I saw this deal on Groupon for a gym by my house. Usually I only run outside, but lately I’ve been feeling like it might do me some good to change up the routine. There are a bunch of reasons why I’ve never gone to a gym before: the self-consciousness of working out in front of other people, the not really knowing how to use any of the equipment. I remember one time I went to the university gym while I was in school, I had no idea what I was doing. I sat down at some machine where you put your arms on a platform and start moving some weight attached to a bunch of cables. It wasn’t even that heavy, I swear, but I must have messed something up, because I couldn’t move my arm for like a week, it was like somebody punched me straight in the triceps.
Honestly, probably the biggest obstacle preventing me from signing up is the cost. Most gyms by me are in the fifty dollar a month range, and I don’t know, I can’t even bring myself to subscribe to cable TV, so there’s no way I want to drop that much money on a gym membership. But this Groupon sounded like such a good deal, just two hundred bucks for an entire year, no membership fee, unlimited classes.
I could make that work. On the way over I thought about the closest I’ve ever come to doing something like this: it was about four years ago, I wanted to take a yoga class, just to see what everybody was talking about. The lady at the front desk told me that a single class would be twenty bucks, or, I could spend thirty and get an unlimited monthly pass. Some guy behind me chimed in, “That is probably the best deal in New York.”
Sold. Then I went inside the studio and it turned out that the guy who encouraged me was the instructor. I felt played. I felt even more played when, a month after I had taken several classes a week, I enthusiastically asked how much it would be to continue my membership. That’s when they started throwing numbers at me, like big numbers, four hundred dollars, stuff like that.
I prepared myself for similar tactics at the gym. While I’d never been to a real gym before, I’ve seen plenty of stuff on TV, how they sit you down, how they try to rope you in immediately. Sure enough, I walked to the front desk and the guy was like, “How’d you hear about us?” My plan was to demand the two hundred dollar deal and stick to my guns, but as soon as I said the word, “Groupon,” the guy told me, “OK, well, we can iron out the details later. Let me you show you around the facility.”
And I knew right away that the two hundred dollar yearly wasn’t going to happen. All of my questions were met with a “We’ll get to that,” as the trainer showing me around guided me through his carefully orchestrated gym-membership speech. He showed me the protein shake bar, the spin studio, “You want to go check out the bathrooms?” he offered, “Eh, I don’t know, I don’t really think that’s necessary.”
“All right, well, unless you’re sure you don’t want to go check out the bathrooms, let’s go to my office and fill out some paperwork.” Wow, this guy was aggressive, both about the bathrooms and the roping me into a membership. I followed him to a desk and he transitioned from trainer to car salesmen as soon as he sat down in his leather chair. “All right,” he took out a piece of paper and started writing down numbers, “Let’s get down to business.”
“What about the Groupon?” I was kind of surprised about how meek I sounded sitting in this chair, something about taking a tour through this factory of muscle and sweat, here I was, I looked like I just rolled out of bed, I was wearing a Batman t-shirt and jeans; Whereas normally I feel like I’m in great shape thanks to running, now I just felt really skinny and awkward.
“The Groupon expired,” he dismissed the offer. “But come on,” he tried to persuade me, “Thirty bucks a month, that’s a dollar a day, unlimited classes, it’s a great deal.”
It did sound like a good deal, and I don’t know if it was him taking advantage of my insecurities, but I had a pretty strong urge to join the gym. He could see me thinking, he could sense my hesitation, and taking something right out of the used car salesmen playbook, he looked at me and said, “You know what? I like you. I can tell you’re serious about working out.”
Really? He liked me? And how could he tell how serious I was? It didn’t matter. He wrote down the number thirty on the piece of paper, “So here’s what I’m going to do for you. You see this thirty dollar membership fee?” and then he drew a big circle around the thirty, “I’m going to take care of that thirty dollars for you,” and then with a dramatic swoop of his wrist, he crossed out the thirty, a huge, sweeping X across the whole paper.
I looked at him for a minute. Was that it? But he looked right back, he stared me down, right in the eye.
And then it felt like the word was pulled out of my mouth, “Deal,” I said, and the next thing I knew, we were shaking hands and he was patting me on the back. And that’s how I got my gym membership.