Why LA Fitness is unfit, some thanks – and a few other reflections

Dr. Johnson, as you know if you read this, is perhaps my favourite person to crib from, though he made quite a few pretty sweeping and highly dubious statements.

One of his best lines came when he was asked to coin a good insult. His suggestion was: “Sir, your mother, under pretence of keeping a bawdy house, is a receiver of stolen goods.”

Another I like was, “I do not wish to speak ill of any man , but I believe the gentleman is an attorney.”

This strikes a chord with me right now, even though one of my best friends is a lawyer.

I am going through my third and, I devoutly pray, last divorce. A sad business. My lawyers are good – perhaps the best around – but seem unable to restrain their rapacity. Maybe it comes with the training. Not content with charging perhaps the highest fees in London, they insisted that I deposit a tidy sum with them in advance.

I can understand that, just, though I am hardly a likely defaulter; but to add injury to insult they charge me as we go along. So my money sits in their bank earning interest.

Let’s moan about something else.

My partner and her sister are taking free trials of various gyms, while I stay home and do my usual set of exercises: three deep breaths, two twitches and a majestic fart.

Yesterday they went to LA Fitness in Fulham. The instructor was wonderful they said – he struck some impressive, near impossible poses of a highly contortionate nature, with the intention, I greatly fear, of conveying his abilities in closer contact with someone of either sex later.

They arrived to be greeted with far less than total apathy. Nobody told them where the changing rooms – or anything else – might be; they were expected to buy a lock to put on their locker; and they left just as ignored as they came.

What the hell is the point of offering a free trial if you ignore the people who accept it? When you’re in a booming industry like health-freakery you can get away with this level of incompetence – but not forever, believe me.

You know, quite a few people suggested I write this blog but I always refused as it seemed grossly narcissistic and, again to quote Dr.J, “Sir, no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

However, I greatly appreciate the comments I get – especially the last two. To give you another little gem I love, James Thurber wrote a very funny book about the great New Yorker editor Harold Ross, who was a very lugubrious soul and sparing with praise. Whenever he saw something he liked he would say, “I am encouraged to go on.”

You comments ancourage me to go on, except one that I removed last week, because it was a) untrue in three important respects and b)it named names, which I try to avoid so as to and c) the writer (like many of this type) did not identify himself.

If he does I’ll put him right – though I have a suspicion as to who he is. I do plan to write about all those things eventually – and accurately

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. I was treated in a very similar way by a local Cannon’s gym. And they expect you to pay a ‘discounted’ £55 per month for this sort of customer service?

    Needless to say, I’m not a member at Cannon’s…

  2. The calories I burn in rage at the monthly fees I am charged for a gym membership are still not worth it.

    Having told them I was likely to go bankrupt recently, they promised to stop taking payments from my account.

    Thankfully the bankruptcy was averted, but not the regular payments for a service I can’t rid of without a lawyer.

    Now I am in despair.

    If I have to deposit an advance fee with the lawyer to fight my case, then it becomes self-defeating.

    So I can either continue waving my arms around in despair (and ironically exercising), or give in and just go down the gym.

    Customer service is so 1990’s.

  3. Rob Watson

    Ah, you’ve touched on a bugbear I’ve had for some time now – gyms and health clubs. So many organisations out there can’t communicate with or deal with customers, but this industry is riddled with “how not to…” examples.

    In the last few years I have relocated many times with work and have changed gyms many times as a result. I have therefore been a member of Fitness First, David Lloyd, Total Fitness, Virgin Active and now Cannon’s.

    Of all of them, David Lloyd’s was agreeable enough overall (not cheap, but a really nice club and very clean) and Virgin Active had really good, genuine staff and offered the best value overall.

    But my God, the rest have all been terrible. Cannon’s is, as my friend Rob GT says way over the odds on price, then this morning I notice that they have put my subs up with no explanation. Only by £2.20 a month but it’s the principle and the fact that it was already expensive. David Lloyd put the prices up once but at least bothered to write (even though the increase was well below inflation).

    Apart from Virgin Active, at every gym I’ve ever been to, if you speak to staff you get the feeling you’re interrupting their conversation. They avoid eye contact all they possibly can but if they have to speak to you they will, grudgingly.

    And their marketing is even worse. Has anyone ever received a satisfactory explanation for one of those joining fees? Where does it go? What costs do they incur specifically due to me joining?

    I guess this all stems from the fact that the majority of their staff are selected for reasons of fitness, beauty or both. Social skills don’t evem come in to it. The same mentality as people who speak to footballers like they are a genius, or speak loudly and slowly to disabled people, thinking that intelligence and physical ability are directly proportionate.

    Excuse the long rant, gyms make me REALLY angry – can you tell?

  4. I would add it to your TIPS. I have this mantra learnt the hard way: “Never Ever Buy/Sell/Interact with a Person of Law”. I will not boar you with how I got to believe this. Suffice it to say, that king of Bhutan has it right – Life is happier when there is no lawyer around. If I gave the same service I just got from solicitors I would be out of a job with no reputation. Do you keep suppliers that take a year to deliver goods?

    Eli Kling

  5. Ian

    Rob should be delighted that he is dealing with such an old fashioned organisation like Cannons who treat him like a gentleman by pricing their sub increases in guineas.

  6. We wonder the same thing at our organisation. I believe the gyms in London are highly overrated and work more as a dating scene in the higher-priced parts of London.

    Why waste money with large factories of machines and trainers who have to be on the floor cause they pay a monthly rent (as do you!) and are miserable about it. You can workout in your own home and get more out of it! By the way, love Dr. Johnson!

  7. Anonymous

    I hate LA Fitness, I got a 6 month contract (which then rolls from month to month I am now aware of…) and thought it was finished by that 6 months, now I have had to pay £80 to cancel my contract so i can not use a gym… it is a farce.
    Don’t use LA Fitness, none of the rowing machines ever worked, the highest free weight is laughable and there are not enough cardio machines. I had a much better experience at Total Fitness…

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