How to Address Uncomfortable Situations with Members

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If you have worked in fitness long enough, you know that issues between or among members arise from time to time — including having a member with a strong odor, that other members complain about.

First, let me tell you a funny story on how NOT to address this particular issue, that hails from my early years in the fitness industry.  

2001: I got a complaint that a member would workout, get all sweaty and then for some inexplicable reason, undress and stand over a floor fan to air dry. So, 24-year-old me went in there to address this behavior and I froze up. How do you even start, right? My solution? I broke the fan that evening. Problem solved.

Except the problem wasn’t actually solved, and there are much more constructive ways to approach this scenario that will not cost your fitness center more money in the long run.  

First, it’s important to remember that certain situations will never be truly comfortable. But you can make the situation better by doing a couple things:

Conduct the conversation in private. The most important thing to remember when approaching a member is to treat him or her with dignity. This could be very embarrassing, and we need to be empathetic. How would we want to find out?

Second, think about how you’d like to be approached if you were in the customer’s shoes.

For example, you could have the following conversation:

Hi John, I am Jason, a fitness director here at XYZ Club. Obviously, we all sweat a lot more than usual when we workout, but what a lot of us don’t know is not all deodorant is what I would consider ‘workout grade.’ I know I would want someone to tell me if my deodorant wasn’t doing its job, and of course I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I think perhaps you are unaware and I just wanted to bring it to your attention that you may want to consider something else for before your workouts.”

This will generally get the message across. Just by making them aware, they will typically go home and toss their shoes if that’s the issue. I have done this dozens of times and never had anyone cuss me out as of yet. It almost always does the trick.

How do you address uncomfortable situations between or among members at your gym? Share in the comments.

Jason R. Stowell is the division director of fitness and wellness for JCC of Greater Pittsburgh. He is an award-winning fitness leader with over 20 years of successful experience providing strategic planning, talent management, and expert-level sales training in the health and fitness industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn here

1 Comment

  1. Barbara Peddle

    January 24, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    I always handle delicate issues with a great deal of tact. I find when you empathize with people they are much more receptive and happy to cooperate with finding and adhering to a solution. It’s surprising to realize that for the most part people are unaware that there was a problem to begin with!

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