Club Insider

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Bad Health Club Signs

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Mike ManningMike Manning

Recently, this sign (See Photo on This Page) caught my eye at a club and struck me as a combination of arrogant, paternalistic and lazy. Signing up and retaining members is the lifeblood of the business. Why would an operator be so cavalier about potentially running off members? Business must be very good indeed. Below are examples of how I imagine the club responding to member questions about this change.

Member: What if I don't have a mobile phone?
Club: You simply lose your membership.

Member: What happens if I still have a flip phone and cannot get the app?
Club: You simply lose your membership.

A Bad Health Club SignA Bad Health Club Sign

Member: What happens if my battery is dead?
Club: You simply lose your membership... until you can recharge.

Member: What happens if my phone breaks?
Club: You simply lose your membership... until you get a new phone.

Member: Why can't I check in with my phone number?
Club: The two or three people we usually have at the front desk are too busy to deal with the likes of you members.

Member: Why can't I use a key tag?
Club: Those things cost us 50 cents each. Come on, man.

As a practical matter, I dislike bringing my phone into the gym. I'm afraid I'll break it if it is in my pocket, and taking it in the sauna quickly drains the battery. For 35 years, I managed to walk into a club with nothing but my car keys and a towel. Checking in with my phone forces me to bring a bag and a lock for a locker, which is a hassle, but I can do it. If there is a comparable club within a mile that lets me use a key tag to check in instead of my phone, I'm choosing the other club over a club that makes me check in with my phone.

Whatever you think of the new technology, there was probably a better way to get the message across than the wording used in the sign above. My mental response to that sign was two words, the first word starting with "F" and the second word ending with "U." Even if the change only impacts ten members who use the club, the sign basically invites them to go work out elsewhere. This isn't the worst sign I've seen in a club, but it's bottom 25th percentile, and how we say things matters as much as what we say.

My suggested rewording of the sign above is, "We continually try to become more efficient, which allows us to keep prices reasonable while having nice things in the club. Beginning April 19, it would really help us if all members can check in to the club using our app on your phones. Nothing is more important to us than our members having a good experience in our club. If you cannot use our phone app, please ask one of our employees at the front desk about alternatives."

As the club owner, I'd keep a small inventory of key tags and offer to sell them to members who won't use the phone app for $5 up front or for $1 per month added to their dues. As a member, I'd happily pay the $5 for the key tag to avoid the hassle of having to bring my phone plus a bag and lock into the club. However, I do not recommend getting greedy and trying to charge me $5 up front and $1 per month for the key tag as that would get you back into the two-word response territory mentioned above. Take the easy win, make some extra money and keep the members happy.

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I would love to see the worst health club signs you have seen! Feel free to email me at

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