I just had a terrible customer experience with anytimefitness, and I felt obligated to make their poor service quality and sneaky sales tactics known.
If you haven’t heard of anytimefitness
, they are a 24-hour gym global franchise that has sprouted many branches in Singapore. One of the more recent ones was anytimefitness
, which is conveniently located near my house. I didn’t consider working out there previously as I had an existing EnergyOne
membership which was considerably cheaper.
With my recent career move, my new workplace meant my usual EnergyOne gym wasn’t convenient anymore. Thus, I was looking out for a gym to
sign my life away to sign up for a new membership. One of my friends was free to workout with me, and he recommended that I try out anytimefitness, where he had a membership. He linked me a URL to sign up for a free trial (it used to say 3 days) :
Note the bolded words especially – ‘no obligation’ it says. Try to remember the phrase ‘No obligation free trial’ as you progress through this post.
I keyed in my details, and I received an email shortly:
‘Free, no obligation, 3-day trial’. Sounds good so far. I tried calling the number provided but no one picked up. I dropped them an email instead, which was replied rather promptly.
So far so good. On the day (8th Jun 15), I went to the gym ahead of my friend, and wasn’t sure where to go when I entered the gym. The staff was sitting in the glass office but was busy on the phone, so I sat down at the couches, planning to wait for my friend to arrive to proceed.
I got a little engaged using my phone and browsing Facebook and stuff, and was waiting around for about 10 minutes at the couch and my friend wasn’t there yet. At that moment, the Australian staff (let’s call him Mr Bull) came out of the office, shot me a glare and did the finger hooking gesture you use to beckon a dog to come to you.
I was slightly taken aback by the rude gesture, but realised I probably should have gone in after his phone call ended, so maybe he was upset that I just walked in. Alright, no issues, I walked in and quickly opened with “Hi, I signed up for a free trial, do I activate it with you?”
Mr Bull shot me another quick glance and probably realised his earlier assessment of ‘unwanted intruder’ was inaccurate, and his face changed slightly and he beckoned me to sit down to ‘discuss’.
I was a little confused as to what he wanted to discuss. I figured he was going to try to sell me the membership, though advertised as a free trial with ‘no obligations’. That's fine, it's part of his job as sales.
[All quotes here are reproduced ad verbatim to the best of my memory]
Mr Bull: “Mate, I just got an email this morning, there is no more 3 day pass, the trials are all one day now.”
(his constant usage of ‘mate’ was what led to my deduction that he’s Australian)
“Oh… ok sure”. That’s a bummer, I had planned to come on Monday and Wed. Why would they still email me just the previous day that I could go for a 3-day trial? Let's just give him the benefit of a doubt that this is not a bait and switch but company policy literally changed on that morning.
(Edit: their website now puts 1 day, as in my screenshot above, so I guess the policy really just changed)
Ok fine, I can try out the place for a day then.
Mr Bull: “So how this works is, you have to put down a deposit of $68… – “
My ability to pay attention to the remainder of his sentence was impaired by this sudden requirement. What? I have to pay $68? I recovered quickly to catch the rest of his explanation, that it was because he would give me one of their purple tracker devices, so the money was a deposit in case I didn’t return that device. This new piece of information is annoying and should have been mentioned upfront in the email, but seems fair. I didn’t have $68 on me, and had to borrow from my friend. Well, unpleasant already, but not too bad, right?
No. He carried on by saying that if I did not return the device, they would assume I want to sign up and I would lapse into a one-month membership immediately, and I would be charged for that (at something like $148/month I can’t remember).
[Try out our gym, and we will automatically sign you up even if you don’t want to! Yay!]
Woah woah woah hold it. I am just here to try out the facilities, to see if it’s a nice place to workout, to see if it’s convenient to come here everyday after work or before work. I don’t want to sign into a pseudo membership immediately with a stupid bait and switch sales tactic! What happened to the ‘no obligations’?!
I tried to clarify the details – so I would pay the deposit, and if I returned the device after my workout, I would get my deposit back? He responded by giving me an accusing, long hard stare, for a good 10 seconds. I’m not sure what he was trying to do here, intimidate me or size me up or something, but I just kept his gaze, and gave a questioning shrug. What? After 10 awkward seconds, he finally spoke.
Mr Bull: “These trial passes, they are limited mate. I can’t just be giving them up to everyone. If I give you one, I am depriving someone else of their slot you know that mate? Are you serious about signing up or not? If you sign up now, we are having a sales promotion, we can waive the administration fee.”
This made me pissed because firstly, why do I need to be ‘serious about signing up’ when I am just TRYING out the damn place? Secondly, why are the trial passes even limited? That made no sense to me. If there was a capacity issue, I’d understand, but the place was pretty empty – I think there were less than 10 people in the whole gym at that point of time. Thirdly, this whole bait and switch tactic just felt quite unethical so I was annoyed.
I tried to respond calmly and sensibly, explaining that yes, I was interested in eventually signing up, but I couldn’t decide then, as my work had not started. I also wanted to try out FitnessFirst (I didn’t tell him this) and compare the two, as there is a FF very near my workplace.
This was followed by another intense 10 second staring contest. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as Mr FingerBeckoner continued his creepy silent gaze. Why is he so weird? He finally spoke after he won the staring contest (I glanced out to see if there was anyone paying attention to this strange interaction and also to see where my friend was).
Mr Bull: “Look mate, if you aren’t going to sign up, I’m not going to give you the trial pass mate. You can train with your mate, but I will charge you the walk-in rate of $34. Oh wait, since you are here with him, I’ll give you 50% off the walk-in rate.”
So now I was being rejected for a “NO OBLIGATIONS FREE TRIAL” because I apparently need to be very obligated to get the trial. And I’m not familiar with commercial rates, but only knowing Energyone’s walk-in rate of $5.30/$10.70, $34 sounded exorbitant.
I tried to persuade him to just let me have the trial, but this was met with further accusing dirty looks, and he seemed to have made the assessment that I wasn’t a worthy ‘trial-er’, and continued:
Mr Bull: “No mate, you just want to work out for free. These passes are for those who are seriousmate. There is a limited number. I’m not going to give you one. You can pay the walk-in rate, at 50%. If you do sign up in the next 2 weeks, I can factor in the $17.”
I was getting very annoyed with his condescending tone and the false promise of a ‘no obligations free trial’. If I wasn’t working out with my friend, I would have just walked out then I think. But because I didn’t want to abandon my friend, I decided to succumb to Mr Bull’s pushy and annoying demands, and just pay the $17.
Is this standard industry practice for gyms – to offer a ‘free’ trial to get people to come down, then make them sign up for stuff and refuse them a trial when they have already came down if they are assessed as ‘not serious’? Just wanted to know if I was treated unfairly or if this was standard practice. Whatever it is, Mr Bull just came across as obnoxious and condescending the whole time. It was a terrible customer experience.
Did you have a bad experience at anytimefitness nex too? Let me know in the comments below!
UPDATE (10 Jun) : I posted on the anytimefitness nex Facebook page, but it just got deleted within 24h and I am blocked. Guess they want to silence this…