An Unfit Gym, Corporate Indifference, And What I’m Doing About It.
I’m steamed. The health club, Mercy Healthplex, put me through another scare on one of their treadmills. It’s not a big deal to you. To me, it’s huge. I’ve been a member for five years, and my safety has been jeopardized once again.
The story I tell could affect many people. For the sake of the marketing discussion, let’s pretend it’s all about me. A tale of corporate indifference that sparks the ire of one individual, who now has the power to bite the corporation in the ass.
This is my story.
I joined the Mercy Healthplex to improve my running and stay in shape. Along with running on an inside track and outdoor trails, I regularly used treadmills. Sometimes they broke down: squeaky belts, the sign of poor belt adjustment, treadmills that would decelerate quickly, or simply stop. One evening, a two-foot-high exercise ball was sucked under the treadmill pitching me into the air while the treadmill was still running.
After each incident, I reported the problem to the club. Later I found the treadmills in operation again without being serviced.
The standard response was no response, and back in the cave days this may have worked.
But then it happened again.
One of the machines I had complained about was back in service. I decided to try it. About 15 minutes into my run the belt slipped to the right. I examined the belt and discovered that it was the same belt I had complained about four months ago. The edges were deckled from wear. And both sides of the belt showed signs of shredding. Worse was the same half-inch cut on the left hand side of the belt. This time when I complained to the assistant membership director, He clucked and assured me that I would receive a call from Mercy Healthplex’s director. I never heard from him.
1. It was my fault the belt shredded on the treadmill because my gait is imbalanced.
2. Replacing the belt costs $400. Her patronizing look told me that I should feel very guilty.
3. I needed to be more careful and examine the belts before, during and after use of the machine.
Now they’ve made it the customer’s fault, (See Neanderthal)
In my anger, I consider calling local media, OSHA, and my lawyer.
I was furious. After I cooled down, I went to my blog, like thousands of consumers every day, and told the story to the world myself. Not only had the club not addressed my safety concerns, they now had a strategy to intimidate, or at least blame me.
This is the message I got from the Mercy Healthplex. Don’t complain when things are broken. We love our customers until they make inconvenient demands.
Pretend you’re in the meeting that happens after I send a link to this post to all the executive officers of Mercy HealthPlex. A meeting will be called with legal, the director, public relations, and someone from corporate..
Lawyer: “No laws have been broken here, but we can always sue.”
Director: “It’s just a blog, how many people read these things anyway?”
Public relations: The guy runs an ad agency, he’s probably a kook. We can spin it that way if the media finds out.
Corporate Guy: It’s agreed then. We’re going to ignore this thing, if this guy tries anything else, we’ll squash him and kick him out. Understood?
In the flurry of ass covering that ensues, the one serious liability and issue that matters to the clubs members is ignored. At least, that’s how I imagine it.
My fear is that one-day someone will get knocked off one of the treadmills, get seriously injured, or even die. It may be five- or ten- years from now, but this blog entry will still be here for the legal authorities who search for “Mercy Healthplex treadmill injury.”
The customer service boondoggle, which wouldn’t have happened with a dab of commonsense, is obvious. The cost in reputation, memberships, and brand equity is hard to calculate. But it’s certain in this case that better communication and maintenance could have avoided it altogether.
We live in a world of one, where one person can create a tsunami.
Let’s see if I’m right. In a few seconds I’ll click the button that makes this post appear on the Mindfeed Blog. As a result, a dozen Internet and blog search engines will be pinged. In a few days you can search for this post.
Over the next month, two- three-hundred visitors will visit Mindfeed. They range from family and friends to colleagues, clients and CEOs.
I am one customer, and I am the tsunami. But will the treadmill work tomorrow?