Big Vanilla Blunders: One Gym Member’s Comments

I joined the Big Vanilla gym in Arnold in January 2006 during a typical New Year’s resolution high and at the time happily signed a two-year family contract for my husband and myself that seemed to be the best deal they had to offer. The Big Vanilla is extremely convenient to where I live–I can get there in about 5 minutes–and my membership is inclusive of the lap pool, spin classes, pilates classes, racquetball courts, and an enormous spread of treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, weight machines, and free weights. All of these perks are bundled into my family monthly membership of $79. Since joining in 2006 I’ve really not had much I could complain about. Sure, I could nitpick, no gym is perfect, but there hasn’t been anything that really pushed my buttons…until now.

There is a small corner of the Big V that is maybe a 30 by 30 foot space that originally was a relatively empty area with the exception of mats, balance balls, and a limited set of free weights. After any work-out, I along with plenty of other gym-goers, retreated to this corner to grab a mat and stretch, do ab work, or do weight sets in an area separate from where most of the hard core weight lifters and “meatheads” work out. Then there seemed to be an uptick in personal training sessions and on weekday mornings and evenings small groups of people and a trainer would be in the corner. Then four different machines were added to the space and are lined up neatly against the wall and as far as I know are available to anyone who would like to use them.  Even with the new machines which were added at least a year ago, there was still enough space for the personal trainer groups and individual gym-goers to share the space.

Now, as I am confident all of North America is aware, there was a blizzard in Maryland and our surrounding states this February. Prior to the winter storm, the Big V as it’s fondly referred to, put a dozen or so of its older machines up for sale to make room for new training equipment which slowly but surely made its way into the gym. I am happy to report that since the new trainers have been in place I have not had to wait for a treadmill even at peak hours. However, just before the storm a new set of equipment also made its way into the gym. And where were these six new machines put? In the quickly shrinking coveted corner of the gym.

I went to the gym Feb. 13 for my first solid work-out since the storm and walked into a madhouse without really knowing why there were so many more people at the gym than normal. Putting my things in a locker in the women’s locker room I ended up talking to two other women who were beyond frustrated with the gym that morning. They complained the music was too loud and there wasn’t enough space. I still didn’t quite know what was going on but when I went out to grab a ‘mill I saw for myself what the madness was.

There in the corner were the six new machines surrounded by several dozen people as well as trainers. There were balloons, “motivational” music was playing, tables were out with promotional material and free drinks, and it was all in celebration of the new Gravity machines. I hopped on a treadmill and watched as people waited for their turn with a trainer on the new machines. The whole thing to me was very entertaining until I realized that when I was done running I would have nowhere to do my ab work; the party for the new machines was literally taking up every inch of space. Then I started paying attention to what others were doing and they were dragging mats to various corners and hallways of the gym just to stretch! That day I left without doing my normal stretches or ab work and I was frustrated.

Returning to the gym on a non-promotional night for a treadmill run I made my way to the corner for post-run abs, stretching, and weights. There were already half a dozen people in the space but there was still enough room to do my work. In the middle of my work-out however, a trainer brought six of her people over, pulled out bosu balls and weights and literally almost stepped on me demonstrating a lunge to her group. I squeezed into a space between the new Gravity machines–none of which were being used–to finish my work-out. Again, I left frustrated.

I came home prepared to write a letter to the manager and went to the gym’s website to get contact information. Nowhere on the website is an email address that I can find and no individual names even should you want to address someone specifically when you call; at least the phone number is there buried in the footer. What I did find on the website was information about the new Gravity equipment:

“Gravity Equipment is now available at Big Vanilla starting on Saturday, February 13. Use is under the supervision of a Gravity Certified Trainer only. Packages consist of a 6 week program with two 30 minute full body weight training sessions a week. The price is $156 but if you purchase at the Launch on the 13th a one time offer of $132.”

Wow. Not only is the equipment squeezed into the last remaining space in the gym, it is not even available as part of what I consider an already steep membership price! As soon as I can figure out how to best communicate with a manager I will gladly share my frustrations. I understand the new equipment is a revenue generator for the gym. I almost don’t mind that it costs extra because everything that I want to use is included in my monthly fee. However, what I ask for is some consideration for us ‘regular’ gym-goers. Where exactly Big Vanilla, would you like us to stretch and do sit-ups? How would you like us to share an extremely limited space with increasingly larger personal trainer groups and new equipment that no one is yet using?

If you are a Big Vanilla Arnold member and share in these frustrations (or if you disagree with me) please feel free to share your comments. I don’t intend to complain for the sake of complaining and I’m one of several hundred members so I don’t expect to be catered to. I do expect, however, for the Big V to acknowledge the challenge that the new layout has presented to members and at the very least tell us that they are listening.

6 thoughts on “Big Vanilla Blunders: One Gym Member’s Comments

  1. BK

    I have been frustrated with the Big V Arnold for years now. Do yourself a favor. Try the Pasadena Big V. It is very obvious this is where the Big V ownership is investing it’s money. It sure is not at the Arnold facility.

  2. insanity

    Fitness exercises can enhance your mental wellness. It is valuable to understand that anxiety and anxiety may well have a negative impact on the health of one’s body and mind. Anxiety not simply results in depression, but it also causes certain ailments and weakens the immune system.

  3. Laura McGinty

    Certainly understand your frustrations but every gym has growing pains and many that I have been to don’t compare. Big Vanilla is well tied into it’s community so I feel good about patronizing the club. Having recently completed the 90 day challenge, I certainly understand the revenue that these programs, including gravity, and Take It Off, bring in, but having been a member of two other clubs over the years, Big V does a pretty good job. I use gyms when I travel and they don’t compare. I spin and the bikes work, For yoga I go to Prana, but I find the experience at Big V pretty good overall.

  4. Chucky H.

    Big Vanilla is a pathetic gym, and it is going downhill quickly. Management [names removed by blog owner] care about you until they’ve got you under contract and that’s the end of customer service. They were brought to suit for sexual harassment a couple of years back and had to shell out almost $200,000, and at least some of the responsible parties are still on the payroll in management positions.

    The original post has quite a bit of merit as well; they charge you enough as it is to get in the door and then want you to pay more for things that should be included with the membership. They even have nights at the pool where you have to pay (when you can go for “free” during the day). The place just wreaks of low-class slimeball management.

    Don’t mention “cancellation” or “freezing” your membership either; I’ve had several friends who wanted to do so and basically had to threaten legal action to get their memberships cancelled, and some were still billed months after the fact.

    There are other reasonable options around; take your dollar elsewhere and stay away from Big Vanilla and the sleeziness that pervades that place.

  5. Natalie Post author

    Laura–thanks for the positive spin. I do agree that the Big V is well tied to the community and does have some good solutions for people and families with different weight loss and fitness goals. I appreciate that things like spin class and pilates are included in membership.

    Chucky–I don’t think I’m quite as bitter per my above note back to Laura and I guess any establishment in the public domain be it a gym, grocery store or anything that is tied to offering products and customer service runs the risk of being criticized (unless you’re Southwest Airlines which in my book is the cream of the crop for service!).

  6. Akiko Polinski

    Most elliptical trainers work the user’s upper and lower body (although some models do not have moving upper body components). Though elliptical trainers are considered to be minimal-impact, they are an example of a weight-bearing form of exercise. ‘:^-

    Our blog page http://livinghealthybulletin.comll


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