24 August, 2007

Fitness First or Money First?

Mr. Knill says that Fitness First offers the highest standard at an affordable price. Right. Have you ever tried to join Fitness First without a credit card in hand? Go ahead, try it. They will not accept your application. In fact, after consenting with one of their reps to pay 4 months in advance, they agreed and later (when I came back to pay up) they said they couldn't do it.

The problem with Fitness First is a simple one. The business model is this: People will pay, forget they are paying and continue to pay for a service we will not offer. So, out of X members, only a subset will utilize our facilities. We get their credit cards, charge them for the memebrship. Then, make it very difficult to cancel their membership (30-day written notice, to be handed by... read the small print).. and so will continue to charge them for an additional period (only in periods of 4 months at a minimum).

This is rather deceptive, Mr. Knill. I highly doubt that you can get away with this in Bournemouth, UK. In fact, one of the reasons Dubai is attractive is that you can get away with murder and get your picture taken for it.. with a big grin on your face while you are ripping off hard-working people in Dubai.

Shame on you.


Silvio Van Zan said...

Where's this?

DUBAI JAZZ said...

I am a member of fitness first, and by the way I applied for a month membership and they agreed to have it paidf in cash, the fee was a bit higher than the usual...

I agree with you on the credit card issue, but let's face it, people should be wary of this, the club is doing it to sustain members' loyality, if people pay and don't work out it is their own problem, me thinks...

note that their membership fee is much less than the nautilis (for instance), so eventually they are not that bad...


Dubai Entrepreneur said...

dubai jazz,

when and where did you apply? I tried applying at the new Burjuman Center, and was told by a bouncer-like 'manager' (Brit) that this would not be acceptable.

I don't mind paying higher fees, but I do mind being taken for a ride.

Veiled Muslimah said...

Anyone join the one that opened in Dubai Festival City? I asked her if they'd have a Womens Section or separate timings. She said they'd start something next month. I was thinking of checking it out after Ramadan.

i*maginate said...

Is fitness first the only gym around?

nzm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nzm said...

That's not an uncommon business practice.

The gym that I've joined here in Melbourne, Aust has the same payment terms and conditions which were spelled out to me by their helpful registration staff when I signed up - including the 30 day cancellation policy.

I remember that, some years ago, if you didn't want to continue at a gym or stopped going for whatever reason, you were still obligated to pay the full fee for whatever term you signed up for - be it 3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years.

At least it's now only a 30 day cancellation period.

Caveat emptor and read the fine print.

As long as all the Terms and Conditions are spelled out and there are no hidden traps that aren't in writing, it's legitimate - you're signing your name to a legal document.

You either agree to it, or walk away - your choice.

nzm said...

Out of curiousity - what is the monthly fee for Fitness First membership?

Mita said...

Thanks for the heads up - I was toying with the idea of joining

Anonymous said...

Some friends joined recently and it seems to me that they are very happy with it!

Dubai Entrepreneur said...


You have to pay the fulll term, and there are no cancellation options. What I am referring to here is the automatic "renewal" of terms.

What makes all this smell fishy is when they adamantly refuse to take cash. Why would anyone say no to a cash payment of the entire term? They said the minimum payment is 4 months (they would charge you for the 1st and 4th month at first, etc.). I said I would pay for the entire period, in cash. They said no.

What do you make of that?

Dubai Entrepreneur said...


Fitness First are very secretive about their fees. Here goes:

AED 1000/-: Membership fee (just to join, one-time payment)
AED 75/-: Administrative fee
Monthly fees, which range from AED 350 to 450, depending on which of their locations you go to, when you go there and who you talk to.. and the type of package (which they will not disclose to you until you are about to sign -- then you will see what the sales rep circled for you).

The above fees are also often 'waived' or significantly reduced as part of a 'special offer' they always seem to have.

nzm said...

dubai entrepreneur: with the extra information you've now supplied, it definitely smells.

But again - it's buyer beware. Don't get sucked into deals like this. Unfortunately there will be many who will be.

Paying cash means that they don't have your credit card # to charge you an extra term after you've exercised your 30 day cancellation right. Paying cash means that you can stop going any time, and not pay them any more money - and they don't want that!

It's damn expensive too, when you compare it to what I pay:
Joining Fee: 0
Administration Fee: 0
Monthly Fee: 212 dirhams

For that, I get:
- pool, sauna and spa
- tennis court
- full gym facilities
- classes including spinning, pump and body balance

All 10 minutes walk from our apartment. Plus, my membership is valid for any of their 10 gyms in Victoria and 5 other gyms around the rest of Australia.

Fitness First has some dirty laundry to take care of, methinks.

But then, it's much, much cheaper than, for example, the gym at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel which wants dibs on your first born and your soul in order for you to become a member!

Anonymous said...

I am paying around 395 a month....its too expensive coampared to what people pay around the world....but they have no serious competition

wuestenprinz said...

i think it's like this accross the world: high "regular" fees and always some promo you have to know about to get a discount. it's frustrating.
but i don't object to the monthly business, esp. when compared to what you have to deal with at abu dhabi health and fitness club: you have to apply, with passport copy, two pictures etc, and then let you wait for a week or two to tell you whether you're accepted. and after a year (the max time you can apply for), you have to do the entire thing over again. it's the opposite of customer retention… i would have much preferred an automatic renewal!

hemlock said...

there ARE some "cheaper" gyms all over UAE, provided you want to go to them.

it's kinda weird wanting the best and then not wanting to "pay" for it.

fitness first offers good machines, a good environment, salsa, hiphop, aerobics/dance classes - included in that AEd 375 charge - theres no limit to how often or how long you can use their facilities for... so why must you crib?

just looking at my bill keeps me motivated enough to go to the gym, because hell, if im paying for it, i otta make use of it.

your complaint is very similar to saying, "i want to buy a range rover but dont want to spend 8000dhs on the brakepads." then dont BUY the range rover.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...


No, I don't mind paying. I don't drive a range rover, but I can afford one. I simply refuse to be taken for a ride. I offered them to pay in cash, and they refused. I would have paid more than what they would have charged my credit card. They also would owe the bank nothing in commission fees. CASH!

No, because they want to keep my credit card and charge me, hoping that in 4 months I would forget that I need to hand in a written notice of my intention of not continuing with them.

So, it's not like I said, whoaa! You guys are too steep for me. No, I said I will pay you in cash for the entire 4 months period and they simply refused.

This is anything, but ethical business practice. It is, of course, entirely legal.

I am simply highlighting the types of business practices that 'international' outfits seem to practice.

For instance, Lloyds TSB refuses to open a bank account for anyone making less than AED 10,000/-. This is their rule. You can't say, fine, I make 9,000, but I will pay for whatever fees you have (penalties for not maintaining a minimum balance, etc.) No. You have to make over a certain amount.

While I do qualify for their requirements, I find it odd that such a practice would be done by a bank that is highly unlikely to be able to use the same policies in their country of origin.

You can understand that they have a very specific target of clientele and they are going straight for it. Fair enough. However, is this an acceptable way to go about doing it here? What about back where it is based?

That's my point.

hemlock said...

as an entrepreneur, you of all people you would know exactly how you want to run a business (on your terms)

in my mba, we were taught value isnt what you perceive it to be, but what the buyer is willing to pay (eg, say, a "master piece" auctioned at sotheby's - the actual cost of canvas, paint, brushes and artist's labour is very little).

the culture of exclusivity is positively and ethically wrong, "excluding" is exactly what it does... country clubs, hotels and resorts... places that admit people according to their stature, colour, or race... arent loyyds or FF classic examples?

im (relatively) new to dubai. my mom came to visit, and had to be taken to a hospital the very day she landed. i took her to welcare, the only hospital i knew of.

we knew what the problem was, she needed a painkiller, we knew which one.
i spoke to the guy at the reception, he said "a consultant will have to see her, and the fee will be AED 375"
i was stunned. more so, because when the "consultant" met her, my mom said "i need a dose of xyz" to which he said "ok" and charged her AED 375 for that one word (two alphabets?)

is it ethical for a hospital, a doctor who took the Hippocratic oath to "serve humanity" and do his best to save lives charge so much in an emergancy room?
FF is still a luxury... :)
(although it's strange that they refused... cuz when i joined they expected me to pay in cash :) )

i*maginate said...

Hemlock, I'm jumping on the bandwagon - totally agree with your point of view.

With the range rover point, it's appropriate given the title "fitness first or money first", implying the club is 'out to get your cash' excuse me, since when did any business not charge you as much as they can for what you're willing to pay? Supply and demand!

Money makes the world go round, as an entrepreneur should know.

Secondly, fitness first is a private club, they can state their terms. If you don't like the small print, take it or leave it.

Thirdly I don't think Dhs. 400pm is exorbitant for an international gym chain that boasts its largest club (in the ME? don't know) in Dubai, even compared to prices in Europe, where the same amount is charged for a "mediocre" chain of gyms that has no international presence.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...


You completely miss the point. I DON'T MIND PAYING. And, I did not take it.

But, for your information, they are overpriced, if you want to look at global standards.

From some of the responses, I take it people are a lot more accepting for deceptive and unethical business practices here than they are elsewhere.

Now I'm off to ripping off my customers. After all, they can take it or leave it.. and since I provide what no one else can (so far), I will state my terms and they will come anyway.

i*maginate said...

D.E., what is "unethical" about a private company stating their own terms?

And what is "deceptive" in a private contract when the small print is visible for all to read and accept/not accept?

Please name some good gyms/health clubs in Europe that are "value for money" in your eyes, since you compare fitness first in Dubai as "ripping off" compared to "global standards" in terms of prices.

hemlock said...

From some of the responses, I take it people are a lot more accepting for deceptive and unethical business practices here than they are elsewhere

DE, if resignation isnt a choice, is there an alternative?
sorry to harp the same tune, but is salik ethical?

i*maginate said...

D.E., I asked some valid questions in response to the post you raised, and you have not yet responded to them.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...


I did not mean to ignore your questions, I simply thought that the conversation ran its course. I kept repeating what I had been saying in different ways to explain what I had meant.

D.E., what is "unethical" about a private company stating their own terms?

So, I open up a restaurant and only allow certain nationalities. These are my terms. Is that ethical? I persuade customers to get a credit card and then charge them with a myriad of 'hidden fees'.

Look, ethics and legality are very different things. Most companies remain within the legal realm. Ethics are not an exact science. They are what's 'right'.

I find Fitness First practice unethical and refused to use their service. It was their legal right to state their terms as they are, and it was equally my choice to refuse them.

I simply thought it was worth letting others know, since not everyone bothers to look at the details.

And what is "deceptive" in a private contract when the small print is visible for all to read and accept/not accept?

The above should answer that as well.

Please name some good gyms/health clubs in Europe that are "value for money" in your eyes, since you compare fitness first in Dubai as "ripping off" compared to "global standards" in terms of prices.

Why look far, nzm provided us with the price of Fitness First in Australia. They don't even exercise their absurd 'right' to state such terms as they do here in Dubai.

And that the point of this post. In my opinion, companies should respect their customers the same way they do in other countries.

However, judging from the response here, as I said earlier, it appears that such behavior is okay. This is why companies continue to behave in this manner. The customers say, it's okay. You say, i's okay.

Anonymous said...

I just joined FF yesterday only because I didn't know of any other gyms around. It's the most expensive gym that I have heard of. Back in NY, I was paying 65 usd for New York Sports Club which was wayy better. I joined Powerhouse for 13 months for 299 usd after i moved since it was closer to my house. At FF, I'm paying 400 aed so about 120 usd. It's a nice gym but not twice as nice as NYSC or 10x as nice as my powerhouse. It's a rip off but you guys are right, it's not how much its worth, it's how much people would pay ...

alvin said...

I m also a Fitness First member in Malaysia. I joined Fitness First that time I m studying and working part time job to pay for the FF payment. Now I stop working and have to further my studies. Now I m not afford to pay for the FF. I just can't leave FF because of the contract. I don't know what can FF do with the contract. Maybe FF can sue me using it. I already can't pay for the monthly payment. FF still wan me to pay for in advance 1 more month payment and plus the termination fees for the termination of the contract. FF is bloodsucker. FF just wan me to die. Now I also don't know what to do. All I can do is own FF a lots of debt and don't know what will FF do to me in the future. Any idea or opinion that can help me since u all also FF members although not from the same countries. Do u all know what will happen if you own FF alot money and u refuse to pay for it? If know can tell me?

Anonymous said...

Well people, i think its unfair to compare FF from other countries' gym, youre in Dubai, what can u expect?? FF is the only international fitness chain in the country, with no serious competitors...If it too expensive or u dont want to go for their terms and conditions, then, don't join!!

Anonymous said...

I joined fitness first at the end of Aug. I signed a four month contract, which I payed first and last month in advance by credit card. Just now I found my credit card has been charged every month since 1 Sep. They are total criminals! They just steal your money from you shamelessly even they know you are going to find out!

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, hold your horses..
The problem is not at FF, the problem is with you ppl, and the Mr. is trying to wake you up. If ppl start to complain about things they will change. But if you keep doing what they tell you to do..!!
But I think you guys like FF because it is not affordable for MOST of the ppl on Dubai. Let’s be honest here. You guys came from your countries where you are nobody (literally nobody) or just a normal person (still nobody) and ops you are now in Dubai. You now belong to the high class society. And you can practice and say things you can’t do in your own country because you don’t want ppl to say that you are racist. So in Dubai you can be what you always wanted to be, and FF offers that thing.
That’s why you love it and you would pay and do whatever they ask just to keep your superiority feeling.
After all, who wants an Indian worker to be his gym mate..!!!!
To the (Dubai Entrepreneur) if you really want to do something you should start something against FF in the west regarding what they do in Dubai, and then they might listen

Anonymous said...

i payed one year cash :)

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for this comment but this guy made me write this.

To the Guy or who ever who said this Blog " After all, who wants an Indian worker to be his gym mate..!!!! "

Whats the problem with India huh, and what the hell do you know about India.Do you think you are the only people rich. You just mention how illiterate you are by making those comments. Think about the shit in your are in rather than thinking about what shit others have.

Hope someday you are going to grow up....

Anonymous said...

I think the person who made the "indian comment" is a Fitness First staff.
shame on you for being a racist.

I dont want to share my story in details, but its the same bull.
Fitness First are thieves.
monet suckers

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to just not pay for the membership. They dont have my credit card detail just my debit card details.
Please let me know

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