Saturday, January 5, 2013

Personal Training Sales Pitch Gone Wrong

In my fitness experience, I kind of feel like I have done it all; group fitness classes, boot camps, Crossfit, running, races, DVDs, weights, Yoga, and almost everything in between.  One thing that I have never done is work out one-on-one with a personal trainer.  Seeing how I have this (seemingly far away) dream of becoming a personal trainer, I thought it might be a good idea to explore this idea.  My motivation has been on a down swing and I thought it would be a good idea to work with a trainer for the motivation and as a learning experience.

With the onset of the winter months, I recently signed up for a no contract membership again at LA fitness in Hurst. This will allow me to get in some early morning runs and weight lifting sessions, sheltered from the cold and dark. When you sign up at LA Fitness they offer you what they call a "Free Personal Training Session."

At first, I told the guy selling me the gym membership that I wasn't interested in the session as it was really nothing more than a sales call. They work out with you for a few minutes, try to convince you that you know nothing and can't possibly be successful without them, and the high pressure sales begin. Although I did want to talk to someone about personal training sessions, I was not interested in being a victim of the dreaded "sales call."

While he wouldn't admit that this was only a sales call, he said that there was some selling at these sessions, but he promised to set me up with one of the more laid-back low pressure guys, one of the guys who really would just be interested in answering my questions and helping me decided if it was right for me. I reluctantly agreed to the appointment.

"Can we do an early morning appointment, say 5:30 am?" I asked
"Sorry, the trainers only work between 8am-7pm" he responded.
"That's odd, I'm sure I have seen trainers here at 5:30 am" I argued.
"Well the sales trainers only work from 8-7, the actual trainers work all hours," he was forced to admit.

Ah ha. So I was exactly right. The guys giving you the so-called free personal training session, are certified trainers, but they actually work in the gym in a sales capacity only. The guy selling you the training sessions won't actually be the guy training you. I knew it!  He verified that just as I suspected, the free personal training session was nothing more than a glorified sales call.  I felt smart and really annoyed at the same time.

I show up in the gym in my shorts and tank in December, the gym was chilly in anticipation of the hard work outs ahead. I met with my salesman/trainer who greeted me with a white smile and a clip board. His sandy blond hair is spiked gently to suggest that he has a wild side, while still remaining professional in his crisp polo shirt. He is friendly in the way I have come to expect of a salesman, he laughs a little too hard at my jokes, he's just a little too enthusiastic towards my responses to his questions. He seems nice enough, but there is a quality that is not at all authentic. I sense, and probably rightly so, that he is feeding me the sales pitch and that he is following along to a script in his head.

He handed me a business card that had his picture on it, presumably from a body building competition. I look at it and had to hold in my laugh, I was kind of embarrassed for him. I couldn't believe he was handing this thing out, way over exposed.

He kept saying, "Keep doing what you are doing and you may get a skinnier body, but your body composition will stay the same." I had to remind him several times that one, I was not interested in a skinnier body (thank-you-very-much), and  two, I have already been working out with weights for a couple of years. I was not looking for a trainer to do something completely new, I needed the motivation and extra push. Of course there is always a lot to learn and I would look to a trainer to guide me to the next step, but I am generally well educated about body compensation and a weight work out has been a regular part of my routine for years. It was almost like this pitch was so ingrained in his brain, he couldn't change it even when it didn't apply to the client.

I had to say more than once, "You are not listening to me."

He said more than once, "You are not obese," in a condescending way, as to say, you are not fat, but you have a lot of work to do. More than once.

Yeah, thanks buddy. I didn't think I was.

He also called me a variety of nick-names, which I am never too keen on: honey, sweetie and the worst of all, baby. He also forgot my name more than once and had to ask me to remind him. Maybe his bad memory was the reason for his over-use of the sort of nick names that are only acceptable to me coming from my hubby's lips.

The last thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that he did not like that I was a runner and he didn't hesitate to tell me so. He also shook his head in disapproval when I told him about my experience in boot camps, with Insanity, and in Crossfit.  I really don't appreciate anyone saying that there is only one way to fitness. I really didn't appreciate his negative remarks towards my passion for running.

I think any good trainer should encourage people to approach fitness in whatever way they enjoy most. While I understand he is selling personal training sessions, so it is in his best interest to down play other forms of fitness, it is no excuse for this behavior. How dare he suggest that running was bad or wrong?

I say, whatever you love to do for fitness, that is what you should do. Besides I wasn't there for running tips, I was there to work out with a trainer with weights, so it was already clear that I wasn't on a one-track fitness regimen of running only.  He even went on to suggest that during a squat that I was beginning to develop arthritis in my knee. I asked him how he couldn't possibly know that from watching a single squat and he responded, I just know because you are a runner and that is what eventually happens to all runners over time(?!?).

I was not liking this guy. If I thought for one second that he would be the guy doing the training sessions, I would have ran out of there. 

Quite honestly, I was annoyed, but I was not so offended that I was ready to walk out, especially since I knew he wouldn't be the one doing the training sessions. I have come to expect that these are the behaviors of a salesman in this type of business.  Even though I disliked him, I generally liked what he had to offer, it seemed like a pretty good deal, maybe even whip me into shape. I'm thinking I will sign the papers despite the salesman, not because of him with the hopes of a trainer with a better personality.

It would have been a much better experience if I could have approached the front desk clerk and asked for their rates and signed the paper, why they make you go through the painful sales call, I will never know.  Does this crap work on anyone? Do people fall for this?

Then he slides the paper under my pen, "Sign here," he urges, probably quite proud of himself, thinking he made the sale, if he only knew what I really thought. He tries to hide that he is annoyed that I am taking the time to read the contract, rather than sign and read later (or never) like so many people do, but I can sense his impatience.

Now I am completely hesitant to do something that I really wanted to do, work out with a trainer.  I am completely beat down by the experience.  I walked out of there without signing the contract. He ultimately sold me on not buying training sessions.

What do you think of high pressure sales? My husbands runs a small local security alarm business in DFW, so it is necessary for him to give a sales pitch of his products and services to his customers. I think he is the best salesperson, because he says something like, "I am a terrible sales person, I am just here to show you what is available to you and help you make the best choice for you." This is the best "pitch" because it makes people feel at ease, and he really does have their best interests in mind.  I wished my gym salesman had this honest consultative sales approach.

Does a salesman's tactics ever have a reverse effect on you?  Do you they cause you to not want to buy something that you originally wanted to buy?  What is your experience with gym membership and personal training sales sessions?

photo credit: istolethetv via photopin cc
photo credit: dno1967b via photopin cc


  1. Yikes, that makes no sense that the sales person doesn't actually do the training, wouldn't work on me either!

  2. I joined 24 Hr Fitness in Seattle several months ago. I was never pressured once to sign up for the free session. When I decided to ask about it last month I got one phone call to set it up. There was literally ZERO sales in my session. She only told me about the packages after I asked. In my session she was very aware of my goals (recover from injury to get back to running). She also knows my name and says hi when she sees me in the gym. One time she came over and told me about a sale on their packages, which I asked her to do. Never called me once.
    So, all of that to say your trainer, and gym, sound like a-holes and that isn't right at all!

    1. I also had a better experience at 24 Hr. Fitness a few years ago (than I did recently at LA fitness) I think their corporate policies must be different. Who knows, maybe I just got a bad seed at LA.

  3. I hate these kinds of things so much so that I stay away from them at all costs.
    I think it would have been nice for you to meet the actual person who was going to train you before you signed the contract, what if you hate* them?
    *strong word but hopefully you know what I mean

    1. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I hope so too!

  4. Wow I'm annoyed for you that you had to deal with it! That sucks.

  5. That sounds like an extremely annoying experience. At my old gym I was given a "free personal training session", but it was just one of the trainers showing how to use the machines and stuff. An experience like yours would have turned me off from hiring a trainer!

  6. What a nightmare, they can be so ridiculous!
    I had to go through a sales pitch at a Golds Gym before. They make you fill out a lame questionnaire about what your goals are (but the only options are lose weight, look better, etc.) I ran a lot around that time, like, 12 miles every other day just for fun, not training for anything. And including running at 5/6am.
    Anyway, the sales guy pretty much asked why I hadn't met my "goals" (and I said they're not typical like "lose xx pounds" type goals, it's more..get stronger, faster, and continue to do that) and basically told me I was lazy. And I said, I'm sorry, I just ran 12 miles yesterday morning, thanks. And then I stopped being nice.

    1. very similar experience to mine. on my questionnaire, he made it look like I started and stopped (i.e. quit) many things since I said I had tried many different types of fitness activities.

  7. I hate the corporate environment. I, going to get CPT certified and hope to do it in home or at parks etc...more freeing and comfortable

    1. my secret (or not so secret since I am saying it here) to lead a group boot camp in the park once I get certified. I could NEVER do what this guy does. NEVER.

  8. LOL on busting them on the "sales trainers." I really don't think I could have taken it. I would have been creeped out at the honey/baby/sweetie stuff, pissed off at the fat/weight stuff, and irked at the disdain for running/crossfit. I hope your real trainer is good!

    1. thanks! I hope so too. They sure didn't give me a good comfort level that it will be!

  9. This is why I never worked for a gym. This is awful!! He actually called you BABY?? I would have talked to a manager and thrown around the term "sexual harassment" a lot. Who wants to work with anyone like that?

    1. I think (not sure) that he might have BEEN the manager. lol

  10. What a total tool. That would totally annoy me and such a turn-off. Sorry you had the deal with that.

  11. I think he was totally out of line using those nicknames with you and would have told the manager so, on my way OUT of there, forever.

  12. I had a similar experience at Gold's Gym. I went in and said I just wanted to take a fitness class (it was zumba) because i wanted to know if I was able to do it at my fitness level. The man wouldn't let me out of his office to take the class bc he wanted to talk about me. He was "concerned" about my health. How could I not be ready to sign the contract right now. He said I obviously couldn't walk out because I needed to care enough about myself to join the gym.... I never took my Zumba class. I didn't take any classes for another 6 mos. or so. I should have written a letter... it was awful!

  13. UGH! This is the main reason that I haven't worked in a gym since getting my NASM personal training certification--I don't want to HAVE to be a "salesy" trainer type. :( I just want to help people. Sorry for your experience!!!

  14. I totally can relate. I just joined a new gym. Part of the deal was two "personal training" sessions (aka one sales session and one health testing session). Really? Just be honest. I was going to join anyway. I am not that interested in personal training, having had a bad experience at a prior gym but I went to the first one (the sales pitch) and then went to one today (which was a real one that I "purchased" with credits they gave me for paying my first month). I actually loved the session today, mostly because I was able to tell the trainer that I didn't need the motivational speeches and that I would likely only sign up for a few sessions throughout the year. I also told her that what i need to know was how to strengthen my glutes and core so that I could run again, as that is really my goal (to run without pain).

    Anyway, I don't get the need for the sales pitch, esp. high pressure stuff. I even wrote to the manager of the club about the misleading "personal training" session pitch during the initial sign up. I haven't heard back, which is another issue.

  15. Wow! I can't believe he would use nicknames, and like you said, highly unappropriate ones! I used to work out at Shapes (the equivalent of LA Fitness here in Canada) and had to leave due to the sales pitches that would come every so often. I'm there to workout, not get badgered.
    I did however see a personal trainer for a month this past June at Crossfit and found there was no pressure to sign up for a an extended period of time. In fact, when it came to looking for equipment I could use at home over the summer he showed me the products they sold and told me who to compare it with (even when the competitor was cheaper). His attitude was laid back, he was friendly and he didn't judge any of my other activities. I would definitely go back!
    Hope you get a trainer that will actually train and not some glorified salesperson on a self-esteem high!

  16. That sucks! But unfortunately I have had that experience so many times at gyms. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone actually listen to you and your needs! Almost every time I have used a trainer, they try to tell me to stop running. It's so annoying. And the arthritis thing, crazy! The number one thing that is taught through my PT cert. is you can't diagnose health problems as a PT. You are not a doctor! I can't believe he did that! I hope the trainer you get is awesome:) There are great ones out there:)

  17. If you end up liking the "real" trainer you might tell him of your experience and how negative it was. I was cheering for you to teach him a thing or two!!

  18. Ugh, I got that 'pitch' too when I first joined my gym about 5 years ago. Basically they wouldn't let you use the gym without the trainer session. The guy was extremely condescending and tried to quiz me on exercises, when I told him I had been doing weights on and off for the past 15 years: "Well, do you know what muscles lat pulldowns work on?" Um, yes. Yes I do. Then he asked me if I was nurse, and thought I was 'tricking' him. Needless to say, I never did sign up for those sessions.

    I know not all personal trainers are like that, but I can't stand the hard sell, and when I actually know what I'm doing, I really don't like being told I don't.

  19. Uggh...although you write so well, i was cringing!
    Been a PersonalTrainer before there were "PersonalTrainers"--1983.
    Your story would be hillarious if it wasn't true! Oh my gosh.
    I am so out of touch...clueless as to what Imposters are doing. Thanks for the heads up-i think:-)
    Next time you are in Pittsburgh look me up and we'll train...for real.
    No boar-ish waste of time...and no sales pitch.

    ---Friend of Judy. (Bill)

  20. Wow!! This story is what I received from at least three trainers (two at other gyms), and the last straw of them all?? --- L.A. Fitness almost EXACTLY as you described it. Super well written! Thank you for allowing me to know I wasn't alone.

  21. I know this is an old post, but I have to chime in and say I just went through this! It was a nightmare/comedic. Last year, I had a WONDERFUL experience with a personal trainer at Equinox. He was smart, he paid attention to what was happening, we had a connection, and I had great results. But alas, it was expensive and I wanted to save money and we moved to a new area, so cut to a year later, totally out of shape now and looking to do something about it.
    So, I went in to LA Fitness and signed up. I met the sales dude for training, got this ridiculous sales pitch about how CrossFit doesn't work, LA Fitness training is the only way to go. I was already a little skeptical because the sessions were 25 minutes, but he was adamant that Equinox sessions (an hour) are "too long" and if you warm up before, do cardio for 30 minutes after, and then stretch, you'll be golden.
    Then he went on and told me about how bad fast food was, as if I was a total moron. Who are these things targeted towards? And without having met my potential trainer (it wasn't going to be sales dude, it would be someone else), he wanted me to fork over A YEAR'S WORTH OF TRAINING SESSIONS (thousands of dollars) and sign a year contract. Ha ha ha!! As if!
    By then, I already had a bad taste in my mouth and decided to purchase and try one single session with this trainer. Sales guy was visibly irritated that I didn't opt for the year package, and reluctantly let me purchase one session.
    So the next morning, I attend my session. Immediately (things are rushed because it's 25 minutes) he puts me on an elliptical for 1.5 minutes to "warm up" and asks me, what my goals were. He is not interested or encouraging.. just going through the motions of the mass produced training session that he most likely has all of his clients do. This "warm up" was in hearing range of several others that were on the ellipticals right beside me, and since I am neurotic and didn't feel like expressing to the world that I would like to lose my back fat and gut, I said simply "I want to get in shape." (The whole system of not meeting your trainer prior to working out with them is completely beyond me)
    So, he had me do some lunges. I did the lunges. It was hard. I needed to catch my breath, but since I only had 25 minutes, I felt rushed and couldn't. He wasn't counting as I was doing them, I had to count. He let me quit instead of pushing me to go harder. There was no structure to the session. We just went to random machines that happened to be open. After the session, I was so bummed about how bad it was, I wanted to cry.
    The next day (today) I can hardly walk because I'm so sore in my legs from the lunges.. but not the good kind of sore, the injured/went to hard too fast/didn't stretch/can't walk down stairs kind of pain.
    The sales guy still thinks I'm still interested in buying a package so today he left me a voicemail saying "It's very important that you call me and buy a package because tomorrow the prices are going up." Like i'm going to fall for that one!
    I can't stop thinking about how poorly run the whole operation is. It compelled me to google it and come to this site, so I had to share my horror story!

    1. Oh my gosh! so horrible! It seems that most people that go to training sessions at LA fitness have a similar experience. I am sorry you went through that! Thank goodness they didn't pressure you into the year session and now you can try to find a trainer who, you know, TRAINS, and cares, and all that stuff that SHOULD be a given, but apparently isn't. What a nightmare. I'm sorry! Please let me know how it goes!!!

  22. Wow, this is truly unfortunate - what a missed opportunity they have! I just joined an LA Fitness near me and met the sales pitch guy and loved him right off the bat, but I haven't done my free assessment session due to scheduling. I honestly liked him though and look forward to it! But I'm not interested in spending the money on training right now anyhow, although the rates weren't as bad as other gyms I've been a member of.

  23. I think the training session, or "sales pitch session" as you call it, could have went a lot smoother if you went into it with an open mind. Rather than condescending you may have thought this blonde kid with half spiked hair was knowledgeable in his field. Especially if he is certified, as in, I do this every day for my job and have taken the proper perquisite courses to become a personal trainer. Just like your husband is well rounded in his field for his sales. Perhaps next time use this free session, or for those reading, use your free session as a learning experience for fitness. Not to suggest there is one type of fitness. But for certain goals, certain workouts may be wrong and others may be correct. For example, weightlifting and resistance training are not only for the Arnold-type body builders, but for those looking to lose weight or strengthen joints, etc. The man may have been a bad salesman, but it didn't seem too high pressured, and if you wanted personal training experience, why are we harping on the sales experience in the first place?

    - Concerned and Confused.

    1. I didn't doubt his knowledge at all. He was clearly knowledgeable. It was his attitude that had me running for the door. But I do see your point, I was turned off almost instantly, so maybe I didn't keep an open mind to the things he was saying. I guess the bottom line was that the sales experience left me uneasy about what kind of personal training experience I would have. When you buy personal training, you are certainly buying into a relationship. If you don't connect with the person, there is no way it will work. Appreciate your feedback and point of view though!

  24. It has become common that instead working with professional trainers you end up talking to a salesman. If it's not at the very beginning (which almost never happends), it is during the training process that you will be asked to buy equipment, diet plans, supplements etc, and all because they need you to achive "your goal", which has become their goal.
    So what they actually do is convert your goals in to their goals without people even noticing untill money wasted.
    People want stress free enviroment, that is, environment in which they will feel comfortable, not listening to constant sales pitches.

    What exactly is the place you feel most comfortable in? Your own home.
    Hiring personal trainers to come to your home and workout with you can cost a lot, just the same, with strong possibility you gonna end up listening to sales pitches all over again.

    New technologies have evolved up to a point where you can utilize them for your own benefit and your best interest.
    You can have a personal trainer, at your home, wherever and whenever you want.

    One on one, personal trainings are very possible and you don't get to listen and defend from trainers gonne salesman, trying to force you in to buying stuff you don't really need.

    We can now workout with real, live, online trainers via webcam from the comfort of our home. has decided to talk to people and realised the needs and the issues people have when it comes to walking in to a gym and facing the problem described in this post.

    No hassle, no sales, just simple workout in the comfort of your home.
    Get it, get your workout, get out, no questions asked.
    Simple and clean.



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