gym owner

Tale Of The Tape: How One Gym Owner Learned An Expensive Lesson

Trying to over-deliver for gym members can sometimes be expensive. Here's how one gym owner learned the hard way, and is sharing the lessons!

Emily Beers
March 7, 2023
Tale Of The Tape: How One Gym Owner Learned An Expensive Lesson
Trying to over-deliver for gym members can sometimes be expensive. Here's how one gym owner learned the hard way, and is sharing the lessons!

It’s March Madness at PushPress! We’ve asked our community of fitness business owners to share their craziest stories. With every story comes a lesson that the gym owner learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. Sit back, relax and enjoy the shenanigans with us!

It’s a natural inclination as a gym owner to want to give your clients the best of everything. You’re always striving to create an incredible member experience. It’s how you create loyalty and increase retention.

However, not unlike the kid who gave away all of his cookies to buy his friends, there’s a line to be drawn. Despite your desire to please, the health of your business has to be your top priority. After all, you can’t help them if your doors are closed.

Coaching clients at Madlab School of Fitness

Today, we’re talking about how one gym owner learned this lesson the hard way. Emily Beers, a coach at Madlab School of Fitness in Vancouver, BC, Canada (formerly CrossFit Vancouver), gives us the details...

The Story.

The year was (approximately) 2010. In those days, we used to keep boxes of athletic tape on the floor. It was basically a free-for-all if anyone needed tape.

Gym members generously helped themselves to rolls at a time. As a preventative measure on high-rep pull-up days, they’d lather it all over their hands. In fact, they often tucked the tape into their gym bags to take it with them after a session.

Why not? It was free!

For some reason, taping soon became a kind of weird superstition at the gym. It was like a pre-workout ritual of sorts, even on days that didn’t traditionally require tape. I specifically remember watching one athlete tape their thumbs for Double Unders and sit-ups, and another before Tabata squats.

Tape. For squats.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the gym owner and coaches started analyzing some important gym metrics. We were sifting through areas of the business where we might be overspending, with a goal of trimming a little fat where we could.

It was then that we realized we were spending more than $800 a year on tape.

Reversing The Trend.

The first decision was to stop giving the tape away for free. Our new goal was not to start making a profit on it, but to at least recoup the costs.

At the time, we already had a vending machine for drinks and protein bars. So we tossed the tape into the vending machine and started charging $4 per roll.

What happened next was pretty polarizing.

Long-time clients began kicking up a tremendous fuss. We started hearing murmurs like, “F*ck that, I’m not paying for tape.” Or, “Four dollars per roll? That’s insane.”

The gym owner tried to explain that the amount we were charging was actually the cost of the tape. No markups, just cost. He also (nicely) tried to relay the fact that the business had spent $800 on “free” tape the year before. And that members taking advantage of that fact was what led to the decision.

Emily Beers coaching CrossFit classes

Here’s where it got really interesting: New clients had no issue with the cost.

I remember one new athlete, who who asked if we had tape available. She had just moved to Vancouver from another CrossFit gym. I pointed to the vending machine and told her it was $4.

“Thanks,” she said before pulling out her wallet and simply purchasing a roll for herself.

The Lessons For A Gym Owner:

1. Don’t Give And Then Take Away.

In the situation listed above, the mistake wasn’t charging $4 for athletic tape. It was giving it away for free and then later charging for it.

And while that might seem obvious in the case of athletic tape, it happens quite often in other areas of your business. For example, this happens quite often with gym class scheduling. A gym owner might start with a jam-packed schedule, only to have one or two participants in each class.

Removing classes from the schedule will upset people much more than not offering them in the first place. Inevitably, the couple people who did attend those classes will feel entitled to keeping them, causing resentment when they’re taken away.

Madlab gym owner and community at fitness event

2. Start Small And Build.

A much better approach is to start small and build as you’re able to, whether we’re talking tape, classes or otherwise.

Ultimately, the goal is for members to never feel like something is being taken away from them. Instead, you’ll create an incredible member experience when they feel like you’re continually adding gym membership value along the way.

Pro Tip: Use PushPress Grow to create the ultimate member experience! Book a demo with our team today to find out more!

3. Be Honest And Upfront.

As a gym owner, you’ll learn a lot of lessons over the years. Hopefully, each one will help you to better serve your members, creating loyalty and building your brand. When any of these situations arise, be honest with your community. Sometimes, you just have to own your mistakes. You’ll build trust through the transparency, which will ultimately lead to growth, revenue and retention for years to come.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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