Tag Archives: bully

When the Bully at the Gym IS the Gym

I was horrified to hear yet another story of corporate bullying by a gym against an innocent person.  In this case, the person was somebody I know and in this case the bullying was carried out by the gym’s finance company.  Yet it’s part of a pattern I’ve written about over and over on this blog.

My friend had a contract at Gold’s Gym.  Her husband recently passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  With everything going on, she was currently out of the state and unable to use the gym.  When she called to cancel the memberships of her and her husband, the gym’s financing company–ABC Financing said they would be charging for a final month.  When my friend asked if they could waive this final month’s fee as neither of them would be using the gym and she was dealing with significant financial hardship, the guy at ABC Financing LAUGHED AT HER.  He laughed, out loud, over the phone to a woman who just lost her husband.

What is wrong with these people?

I would say that part of what is wrong with these people, is that they work in a business based–at least in some cases–on not providing services to half the people who have paid for it.  The truth is, over half (67%) of the people who pay for gym memberships never use them.  Many gyms depend on this revenue.  Perhaps they are afraid that if they make it easy for people to get out of contracts, they will do just that.  Perhaps they are afraid that people will one day realize that the glowing promises of glistening six-pack abs and perfectly defined Michelle Obama arms are not going to be fulfilled.  Perhaps they are afraid that folks will realize that making ridiculous claims about what fitness products can do, then constantly blaming the exercisers for not achieving those results will ultimately get old.  Who knows what it is in their minds?

Not all gyms are bad.

There are any number of good gyms out there who treat their customers well, offer good products and conduct fair business practices.   But there are plenty who don’t.  So I’d like to offer you a few bits of unsolicited, free advice:

1.  Ask to try a gym before you buy.  I’d say you need a good week to get to know the instructors, get a feel for the gym’s environment and see if you will be treated well.  Please don’t take a 15 minute tour and then succumb to the high pressure tactics in the sales office.

2.  Ask to take the contract home so you can read the fine print.  Some gym membership contracts are fair.  Some are deals crafted by the devil.  You will never get to the bottom of it while sitting in the sales office with somebody breathing down your neck.

3.  Understand what the written policies are about getting out of your gym contract.  It does not matter what the sales person says.  It matters what the paper says.  There should be some situations and some grounds for you  to legally terminate your contract with them.

4.  If you feel you are being pushed or coerced, leave.  You can always come and sign up another day.

5.  Consider a month to month or pay per use gym even if it costs more.  If there’s a 67 percent chance you’ll never go to the place, pay as you go may wind up being a lot cheaper, right?  Plus I have found that gyms that need to keep earning your loyalty every month tend to do a better job at that.  If you find yourself going to the gym regularly, month after month, you could consider signing up for a year-long contract then.

6.  Do your homework.  Do a google search with the name of your prospective gym and “complaints”.  See what’s written there.  Is it one or two disgruntled people, or a busload of them?  See what the Better Business Bureau and the FTC have to say about them.

Finding the wrong gym can be a real disaster.  Finding the right gym can help you build a fantastic fitness routine you can follow for life.  Spend the time to do it right.  And make sure that the bullies at the gym don’t work there.

Speaking of being bullied, we are only hours away from the Fat Activism Conference.  Are you signed up yet?  Three days and over 40 awesome speakers for just $39.  Or pay what you can.  Build your personal and communal anti-bullying toolkit.  Sign up today!

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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The Courage to Try

dance_pictureIn putting together my new college “Love Your Body” speech and in reading Ragen Chastain’s awesome blog post, one thing has been coming up over and over again.  That thing is how being uncomfortable with our bodies tends to rob us of our ability to reach our full potential.  Ragen talks at length about how many people in our society react with genuine surprise when they encounter a fat person with talent.  I have to admit, it’s really got me thinking.

I think any time a person performs in public or even simply raises their hand in class or is willing to take a definite side in a public debate, it takes a lot of courage.  Anyone putting themselves out in this way is open to somebody calling them out, calling them names or simply laughing at them.  As a fat person, simply walking down the street can be enough to fuel criticism, catcalling or cruelty.  Is it any wonder then, that many fat people don’t want to call additional attention to themselves by raising their hand, taking part in a debate or getting up in front of an audience to dance, recite poetry, act or sing?

Lately it seems everywhere we turn we see talented people being publicly ridiculed for their weight.  Recently, star actress Melissa McCarthy was skewered by film critic Rex Reed, not for her performance, but rather for being a “cacophonous, tractor-sized, female hippo…who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success…”  This woman, with her “short acting career” spanning a mere 17 years, currently stars in a hit prime-time network television show and a movie that opened number one at the box office, has been nominated for over 15 major awards including an Oscar and boasts a Prime Time Emmy on her mantle.  Apparently that’s considered a short, gimmicky career if you happen to be fat.

And regardless of how you might feel about Governor Chris Christie’s politics, here’s a guy who’s had a hard time in the public eye.  Apparently being a governor who has done yeoman’s work in helping rebuild New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not enough to quiet the noise about his weight.  Christie faced criticism from Former White House physician Connie Mariano who recently told  CNN that she’s worried Christie might die in office were he elected president.  When Christie pointed out that Mariano has never examined him or his medical records and therefore has nothing upon which to base this prediction, a wave of sympathy was unleashed–towards the doctor.  Mariano responded to Christie’s criticism asking whether he is acting presidential.  However, it doesn’t look like anybody is asking whether Mariano is acting like a real doctor by diagnosing a person based on the way he looks in a suit on TV.

So what happens when you are a talented fat person, taking those first tentative steps towards sharing your gifts with the world and you are confronted with these stories?  Does it help you feel more courageous?  Are you eager to be creative and make yourself vulnerable in a world like this?

I have no doubt that there are millions and millions of deeply creative people in the world who happen to be fat.  But in this climate, in this environment, I think it’s a wonder any of us step out into the light.  Even those of us who have had tremendous success face constant criticism for our size. We are constantly dismissed because we don’t fit an exceptionally narrow standard of beauty.  And so we learn, at a very young age to keep our talents to ourselves, to hide our light under a bushel basket, to be quiet, to be small.  And many of us, for fear of being laughed at, may not even try.  We may not dance.  We may not sing.  We may not even speak.

I wonder what we can do to help encourage the young people around us.  It’s a tough world out there filled will bullies.  Are there kids around us that we can nurture?  Can we help the kids around us learn to reach deep inside in this world filled with hate and give it all they’ve got? Can we encourage them to lift their lights out of the bushel baskets and let them shine?  We can, if we only have the courage to try.

Love,

The Fat Chick