A New Year’s resolution: Caveat emptor
November 30, 2006
Christine Williams has a new New Year’s resolution: Be more careful about large investments.
It was spurred by her decision to exercise daily and involve her children in physical fitness. After complaining to the Better Business Bureau and paying a $100 fee to cancel her Gold’s Gym membership, the 48-year-old Carson City mother feels deceived.
“I’ve worked customer service for years, and at the places I’ve worked they’ve bent over backward when people aren’t happy. I couldn’t even talk to the general manager or regional manager when I had all these questions.”
Williams purchased memberships for herself and her two children in August at the Reno gym. She was working in Reno at the time and was told by the salesman that a new gym would soon be opening near Carson City.
The salesman told her it would be a few months. He was a little off. The Gold’s Gym will open at the Topsy Lane shopping center on Feb. 1. Williams paid about $250 to start the membership five months ago. She stopped going to the Reno gym in October because her employer transferred her back to Carson. Williams has paid $400 total in fees, $80 a month.
She’s seen the new Douglas County gym, which is about half the size of the 33,000-square-foot Reno gym, and is disappointed by its size. Williams said she was rebuffed whenever she tried to reach a manager.
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A regional manager who contacted me said the new gym fits the market and is equal in size to other area gyms, plus it has the new state-of-the-art equipment that some others don’t have.
Complaints about gyms seem to be fairly common. The Better Business Bureau processed 22 complaints about Gold’s Gym in Reno in the last 36 months. Twenty of those complaints were reported resolved. World Gym has received nine complaints in 36 months. Four were closed. Williams resolved hers by paying the penalty for getting out of a year’s contract.
Alexis Covarrubias, general manager of the local Gold’s Gym, which is over the border in Douglas County, said he doesn’t like leaving customers unhappy. But then again, Covarrubias said, she probably didn’t ask the size of the new gym, or when exactly it would open.
Is that truly informing the customer? Covarrubias said he doesn’t tolerate sales people lying to customers, but he isn’t sure that happened in this case.
“Our goal is to sign people up and change their life and make money,” he says. “As sales people, we talk to so many people, and not only do we have a quota to meet, but we also have to change people’s lives. If we don’t get a hold of people, they never reach their goal. So we do lean on people a little bit. I’ve seen people go over the top. But I’m not that way.”
This story is a good reminder to sales people and consumers.
Gym memberships are long-term commitments. Don’t do it on impulse. According to one of my favorite financial gurus, Dave Ramsey, any purchase over $200-$300 (depending on your salary) should be carefully researched. He recommends waiting overnight before buying.
As a consumer makes one of these $200 purchasing decisions, the heart rate increases, the pupils dilate, the body release adrenaline, proteins, hormones and enzymes, Ramsey says. This is called a “buyer’s rush,” or “the fever.” Sales people know about it. Consumers need to be aware of it, or you will be a victim of buyer’s remorse.
Sales people: If you do something to mislead a consumer, they’ll never come back again. And maybe it won’t be just at your business, but your profession.
Instead of taking out another gym membership, Williams said she is going to work out on her own.
If you get more than a few complaints, perhaps something is actually wrong and a sales person needs to be called to the carpet. Carson City isn’t that big. Word gets around, and sometimes even to my desk.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.