“The closure of our Orchard Club is a result of variable business strategies and decisions.”
That, ladies and gents, is the conclusion of California Fitness at Ngee Ann City (Orchard). It was a ‘shocking’ ten-day notice for gym patrons to find another CF club in short time. CF now only has three remaining clubs: Raffles, Bugis, and Novena.
“We are thankful for the excellent support from our members and guests. We stand firm in our belief of bringing fitness at affordable packages and everyone should continue to enjoy the advantages of healthy living.”
The statement posted on Facebook and later mailed to members obviously solicited angry reactions from patrons. I already cancelled my auto-debit arrangement with CF in January after two of my dragon boat teammates had an incident with staff alleging them with “personal coaching”.
My team mate helped me overcome my fear of going to the gym. This was a place with buff bodies. My team mate was my gym buddy. He would push me to train harder and lift heavier.
When I learned last month that he and our other team mate (a female dragon boat team mate) were approached by CF staff for “personal coaching”, I felt angry. The encounter, according to my female team mate, felt like they were being bullied. While the club has policies against “personal coaching” (as detailed in an email reply they sent to resolve the issue), the staff were taking photos of my team mates as they were training… saying to my friend that “there’s no way to prove he isn’t earning money (through personal coaching)”.
This was surprising since I had been training with my team mate last year and we never encountered such thing. In fact, I was very happy with my membership at CF.
Upsides to my CF membership
- It was cheap. I got my membership package at below SGD 90.00.
- The club was pretty much large. The classes looked full. The membership area was spacious and looked busy.
- It was a healthy club. Patrons used all machines, all treadmills… the free weights area had the same crowd each time I went.
- The aunties at the towel distribution counter were friendly.
- The shower area (though curtains only) was clean. And they had plenty of lockers.
- Most important one: The club closed at midnight! Great for people who work past 7:30 pm.
Downsides to my CF membership
- Some of the digital lockers didn’t function.
- Aircon seems to be shut down after 10pm.
- Accessing the club took a while since it was on the 8th floor with lifts that serve the main mall.
There were more upsides than downsides, based on my experience. I did enjoy my time at CF.
The staff that “harassed” my teammates probably had a quota to meet and they were having trouble meeting it that they had to go tell my friend that he’s “spoiling the market”.
The complaint I wrote to California Fitness – Orchard last January:
Dear California Fitness,
I am writing after learning about an incident involving my friend and gym buddy who was profiled and allegedly harassed by two of your staff at CF Orchard last month. The staff was accusing my friend of potentially getting paid to train his friends at the aforementioned club.
XXXXXXX does not receive payment of any kind from any of us and his friends. XXXXXXX is my dragon boat teammate. He is always happy to share his knowledge of fitness with us. In fact, he invited me to join him at California Fitness in late 2014. We have enjoyed the facilities together as loyal patrons. I have always kept an intent to renew my membership at the gym because of XXXXXXX. We train together to become stronger athletes for our dragon boat team.
It was appalling to hear how the incident transpired for XXXXXXX and our fellow dragon boat teammate YYYYYYY (who has also written a complaint). YYYYYYY had described the situation as “humiliating” for her. The staff had accused XXXXXXX of “spoiling market”.
XXXXXXX has shown incredible sportsmanship and friendship with others in the gym. He never criticises anyone. He never gives unsolicited advice to anyone. He is polite and friendly. It is rather unfortunate he has been harassed in such manner.
We hope your management looks into this matter. XXXXXXX is my dragon boat teammate and he helps encourage me as a gym buddy. He does not charge any of us a single cent. It is disheartening that he was harassed in such manner by your staff at CF Orchard. It is unfortunate as I have enjoyed my membership already for the past year.
Thank you for your help.
A loyal patron,
The reply I received from California Fitness after my complaint:
Dear Mr (MY SURNAME):
Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us on 08 January 2016.
Your comments are important to us as it provides us to with an opportunity to improve our services to serve you better. The matter has been looked into and a response has been shared with Ms YYYYYYY with regards to the issue.
We would also like to take the opportunity to share that the Company encourages our members to have a positive and yet, competitive workout environment with their friends as it helps members to achieve their fitness goals and enjoy workout together. However, members are reminded that freelance coaching among members is not encouraged as it might have caused disturbance to nearby members who are concentrating on their workout.
At the same time, we would like to apologize as we will not be sharing further information with parties that are not involved in the incident. As such, we hope to seek your understanding in this matter.
Thank you for choosing California Fitness as your preferred Fitness Partner.
We look forward to be of continued service to you.
Member Relations Department
Absolutely, not once, did we ever cause “disturbance to nearby members”.
I’ve never complained for a service like this, ever. In fairness to CF for their prompt reply. My goodness CF. It was my friend and teammate who recommended the gym to us in the first place. And that’s what he got.
Sadly, I would never feel comfortable training again in that facility. The thought of being profiled when all I want to do is train quietly with my gym buddy.
I’m excited to try a new fitness chain starting next month.