Certain questions should not be asked of people at the gym. For example, “Is that all you can bench press?” or “Do these spandex shorts make me look fat?” These are impertinent and potentially embarrassing questions.
Gym folk will be familiar with the scenario. You learn the price for a one-year membership. “That’s $550 for one year, everything included.”
Then the zinger: “And with the joining/signing/administration/initiation fee, the total comes to $675.”
Scott Testa, college marketing professor, has three words to say about fees: “Just tell me.” He would rather be told, “If you can’t afford it, I understand completely. This may not be the club for you.”
Initiation fees have been around for decades.
“They go way, way back,” said Concordia University marketing professor Harold Simpkins. “The idea was you collect money and put it into capital funds for upgrades. Fees also act as a filter, and make it more difficult for members to leave.”
Many Montreal clubs have undergone major, impressive renovations, notably the downtown YMCA, MAA, Atwater Club and Le Sanctuaire. So why not call it what it is? Why not be frank with the consumer?
“People have the right to make money,” Testa said. “On the other hand, consumers need to protect themselves and get the best deal they can.”
But charging to open a file?
“What’s that cost? A nickel? At the end of the day, initiation fees are almost pure profit,” Testa said. “From a consumer’s standpoint, I don’t like paying them, but we are in tough economic times, and people don’t see gyms as something they need. The vast majority of users will drop out, and clubs count on that. So why not get the money up front? My position is ‘If you prove yourself from month to month, then I’ll come back to your gym.’ ”
Testa suggests a face-to-face meeting if you want to try for lower fees: “That way you can read body language. And, remember, you get what you negotiate.”