Dear Editor,

I read the “First Word” column in the January Fitness Business Pro [“Resolve to Be a Good Boy”] with keen interest. I'm trying to run a club in a market where people have been given precious little reason to trust any gym.

The column's key example of “bad boy” behavior is dirty towels in a discount club locker room. This sort of focus ignores the big white elephant that threatens to crush us.

Quite simply, health clubs, and their collection service partners, are too often outright stealing money from would-be clients. This cuts to the fundamental core of the business relationship much more directly than any annoyance about hot tub temperatures. Selling term contracts is already hard. Seeing promising young chains facing class action lawsuits shows just how little trust may be left in the market. Even no-commitment, no-enrollment EFT sales will only get harder unless the industry tightens up on itself.

Waiting for government intervention is not an option. Regulators in some places have already begun taking away some business tools. Powerful ways to build a relationship with a customer, such as long terms, are the first to go. But, this only is a burden to legitimate club owners — enforcement resources will only go so far when there are paycheck loan and e-z credit rent-to-own companies to watch at the same time. Think about that for a moment — gym owners have already been classed with barely-legal loan sharks. It is vital that this industry take steps to police itself.
Shawn Mahaney
Metal Shop Gym
Greenville, SC

SPEAKING OUT

Are you a fitness professional with something on your mind? We'd love to hear from you. If you'd like to share your thoughts about an article published in Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro, e-mail Editor Pamela Kufahl at pkufahl@prismb2b.com. Don't forget to include your club's name and location as well as the title of the article you are writing about. We may select your letter to appear in an upcoming Talk Back department. We hope to hear from you!