When gyms don’t work out

True Fit­ness mem­bers were left hang­ing after it sud­denly closed down. What can we learn from this saga?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Living - By GUS GHANI star2@thes­tar.com.my

WHEN large “hy­per gyms” were first in­tro­duced in Malaysia, many medium and small gyms lost busi­ness as peo­ple flocked to the big, shiny new places.

But we never ex­pected a ma­jor and well-es­tab­lished gym like True Fit­ness (TF) to sud­denly close its doors na­tion­wide on June 10.

Their mem­bers were blind­sided by this and the news hit the whole fit­ness com­mu­nity like a tsunami.

Many TF mem­bers who had paid thou­sands of ring­git for life or longterm mem­ber­ships were left feel­ing stranded and be­trayed.

For the first time, the public started ques­tion­ing the fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity and busi­ness in­tegrity of all the large hy­per gyms, which we had thought were “too big too fail”.

Hard sell­ing

A decade into the new mil­len­nium, hy­per gyms started ap­pear­ing in Malaysia.

Th­ese gyms were huge and packed with the lat­est ex­er­cise ma­chines, be­sides of­fer­ing classes like yoga and body pump, as well as per­sonal train­ing ses­sions.

Th­ese gyms went on a mar­ket­ing over­drive to re­cruit as many mem­bers as pos­si­ble, by sell­ing the dream of ac­quir­ing a beau­ti­ful body.

Their zeal­ous sales­per­sons were driven by com­mis­sion fees for sign­ing up new mem­ber­ships.

I was per­son­ally rather turned­off by their hard sell meth­ods, but many oth­ers paid thou­sands of ring­git for an­nual, cor­po­rate and life­time mem­ber­ships.

How­ever, be­ing a fit­ness coach, I also knew that it was a good thing for con­sumers to have more choices of gyms be­cause in­di­vid­u­als re­quire dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions to get off the sofa and ex­er­cise.

Con­sumer trust

There are cur­rently talks about pro­vid­ing com­pen­sa­tion or al­ter­na­tive ser­vices to TF mem­bers, but at the time of writ­ing, noth­ing is con­crete.

My heart goes out to all TF mem­bers who are the in­no­cent vic­tims of this fi­asco. Even more far-reach­ing, this is a huge breach of con­sumer trust, and it re­flects badly on other gen­uine and hard­work­ing gym own­ers.

The abrupt clo­sure left 100 TF Malaysia staff job­less – with­out any no­tice. The em­ploy­ees are claim­ing they have not been paid over RM66,000 in salaries and com­mis­sions.

More and more dis­grun­tled TF mem­bers are pub­licly com­plain­ing (through so­cial me­dia) about how they feel short­changed.

In fact, some TF mem­bers had smelt some­thing fishy ear­lier. For in­stance, my run­ning buddy Stephen Ng from Klang, who had paid RM5,000 for a TF life­time mem­ber­ship in 2014, re­called, “I had a feel­ing they were in fi­nan­cial trou­ble one year ago when some of the gym equip­ment and the sauna were out of ser­vice. The in­struc­tors’ pay­ments were also de­layed by as long as 90days!”

TF claimed that it was “no longer fi­nan­cially vi­able due to evolv­ing mar­ket con­di­tions”. But a re­port in The Star (tinyurl.com/ TrueGoChina) ex­posed that Patrick John Wee, the CEO of True Group, the Sin­ga­pore-based par­ent com­pany, agreed to shut down TF op­er­a­tions in Thai­land and Malaysia after it had sold a 51% share to an in­vestor from China. If Wee failed to do so, then he would be li­able for the fran­chise fees.

So now TF will be ex­pand­ing into the lu­cra­tive China mar­ket, while leav­ing be­hind a mess in Malaysia. Does this sit­u­a­tion sound fair or “true” to you?

Can any­thing be done to re­cu­per­ate the losses in­curred by mem­bers (and other cred­i­tors)? Prob­a­bly not. Can the same prob­lems arise again with other fit­ness cen­tres? Sadly, yes.

So have a look at my list of tips on how to choose gyms – or opt for free ex­er­cise in the out­doors!

Gus Ghani is a fit­ness coach-cumwriter who likes to share his fit­ness and life­style sto­ries/tips on his blog www.gus­ghani.com

HOW TO CHOOSE GYMS — 6

When big gyms fail, the fall­out can be dev­as­tat­ing for some.

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