Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do Not Ever Sign Up For Bally Fitness

So last week Braden, Jenna and I went to take an ostensibly short tour of the Bally Fitness gym that's about 15 minutes from our place. We went solely because I wanted to have a place to swim, because it's low-impact, feels good on my big, luggy body and I can't start anything new exercise-wise (especially if it's strenuous) this late in pregnancy. But just going to do some light swimming or kicking would be beneficial, and I loved being in the pool the few times I got to go during our recent vacation in North Carolina. Anyway, I had called a couple of days prior to find out if they had a pool and what kind of prices they had for adult plans. The girl said that yes, they did have a pool and that the plans ranged from $22-26/mo plus $5/mo for unlimited childcare. I thought, well, that's not too bad, since another place I'd looked at was asking $51/mo and you still had to pay for childcare. So I thought I'd check it out, and we headed over. We got there at around 4:15pm and explained to the "manager" that Braden had to be across town for an appointment at 5. The guy, Caleb, I believe, looked at the clock and said, "Ok, so we've got 45 minutes." Well, no, Caleb. No, we don't. If teleportation were possible, then yes, yes we do. But Braden can't magically appear at his appointment. Anyway, so that garnered the first raised eyebrow of many more to come.

Then he proceeds to ask why we were there, and I explained, I thought rather clearly, how I was going to have a baby in 2 months, and I really just wanted to swim. He then asks Braden (keep in mind we hadn't even talked about this for Braden, so this was really just for me, which I didn't spell out, but any idiot could have understood that from what I had told him) about why he's there, and then proceeds to not-so-subtly berate Braden for not making the time to work out, because "we're all busy, and we just need to make the time, and we get the time back by feeling more refreshed, blah blah..." I loved this classic quote: "So, you're a nurse...you've heard of REM sleep, right?" Le DUH. He just wasn't endearing himself to us from the get-go. Then he turns back to me and wants to know what my fitness goals are. I repeat what I said previously and say a little bit more, but not much. It's obvious to me that we're not communicating, because I realize that he's looking for me to say something else, but I don't know what it is, and I say as much to him. He then says, "Well, you want to use the pool, okay, but what about using the weights?", and I say, "well, sure, to get back into shape after I have the baby." His response to this is to sigh loudly (with an obviously frustrated look on his face), shake his head at me and say, "Well, let's just go take the tour." [Kerry's note: I explained what I wanted to do!!! I can't have an elaborate fitness plan in mind, because I don't know how the birth will go and what kind of a postpartum recovery I'll have!!) As we head out of the office, Braden and I exchange a "what the crap" look. But no, the fun is just beginning, my friends.

Keep in mind that I'm all about the pool, and I've said as much several times to this guy. The weights and machines are right outside the "manager's" office, so it does make sense to start there. However, given what he knows about us, it most definitely does not make sense to go from machine to machine and methodically explain them step by step. I think he went to 6 or 7 different machines and demonstrated each one. Less effective, my lowly managerial BFN. Also keep in mind that we have the entire gym to go through, and not a lot of time to do it, and you can see how frustrated we were getting. Like I'm going to remember or care how the lateral press exercises this muscle just so when all I'll be doing is swimming for a few months. He was a "weights" guy, and it was just so obvious that he had no idea how to tailor his sales pitch to the individual customer.

So he finally stops doing that, and we go throughout the rest of the gym, which was fine, and he was actually a lot less annoying during this, EXCEPT that he was really taking a long time. Once we got to some machines again, he started asking a lot of questions about what I'd be using. I just said the elliptical machine, but I was getting frustrated that he just didn't get the whole pregnancy thing, and that HELLO I'm not going to be running on the treadmill in my third trimester (he seemed to think that I'd be doing whole long workouts on these machines, despite what I'd already explained to him). At this point, whenever he'd ask a question, Braden would just be like, "Yes", in hopes of getting him to shut up and hurry up. I follow his lead, and we get to the pool last (of course).

The pool was okay, but not overly impressive, truth be told. From there, we head back to the office, and he proceeds to lay out some monthly prices, which are from $9-20 more per month than what I'd been told. When I tell him this, and that the phone conversation was only two days ago, he magically pulls up a lower price on his "computer" (we don't think he even did anything on the computer), but one that is still higher than what I was told. We also are told that we have to purchase from 2-6 personal trainer sessions in addition to the monthly price, and when I ask if we HAVE to (because we have zero interest in that), he says that FOR TWO DAYS ONLY they can give us a discounted price on the sessions (still over a hundred dollars for the lowest), and then THEY HAVE TO GO TO THE NEW PRICE PLAN!!! Uh huh. I've heard that one before. It doesn't faze me. Anyway, I take a closer look at the price sheet, along with the gibberish that he's writing out and not explaining to us, and I ask about another $150+ fee that I see along with the monthly and personal trainer fee. He replies in a "you're an idiot" tone that that's of course the one time up front fee to join. He had never pointed this out or explained it, but apparently I'm an idiot for asking about it?? Anyway, at this point, he goes in all out sales mode and wants to know which plan we're looking at. We tell him the most basic (Braden said he rolled his eyes at this, but I missed it), but we begin explaining that we are going to go home and discuss it with each other before committing to anything. His response is to get even more animated and explain over and over how this price is only good for the next two days (then a day and a half, then a day)....lather, rinse, repeat about 4 or 5 times. From his second refusal on, I start to think loudly in my mind, "SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!" It was so insulting, like he thought we just weren't "getting it." In the meantime, we are running super late, and finally, I bluntly tell him, "LOOK, we just wanted to check out the facilities, see what you guys had, and make a decision later." He finally takes no for an answer very frustratedly (again shaking his head), but not before one more, "it's only two days" under his breath, and then he says all right and basically kicks us out of his office more or less. He never says goodbye or thanks for coming, but as we stand up, Jenna says "Buh-bye!" and waves, and he can't help but smile and say goodbye to her because it's so cute when she does that. He does not walk us out or say anything to us after his last ditch effort. We walk ourselves to the door and out into the parking lot, where I say loudly, "WOW. WOW." To top it all off, Braden missed his appointment because the guy kept us so long, despite repeated reminders that we were running out of time. Thanks, dude, sure 'ppreciate ya.

I have never been so appalled at a salesman before, and he was so horrible at it!! It's a self-fulfilling prophecy! He made up his mind that we weren't going to come back and buy a membership, so he decided that we weren't worth his time or worth common courtesy, he let his emotions and true colors show, and that's exactly how it happened--we didn't go back. I will never go back to that gym and let him get his commission off of me. In fact, I'll never join a Bally's...but that's mostly because of this and this, information that I found out after taking the tour. Sure sounds like a scam operation to me, and I can't believe they're still in business if that's how they run their company.

I was so upset when we left the gym that I started crying (pregnancy hormones, peeps) and saying, "I just want to use a pool!! That's all I want!" And it is. I don't want to pay for all this other stuff that I won't use for at least 6 months. However, I can't find anywhere that will let me just use the pool.

The YMCA is sounding more and more appealing to me. We took a tour there a few months ago, and never once did I feel pressured into buying a membership. They were nice, friendly and answered all of our questions without trying to put one over on us. And that is how you get people to join your gym.


12 comments:

Carolyn said...

Yikes o-rama! You guys sure seem to have frequent really bad service. Let us not forget the fun times you had at Olive Garden!

Your story was so descriptively bad, that it's hard to believe that any company could behave so poorly to potential customers.

Once again, I'd strongly suggest a curt email to Bally's customer service. That dude that gave you the tour should be fired!

I hope you have better luck at your YMCA. (Our YMCA has a sliding scale for monthly payments, depending on your income. Maybe your Y has something similar. You might have to ask them about it.)

annahannah said...

I was looking online for places to swim, and some of the nearby suburbs have pools as part of a rec center. I was planning on using them when I came out.

Ker said...

Carolyn - yeah, he should be fired, but from what I read about other complaints, that kind of behavior seems to be the norm at this company. I doubt anything would be done, except maybe a "here's a free 2 week trial, and then we start charging you even though you thought you canceled". I read of that happening to so many people who signed up for a free trial at Bally's. No thanks!

Mom - hmm, I'll have to check that out.

Ryan said...

BFN -- Best Friend...Not?

Ker said...

BFN: Best Friends Never.

I learned that from one of my old mission comps, who used to say that to particularly annoying people. "K, bye! BFNs!!" I find it comes in very handy sometimes. :)

Akktri said...

You just don't know what the pressure is like at Bally. I worked in the call center, and the demands are high. You HAVE to collect at least $15 per call, and yet you're given nothing but whiny complainers who say they're broke or can't pay right now or only want to pay at the club. We don't get any credit if they pay in the club, and if they pay at the club too much, we'll all lose our jobs. That was the sum of what the boss said.
So every day, someone was breathing down my neck and saying `you must collect or get fired.' The rules for what you had to say on the phone were strict and overly complicated, probably so they can get away with firing people for not collecting enough money and also not have to pay unemployment benefits.
The guy at the club seemed to be feeling the pinch, too. After that bankruptcy, they were probably sweating him to get as many people signing contracts as possible, any way he can. High pressure sales. He probably didn't want to be insulting, but considering that they might fire him at any moment for not getting a yes from every person that walks through the door, he probably was at wit's end, and didn't realize he was trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. Probably if he accepted the terms of you wanting to use only the pool, it would involve issues he didn't want to deal with, like how other places have cheaper pools and don't charge you for weights that you don't plan to use, that he was paid to show people the facilities and yours would have been too short a tour, etc.
I'm somewhat grateful that you didn't sign up for a contract because if you signed up for a 36 month membership, you'd probably be one of these people that start screaming about how they didn't use the club for six months and don't think it's fair to pay for something they don't use, even if it's in the contract that they have to pay regardless of club usage.

Ker said...

Gee, thanks so much for your comment. So the guy was entitled to be rude and condescending, because he was "feeling the pinch". Every sales job is high pressure, and if you take one, that's what you get. It doesn't mean you have a free pass to be rude to potential customers/clients. Hence our not going back to Ballys ever. If he had tailored his tour and presentation to us more, instead of studiously ignoring everything he was told, we might have gone back and signed up. His behavior ensured that we would never sign up there, and I'm having trouble understanding why it is that you can't see that.

It wouldn't have mattered where we went for a tour; we wouldn't have signed up on the spot, because we wanted to go home and think over agreeing to a commitment that big, plus the fact that we don't have a ton of extra money to spend.

And if we had signed up and only gone for a few months and still had to pay, well, I signed the contract, so I'm a person of my word, even though, yeah, that would suck. It would be my own fault for not going, and I would own up to that.

But I guess I'm just a whiner, complainer and a turnip, so whatever I say probably won't matter to you.

Akktri said...

Well, if you hated the job and felt like that was the only job you could get, and you were afraid of losing your job, you'd be desperate to get a sale any way you could, as quickly as you could, because they harass you daily about your sales (and lack thereof), you might be rude to anyone who seemed like a deadbeat who wouldn't commit to a membership. You'd prefer to move on to someone else who actually had money and boot the other guy out the door. Let me reinerate the fact he probably hated his job but couldn't find anything better and was afraid to lose his job.

Braden said...

So Akktri, you are saying that it is justifiable to be rude and pressure people into what they don't want because you want more money?

I suppose that if this is the business model that Bally's wants, then they have that right, but when I walk into a gym with a specific request (we want a tour and are interested in finding about the following specifics: a, b, and c) and I get something totally different along with a rude attitude and a high-pressured pitch, then you can be sure that I will practice my right to not purchase there and tell others to be warned.

You seem to be of the attitude that any kind of behavior is justifiable so long as you are protecting your own behind. If you are in a job where you have to pressure people to do what they do not want, then that is your right, but don't expect sympathy from the masses when you get called on it. If you in love with your commission, then say so and take the reward that comes with greed. Otherwise go find a job that does not require you to treat people that way.

Braden said...

"I'm somewhat grateful that you didn't sign up for a contract because if you signed up for a 36 month membership, you'd probably be one of these people that start screaming about how they didn't use the club for six months and don't think it's fair to pay for something they don't use, even if it's in the contract that they have to pay regardless of club usage."

As long as I'm calling you out on your stupid arguments, let me address this one as well.

The reason that people start screaming about being charged is because the fact that this is a 36 month membership is hidden deep in the fine print and the poor high-pressure sales-person who is stuck in his job with no hope whatsoever of having any kind of happiness in life is not going to go out of his way to mention the fact that when you sign on the dotted line, you are signing your checkbook away.

We have learned by hard experience that you don't make a decision like this on the spot, even if it seems like a great decision. This is something that he wasn't willing to respect.

This whole argument is about choices. This salesperson has his agency to act in whatever way he wants, but in the end, he needs to accept that his choices are his, and his alone. Similarly, when I look at the contract with someone ramming a membership down my throat, it is my choice to sign on the dotted line or not.

In both cases, we have to live with the consequences of our choices. If I had chosen to give in to this guy and sign up, then I would have to live with the poor decision to sign up on the spot, and this guy has to live with the consequences of having been rude to a customer and having lost a sale and earned bad publicity.

When I went shopping for an engagement ring, I went to dozens of jewellers, and started loathing the process, because all I got was high-pressure salespeople trying to shove things at me that I didn't want. Then I went to the Shane Company. I'm sure that the people there are under a lot of pressure to sell products and feel the pinch, just like anybody else, but they treated me with respect, never ever tried to show me things I didn't want (in fact, they would sometimes tell me when I asked to look at a ring, "you don't want that one because it is platinum and you said you didn't want platinum" or the like). In the end, I spent my money with them because I felt comfortable and respected, and in the years since, I have referred everybody who will listen to me over to the Shane Company for their jewelry.

And I have warned everyone who will listen to me to never go to Bally's.

If Bally's had good business practices, they would see an upswing in the number of new memberships, the number of satisfied customers, and the complaints about being unfairly charged would disappear, because they would no longer be unfairly charged.

Again, the company and the salesperson have a choice to act as they would like. It is their prerogative. But then I don't want to hear some sob story about how they didn't have a choice.

I've been in a commission sales position, and it isn't fun to have the pressure to make sales, but I managed to do just fine in my job without ever sacrificing my integrity. Yes, my commission numbers weren't the greatest because I *gasp* sold people what they actually wanted, but my customers loved me and told the manager and the company as much. And if they had fired me for not producing, then that would be their choice and I would go get a job somewhere else.

Wanting to keep a job is not an excuse for intolerable behavior.

Ever.

Akktri said...

"So Akktri, you are saying that it is justifiable to be rude and pressure people into what they don't want because you want more money?"


No, because you want your job. People that go for one day then leave do not keep Bally out of bankruptcy. I got fired because I didn't collect enough. I was supposed to assume that everyone has money even when they don't, and collect.


"I suppose that if this is the business model that Bally's wants, then they have that right, but when I walk into a gym with a specific request (we want a tour and are interested in finding about the following specifics: a, b, and c) and I get something totally different along with a rude attitude and a high-pressured pitch, then you can be sure that I will practice my right to not purchase there and tell others to be warned."


Go right ahead. I don't work there anymore, so I don't care what you do. But a person that only joins for the pool is probably the type who thinks they can cancel the membership like a cel phone and just stop paying. It would be less annoying if less noncommittal people signed up, especially if they like to live beyond their means. It would make collections less painful.


"You seem to be of the attitude that any kind of behavior is justifiable so long as you are protecting your own behind."


At Bally, that's a pretty good estimate of the situation. You've got to get those numbers up somehow, or else you're gone.


"If you are in a job where you have to pressure people to do what they do not want, then that is your right, but don't expect sympathy from the masses when you get called on it."


Hey, I didn't make the rules, I was just in collections, forced to listen to the victims whining for three months (after which I got fired - I wasn't enough of a cutthroat to collect my quota).


"If you in love with your commission, then say so and take the reward that comes with greed.


They probably do, but not in front of the customer, because it's like a used car salesman saying "It's a good car, but when it goes around a corner, the wheels come off." Obviously, he wouldn't make one sale that way.


"Otherwise go find a job that does not require you to treat people that way."


...Or live in a cardboard box in the wintertime and freeze to death when you can't find any other job.

Braden said...

Okay, one more response and then I'm done with this fruitless debate. In reality, your comments have just solidified my points. Let me respond to them and perhaps you will see what I mean:

"People that go for one day then leave do not keep Bally out of bankruptcy. I got fired because I didn't collect enough. I was supposed to assume that everyone has money even when they don't, and collect."

So what you are saying is that Bally's is a bloodthirsty company that does not care about people (employees or guests)... this has been my position all along.

"Go right ahead. I don't work there anymore, so I don't care what you do. But a person that only joins for the pool is probably the type who thinks they can cancel the membership like a cel phone and just stop paying. It would be less annoying if less noncommittal people signed up, especially if they like to live beyond their means. It would make collections less painful."

It would be less annoying if Bally's and the high-pressure salespeople who sign up members would explain that this involves a big commitment and is not like LA Fitness and other gyms which allow for month to month or lower-term contracts. It is not a matter of living beyond our means, it is a matter of having an honest business relationship. If the members are allowed to understand the extend of the contract they are signing, then you will have less "non-committal" customers.

"Hey, I didn't make the rules, I was just in collections, forced to listen to the victims whining for three months (after which I got fired - I wasn't enough of a cutthroat to collect my quota)."

You are agreeing with me on every turn that this is a terrible company and then you insist on defending it. I just don't understand that.

"it's like a used car salesman saying "It's a good car, but when it goes around a corner, the wheels come off." Obviously, he wouldn't make one sale that way."

Exactly... so you are justifying dishonesty. In your moral universe, you seem to say that as long as you get a sale, anything is fair game. This may work for yourself, but remember, the more prevalent this attitude is, the more often this kind of thing will happen to you, too.

"...Or live in a cardboard box in the wintertime and freeze to death when you can't find any other job."

As long as there are illegal aliens coming into this country and finding jobs, I'm not going to have much sympathy for you if you don't get to keep your Bally's job. You said yourself that you were fired after three months, and somehow you are still well-enough off that you at least have internet access. My brother lost his job and now he has taken a position that is way below him and is earning minimum wage while he goes to school to be trained for a better career. I moved to another state a few years ago and none of my licenses to practice medicine were valid there so I took a minimum wage job to get by. So maybe you lose the Bally's job becuase you have morals. Good for you. Go get another job and if you can't find one that is ideal for you, go flip burgers for a while and keep looking or keep going to school. It is called the American Dream and you have to work for it.

If you want to defend the indefensible actions of Bally's and the pushy salespeople that they employ, go ahead, but don't think that you are doing so on any kind of a moral plane. All that seems to matter to you is protecting your money and that kind of screw-you attitude is what drives customers away and drives your sales numbers down, and in the end will drive this country into the ground.