Not pumped

Ah, the new year: a time of hope for a better world and a better self. A time, for many, to hit the gym. That, my friends, is what I tried to do a few weeks ago, and what I now regret. What follows is a cautionary tale.

One rainy Tuesday night, my lady friend and I walked into the local outpost of a well-known gym franchise. I was surprised to see desk jockeys willing to talk with me about membership fees at such an hour, but I should have known: This place, which shall remain nameless, stays open all the time. Like, 24 hours a day. Ahem.

I tried to keep it simple, as in, simply, “How much does a membership cost?” After our IDs were photocopied, and our personal lives probed with scrutinizing questionnaires, we were whisked off by a cheery if not particularly physically enhanced clerk—we’ll call him Roy—on an unwanted tour of the facilities. Highlights included the before-and-after photos of some stud and studette who’d transformed themselves at this very gym. “They just aren’t here right now, bro,” Roy explained. “Probably tomorrow.”

Half an hour in, it was time for all I’d really wanted: the bottom line. Would you believe we’d come on the final night of a spectacular sale? By tomorrow, prices could be a hundred bucks higher!

Which would be a lot, because Roy was already asking for about $200 in startup fees alone. We said no. He sighed, tried the old let-me-talk-to-my-manager line and slipped into a small glass room where an infinitely bulkier individual strained to fit behind his official-looking desk.

“To be honest with you,” the manager was telling us a minute later, “those prices Roy first gave you are our full rates; we just throw those out there to see your reaction. Now let’s try to get it lower for you.”

He began lopping off fees. Now we were getting somewhere—namely, a price worth taking home and thinking over. But Roy and his oafish employer didn’t want us to think. They wouldn’t take “maybe” for an answer. That’s where things got ugly.

After nearly an hour of “negotiations,” rejecting “lowest we’ve ever given—ever” offers one after the other and eventually just on principle, we found ourselves subjected to scolding insults from our former pal Roy. “What are you going to do, then?” he snapped. “If you got no gym to go to, what’s gonna happen to you?” He eyed our waistlines disapprovingly. I suggested starting my own fight club. That went over about as well as “Let me think about it.”

Finally, with a groan, our captors released us back into the rain-soaked streets. But not before setting up an appointment with a trainer to assess my goals. Too bad my goal is now never to enter that corporatized hellhole of a gym again.