by Christian Duque
The ages old debate rages on, is Planet Fitness really a gym? I’m sure to those who train in dungeon gyms, with guys who still wear fanny packs, it may not be. You won’t find guys deadlifting, cleaning and pressing, or doing leg presses with people sitting on the sleds, there. It’s not that kind of a place. They also don’t blast heavy metal or gangsta rap. Their walls aren’t covered in mildew, but you can eat off their floors, and their bathrooms are usually immaculate.
I’m good with being really clean, but when I say they’re immaculate, I’m being quite accurate. While not everyone can relate to my germaphobe tendencies, I absolutely detest dirty bathrooms. The more spartan lifters might call me a snowflake and maybe I am in this regard, but there’s nothing hardcore about being dirty. Staff is also key; successful businesses employ people who will represent the name well and make customer service a top priority. That’s an area where many gyms lack. Equipment is also key. The one good thing the old hardcore gym could always hang their hat on, was iron, machines, and bikes. They had the best brands and everyone wanted to be there. But, again, times have changed. Now, modern fitness clubs can give old school dungeon joints a run for their money, too!! I’m not going to tell you that Planet Fitness has more dumbbells than Gold’s Gym or better machines than Powerhouse, but they have their own niche, and that’s made them indispensable.
Let’s talk about operations, of which cleanliness is a big part. A lot of facilities just don’t care; they’re all about getting their dues and maintenance fees and not much else. Cleanliness and customer care are rouses they employ to sell new memberships, but existing members get no love. The business side of the gym is firing on all cylinders, but the staff, facilities, and existing-members are often neglected. The tell-tale sign of this is employee training.
Training plays a fundamental role in the corporate culture of chain gyms. Whether you’re walking in or walking out of Planet Fitness, you get acknowledged and greeted. That’s a basic fundamental of good customer service, though at many gyms, members need to get the attention of staff. It’s almost like they have to interrupt whatever it is they’re doing. At some retail stores, cashiers play on their phones, sometimes ignoring customers’ greetings. Forget about the employee greeting the customers – sometimes the customers greets the employee – and don’t even warrant eye contact. 2020 made all this worse. Most employers figured that employees should be happy to still have jobs, but raises went out the window, many workers had their hours cut, and countless were laid off. I can’t vilify the businesses because they have to pay bills, too, but the financial hardships of 2020 were felt by all, especially when it came to customer service. One gym that kept the smiles goin, the premises clean and inviting, and adapted to conditions faster than anyone else, was Planet Fitness. Their training is second to known. Their workers are happy, their management is on the ball, and their customers keep coming in the door. Sure, the $10 a month basic membership is hard to beat, but most people do like me, opting for (the more expensive) Black Membership, with all its amazing amenities.
I, like many other Americans, belong to two gyms. I know people that belong to three and four, as well. When it comes to lifting, I prefer Louisville Athletic Center, because they tend to have the more solid, durable machines, dumbbells heavier than 100lbs, and their benches and accessories are second to none. Many of Planet Fitness facilities have increased their weight-training sections, buying more dumbbells (up to 75lbs), and downplaying the jabs at stereotypical bodybuilders. As a company, I think they’ve come to the self-realization that you can’t be the “judgment free zone,” if you’re simultaneously belittling adherents of physique-based sports. If you’re going to accept everyone, with signs reading “You Belong,” you can’t bully people who look or lift differently. That also goes back to staff training. Some of the old signs may remain, but I suspect staff training has evolved. But here we are talking about the intricacies of one gym’s training, when most gyms’ training is nonexistent. If employees don’t understand how a gym works & don’t have customers skills, then how can they tackle everyday problems?
For me, Planet Fitness is the place to be, especially when it comes to cardio. No gym – hardcore or fitness-based – has the selection of cardio that Planet has. And let’s talk about durability. Whereas hardcore gyms have, seemingly, more sturdy weight-lifitng equipment than mainstream places, Planet’s treadmitlls, stairs, elypticals and bikes, stand to the test. These are top of the line devices, getting maintenance regularly, and offering members a variety of options. They even have rowing machines!! How cool is that? On the flipside, I’ve been to hardcore gyms that have had the same treadmill out of service for years and only have enough cardio machines for maybe a dozen people – tops! Planet is the place to be if you want to burn calories and perhaps one day, it’ll be the place to come lift, as well. But it goes even beyond burning calories and getting stronger. Some people, like yours truly, love to sit on the massage chair or spend seven blissful minutes on an aqua massage bed. Some folks also like to get some rays. When it comes to amenities like state of the art massage chairs and beds, not to mention full-service tanning, with goggles and premium lotions for sale, it makes Planet Fitness stand out, quite promisingly.
In addition to standing out from the competition, Planet Fitness has emerged as an industry leader. How many years have they been on top, and still, they don’t have a formidable rival? That may be because they’re always one step ahead. Their equipment and amenities are second to none and they’re extremely consistent. You can walk into a PF in Miami, Baltimore, Louisville or Las Vegas, and you can expect the same level of customer service and caliber of facility. The equipment will always work, everything will be clean (floors, equipment, chairs, showers, etc), and the staff will greet you warmly. Everything is on point; there are no billing issues, most of the gyms are open 24/7, and organization is key. Everything is digital and the PF app is a must-have. I couldn’t be happier with my membership.
What’s your take on Planet Fitness? Are you a member? Would you ever join? Do you care whether it’s a gym or not?