Dear Editor,

The article about ephedra (“Ephedra Ban Could Cut Into Club Profits,” January 2004) hit me the wrong way from the title of the article to the last paragraph. I felt that your magazine, club owners and others are angry about the ban and the impact on profits. Is this all we think about: profit and how much money we can put in our pockets? Whatever happened to caring for the customer? The tone of the article should not have been about profits but about a concern for our members. I think a more appropriate title should have been “Ephedra: Off the Shelves Finally!” or “Ephedra: Banned to Save Lives!”

It is also irresponsible for clubs to continue to sell ephedra even if it is not banned yet. Take the loss and put your members first. Why do clubs have to go out and find the next “Ephedra?” When will this stop? Recently, we've had PhenFen and now Ephedra. Why can't clubs preach dedication and hard work to members? Because you can't put those in a pill and sell them. It is time for us to step up, put members in front of profit, and take a stand. Get this garbage off the shelves and concentrate on what is safe, proven and effective: exercise and a balanced diet.
Thank you,
Jay M. Dennis
Owner & Certified Instructor
Liberty Fitness Center
Fairfield, OH

Dear Jay,

While we agree that the best way to a truly healthy and fit life is through proper diet and exercise, it is also true that many health clubs sell supplements that purport to help members attain these results. The effectiveness of these supplements (or legitimacy of their use) was not the purpose of the article we ran. Instead, the article's purpose was to note the effect that this ban will have on health clubs and the opinions of health club owners about the ban.

Of the four club personnel that we spoke to, two expressed frustration with the ban while the other two expressed support for the ban. We felt it was important to include comments from both sides since from the comments we received, we saw that the industry was divided about the safety and effectiveness of ephedra. Either way, clubs that sold ephedra-containing supplements will feel the ban financially until those clubs find something that replaces ephedra — whether they should or shouldn't replace ephedra is, in our opinion, a topic better dealt with in an editorial rather than in a news article.

Dear Editor,

I read your First Word column every issue. I am a fitness professional (personal trainer, group fitness instructor and gym manager) in Largo, FL.

I was intrigued by your commentary in the February 2004 issue. I understand that your magazine suggests all the typical corporate ideas of ‘making the sale.’ And I can understand your concern with not being asked what you were looking for in a gym by the sales people you encountered. But as a long-time employee of smaller, family-owned fitness centers, I pride myself on the “no pressure,” “no sales pitch” approach to gym memberships.

I have never tried to “close” a sale. I always try to build a rapport with a potential member, get them talking a little bit about what it is they're looking for, give them a tour, give them prices, newsletters, group fitness schedules, etc., and ask them if they would like to join.

If they are undecided, I simply let them know that I hope to see them again soon. Nine times out of 10, I do. And, later down the road, once I have gotten to know them better, I often hear that the reason they came back to our gym was because there was no pressure. I personally don't feel special when I'm sales-pitched. I get aggravated. I feel like just a number. If the gyms in your area are shifting away from the high-pressure tactics of selling gym memberships, then I commend them, and I hope it is a trend that spreads to the rest of the United States.
Enjoy your workouts,
Gemma R. Hughes
Millennium Fitness
Largo, FL

Dear Gemma,

I agree that both the sales pitch and high-pressure sales approach are often distasteful to prospects. My frustration came more from the lack of attention to me as an individual rather than not being “pitched.”

And while I agree that the no-pressure way of selling is more appealing, not given the opportunity to join did neither the gyms nor me any good.

In reading your letter, you went a step further than any of the people I met with when you asked them if they wanted to join, which is a great “no pressure” attempt to close the sale.

I commend you on using your own style while still trying to facilitate the sale and the potential member's road to success.
Thanks for the feedback!