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Wow! I Didn't Know That!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #66

I secret shopped my 66th YMCA in Indiana.

As you pull into the parking lot, this YMCA is impressive. The modern, contemporary architecture indicates that it was likely built within the last decade — whoever did the design work made it look very appealing from the outside.

I purposely dressed down to see if I would get any different reaction or treatment. With my hat, t-shirt and jeans I approached the front desk. There were three people behind the desk and they were all busy. “Can I help you?” one of them asked.

"Yes, thanks. My name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership."

The associate handed me a price sheet, and as I was looking it over she asked if I had been here before.

"No, but for a small population, this is a beautiful Y," I said.

She asked if I'd like her to show me around, and I agreed. We started in the fitness area that is directly across from the front desk. She gave me the same basic information about the fitness area that I have heard many times before: “Here is our cardio area and here are our machines and here are our free weights.” Basic, basic, basic. No substance.

We walked around and I listened as she showed me the “movement studio” (cool name!) that has a kids' fitness game built in the ceiling and dance classes. Then over to the aerobics room, up the stairs to the track, down the stairs and made our way to the gym. She quickly opened the door and showed me the basketball gym.

"Did you know basketball was invented at the YMCA?" I asked. (She did.) “That’s a cool fun fact isn’t it? You should use that on your tours from now on. I bet people would appreciate that.”

"Yes, I need to tell people that more," she said.

We then entered the pool area from a family changing hallway. She explained the kids' water slide hours, sauna, steam room, how to access the pool from the main locker rooms and much more. I asked if she knew that one of the first indoor pools was installed at a YMCA.

"No, I didn’t," she replied. "That’s interesting."

The associate kept walking about four to five feet ahead of me in any areas where there was nothing to explain. Either she was a fast walker, or she didn’t really know what to say when there wasn’t an amenity to explain or a schedule to tell me about. I walked fast to try and keep up.

At the front desk, I asked her a few questions about the prices and commented that they are very reasonably priced.

“Tell that to people around here!" she said.

"If I join today, then I have to pay a joiner fee and pro-rated monthly amount. Is that correct?" I said. She said yes, but told me if I waited until January, the $75.00 joiner fee would be discounted.

"OK, I like to save money," I said. "How much is a day pass if I just want to work out for the day?"

"Oh, we don’t sell day passes. You have to come in with a member to try it out."

"OK, well have a nice day," I said as I walked out the door. 


The Critique 


  • Beautiful YMCA
  • Friendly people at the front desk made me feel welcome
  • Offered a tour
  • Covered all the amenities and gave me basic information



  • No tour card
  • No gathering data from me (name, phone, email from inquiring guests is valuable information)
  • Didn’t ask any questions to learn about me or my family
  • Didn’t tell me any YMCA history or even the basic “we are a non-profit”
  • Didn’t cover any fun facts about the Y
  • Didn’t talk with me during downtime
  • Walked way ahead of me and seemed to be hurrying
  • Discouraged me from joining by telling me to wait until January to join


The most disturbing part of this experience was the fact that I was an interested customer, standing in front of the associate, asking about a membership. You can’t ask for a better time to sell me a membership. Why in the world would you send me away and hope I come back in January to sign up?

The annualized gross on an adult membership is $531.00. That doesn’t include all of the "cascading effects" (referrals, renewal, fee based programs, camp, swim lessons for my kids, etc, etc) that you may get from my membership. That's potentially thousands of dollars that this Y just shoved out their front door. Now I'd be more inclined to go to the nice gym down the road and buy a membership there because they don’t have a “joiner fee.” 

I see this same exact scenario over and over again. Come on, folks! This is unacceptable and needs to be fixed.

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


No, Thank You. We Are Doing Fine!
How About a History Lesson?


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Sunday, 18 March 2018