Planet Fitness Drops Dumbbell with Gym Member Communication

It’s not only what you say, but sometimes what you don’t say, that irritates your customers.

Similar to poor communication, a lack of communication can also be damaging if you’re trying to maximize positive customer engagement.  Case in point:   my gym, Planet Fitness, just dropped a dumbbell and they didn’t say excuse me.

Here’s what happened.

Photo: Planet Fitness Facebook.

Photo: Planet Fitness Facebook.

When I signed-up for membership a little more than one year ago, automatic monthly billing was set-up via card credit.  I haven’t had any problems.  The process has worked fine.

Last week, my credit card on file with the gym was deactivated due to fraud concerns.  Once I received the new card, I made a special trip to give the gym my new card number.  I figured it would be easier and faster to handle it in person rather than calling by phone.

It was neither.  To my surprise, I was informed that Planet Fitness no longer offers billing by credit card.  I was told that, based on a recent change, payment is now only allowed via checking account direct withdrawal or debit card (seems the same to me).

The reason given:  Planet Fitness had credit card collection problems.  Apparently, large numbers of gym members were reneging on recurring monthly charges with their credit card supplier.  Really?

So, existing members, upon the need for any reason to update their on-file credit card, must switch to the new payment system.  Or, leave the gym, I suppose.

Since I figured I could update my account in about 60 seconds after walking in, I was taken aback by all this news.

It just didn’t make sense.  After all, recurring monthly billing via credit card has been common for a long time.  At the same time, I’m also thinking:  I don’t care – that’s not my problem!

What annoyed me the most, though, was the lack of communication.  How come Planet Fitness didn’t alert members, meaning me, about the new policy?  Payment terms are a big deal.  This isn’t the way to handle an important change.

It’s not like it’s hard to find me.  My membership application has a mailing address, telephone number and email address.  I checked.  Plus, I do go to the gym, which requires a personal check-in each visit.

I was further annoyed upon hearing something about incentives being offered to switch to debit cards (must be a secret).  Again, that would have been nice to know.

The final annoyance was learning there was no way to update my account right then and there in the gym.  It was comical.

Do I have a debit card on file, I was asked?  No, I’ve been paying via credit card.  But, hey, I do have a debit card and so let’s switch.  Well, that’s no good.  We need a cancelled check to get the bank account and routing numbers.  Who carries a checkbook today!  By the way, just wondering:  if a prospective new member walks in without a checkbook, how does she get signed up?

It’s always tough when a non-decision maker has to explain an odd or challenging policy to customers, which is what happened to me.  The manager wasn’t there – there was nothing more the staffer could do.

So I walked out shaking my head.

Well, he did refer me to the Planet Fitness website.  I could access my account online and enter the bank details, and I wouldn’t need to give them a cancelled check.  And so I eventually did, sans incentive.

Look, in the scheme of things, this interaction at Planet Fitness isn’t a big deal.  My overall gym experience has been positive and has gone as I hoped.  Further, I do understand that Planet Fitness can run their company any way they want.  There may be consequences, for them or their customers, but that’s business.

But the cavalier disregard for simple communication with existing customers annoyed the heck out of me.

Simply put, the story I just told didn’t have to and shouldn’t have had to happen that way.  It wasn’t necessary.  Instead, tell me you’re switching your payment system, explain why, and let me know what and when I need to do something.  The rest is up to me.  Not hard, right?

Headline

Don’t let a lack of communication create a lousy experience for your customers.  Planet Fitness kept its gym members in the dark about a major payment system change.  The result is a reduced balance in the brand’s customer satisfaction and positive engagement account.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

4 thoughts on “Planet Fitness Drops Dumbbell with Gym Member Communication

  1. First and foremost, you should NEVER give any company (especially a franchise) your account # and routing transfer / ABA #! NEVER! Because this is ALL the information anyone needs to draft money from your account and not only that but unlike credit card protection, when it comes to checking account, you have a lmited amount of consumer protection once money has been drafted that way. I kid you not! It’s in the fine print of your banking agreement! When money is debited from your account you only have a limited amount of time to report it to the bank. Once those days pass, the money is gone and your bank will NOT reimburse you. So do not let them tell you about how exceptionally secure your information is because if we’ve learned anything in the past 5 years, we’ve learned that data is not always safe!
    Besdes, people who bow down and give them their checking account information (whether it’s in person or online) is doing EVERYONE a disservice because as with most circumstances, as soon as 1 company realizes that they can ask for anything – no matter how personal (think Google and Facebook) they will take full advantage of it and ask for MORE – and believe me, once other companies notice this, they will follow suit!
    So if they do this to you, I would highly suggest that you just resolve to find another gym – walk away! Check back in with them in 9 months to see if they’re still holding on to that ridiculous policy! Chances are high that if enough of us refuse to do this and walk away, it will negatively affect their bottom line and they’ll be forced to change it!
    Good luck everyone! Looks like I’ve got some gym hunting to do!

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  2. Same thing just happened to me, credit card expires this month and they refused to take the new expiration date and continue billing to credit card. I do not give my bank account info to anybody. Even in today’s world of weekly data breeches a Credit Card offers better recourse and protection for both billing disputes and data breeches than does a bank account. How can they expect to do business in the 21st century without accepting credit cards? I wonder… are they doing this because they can’t meet the new PCI (Payment Card Industry) Standards? By the way… the Planet Fitness Website FAQ still says they accept Credit Cards for monthly billing!

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  3. There website has been down now for two weeks. No way to check your payment history, etc. Two calls yielded me with “all payment processing is being handled at the corporate office.” No message posted on the website, and total confusion. I have had the gustapo feedback from the manager at the desk so I don’t dare ask too many questions. I am a prisoner to my own gym membership.

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  4. I just received this news today. My old Debit card expired and I received a new one. So, naturally my debit card on file with PF was outdated. They called me to tell me to update my info online. I went online to find out that they only take bank account info now (you know, routing and account numbers). They don’t even take a debit card anymore. I was taken aback by this. I don’t like giving out those details.

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