Saturday, 18 July 2015

Not a World Class Gym

Just to be upfront right at the front, I would like to start out be saying this whole thing is about only $20. "Oh sure," I hear you object. "But it's also the principle of the thing". No it's not. It's about the money. 

I cancelled my membership at my gym in St Catharines because I am too sick to go to the gym, and besides, it's 350 km away. It was a great, clean gym with excellent equipment in excellent repair. I enjoyed getting up early and working out 3 times a week at 6am, for only $10 a month.  There's a 60 day cancellation policy which I was charged, hence the $20 I'm disputing.  

They'll only waive it under extenuating circumstances, of which I'd suggest my terminal illness qualifies. The contract states they must have a doctors note along with a cancellation request sent by registered mail, and that's fair. Isn't it?  They must get dozens of people claiming to be dying, just to save $20.  Hundreds.

Hey, it's cool. Sarcasm aside, I get it. But on progressive (regressive?) interactions it became about poor management, as it almost always does.

"It's policy," the manager wailed. "I can't do anything about it."  Yes you can. You can override policy. 
"I can't override policy," he claimed. "It's against protocol!"  (No guff, he actually said that.)  "I'd have to take it to Corporate."  You're the manager, I'm assuming you plan to fight on behalf of your customer. Are you seriously so unempowered that a $20 override exceeds your authority?  I expect you will get back to me with your inevitable and predictable results. (I actually expect to never hear from the manager again.)

It has taken 3 phone calls just to get to this point.  Each call has ended with the employee putting me squarely in my place, which is that I'm a schleppe who has to jump through every one of their hoops.  Since I can't make the trip in person, cancellation is by registered letter only for a mere $8 (no emails accepted) PLUS a doctors note from my Oncologist, which may run me $25, and another registered letter. Do the math. $40+ to cancel a $10/month agreement.   

Hey gym management!  Let me tell you something. You're right.  I agree. The contract is firm. I signed it and initialled the 60 day clause. You're absolutely right.  I haven't got a leg to stand on. But could you back off on the smugness just a touch please?  

Overriding policy for compassionate reasons can be the right thing to do, sometimes.  Doing the right thing for the right reasons is always the right thing to do. Advocating for your customers is a powerfully right thing to do.  Heck, do it for the good PR.  But in the end it's only $20 and I'd like it back, please. 

Showing balance and offering the benefit of the doubt sends a strong, powerful message to your employees. After all, they know they can only expect to be treated with the least amount of courtesy and goodwill and respect management has shown to their clients, and as a result you can expect them to not only model your actions, good or bad, but to mirror them.  

And this great feeling I always had going to this gym, the respect I had for the team is gone. 

Frankly I'm just embarrassed for a company whose management is so stuck in the 80s. I thought the whole "customer is the enemy" thing died years ago.  Looks like it's going to outlive me. And that's a shame. 

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