So I joined Planet Fitness after getting away from my work out routine. After my old gym closed down, I got complacent and stopped working out for awhile. Recently I decided to get back in shape. Over the years I have been a member at several different gyms of all varieties. I have had a good experience at each of these gyms and have never experienced any serious problem with fellow members or employees. When I do go to the gym I attend regularly and focus on what I am doing. While I have remained in decent shape throughout the years, I have never been what anyone would consider a 'bodybuilder', 'meathead', or 'muscle head'. Since High School (16 years ago) I played sports and participated in activities that get me outside and moving around. I have worked out regularly enough to stay in decent shape for my age and body type. By now you may wonder what this has to do with my report on Planet Fitness, so let me explain a few things about this gym franchise.
Planet Fitness touts it's self as the “Judgment Fee Zone", which means that they supposedly welcome all members who can act in a civilized and social manner while inside their facilities. They have a few rules which they impose to help support their so called “Judgment Free" status. Among these are no grunting, and no dropping weights. These rules are established to keep out folks who Planet Fitness calls “Lunks", basically people who judge others, or act inappropriately. Or people who, as I unfortunately came to discover, might actually apply some vigor to their work-out
I was aware of these policies when I joined the gym. Prior to joining the gym near my house, I had even worked-out in a nearby franchise with my wife who is also a member. I knew that the gym had rules. For instance, I knew the gym had an alarm that sounds when the staff feels that there is a “Lunk" about, or someone has broken one of their rules. I also knew that the gym has a limited amount of “bodybuilding" equipment. I joined in spite of some initial reservation for the following reasons: I needed a new place to work-out; the location I joined was brand new outfitted with new equipment and is within walking distance of my house. I was excited that this last aspect would not only lower my weight but my carbon footprint as well.
I joined the Pottstown, PA location on 10/16/2008 and began working out on 10/20/2008. I made five visits from 10/20 until 10/27. I made the following observations. Most of the members were women obviously new to the gym and fitness routine. I saw women, teenagers and a few less men struggling to figure out some of the machines. I never observed any of the staff noticing this, or taking the time to do anything about it. The majority of the people I saw jumped around from machine to machine apparently without purpose. I did not observe anyone who could be considered a bodybuilder, although I did see a handful of men, women and teenagers who appeared to be in good physical shape. I observed at least two men in muscle shirts and one teenager wearing both a muscle shirt and boots. These items are supposedly banned from the work-out area. The gym was relatively quiet save for the overly loud house music and occasional loud conversation and joking around. Most of the “horseplay" and joking about was emanating from the cardio area or circuit training area. Prior to my last day, the most obnoxious experience besides the staff was the occasional wailing of the “Lunk" alarm. The alarm came on quickly, accompanied by a rotating light, which on both occasions took me by surprise. I was glad that I was not in the middle of something when this occurred. The alarm sounded on two separate occasions after someone returned a stack of weights on a machine. While this noise was loud, it was not any different from what I have heard in other gyms. In fact, on both occasions it appeared that someone had just let the stack down and the weights had come together more hard than normal. I have seen people drop a stack of weights much harder and for various, sometimes legitimate reasons.
On the last day that I worked out I began my routine as normal. As a matter of habit I tend to keep my jaw clenched while I work-out. I find that this keeps me from straining my neck muscles and focuses my attention on what I am doing. As a result of this my breath is forced out past my teeth. The sound is not a grunt, but more like a slow and steady hiss as I move the weight. In the middle of my last set on the chest press machine, an employee approached and began talking to me. At first I could not hear what he was saying because I was focused on my lift and did not want to move my attention from the weight over my head. I also did not want to drop the weight, which would have been an infraction of the rules. I put the weight down, and asked this man to repeat himself. I was not rude; but direct, asking “what did you say?". He told me that I was making too much noise, “we don't allow that here". He went on to say that my breathing might intimidate other people. A quick glance around the area showed that most people were working on cardio equipment while listening to headsets and/or watching the World Series. I told this man that I was not a “meathead". I asked him for my own clarity, “Was I that loud?" “How far away did you hear me?" He replied that he heard me from some distance away. I told him “okay brother" and went back to what I was doing, which was concentrating on my work-out. I am going to note here that this employee and I are both black. This guy was polite, albeit somewhat awkward on his approach, and I wanted to let him know with a word that I was not going to give him a hard time. “Brother" seemed like an appropriate salutation. My new “friend" then walked away.
A short time later I moved to another area of the gym and began to lift some dumbbells. After my first set, the “Lunk" alarm went off after a stack of weight was lowered a bit loud on the other side of the gym. The guy next to me began joking with me saying that he and I better be careful or we are next. I told him that I was already spoken too, because I was breathing too hard. As I was talking to him I began to reach for one of my weights. I was not looking down and caught it awkwardly in my hand. The weight slipped down and struck the floor.
Almost instantly a female employee stormed over and began yelling at the guy I had been talking with. It was immediately apparent that she was looking for a confrontation. Her attack was similar to a pit-bull. She clamped on and refused to let go. She was yelling at this guy about how dropping weights is not allowed. As she was ranting, I told her that I was the one who dropped the weight. She yelled at me, then tuned back to the other man who she again told that dropping weights was not allowed. I told her that I dropped the weight by mistake; she replied that it was my second warning and if I did anything else she was going to cancel my membership. She then went on to say that she was going to make a note on my membership paperwork. I asked her to make a note that I wished to be contacted by a manager. She became incredulous and asked me why. I told her that if she was going to do something to affect my membership, I wanted to talk to someone about it. She told me that she didn't have to do anything, and repeated that this was my second warning. I then told her “maybe I just want to speak with a manager". She then said" You should come to the front desk and cancel your membership". I accompanied her to the front desk where she started to fill out a cancellation form. I insisted that she make a note on the form that I wanted to speak with a manager. She told me no, she was the supervisor (later learned to be a lie) and she was not obligated to do anything. The only thing she did do was continue to write all kinds of trumped up statements on the cancellation form. I refused to sign the paperwork. I told her she was being rude and argumentative for absolutely no reason. She then insinuated that I had been judgmental and racist in calling the other employee “brother". Just to reiterate, I'm black too. This guy was present during the whole exchange, he did nothing to help calm her down, or alleviate the situation. In fact, he looked quite frightened! In the end she told me to leave and she was going to cancel my membership with or without the paperwork. She refused to provide me with paper and pen, so I could write her name down. She told me, you're canceled and there is nothing you can do about it.
Then next morning I went to Planet Fitness to try and speak with a manager. The manager reluctantly listened to my story, in response; he told me that there is nothing he can do. He went on to say that the whole matter had been transferred to the General Manager. At my request he did make an attempt to locate the cancellation form I refused to sign. He could not locate it in my paperwork. The “manager" told me that the “GM" would call me at home sometime during the afternoon. The morning and afternoon came and went; I got no call from the “GM".
In the evening I returned to Planet Fitness where I finally made contact with the “GM", after insisting to speak with him. The first “manager" made a miserable attempt to run interference. The “GM" said he was aware that he had a problem employee, and assured me he was going to address the issue. He then notified me that Planet Fitness gives their employees a great deal of discretion in canceling a membership. He went on to say that despite the facts that he found my story to be credible, and the employee was a problem, he was not going to re-instate my membership. He attempted to say that I had broken their 3 strike policy, which is not explained in any paperwork or posted information. I reminded him that I made two mistakes, not three. He quickly dropped the 3 strike argument. He agreed to give back a prorated monthly fee, which totaled $6.33. He refused to return my start-up fee of $49.00. He then refused to provide me with any information on who his supervisor was, or how I could contact the corporate office, since his gym was “corporately owned".
While I was speaking to the GM at the front desk, I noticed a man on a treadmill about 15 feet from where we were standing. This man was clearly having trouble, at one point he almost fell off the machine. Three or four employees and the “GM" commented on this, but did nothing to assist the man. They were quickly and expertly able to JUDGE that this customer was not worthy of assistance.
I will not recommend Planet Fitness to anyone. Their policies are capriciously enacted and enforced. They have the most horrendous concept of customer service I have ever experienced. The business practices of Planet Fitness boarder on fraudulent. The most interesting thing about this company is that while they demand members to be “judgment free" they allow employees to pass judgment on a whim. As I learned the hard way, judgment is not free at Planet Fitness. If you are serious about getting fit or staying fit, PLEASE, spend the extra money and go elsewhere.