Making a good impression: How finding a gym is the first hurdle

Joining a gym can be an intimidating and uncertain process. A membership costs a lot of money, and it’s a big commitment to make on blind faith. Here are my experiences with a few gyms in Winnipeg and their treatment of prospective members.


Located on Kenaston, Goodlife currently offers three free visits to prospective members. I signed up online for this offer and soon got a call from an assistant manager, who agreed to meet with me. He was very friendly, and took the time to assess my needs. He took me for a tour, but mostly let the excellent equipment, large fitness class spaces and cleanliness speak for themselves.

He seemed a little disappointed that I wasn’t willing to sign up for a year’s membership at the student price of $22 bi-weekly, but he gladly gave me a card worth three free visits. What he neglected to tell me was that the card expired within a week of receiving it. Admittedly, it was my fault for not reading the card carefully, but when I went to the gym for the first time a week and a day later, I had a run-in with the woman working at the desk.

I handed her the card.

She mumbled something about the card being expired, but she was going to let me in that day anyway. I told her I didn’t know there was an expiry date, but she quickly told me that yes, there was.

The gym was great, but unfortunately, I couldn’t return for my two other free visits.

Of course, one free visit was more than I got from:


Shapes ran commercials advertising a trial period of one week for the low price of $10. I went into the Pembina location to take advantage of this offer. However, I made the mistake of not mentioning the actual offer, but left it up to them to tell me about it.

I approached the front desk. The girl behind the desk looked at me. I said hello. She promptly walked away from me without a word. Fortunately, another woman was working behind the desk. I asked her if there was any sort of trial period available to me so that I could try out the gym. She told me she was on her break, but the girl who just walked away would answer my question. After waiting awkwardly for several minutes, the girl who ignored me came back.

I started with, “I’m looking at getting a membership. Do you have any sort of trial period?” She told me that for $15, I could do a drop-in to try out the gym. I asked if she was sure, and wondered if there was some kind of thing where I can try out the gym for a week. I was strongly hinting. The answer was no. Drop-in for $15.

I left. I tried phoning later when other people were working, deciding to refer specifically to the commercial this time. I talked to a woman on the phone who said that I could definitely take advantage of the offer if I made an appointment for a consultation and I got the name of the person I would be meeting.

I showed up for my appointment a couple days later. At the desk was the woman who “was on her break” and couldn’t answer my yes or no question. I told her I had an appointment and who it was with.

The person I was supposed to meet wasn’t there. By this point, I was starting to lose patience.

“Why did I make an appointment, then?” I asked, smugly. Semantically, I was trapped, because the woman told me that while the person I was supposed to meet wasn’t there, she would be there shortly.

A few minutes later a girl came out to the front desk.

“You’re back,” she said. Of course, it had to be the girl who had ignored me a couple days before and then told me I couldn’t try out the gym without paying $15.

She went over the pricing info, and asked me what I was looking for at the gym. I told her that I had seen the commercial and wanted to take advantage of the $10 for a one week trial offer. She informed me that I had to have a coupon to qualify for the offer. I inquired how it would be possible to obtain a coupon from a television commercial. Evidently, in my silliness, I neglected to notice that the commercial says that I have to get the coupon from The Winnipeg Sun.

In all fairness, she did pull out the staff’s copy of the Sun and looked for the coupon, but to no avail. Then she made a call to some anonymous person to ask if that deal was still in effect. It wasn’t.

Now it was time for the showdown. She asked what I was going to do. I told her that if I were to spend hundreds of dollars on a gym membership, I should have some guarantee that I like the place. She kept pushing the $15 drop-in. I said I wanted to try out some of the fitness classes to see if they’re what I’m looking for and that $15 was kind of a rip-off for one visit.

Her response, quite bluntly, was that in life, I couldn’t expect to get things for free. I suspected that she had never even heard of economic game theory, but I decided to try explaining it to her simply.

“Basically, I can give you $10 for a week, and I might get a membership, or I can walk out right now, and you get nothing.”

So I walked, cursing the woman on the phone who told me I could take advantage of the deal when it was clear that they were going to do everything in their power not to let me have it.

Bison Rec

Bison Recreation Services also does not offer a free trial period and the drop-in fee is $9, $7 less than the Shapes drop-in fee. What the U of M gym has going for it is that their yearly memberships are relatively inexpensive for students, offering a one-year membership for $168 and they can be renewed at that price indefinitely, whether you are still a student or not. What they also have going for them is that they didn’t make me a promise that they never intended to keep.

For people just starting a fitness regime, entering a gym for the first time can be intimidating and make them feel insecure. Perhaps gyms should be as welcoming as possible, especially when considering that they’re not the only game in town.

The issue isn’t that I expect things for free. The life advice that the girl from Shapes felt qualified to impart to me was apt. The issue is that I was given incorrect information on the phone in the hopes of getting me down there to buy a membership. Perhaps it’s unrealistic for me to expect a company to act like they want my business.

No, nothing in life is free. Except three visits at Goodlife — within a week.