Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Flexing the Bargaining Muscles

The gym that I regularly use is the health club at the Holiday Inn Lido. I buy a membership card that's good for 30 visits at 2,000RMB ($291) and I can use both the gym and small pool.

However they just started over two weeks of renovations, and being a person who needs to work out for my mental and physical sanity, I had to scout out other gyms in the area.

The first one I went to is called Hokay in the mall across the street from my place. On the fifth floor, the gym was still coming together with renovations still being done.

A sales associate promised me it would be finished in the next day or so, but seeing wiring and other things not quite in place was a bit disconcerting.

The shower stalls didn't seem to have doors on them either. Or maybe they weren't put on yet.

While there were relatively large spaces for classes like yoga, pilates and aerobics, the middle section with treadmills and machines was very cramped.

I tried to explain this to the sales associate, but she misunderstood me and said they were going to add more machines and that the space was equal to that of two offices.

It left an uncomfortable feeling and I left without even asking the price.

Then I checked out the Marriott Courtyard Hotel which opened just before the Olympics. When I asked the staff at the door about their "exercise club", they had no idea what I meant and had to ask the concierge.

When you don't say something exactly right in Chinese, they give you strange looks without trying to figure out what you meant was the "fitness centre".

On the fourth floor, it practically takes the whole floor, with a decent-sized gym complete with new treadmills, ellipitcal and cycling machines as well as free weights and other weight-bearing machines. There's also a gorgeous pool next door that's long and a large jacuzzi on the side.

The per visit rate here is 100RMB ($14.54) and I thought that was expensive.

But today after work I checked out one more gym relatively close to me, called Ozone Fitness in another shopping mall. It's on two floors, but now that it gets dark early because of winter, it felt really dark in the work-out areas.

Even though I asked for the prices up front, the sales associate insisted on showing me around first to see if I liked the place.

It's big and has lots of machines, most of the left idle. The weight room area is mostly occupied by guys trying to show off, and few women around.

But then the real test of endurance was the bargaining session.

I explained I didn't want a year membership because I only wanted to use the gym for a few weeks and asked how much it was per visit.

The reply? 200RMB.

I told her the Marriott was only charging 100RMB and they had a pool.

So she brought in her manager who spoke some English. At first they tried to give me a deal of 2,666RMB ($388) for 36 visits, but my interest in the gym was already starting to wane.

Then he tried to sweeten the deal by making it the same price but for 40 visits.

I said I only really wanted to use it for 20 visits, and then he went back to his manager to try and make the deal even better.

They even had the gall to ask me if I could set a schedule of coming say Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. If so, then I could use the gym for 1,880RMB ($273.44).

Why would they want to restrict me? I already explained to them I would only use it three times a week, but imposing specific days on me wasn't fair.

By this point I was completely turned off.

Their last ditch offer was the forget the specific days, but I instead decided I'd bite the bullet and go back to the Marriott a few times.

For them to drastically drop their prices meant they were desperate for members, but also meant they hadn't done their homework in terms of price setting.

I went back to the Marriott and had the gym to myself and an overly-eager gym manager showing me how to use all the equipment too.

And then I saw a woman come in who usually goes to the fitness club at the Holiday Inn Lido.

"You've come here too!" she remarked.

I'll be making sure I get my money's worth and hope those renovations get finished on time.


ks said...

this sounds like a more reasonable deal. you need a clean good pool and a gym with good ventilation. health brings wealth tengible or intengible.

Anonymous said...

Well... that's amazing but honestly i have a hard time figuring it... wonder what others have to say..