Plant the Life Of My Story App into Facebook to grow this seed into a weed
= Reporting From Inside Castle Grayskull =
“But I don’t understand,” I tell him. “My contract is going to expire. Why am I printing out a form, mailing it in and explaining why I’m canceling?”
Wow, Isn’t it a fun a day at Work Out World?!
Welcome to Work Out World - a gym with multiple facilities throughout NJ that, in my opinion, is failing in regards to customer service. But don’t take my word for it. The following friends are potential victims of gym membership injustice.
Lisa, Mike, Michelle, Sharon, Holly & Dave - left to right, top to bottom. Friends of mine all responding to a status update requesting peoples’ Work Out World horror stories related to billing disputes and questionable sales tactics. But maybe it’s just a series of misunderstandings? I don’t believe so, and it’s certainly not negligence on behalf of my friends - I know them personally and can attest to their intelligence. Could it be a pattern of sloppy, deceptive sales practices? If so, who’s to blame? Is it the salespeople? The corporation? Let’s go to go to the website.
Upon entering, you’ll see a picture of Steve P. Roma: owner, exerciser, dad. I’ve never seen Steve P. Roma at one of his gyms and I’ve been working out there - on and off - for years. Dig deeper to the about WOW page. Here’s an excerpt I’d like to highlight.
WoW is committed to KEEPING JERSEY STRONG, and the right combination of professional support, fun structured workouts, and relationships are what WoW is all about.
Professional support? Maybe, but A WOW salesperson is incapable of canceling a membership when the contract expires. You have to fill out a form, mail it in (What the fuck age do we live in? US mail? For real? How about an online form so we can all stay in the 21st century?) and pray you don’t end up like Mike (see victim’s list above).
Fun structured workouts? I love exercising at WOW, as do many others who stomach the fist-pumpers and the naked people who parade around the locker-room as if showcasing their genitals at the Museum of Modern Art.
Relationships? It’s this claim that infuriates me. Here’s one definition of relationship as defined by a Google search I just did.
Relationship - a state of connectedness between people.
I have relationships with trainers, salespeople and front desk assistants at the Ocean WOW. Great job hiring good people but you’ve rendered them ineffective by removing their ability to handle situations that require a seemingly invisible decision maker.
Who’s running this puppet show? Is it Steve P. Roma? Is it a troll chained up at corporate headquarters? Is it the production crew from the Truman Show? WTF! I can’t see you, talk with you, interact, or figure things out, yet WOW claims to be “all about” relationships?
What about you and I, WOW - didn’t we have a relationship? I thought so and although I’m not a victim of your auto renewal clause, I’m personally disappointed with your customer service and here’s why…
During the summer of 2010, I was offered a job in Connecticut. My membership at WOW was soon to expire, but I needed to move even sooner. With no intentions of backing out of my contract, I explained my situation to a salesman and asked about possible affiliated gyms in the Stamford, CT area. The following conversation is how I remember having it (aside from saying ‚“shucks”, which was a last minute, fictitious add-in for my own amusement).
I knew I should have read the contract in its entirety. But I, like some of my friends, assumed this was a gym, not a car dealership.
He scribbled a web address on the back of a flimsy business card and handed it to me.
So I jumped through hoops. And when my request to cancel an expired membership was approved, I was sent an email template starting with ‚“We’re sorry to see you go. This is confirmation that we have received your request for cancellation.” Arrogant trickery - l shouldn’t have to request a cancellation to an expired membership!
4 months after my cancellation request was approved, I returned to NJ permanently (the job didn’t pan out in Stamford). This is January of 2011. Without a gripe or a groan, I entered the Ocean WOW to reinstate a membership, knowing full well the slapstick nature of a supposed yearly contract and potential clauses I would need to sniff out like a bloodhound. But as stated above, I love the fun structured workouts and the rate I was paying is fair. This is how I remember having the following conversation.
I’m staring at a new pricing system that looks like a menu at franchised buffet. Around 10 dollars a month for a membership that doesn’t include much - a rate so low how could it include anything? I could barely take classes, couldn’t go to other WOW locations, etc. Am I allowed to tell other people I’m a member if I sign up for the sub $10 special? Could I piss if I had to?
Yup, said it; it felt great.
She hands me a coupon as if I won a trip to the Wonka Factory. I wanted to tear up the useless coupon and ask, ‚“What about now? Do I still qualify for the $100 discount? Or did I ruin it when I tore up the arbitrary coupon? If so, hand me another off the stack of a thousand more you have behind you.” But I didn’t say any of that because she was polite and professional.
In touch didn’t happened. So I called every other day, asking for sales until finally getting back on the phone.
Enter the useful- and often times magical - nature of social media. Whenever I meet someone and have a memorable conversation, I add them to Facebook. It’s a standard practice of mine. My Facebook account is used daily to stay connected with the people rather than to spit out tired quotes, life complaints or vacation pictures. With that in mind, I created an event.
The new buffet-style pricing system had a clause in my favor: A VIP member can bring a guest anytime they want free of charge. So in my Facebook event, I invited friends with VIP memberships who’d be willing to take me. Through the event, I received the gym schedules of around 20 people willing to participate.
So after the initial cancellation difficulty and then not reinstating my old rate, the score is WOW 2, Ryan 1.
But here’s the catch: Every time I come as a guest, I have to fill out forms, bring my license and speak with sales.
WOW 3, Ryan 1.
And here’s the loophole to the catch: A copy machine. I went home, filled out the forms, attached my license and made a hundred copies. As for the eventual conversations with sales, I came up with a very simple introduction to use ad nauseam: Give me back my old rate or I’m not interested.
WOW 3, Ryan 2.
It’s wasn’t the same, though. I was a slave to peoples’ schedules, but at least I was allowed to use the toilet, which I’m unsure the basic membership includes. So as I made my way into the locker room, I saw a flier leading me to WOW’s Facebook Page.
I could win this. I spend every day as the Creative Director of my own life - couldn’t I spare 30 minutes to whip up an image? I didn’t have a bumper sticker though. I did, however, find an image of the bumper sticker online with no specifications on how to use it. So I made this
Not my most clever creation, but it would do. Now I needed a few votes and this contest was mine. Within minutes, I was in first and got cozy. That was when I saw my competition.
The baby took over. Strange - even though the image was more pertinent to the contest as well as being cuter than my contrived image, how could this contestant have more support? So I campaigned a little more, using the power of Facebook events once again.
The Jersey Shore is trending in popularity and I used this for an advantage. While in the event, those invited were led to a voting link (after I apologized for leading them to believe I was the next cast member of a show that’s making a mockery of our beautiful state, aside from the NJ Turnpike, Michael Ritacco, etc). Once again, I’m in first, the baby’s in second. And I got cozy.
But the baby turned up the heat, taking back first place with little time left in the competition.
I was furious! How was the baby doing it? I needed to know because my ego - my self worth - is on the line. I’ve spent the previous week campaigning via Facebook at StarBucks - practically unemployed / age 28 - in a competition for a free gym membership against a baby and I was losing. So I start loathing the baby and it’s cute little Yoga mat. Then I start loathing myself. And then I figured it out.
I DON’T WANT A FREE MEMBERSHIP AT WOW IN THE FIRST PLACE!
It’s tainted. They had me jumping through hoops yet again. And for what? A free membership when all I wanted was respect. Respect = honoring my old rate or at least a decent, logical explanation from a decision maker. Add to it the frustration endured when I cancelled what should have been an expired membership - now I had to win.
A Facebook contest
to work out for free.
Only two worthy
The baby and Me!
So f*cking cute
on a yoga mat.
But he’s an infant;
I’m 28 and fat.
A constant shame
to step out of a bath.
If you saw me naked,
I bet you’d laugh.
And I take blame
for the shape I’m in.
But a vote for me
is a vote for thin.
So take some time
for one more vote.
I need this so much
I wrote you this note.
In a final attempt to overthrow the baby, I wrote a poem and published it on a Facebook note, tagging my support system.
It was too much for the baby to compete with. I reached out to the baby’s mother, letting her know of my intentions to forfeit the spoils of war. But the contestant’s mother (which makes her the baby’s grandmother) was suspicious of a friendly gesture from a complete stranger and sent WOW corporate an email. And WOW corporate called me to announce my victory and inquire about my intentions.
Fuck. I was planning on mooning corporate. In retrospect, it was a good thing to have that intention fall by the wayside because I would have been arrested.
My plan - Take the second place winner with me, explain why I was forfeiting my prize to her and give WOW’s staff a message to pass on to corporate.
Her plan - Second place (for personal reasons) declined my offer and left me with a free membership that I didn’t want. So I decided to give it to a charity.
The Center in Asbury has a fundraiser coming up and could use it as a raffle prize. Why not? If it could do some good, so be it. I do, however, feel bad for whoever wins the raffle. What if his/her free membership rolls into a month-to-month and the terms of this free membership are similar to the contracts my friends and I have signed in the past?
SIGNER BEWARE: WHAT’S FREE TODAY MAY NOT BE FREE TOMORROW, SO REALLY READ THE CONTRACT!
In my final communication with Work Out World, I stopped in - dressed in my Sunday’s best - to hand sales a letter addressed to the CEO, Steve P. Roma: owner, exerciser, dad. In the letter, I stated clearly why I was refusing my prize. In addition to my letter is this story - a story of a Jersey business I believe started with the right intentions but is currently failing in regards to customer service. Mr. Roma - are you the voice of a company that so many people have come to use, love and freely advertise on the back their vehicles? If so, take your own advice - be Jersey Strong and look into potential Jersey Wrongs.
The story you’ve just read is for entertainment purposes. I cannot validate whether or not the claims others have made are true; I only mention their experiences to highlight a potential trend. If this trend exists, it’s up to Work Out World to change their perfectly legal sales practices that if changed, in my opinion, would benefit their customer relationships significantly. If, however, you feel that any business is being unfair, I encourage you to take a stand and report it to the Better Business Bureau. With WOW in mind, I’d say hold off. Something tells me change is on the way.
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