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Things That Make Me Go "Hmmm"

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Mike ManningMike Manning

Here is a short list of current things in the fitness industry that make me go "Hmmm:"

  1. 1. I recently saw a HV/LP contract for $10 dues per month plus a $50 annual maintenance fee. Both charges would be drawn from member bank accounts. Annual maintenance/enhancement fees strike me as a bad idea from 15 years ago that has gotten completely out of control, and I say this as someone who added an annual fee to a contract years ago. Members hate the annual fees and often forget about them until they're charged. The original idea was to get roughly an extra month of dues each year, but some of the charges seem to have evolved into several times monthly dues that allow clubs a sneaky way to continue to advertise a lower price than what the club charges members. With many HV/LP members living paycheck to paycheck, is it really a good idea to hit their bank account with annual charges of an amount several times the monthly dues charge and potentially cause an overdraft? As a member, I'd much rather pay an extra $4 or $5 a month in dues and avoid a $50 annual charge, and I'm not living paycheck to paycheck. A club that is transparent about what it charges is more likely to sign me up as a member than a club with an annual fee, especially if that annual fee does not translate into new equipment every year that I can clearly see when I'm working out. Why are health club operators complicating the lives of their members with these silly annual fees? What other industry does this to its customers?
  2. 2. Fortnightly (or biweekly) dues were seen as a clever idea 15 years ago as it lets clubs collect an extra month of dues each year. This was easier for members when most clubs charged dues to member credit cards. It's more of a pain in the butt now that most dues are charged to member bank accounts that can overdraft, and I'm not convinced that the benefit to the club outweighs the pain for your members of having to keep up with it. I'm more likely to join your club if you hit my bank account for dues one time per month. Two or three bank drafts a month is just tedious.
  3. 3. I'm seeing more clubs that open at 4 or 5 AM on weekdays open at 7 AM on Saturday and Sunday, which puzzles me. Members who work out at 5:30 or 6 AM on Wednesday are also likely to want to work out at the same time on Saturday or Sunday. Opening at 7 AM might save an operator a few dollars of payroll, and it might make employee scheduling easier, but it also makes some of your members who otherwise like your club go check out the 24-hour club down the street.
  4. 4. I frequently see clubs that have people working out several times a week who are not being charged dues. Sometimes, these people are ex-employees of the club, and sometimes, they're spouses or ex-spouses of former employees. How is this not caught in the back office or by the system provider? It should be easy to run a query on people who are checking in and not paying and to figure out why people who are not paying and who don't currently work for the operator are using the club.
  5. 5. I'm not sure why the IHRSA (now Health and Fitness Association) Trade Show hasn't been held in Las Vegas since 2013. If it were up to me, the show would be in Las Vegas every other year because it is a relatively easy airport to get flights in and out of at different times of day, and the selection of hotels of varying price and quality is unmatched. In addition to the Las Vegas Convention Center, Mandalay Bay has enough convention space for an IHRSA Show, and there are probably a few other potential venues I don't know about. It also helps that the airport is adjacent to the Strip, minimizing transportation charges. San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Orlando and San Francisco all make sense to host the show maybe once every ten years, but one or two of these venues are worn out for now. Less expensive flights and rooms are on offer in Las Vegas more than for most other cities, and clubs will often bring more employees to Las Vegas because it costs less. Note: Since this article was written, it has been announced that HFA's 2024 Show will be in Las Vegas, March 12 - 14, 2025.

These points are the opinions of Mike Manning and not necessarily agreed to by Club Insider.

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