As a software provider to fitness clubs, our company has seen its fair share of tricks that are initiated by unscrupulous employees trying to make an extra buck at their facility when no one is looking.

As part of our goal to educate the health and fitness industry about the many ways that gyms and fitness centers can be fleeced, I want to share two scams and scoundrels doozies that I recently came across:

1.  Instant non-paying memberships: We have all heard about the wonders of smartphone check-ins. People always have their phones, so you can eliminate the cost of buying barcodes. When Motionsoft released smartphone barcodes, many of our competitors followed suit. You know what they say about imitation and flattery!  But I digress.  Smartphones are great, almost everyone has them and the cost of the twenty-cent barcode can go away.

THE HACK: Recently we were informed of a simple hack that allows members to take a picture of their barcode on their phone and send it around to all their friends! Voila instant membership for non-paying folks.

THE ANSWER: Commit to taking member pictures and enforcing the front desk greeting.


2.  The expiring PT session: Personal trainers have developed a reputation for using sessions from former members as well as using sessions that have expired in an effort to get paid commission. There are lots of ways to do this, but here is one example:

THE HACK: In its most blatant form, trainers tell their longtime clients that they have a few sessions that are about to expire in the clients’ bank. The client allows the trainer to then redeem them and get paid with the promise that they will be made up on floor time. Who loses? The house now has to pay commissions for personal training sessions that were never performed.

THE ANSWER: Lots of solutions here. Here are a few:

  1. Our clients over at TSI made a simple change: you can’t use a session if you don’t schedule a session.
  2. Have your software validate a “recent” check-in prior to allowing a session to be redeemed.
  3. Have your software automatically send an email to the client when a session is redeemed.

There are lots more like this. Circuit Blog Readers now it’s your turn to share you’re examples and insights. I look forward to reading your comments.