When Cheaper Isn’t Better

I joined a gym last week.

I’m not much of a “fitness buff.” I ran track in 7th and 8th grade – that is the extent of my childhood sports. No pre-school t-ball, no elementary soccer, no high school cross country. I ran a 7:35 mile my freshman year of high school because gym was graded on effort, including the 5-minute morning run. My 4.0 was not getting wasted on a freaking A- in gym. My thunder thighs, unfortunately, do not provide the same motivation.

I paid to join a gym last week.

In college, I had a “free” membership to CMU’s pretty rocking Student Activity Center (you know, “free” as in the fee was included in my bill) – but I lived far enough away from it that getting there was not my first priority. I graduated, got married, got my first job…working at a college, with a free gym membership. I could go on my lunch and still eat at my desk. It was great! People aren’t just loonier than a toon when they said that exercising gives you more energy – it does. True story.

I paid A LOT to join a gym last week.

So I got a new job, in a new city, and started looking for a gym. I know I do best when someone is pushing me, so my first frugal thought was videos – but I’m on the third floor.  I could do a 24-7 gym – but all they had were machines. (They also weren’t staffed all day, and that triggered way too many horror movie plots for my taste, thanks. I like Freddy on a screen, not in the gym.) The YMCA membership plus classes was over $100 a month! Maybe that’s how they keep the beds cheap. Two places I contacted offered machines and classes – at $80 a month. I pay over $80 a month for: my rent, my car, my cell phone. No wait, my AND David’s cell phone. My cable and internet isn’t even $80 a month. But when I e-mailed and told them they were out of my price range, Mark at East Hills said, “Hey – are you a student by chance?” I start grad school in the winter – so he gave me the student rate of $56 a month starting now, in October.

He could have ignored me and moved on to someone who would pay the $80. But he took 30 seconds to try to bring me back – after all, $56 is better than $0. Maybe you call that customer service, or good policy, or just being nice. But it’s good marketing, too. His follow up was great and he’s made sure I take advantage of all the services the gym has to offer – including two free personal training sessions. I never would have paid $56 on the front end, but stacked up next to $80 with that kind of service? I was sold.

I joined the East Hills gym last week. Was it worth it? The first class I took knocked me flat for a week. Now that I can walk normally again…yes. It’s worth every penny of the $80, so the $56? It’s a bargain.

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