Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Rant....and Thanks: Gym Edition

So for the past year, I've been teaching Tuesday night spinning at a small independent gym in my neighborhood. Now, I'm all for supporting the local indie business (the Evil Empires of Walmart, Costco and the chain bookstores are a rant for another day), my mother has a small independent store and I worked at an independent bookstore for a while. But there are some instances where the small indie just doesn't have it together.

The Beginning
I was hired with no audition, no references called, and while they did asked whether I was certified, they never actually asked to look at the certification. That's warning bells right there, but since they were paying me considerably more than the other gyms where I teach, I figured I'd just roll with it. I stopped by one morning to fill out some paperwork and take a tour of the gym and that was that, "show up on Tuesday to teach class." Excellent.

Where the Going Gets Murky
So, then I show up for the first class and there's nobody there to take class. Mind you, this is a small club which is mostly cardio and weight equipment, no frills. The small cycle room doubles as a yoga studio and triples as a stretching/personal training room. That's fine, whatever. I set up the bikes (all seven of them), crank up the music, get on the bike, and start pumping. A couple people came in to find out what was going on, I chatted with them about class, and hopefully started to spread the word.

The next week, one person came to class. Great, ok, I can work with this. It all builds slowly (they had just bought the bikes, so it was an entirely new program). Plus, the bikes have these very cool computers on them to tell you how fast and how fast you've gone. Which is great when you want them to match a particular cadence.

The following week, I show up and go to get my paycheck. And I'm paid $20 less than was (verbally) agreed. And my name isn't on the schedule. My class isn't even on the schedule. And, the only two evening cycling classes of the week are both on Tuesday night. ????

So I email the manager. Tell him there seems to have been a problem, I wasn't paid what I was told I would be. And here's what I was told - "since you only had one person in class, it's considered personal training, so you're being paid that rate." And as to the fact that I'm not on the schedule? "We're going to see how it goes."

Um, hell no.

Agreement was for a certain amount, not based upon attendence. It's not my fault he's not advertising the class (and even crazier, after a whole year of teaching....I'm still not on the schedule! Not online, not on the paper copies they give out. The only place I'm on the schedule is on the ones they post on the walls where I've handwritten my class in), and it's not my fault if the weather's nasty or people are busy or what have you. I can go along with not getting paid for nobody showing up (though the other gyms do pay me for that, since I showed up, I blocked out the time, and it was the member's decision not to come). If there's low attendence, you don't pay the instructor less, you just cancel the class permanently. Screwing with the instructor's pay just pisses them off and makes them not feel loyal to you. That issue was "resolved" by saying that if only one person showed up, I could cancel class.

I've asked him several times over the last year to change the website and schedule fliers, because if people know about class, then more people are likely to come (this seem emminently logical to me...a basic for marketing - people can't go to a class they don't know about). He usually ignores emails.

Regardless of all these marketing shenanigans, I did start to get a core group of people coming to class. Usually about 3-5 on any given Tuesday (max is 7). But again, because the two evening classes of the week are back to back, we end up splitting attendence between us.

When the Burnout Begins
Last week, the train was delayed, so I got to the gym at exactly the time class was supposed to start. Whatever. The management has never seemed to care, and the members are usually late, since it's hard to get there on time right from work. I poke my head in the spin room, but there's nobody there. I go change, set up all the bikes, and there's still nobody. I go out to the front and see one of the regulars from my class on a stationery bike. He was willing to take class, but since it was just him, that fell under the cancel-class rule. So I'm kind of psyched, now I can just lift some weights and go home. Then someone else approaches me to ask about class. At this point, it's a good 15-20 minutes after class is supposed to start. And I just wasn't prepared to start class at that point. So I told her I had to have at least two people, and unfortunately I was cancelling class that night. At any of my other gyms, where they actually have oversight (and treat their instructors well), there's no way I would do that.

This week, I had three people in class. One wanted a 45 minute class (it's technically a 60 minute class, but I give the option), the others were kind of on the fence, but would've done 60. And I was really tired. I didn't feel like dealing with it. We did 45 minutes.

The World Works in Mysterious Ways
So I've just started meditating, and a local meditation center was recommended to me. And their beginning meditation group meets on Tuesday nights. My immediate reaction to this is "damn! I have to teach." Then I think about it, and I say "hmmm, I wonder if I should try to change the night I teach, or just cancel, because dude is a hassle to deal with" (all the people and employees and business partners at the gym are wonderful, it's just the one guy who's hard to deal with, for everyone not just me). Because going to that beginner's guided meditation would be's hard to do on my own!

Then I get a call yesterday from the gym. They need to change the schedule. They want to put both spinning classes on Monday nights (uh, hello, why move both to the same night?). I teach two classes at another gym on Monday nights, definitely not going to be able to do that. So I talk to Manager Dude this morning. They have a yoga instructor who's really popular who has to change her schedule and can only teach Tuesdays, so they need to switch the spinning. All well and good. But I can't teach Mondays. I suggest he break up the spinning classes, since members have been asking to have them on separate nights. His response? "Yoga does better for us, I'm kind of regretting getting the spinning." Well, he should be regretting not actually advertising that there ARE spinning classes, but I didn't go there. I just told him that if he ever wanted to put a spinning class back on Tuesday or Wednesday, to let me know.

And Then Comes the Thanks
So yes, I'll miss the money, because it wasn't inconsequential. But man, I feel kinda free! I no longer have to deal with the Manager Dude, I have an extra day of the week when I could teach somewhere else, or get my own workout, or go to the guided meditation at the center. I find it funny that this all happened within a week of even finding out about the meditation center. But I think it's a good development, going from stress to calm or social (or both).


Romny said...

I'm a huge believer in Karma. That guy has it coming to him big time. But I think the lesson learned is to get everything in writing and make sure that terms are spelled out. I don't know why people seem to think it's o.k. to screw with people's income. I bet you people will start asking that gym "What happened to the spinning class?" If they do call you back, make sure you stick it to em! Hey, good news it frees up your Tuesday nights for Triva! LOL

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Oh, I've been going to trivia anyway :) They don't overlap, since trivia starts late.

If he does ever call be back to teach, I'm not going to start teaching until I'm on the schedule. And if I'm not on the schedule the first day I'm supposed to teach, I'll call him and say "no dice." Because seriously. There's no wonder his spinning program didn't work.

Leah J. Utas said...

Ah, there's so much wrong with Manager Dude, but like Romny said, Karma's gonna get him.
Meanwhile the Universe clearly wants you to meditate. I've been at it for years. Works.

Charlotte said...

You know, I find the inner workings of gyms to be so fascinating. Never having worked at a gym (shocking, really, considering how much time I spend there), I am always surprised at the politicking and shenanigans that goes on behind the scenes. I'll try to keep your story in mind next time my instructor is crabby.