Membership Passes at the Gym

Posted on December 30, 2012


I intended to join a gym at some point after moving to Seattle in Oct. It happened quicker than expected because a large, local gym was advertising heavily in my area. I went in to look and the staff at this very basic, somewhat dumpy place immediately went into hard sell mode. I had expected to stroll through the place on my own or with a guide and make a decision based on what I saw but they had another plan. They led me over to a desk where the young, Eminem look-a-like salesman and his spike haired boss attempted to measure my height, weight, etc. and talk up the services they offered. They were oblivious to my body language and tone and repeatedly missed my answers to their questions. I told them I wasn’t trying to bulk up or lose body fat but only wanted a convenient, non-crowded place with the basics. They insisted that the special I asked about was only available that day (which was a lie) and that I risked steep monthly increases if I didn’t commit right then and there. I escaped their clutches w annoyance and talked it over w my wife when she got home. Later that night I joined, and the gym has served my purposes. I generally say hello to the front desk attendant and anyone else I make eye contact with but nothing more than that – in and out.

Recently I asked about their guest pass policy. The front desk attendant notified a manager (which is probably company policy – keep em’ dumb up front so the big guns could be called upon for the sale). He was nice enough, gave me a card with his name and said it was good for one month. I mentioned it to my wife since her climbing gym was going to close for a few weeks and thought she might like a few workout sessions. We went on a weekday night and the male front desk member had her sign in. Then he called on the PA for two “guest service” managers. I looked him in the eye and mouthed “no hard sell!”. Not sure if he understood but I became heated when one of the managers asked us to sit down w him at his desk. I asked why this was necessary for the guest of a member. They stammered and then quickly dropped the idea of doing the hard sell on my wife. Interestingly, the hapless front desk attendant tried to carry on with the questioning of my wife (her fitness goals) until one of his bosses called it off. Clearly at this low-end gym, one size fits all and they are not used to much pushback. What an unfortunate place to work!

We went back on a Saturday morning for a yoga class. That went well; no delays or questions after signing in. A few men glanced at my wife but in their defense, she is beautiful. One of the managers appeared to even wave and smile at her. That was not OK and I will confront him if he does it again. The difference between a glance and a flirtatious greeting are obvious but also symptomatic of our culture. Not too long ago, a man wouldn’t think of speaking to another man’s wife unless granted permission (either explicitly or subtly). Today, the respect for a husband’s role is largely missing among the young. Many women also think of themselves as individuals first, even if married, so would find any stranger’s deference to her husband unnecessary or offensive.

This incident reminded me of cultural differences, especially between Westerners and more “backwards” people, particularly Muslims in the Middle East. The media will often highlight the plight of women in Afghanistan who can’t go to school, drive, etc. They list the cruelties imposed on them in a patriarchical society. That is one of the reasons for the troops stationed over there we are told (without giving much space to contrary stories). However, they rarely mention the disrespect heaped on the families over there by the same troops. The sainted troops disregard obvious cultural norms and established practices. They speak to women without getting the approval of their husband or father and expect the same women to respond favorably. They care little that these women will be blamed for instigating any attention they receive. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out; in “free” America, we don’t like our women being approached by strange men. Why should it be any different in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Women of Afghanistan stand outside the U.S. Em...

Women of Afghanistan stand outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Wednesday, March 1, 2006. President George W. Bush and Laura Bush made a surprise visit to the city and presided over a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the embassy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted in: Married Life, Seattle