don’t say my name: when sales techniques backfire

So I’ve just moved to Fulham and thought I should check out nearby gyms, for the sake of health, wardrobe and happiness.

this poncy one was recommended

The most prominent one, David Lloyd’s, also came recommended (something about “perks”?) from a colleague. After several phone calls from various people, I was invited to have a “grand tour” of the “premium” club. I was expecting something rivalling the former Holmes place in Canary wharf or Liverpool street, with a side of raunchy. My hostess was a girl called Sapphire, but more on her later.

Adults only area, waiting for Sapphire

Reception was noisy and busy, but i was very pleasantly received and quickly directed to the far end of the main floor, to the lounge, where a view of the stunning Fulham city hall beckoned the photographer and architecture fan in me. I quickly found the “adults only” corner (this Sapphire joke could go far…) and spent some quality time with a biro and the little form I was given to fill out.

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Speed, Sophia, speed

Ten minutes later, Sapphire showed up. That girl was either on crack or had ingested a dozen too many coffees that day. I haven’t heard anyone talk so fast in a very very long time! And the thing is, every third word seemed to be “Sophia”. Now i had a colleague once, a really great guy, who had told me this was a legitimate “technique” to establish rapport: repeat your interlocutors name. Often and clearly. Sadly the effect that has always had on me is the same as when a stranger takes my hand. It feels creepy, wrong, and like someone is invading my personal space.

a 12 month contract at £86/month

The pricing options were expensive bordering on extortionate. £86/month with a 12-month contract, which drops to £78 for corporate memberships if your company qualifies, or jumps to £96/month for a 3-month contract which then becomes monthly rolling. “Corporate” means you’ll have use of all the David Lloyd’s gyms in the world. Fairly cool.) if you want to just try it out? Only the three-month contract option is available. This is harder to get out of than a flat!

The facilities were crowded like a tesco on a sunday morning, not exceptionally spacious, and despite them having the holy grail of gyms: a large swimming pool, the 1.2m depth across it (boring) and the number of people in there put me off. I want to lazily swim a few lengths, not play water-based bumper cars. Sapphire was happily yakking on about “Sophia this and Sophia that”. I didn’t interrupt her. And she didn’t seem to notice the frozen smile on my face.

At the end of the visit, she asked if I would be going ahead with the membership. I think that when I told her I was used to having much better things for £100/month, she was miffed. Seriously though. Who works in that industry and doesn’t know Holmes Place? That Canary wharf pool… Or the one behind Liverpool street. Olympic pool. Jacuzzi. Heated floors. Bathrobes. I still dream of it… I politely suggested I needed some time to think about it and took the pricing form, class schedule and her business card with me. All three were in the rubbish within 10 minutes of me getting home.

an over-eager sales call

Around 10am, Sapphire called. She wanted to know if I would be joining. Aggressive selling! Despite being a bit shocked about the persistence and hurry of the sales team, I just told her I had thought about it and would not be going ahead with the membership.

and a teenager’s sms

The next day, I received an sms from David Lloyd’s. Misspelled and pushy. When did CAPITALISATION stop meaning that someone is screaming at you?

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I did get something out of it though. I got a blog post, an addition to my “they call that custom service?” collection of stories, and the strongest desire to hunt out alternatives places to exercise – ideally for about £50/month at most – around Fulham.

My first lead is the dance studios with drop in classes almost literally around the corner from my place. Each class is £5-6, and you can just drop in. Besides. Belly dancing, salsa and zumba are way more fun than making like a squirrel on an exercise wheel.