You get what you pay for

I finish my workout at Retro Fitness and go to the front desk to purchase an iced drink. There's no one behind the counter; a potential customer is being given a tour. Fair enough.

Sitting at the counter, though, is one of the staff members. She has an array of papers, an open portfolio, an overstuffed wallet, and an insanely cluttered open purse spread out around her. She had lost the combination to the lock she used on her locker while she exercised. 

Few of the employees of this gym dress as though they care about how they look and, to be fair, few of the patrons care about their appearance, either. It's a gym, after all; we're all getting sweaty and red-faced and stringy-haired. We all look pretty awful, particularly after we've spent an hour on an elliptical or lifting weights.

But it's not unreasonable to expect the staff to look presentable. This young woman, who is very nice,  always looks like she simply rolls out of bed, pulls on her athletic pants and shirt, slaps on a wig, and heads out the door. It's quite possible she sleeps in those clothes. 

She asked me if I needed something, and I told her I wanted a beverage. She said, "I'll get that for you." She then proceeded to continue looking for her lost combination.

I glanced at the clock. I had only five minutes before I had to leave in order to make it home in time to place an important phone call.

A minute passed, then two. Mumbling to herself, the young woman, exemplifying the truth of "what you see is what you get," finally gathered up all of her papers, dropped the wallet into her purse, and walked away.

I left, drinkless. Add to this an aging locker room and bathroom floor that, even though it is clean, appears filthy, and floor space so crowded with equipment that to exit the facility requires action movie dodges and twists. The only reason I stay is it's close to home and so darn cheap and all I want is to use the free weights three times a week.

What should I expect, anyway, for $20 a month? But here's the thing: you can be low-end but still provide a great experience. It doesn't have to be this way. If Retro Fitness simply stayed on top of staff professionalism, changed out the degrading flooring, and removed one or two of the lesser-used machines, it won't be on par with an enormously expensive gym offering out-of-this-world accoutrements, but it could be good for the price. Too bad the management does not think this way.