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Wednesday
May162012

Is it right to hang up on cell phones users in clubs?

On one hand, the gym is an oasis away from the hectic daily lifestyle that most people have during the week. It is that hour or so that there are no kids, bosses, TV, computers or phones. 

On the other hand, many people who go to the gym have some of those things most are trying to stay away from – like kids and work – and need to stay in touch with them. 

And for this gym clientele there is one important piece of equipment that is needed at their club: their cell phone. 

So, what is the correct protocol when it comes to members using their cell phone for something other than music or one of the many fitness apps out there? Does a club owner or manager have the right to enforce rules that prohibit the use of a cell phone on the gym floor, a class, or anywhere, really?

“The average fitness person has a life and they have to multi-task. As an owner of a gym I think I need be somewhat sensitive to that,” said Steve Smith, CEO of Gym Matrix, which has three locations in Louisiana. 

“If I get a call and that phone is also my iPod … I am going to take that call. (So) I am not going to bother any members (and ask them) to not take a call.” 

The issue is obviously not limited to the United States. Francois Leduc, director of Midtown Athletic Club in Montreal, faces the dilemma with the approach of working around the issue. 

“I think (cell phone use) is something we need to live with and actually adapt (to),” he said. “I was reading recent data that a lot of people using (smartphones) use it more to access the Internet than (for calls). It is part of our daily life; it is not going away.” 

Leduc added that with apps and social media it wouldn’t be in his best interest to issue a blanket “no cell phones on the floor” rule. 

“You can either resist change or embrace it and see what benefits you might get from it. There are more and more apps developed for our industry that benefits servicing our members. 

“With the rise of social media, I think it would be way too conservative (of a view) to ban phones. A lot of people talk about their club experience on social media and that good publicity for the club.” 

Of course, there is the other side: do you satiate a few at the expense of others? 

Many club owners run into the cell phone users vs. non-cell phone users clash. Oftentimes members will approach management with the complaints that fellow members are talking too loud on their phones, talking on the phone while sitting on equipment that others want to use, or incessant beeps and buzzes from incoming texts. 

Ryan Conover, general manager at Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, which has three locations in Fort Collins, Colo., and one in Loveland, pointed out that the most prevalent grievance at the clubs is cell phone use on the floor. 

“Members complain that they lose concentration and focus (while others are talking on the phone),” said Conover. “A lot of our members come to relax …  Usually the person using a cell has to be loud to overcome the music on floor. It is very distracting to (other) members.” 

Conover said since they posted signs requesting cell phone use to designated areas the complaints subsided. His club also includes it in “etiquette tips” section of the newsletter. 

He added that if it got to the point that an individual’s cell phone abuse persisted that he wouldn’t be against taking away a membership. 

“The worst case scenario would be if I had a conversation (with a perpetrator) and if they didn’t listen, I would consider (cancelling) their membership because it was ruining the experience of others. It is one of the things I can control on the floor, unlike too much perfume (on a member), or grunters and groaners.” 

Smith said that there can be policing required for classes. He is a trainer, too, and has two participants (“both are some of my most dedicated members”) who will answer calls during training. He said he won’t stop for them and is up to them to if they fall behind. He allows all of his trainers to make the decision on how to deal with it. 

“We haven’t decided for sure how to manage it, (or) if we are going create a policy or not,” said Smith. ”Right now lit is left to individual trainer on how they want to manage it.” 

One club member in the Midwest explained that she hasn’t seen any cell phone warfare in her club. That may be due to the steadfast rule across the entire fitness club industry since the advent of cell phones with cameras and video. Almost immediately – probably since the first instance – cell phones were banned in locker rooms. Possibly her members have always had the mentality of not having their phones on them. 

Alene Delong, manager at Mentor Heisley Racquet & Fitness Club in Mentor, Ohio, said her Midwest club has a few who will take calls or text but haven’t witnessed many complaints. 

“We haven’t had any problems with it that we have needed to go any extra lengths to enforce it,” Delong said. 

Kristi Kearney, the general manager at Fitness Squared in Hartford, Conn., said she is lucky that the use of cell phones will rarely come up in her facility since it is located in the basement. She noted that the club even disconnected its WiFi so getting a signal is near impossible. 

“Recently I walked into a club to do a tour and there must have been five people on cell phones and I thought, I am glad (it is an issue) I don’t have to deal with.” 

She said she would approach the issue the same way she does with members who work out in inappropriate clothes. She would approach them and tell them that it is not allowed. 

Leduc looks at it simply, like dealing with a child or a difficult neighbor. 

“It’s about common sense and respecting others,” he said.

 

Reader Comments (1)

When I was managing clubs and teaching group fitness classes in South Florida, I had a BIG problem with members answering phone calls in group fitness class and talking very loud. It was rude and annoying to everyone else. We set a "No Cell Phone" rule in the group fitness classes. I would remind my students to put their phones on silent before class started. Every now and then a mom would tell me before class that she needed to leave her phone on in case her child called, but if it did ring she would run out and take the call outside. Now that I am in North Florida I never have any issues at all in my boot camp classes. People are there to work their butts off and escape. I don't think I have had a single phone even ring in my 3 months of boot camp.
May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSonya M

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