the sales girl who gave me a tour of the gym. Like Pure Fitness, California Fitness is on several floors. The ground floor includes a small boxing ring for people to learn how to throw punches, and then the next one was all about cardio, with many working out on a variety of machines from treadmills to step. The equipment was a bit older, but hardly antique.

The next floor up was strengthening with weight machines and an area for stretching.

On the final floor was the large room for free classes with a membership and machines for hard core body builders.

For the changing room we had to go out the side stairwell and up one floor to the women's changing room, a large warren full of lockers and showers, but no steam room or sauna. Each time you present your membership card you get a small and large towel, but you have to provide your own lock.

It all looked pretty decent and then the sales pitch began.

The initiation fee would be HK$999 ($128.70), followed by a HK$698 ($89.92) one-time "processing fee". I asked what this "processing fee" was about and she explained that it was for processing my application and getting a membership card. Why does it have to be so expensive?

Then the monthly fee would be HK$698 for a year.

I kept insisting that I had to try the gym before knowing if I wanted to join or not, while the girl kept saying that I had seen the gym already so I should have a good idea if I liked it or not. I asked about their one-week free pass and she said I had to fill out the form online in order to be eligible for that, which is why I said I thought I'd skip a step and come here in person.

She retorted then that everyone would do that -- and walk-ins only happened when the gym first opened many moons ago, not anymore.

Then she got her manager to come over and now both of them were trying to pressure me into buying a membership.

Because I acted so disinterested, they cut the initiation fee, the processing fee, and now I would only have to pay HK$333 ($42.90) per month.

What a deal! But I still insisted on trying it first.

They said I'd have to pay HK$150 for the day pass (good for 24 hours) to try it, or go online and fill out the one-week free pass.

So I did the latter.

But I had to get in contact with the same sales girl to activate this pass so that she could again try to pitch me again. The one-week pass is actually only good for three visits and the second time I used it, the young man who checked my guest pass asked me to sit down yet AGAIN for another sales pitch.

He asked if I was familiar with the prices they were offering and if it was something I was interested in.

I said I still had to check out Fitness First in order to make my assessment.

He didn't put much value in customers trying to do their homework first before deciding where to go and proceeded to try to hard sell me again.

By then I'd had enough and said, "Do you have to pitch me every time I come in here?"

He realized then that he'd gone too far and quickly wrapped up the conversation, inviting me to head up to the gym.

It's really strange how gyms here are out to snag as many members as possible. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of people in Hong Kong anxious to lose some weight, get fit, or want to show off some muscle tone from the crowded gyms I see during peak hours. If they fall off the wagon a few months after joining, they are still obligated to continue paying their membership for the rest of the contract which is usually a year.

So why the hard sell?

A colleague of mine told me that California Fitness was notorious for its selling techniques and bad management, and that I should carefully read the fine print before joining.

It sounded like an ominous warning that should be heeded.

The gym hunt continues...


  1. every thing comes with a price. if you pay peanuts out comes the monkey.

  2. your dad is spot on AND funny as usual. the hard sell is the same here for gyms. so i am doing yoga instead. glad to finally find the right link for your blog. didn't realize you were serious when you said the first link was wrong.