LA Fitness vs. The Y: Anatomy of a free pass

Trying out a fitness center before you join is important. You want to make sure you’re comfortable there and the place suits your needs.

Fitness centers know they have a better chance of getting you to join once you come in. That’s why they offer free pass promotions a few times a year. Common sense, right?


So let’s see how two different gyms handle that free week.

Spring Valley YMCA

First I went to my local Y. Kathleen, one of the women at the front desk, was the first person I met. She was very friendly and immediately offered me a tour. The Spring Valley YMCA is huge, so I was happy to be led around.

The facilities were nice, offered everything I needed, and the place was hopping. While we were checking out the indoor track upstairs, a member started talking to Kathleen and then said to me how the Y is a wonderful place and I should join.

So, great facilities and equipment, check. Plenty of wipes to clean the equipment after use, check. Friendly atmosphere, check.

I worked out several times during my free week and felt as welcome as a regular member. As my week went along, I only had two concerns: One was price. It costs a hefty $58 a month to be a member. The second was that the place seemed very busy all the time, so I wondered if I would always be able to do the workout I planned on each time.

Photo of LA Fitness One-Week Free Pass

LA Fitness

Next, I went to LA Fitness. I showed my free pass coupon to the woman at the front desk, and she went and got a salesperson. Friendly atmosphere? Not so much, but I did get a nice tour from Mark, the salesperson.

The facilities were great, and a bonus was that all classes were included with membership. That would definitely save money over the Y.

After the tour, things went downhill. Mark brought me back to his desk to show me prices and try and get me to sign up—without me trying out any equipment yet. Strike one.

Mark showed me two different prices, neither one of which matched the offer ($29.99 a month) on the flyer I was sent, which was also where I got my free pass. I told him I wanted to try out the gym first and make sure I liked it before I enrolled. He then told me if I signed up that day or the next, he could give me this special price (which, yes, finally matched the flyer I was sent). I felt like I was sitting with a car salesman. Strike two.

So, I finally did get to go workout, but I got the feeling he really didn’t want me to. And Mark hinted that I’d have to talk to a salesperson each day I came in.

On my way out the door, the general manager, Joe, was waiting for me. He stopped me and tried to sell me on enrolling that day. He talked for a while pushing the sale, so I finally said to him, “You really don’t want me to work out for free this week, do you?” He tried to say that wasn’t the case, but he couldn’t keep eye contact while he did. Strike three, I was outta there.

Mistakes made

Overall, both organizations made mistakes. The Y’s biggest mistake was that no one ever called me after my week was up to see if I wanted to join. I love the way they were hands off during my week there, but the free pass should definitely come with a follow-up call.

Especially after comparing my experience there to my day at LA Fitness, if we could work out a deal on the price, my answer would probably be yes.

LA Fitness’ biggest mistake was they made my experience all about what they wanted. They wanted a sale, period. They didn’t care what I wanted. I am absolutely okay with a sales pitch, but if you’re offering a free week, you have to mean it. Then, set up an appointment on my last free day there. I’d happily talk about options at that point.

LA Fitness lost a sale. I was very interested in joining. And the Y is at risk of losing a sale too. Lucky for them, I’ll probably call them.

Lessons learned

  1. Deliver on the offer you made.
  2. Make your customers’ experience all about them, not about you.
  3. Follow up with your customers. You can’t address their concerns or make a sale if you don’t talk to them.

Pretty simple stuff, don’t you think?



  1. Katherine: Unemployed · April 11, 2011

    Do all YMCAs do free weeks? I’m so glad I stumbled on your blog, I am totally a market-pick-apart-er!

  2. ctmarcom · April 11, 2011

    Hi Katherine,
    I’m glad you found my blog too! Welcome!

    In general, most (maybe even all) fitness centers run “free week” specials. It’s a great way for them to get you in the door. Also keep an eye out for open houses. I know the Y runs an open house a couple times a year, often in conjunction with a free pass.


  3. David Hill · September 7, 2014

    i tried la fitness and got the same thing on my first day. But for my 2nd and 3rd i laid down the law. they tried to corner mt into signing up i just toked them give me my space or i will walk. need less to say they gave me space. I did not sign up that time but a new la has opened up near me and i might check them out

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