On June 4th, 2008, I wrote a letter to 24 Hour Fitness, USA informing them of the poor condition of their facility at 9911 W. Pico Boulevard. The letter was addressed to Carl Liebert, CEO. The letter was sent via certified mail and faxed to Mr. Liebert at the corporate office in San Ramon, CA and to their customer service department in Carlsbad, CA.
Conditions noted included:
• Broken air conditioning
• 71% of lights were dark over the main gym
• Excessive dust throughout the facility
• Leaky air conditioning unit causing a potential mold/mildew issue in floor and on carpeting
• Holes in the wall
• Food and other trash items on floor for weeks at a time
Maintenance has been poor. Machines are not lubricated or adjusted. Broken equipment often takes many months to repair. It is clear that significant funds have not been invested in the club for many years. The floor is worn, carpeting is falling off the wall, and an old, sweaty gym scent dominates.
Six days after my letter was sent, I received a call from John Newbury, District Manager. Mr. Newbury invited me to inspect the facility with him. We identified 40 action items. I was told I would be given time frames for each item. Mr. Newbury informed me I would be kept in the loop throughout the entire improvement process. He was friendly, eager, and hopeful that he would receive the support needed from upper management.
Prior to my inspection with Mr. Newbury, I received a call from Gina Baxter. Ms. Baxter introduced herself as an employee who works in the customer service department. She informed me that she handles situations that reach a ‘high level’. Ms. Baxter stated she would be working with me throughout the process to ensure quality communication and that my needs are met.
Shortly after our inspection, members of the management team began to distance themselves from me. Ms. Baxter stopped returning my calls and emails.
Initially, my point person at the company was Mr. Newbury. After our inspection I was assigned to Dean Pappous, Regional Vice President. I asked Mr. Pappous to email me time frames for each action item. He refused. I stood firm and demanded time frames, as the corporation has a history of not following through with issues tied to their club on Pico Blvd.
On July 18th, 2008 I received a call from Mr. Pappous informing me that my membership was terminated. I received a letter in the mail asking me never to enter or attempt to join one of their clubs again.
I believe 24 Hour Fitness, USA's intention was to make me disappear. They were upset that I was communicating with other members and beginning to gather support.
Luckily, I was introduced to Manny Fineberg. Manny is the unofficial leader of an unofficial social group that call themselves ‘Gym Rats’. Manny, the Gym Rats, and other members have been very supportive. Many members have taken the initiative to contact management themselves to express their disgust with the club and quality of services. To this day Mr. Pappous relies on Manny’s feedback to prompt proper maintenance and repairs. While I understand member feedback is important, I believe management is still using feedback as a primary means to prompt maintenance. Proactive inspections and maintenance are probably still not being performed routinely!
I created an email address to really begin to organize my efforts, Cleanupgradepicogym@gmail.com
I have been on the street, outside of 9911 W. Pico Blvd educating members about the corporation’s response to my efforts. I have been handing out information to empower members to advocate for themselves.
During this process members have contacted the Better Business Bureau to report sub par conditions. 24 Hour Fitness Team member, Jennifer David, responded to our letters to the BBB with words of support. Ms. David uses statements like, “24 Hour Fitness prides itself on our commitment to provide our members with the highest level of satisfaction possible. The quality of service, safety, equipment and facilities is always a top priority.”
I find Ms. David’s statements about pride contradictory to statements made by employees who work on-site. Ms. David is pretty far removed from local conditions. Ms. David spins words to emulate a positive image for her company.
I asked one local employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, “How are you treated by 24 Hour Fitness, USA? Is there anything that you would ask them to do for you?” The Pico employee stated, “I wish they would stop customers from complaining. This wears on us everyday. Each day I receive about eight or nine complaints from members. I would like to have a club we can be proud of.”
I have contacted Erica, an inspector who works for the LA County Board of Health. Erica has stated that she is aware this place is a “dump”. She has been out to the facility on several occasions. Erica expresses frustration that her power to enforce standards is very limited. 24 Hour Fitness on Pico Blvd does not have a pool or a spa. As a result, the Board of Health cannot fine the facility. This seems to be a loophole in the law. It is up to members and the public to hold 24 Hour Fitness responsible for the care of their facility!
I met Gerard Keith wile I was educating members outside of the Pico facility. Gerard wrote in an email to Mr. Pappous, “My name is Gerard Keith. Today I was informed by one of my fitness colleagues, Mr. John Christopher, that his membership has been revoked due to his diligent efforts in trying to advocate for a cleaner gym. Because of this, I will be terminating my 2+ year relationship with 24 Hour Fitness effective August 26th…It shouldn't be the job of your gym patrons to identify and rectify your facility's countless problems. You know what those problems entail so I won’t bother with specifics. I applaud John for voicing his concerns and actually following through.”
24 Hour Fitness is aware that members often chose a club because of location and price. They bank on the fact that it is often difficult for patrons to leave. There are barriers to change. Here is a quote from Wikepedia.com, “Complaints were met by being told that one could simply go to another club, which ignores the fact that many people join fitness clubs for their convenient location and many pay for "lifetime memberships" in advance.”
I am moving forward with my project. I will continue to educate members of my community about the sub par conditions at the club on Pico Blvd and my experiences with this corporation.
I have requested an apology from 24 Hour Fitness, USA directed towards members of the Pico Blvd club. Their neglect is inexcusable. I have requested an apology for the termination of my membership.
Gina Baxter stated she would work with me on reimbursement for expenses related to getting the 24 Hour Fitness management team to ‘Wake up!”. I have not received reimbursement.
I have requested a member appreciation event for members. Members need to feel valued. It would be nice if the company valued its members, not just the credit card numbers that have been authorized for billing. I have asked that intended improvements be posted for members to view.
You may send your comments and suggestions to John Christopher, RN, at firstname.lastname@example.org