For the past 3 months I’ve been looking for a gym that I’ll be happy with. I’ve tried Fit 7/11 near Lokalbahnhof but it didn’t offer classes that would suit my schedule. I don’t like working out in the same place as men either. Nothing against them, but I’m just not comfortable with it. Earlier this year I attended a weekly class conducted by the VHS that was held in a school gym just opposite where I live. That was horrendous. The hall was the dirtiest place ever and I would come home with rashes most of the time.
In August I decided to try out Fitness First Women in Sachsenhausen as they offered a two-week guest pass for free. I always like the idea of giving a gym a few tries to decide if I fit in and whether I enjoy the classes. For the two weeks, I tried Zumba, Body Fit and the machines. There are plenty of other classes there but since each Zumba and Body Fit class I attended were by different instructors, the routines were different enough to not bore me.
For expats living in Germany who are looking for a gym, I’m sure you’ve read on Toytown Germany what Fitness First is like. However, no one really says how much it costs, what the service is like etc. Hence I thought I’ll write my thoughts on this well known fitness company.
I expect prices differ depending on which city you’re in. However to be quoted different terms/ price from the same person working in the same outlet on different occasions isn’t acceptable. Prior to using my guest pass, I was told it would cost €49.99 per month for a 12 month contract, and €39.99 per month for a 24 month contract. As I don’t work out in the evenings, I asked for an off-peak quotation which is fairly common in the UK and Singapore but was told such a scheme didn’t exist.
Two weeks later, I asked for the price plans from the same staff again. Suddenly, there is an off-peak price plan for €39.99 per month for 12 months. Trust me, they didn’t have a new scheme suddenly!
In most cases (based on my experience), the longer you lock yourself in a contract, the lower your monthly fees will be. This isn’t the case with Fitness First. For an off-peak contract of 18 months, you’re expected to pay €49.99! I couldn’t get my head round that! Why should I lock myself in with one company for another 6 months and pay €10 more each month for the first 12 months? Surely inflation in the 2nd year wouldn’t cost more than €120!
When I questioned the member of staff, she shrugged her shoulders and simply smiled. Even she thought it was silly.
2. They “handcuff” their customers
That’s how I felt. I asked what would happen to my membership if I ever move to another country. Common sense tells you that you’re allowed to cancel the contract as long as you give one month’s notice. No, no, no. Not with Fitness First. It’s Business First for them. You MUST carry on with your contract if the new city (in your new country) has a Fitness First. I have no idea how Contract Law works in Germany but I’m surprised this company hasn’t got into sh*t.
The next question to them was what sort of evidence they needed from me to prove that I’ve moved to another city without a Fitness First outlet. They said I had to show bills or a registration with the local authority. Oh for goodness sake, not every country has the same requirement as Germany where we need to register ourselves. I never had to do that in the UK nor in SG. They had a complicated “prove where you’re going next” process and so I said “Whatever, I’m sure people just cancel their German bank accounts.”
The member of staff nodded to agree that that’s what people do. So, dear Fitness First, if you handcuff me I’ll make sure I try all means to break free.
3. Machines like getting cosy with each other
The women’s club in Sachsenhausen is so tightly packed with machines to the point that it’s really hard to get access to one not because someone is using it. It’s because Fitness First tries to put in more machines than the gym can actually store! This is why I signed up for an off-peak membership. If you’re planning on visiting during peak hours, good luck.
4. DVD Rental
One of the mini perks at Fitness First is that you get to rent DVDs for 3 days. Apparently you’re not allowed to rent any during your first week! It’s like probation period to see if you’ll be a good member!!! That’s how it felt like. You would think this “probation period” applies to both parties. NO! Even if you haven’t tried out the gym, once you have signed the contract, they don’t allow you to terminate it prematurely within 7 days if you’re not happy with their services. I don’t know if this has any legal backing. It left me shocked! Do consumers have so little (or NO) rights in Germany?
I signed up in the end.
Fitness First is less than 10 mins walk away from home. Convenience is a HUGE factor for me especially during the cold and dark winter months. They are also one of the few gyms that offer late mornings and afternoons classes. Since I get to decide my working hours, I prefer to workout in the day instead of evenings. Last but not least, the classes like Zumba and Body Fit are really fun and engaging. I’m more interested in classes than machines (unless I’m weight training). They also have a sauna room, steam bath and tanning deck to chill out on. I always love a steam bath!!!
Fitness First hasn’t left a good impression in terms of customer service on me but I can live with that. I don’t expect to be treated like a VIP there. I want to attend classes and they deliver them. Whenever I feel like pampering myself by chilling out in the steam bath, it works. However, I think they have lots to improve in terms of pricing (being more consistent) and they definitely need to look into those outrageous terms. There are definitely better gyms out there but I’m willing to close one eye for what they are offering me. You pay for what you get.