Based on the number of people I know with expensive gym memberships, I should be surrounded by six packs.
But the truth is that most of my friends who work in offices have been steadily gaining weight over the years, all while holding on for dear life to their gym memberships. There are some who can go as long as an entire year without visiting the gym.
Now, there’s nothing wrong at all with being a couch potato—but if you’re going to be one, at least don’t continue paying some gym $1,000 a year.
So the next time you walk past a gym and the salespeople smell fresh blood and come running, here are six sales tactics to beware of.
Making you go for their body analysis
Gym staff often make visitors go for a body analysis before they unleash their sales pitch. They’ll not only take your height and weight but tell you your body fat content (ouch), identify the parts of your body that don’t have enough muscle, and so on.
This is an exercise that’s designed to make you realise that that body you thought was perfectly healthy is actually 40% fat. They even set targets for you—they’ll tell you you need to lose 10kg of fat or pack on 20kg of muscle.
By the end of this very demoralising exercise, you feel like nobody will ever love you again unless you get in shape.
Claiming they’ll offer you a special price, but only for today
It’s your “lucky day” every day when you visit a gym for the first time. The salesperson will tell you that although the usual price is $x,xxx a year, he can offer you a very special price… but only today! Wow, aren’t you glad you came today? When pressed, he’ll tell you that he might be able to extend this discount to tomorrow, but no later.
Don’t get all kancheong and sign up on the spot, because this is what they tell every single customer who walks into the gym. If you come back tomorrow in a different shirt you can bet the salesperson will extend you the very same “exclusive” offer.
Luring you with the promise of being able to use all the gyms in their network
Gyms with multiple chains usually let members access all the gyms in their network. This makes you feel like you’re not subscribing to one single gym, but many. You’ll get to work out no matter where you are!
But the truth is, most people stick with one outlet—either the one closest to their workplace, or the one closest to their home. You only have one body. There is no point in joining a gym that gives you access to 5,000 outlets if you only work out at one.
Giving you a free trial to guilt you into signing up
Gyms often hand out free passes to curious newbies, or to friends of existing members. These passes can give you anywhere from 24 hours to a week’s access.
Ostensibly, the free trial is for you to experience using this gym and help you to make an informed decision as to whether you wish to buy a subscription.
But it also gives their salespeople ample opportunities to hound you to sign up for the gym. The longer the free trial is, the more they can guilt trip you into signing up.
Pushing you to sign up for long pre-paid packages
If you’ve ever fallen victim to a salesman at one of the big gym chains, you’ll realise that their pricing structure is such that you’re encouraged to sign up for as long a package as possible.
First of all, many of the big chains charge one-time joining and/or admin fees (hint: this can be waived if you beg hard enough) to discourage you from quitting too soon or jumping ship to another chain, since you’ve already made such a big investment.
Many chains will then try to get you to sign up for 12-month or two-year packages, which will cost less per month but also means you can’t terminate your membership for a long time afterwards. I know people who’ve signed up for lifetime packages even though it’s pretty unlikely they’re going to outlive the gym, given the competitive business environment and California Fitness and Vivafit’s sudden disappearance.
Gym salespeople are probably the only ones who are pushier than aunties trying to squeeze onto the MRT.
Try walking into a random gym and asking how much a membership there costs, and instead of giving you a straight answer, the salesperson will put you through an elaborate dance that involves filling out multiple forms, taking a tour of the gym and discussing your fitness needs.
It’s only after this very lengthy procedure, that can take more than half an hour, that the salesperson will finally start talking about pricing—and of course, you’ll be offered their discount that’s valid only for that day. This entire rigmarole is designed to pressure you into feeling that you’ve invested so much time in the gym that you are too embarrassed to say no.
Is there a cheaper way?
There are ActiveSG gyms all over Singapore, and these cost only $2.50 per visit for citizens and PRs, and $3.30 for everyone else. You could work out five times a week and still end up paying less than you would at, say, Fitness First. In addition, if you decide to go on vacation or you fall sick and are forced to take a break, you don’t have to pay for that time off. Here’s the full list of ActiveSG gyms.
Of course, if you live in a condo with gym facilities, you already have a free gym right at home, and it doesn’t really make sense to pay for an additional membership.
Are you a member of a gym in Singapore? Share your experiences in the comments!