How the Gym has Failed

(My intension to this article is meant to complain to whole industry practice, and not meant to call out any particular franchise, so I will withhold its name and site. Also, any names shown on this articles are pseudonyms.)

The story begun when I received a little voucher by the mail — free gym membership through November. That sounds good, I probably can use some more exercise. But long story short, I ended up wasting 2 hours.

It turns out that the “voucher” was intended for other set of locations of the same franchise, and I wasn’t eligible. Fair enough — I don’t know why it was delivered to me, but that’s fine, just turn me down. However, things turned a bit different.

About the time someone at the counter was to decline the voucher (like she’s supposed to do) and I was about to leave, John, the sales rep, probably a trainer, too, approached to me and introduced himself, trying to be accommodating. So I started sit down and chat with him. Along with the topics like, what’s the most important aspect of gym membership, as then he gave me tour of the facility.

The facility was great, and after the tour, we sat again after taking weight, height. At this point, I was not necessary interested signing up for the paid membership — after all, all I was after was the voucher. Instead, he tried to make me sign up for commitment. For the fairness, they were not necessary attempting to sign me up for long commitment, but commitment is commitment, long or short.

They use fear in attempt persuade you — fear that you will be unhealthy if not signed up. Then they bring out urgency. “If you don’t sign up now, you’ll be ending up paying $100 more for sign up.” and when that doesn’t work, they starts introducing bundling, such as “you’ll get this and that if you sign up for it without additional cost.” Another thing I found common to sales in this industry is that they also use confrontation to prevent people from “thinking about it.” They claim that it is excuse of getting away from your habit. The person would say something like “You won’t be coming back if you leave now.”

Closer to the end of the conversation, perhaps knowing that the his sales pitches are going nowhere with me, John started “politely insulting” me gradually shifting to real insult, then I get pissed off, and that was over. Not only his greed didn’t pay out, he had to spend 2 hours for nothing. He perhaps also lost an outlet for opportunity of monthly membership, should I have decided to join.

John may have his own story to it, but to the myself as a customer, it is nothing more than confrontation by pressure. Bottom line is, I’m not coming back. I may consider gym membership elsewhere, but not there. The problem is that there are probably many people out there who falls for it with that “tactic,” and that’s probably exactly why he attempts this — I actually dealt with same class of people elsewhere, and their tactics were largely same.

From my experience, and observations, here are some of my personal tips to people who are thinking about joining a gym:

  1. Know that the person is trying to sell you something. When they say something like “I care about you” read “I care about you, because I have to pay my bill.” Remember, they advise you just because they are paid to persuade into joining. After all, they are sales representative and not your best friend.
  2. They may present you with information such as “your true age” — take that with grain of salt. Yes they might be presenting with you with decent ballpark figure, but they use this tool to drive your decision. It was also interesting to note how John’s attitude has changed from objective remarks (“You would look older than you really are in this figure.”) to more subjective word (“That figure is just scary!”) before and after my hesitation to commit and sign up.
  3. Apparently, hearing experiences from others, even at same place, some people get “targeted” more than others. It sounds like if you look unhealthy, more likely you will be targeted. (after all, they don’t want waste time selling sands to desert dwellers.)
  4. Assume you are under their control at the moment you step in. Don’t be afraid to walk out if you don’t like it, they can’t prevent you from doing it. (and I should have done that before wasting 2 hours there myself.)
  5. If you are dealing with someone preventing you from “taking it home” to consider, or rushing you for signing up, be very cautious.
  6. If you encounter questionable practice of how they try to sell you their membership or any products, contact your state’s attorney general with details.
  7. (I’d be very surprised if you would come anywhere close to this at any legitimate businesses but…) if they are confronting you to the point you feel you are not safe, call 911. Especially if they are preventing you to leave.

Also to service providers:

  1. Just say yes or no to whatever I ask for. If you can’t offer exactly what I’m asking for, decline. (In this case, you even had a legitimate reason to decline, and you didn’t and you ended wasting 2 hours with me.) You don’t need to introduce me to X if I’m asking for Y.
  2. When I say I need to think about it, I need to think about it. I don’t care it’s $2 a day or $100 a day, when I say I need to think about it, I meant it. And it is none of your business if I don’t return. And don’t you ever call that “excuse to get away,” as I don’t even need to convince you to walk away from it, and I’m entitled to make any decisions anyway I want, and that’s not your job to decide for me. It’s my money and not yours. (And don’t even say that you care about me, because that’s totally wrong. If you really meant by that, why don’t you pay for me?)
  3. Know not everyone’s goal orientated. When you ask me, what the purpose of the membership, that doesn’t mean I’m setting it as short term goal. Your “ideal” concept of exercise doesn’t always mean I’m up for it. If I’m coming in to the gym for certain goals, I will ask you about it.
  4. Know you can’t always sell things upfront. That’s why those trial vouchers are there for. You have plenty of opportunity to up-sell, but you just destroyed that opportunity by force feeding me with your ideals.
  5. More pushier you are, more likely you are failing. See: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/sell_generation
  6. And…never, ever, insult or piss off your potential customer. This will not only damage your reputation to one person, but the word spreads. I’d tell my worst enemy to don’t bother going to you.

I guess just like everything else, there’s no such thing as free lunch, or free trial membership to the gym.

Fun with WINMAIL.DAT (not)

Someone told me of this problem when certain people reply to him, he does not see reply, but rather his own copy of the E-mail. (appears if the E-mail was resent back at him, but with recipient’s E-mail address.)

Investigating problem, I concluded this is bad implementation of Microsoft Outlook and also non-standard behavior of recipient’s E-mail system.

So here’s what happened. When he sent out his E-mail, it sends out winmail.dat, and that particular recipient was sending back original attachment, in this case winmail.dat back at sender when that person replies.

Winmail.dat, for those not familiar with it, is Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format which sounds like some sort of standard, but really is proprietary format used by Microsoft Outlook. When you send E-mail containing any RTF, the text of E-mail and its attachments are encoded into this format, and attached as winmail.dat.

It seems to be Microsoft Outlook reads winmail.dat higher priority than anything on the body of a E-mail, even when contents of these differs. Therefore, receiving original winmail.dat with reply caused Microsoft Outlook to display contents of winmail.dat (the original message) rather than contents of the body. (the reply)

Now, while I don’t think sending attachment with reply is a good thing, this same problem can potentially happen if someone forward E-mail with attachment, so I think Microsoft should be blamed on this case. In fact, this kind of problem is main reason I never use Microsoft Outlook. I had to use it at my work while ago, but I’d be trying to find some work around to not use it if I was forced to use one in future… Really, I never understood reason why they have to send E-mail in RTF at first hand, while there’s clear alternative of HTML for formatted E-mail. (Microsoft Outlook does support HTML E-mail, so why not dropping RTF?) Furthermore, encoding attachment into a proprietary format should be serious crime, really.

Searching for solution, I found out that KB958012 is a solution to this problem. This article explains the way to edit registry to disable Microsoft Outlook’s behavior of attaching winmail.dat. So here’s a question I want ask Microsoft. Why did you not include this option in options screen on the program, rather than forcing users search through your knowledge base to offer registry fix? Also, you should never ever allow winmail.dat on the internet E-mail. (I don’t want receive them either) What you’d be doing between users in your Exchange server is fair game; but at least use of winmail.dat should be whitelist basis.

A Major Defect of the Android Platform

I haven’t bad mouthed too much of the Android platform, because I think I had some expectation that they are probably working on this to fix the problem. It has been some update release and they still haven’t figured out probably the most critical defect of the platform, so I will dump it out here now.

It’s the fact that on memory is constantly full that it causes all kind of nasty problems. Yes, I’m talking about storage space. If you have paying attention to my status, you know I have 8GB of memory. That won’t help me at all. It’s because software can only be installed on the device memory, and not to SD card. Yes you heard it right, even if you have many gigs on your SD, it doesn’t help. You have to rely on your on board storage space of, oh, 128MB or so.

Even if you have software library of 10000s on the market place, well there’s no point of it, because you can’t possibly get more than, perhaps 10 of those apps. Oh, forget about games, they take up too much space. Yeah, so if the big sales point of this device is extensibility by software, that’s big disappointment, because your device simply won’t let you do that.

I heard their side of story on this. It’s because of protected storage for paid apps. They basically have area in internal memory which has “do not let other applications copy this region.” In other word, they are putting this limitation, because if they’d allow installation of apps to SD rather than onboard memory, users will be able to copy softwares otherwise not accessible if they were saved in the protected storage. Hey Google, if that the only way you can implement DRM, I think it’s your time to start firing some of your engineers. You should have smarter people than that.

This not only causes inconvenience, but affects usability, too. Because, when this happens, it stops receiving E-mail, too. (Probably because E-mails are stored in the internal memory, too.) So newest E-mail in my mailbox is now two days old.

For those considering any Android phones, just because of the severity of the problem, at this point, I would recommend to wait until they fix this problem, if ever. I really like the platform and I want them to succeed, but I just had to make some rant on it, as the design is simply retarded.