T Nation

Why I hated Bally's


Last summer, on irlando, desperate to work out, I got rooked into signing a contract with ballys. this ended up being the worst gym experience of my lifetime. here are a few reasons why:

1) it was a brand new facility, their flagship center, and they had (1) squat rack, and (1) flat bench

2) not that they were useful anyway, but they had about 40 personal trainers on hand at any given time, none of which were every personally training anyone.
2a) their breakroom was in front of the entrance, with a glass wall so the people walking in could see the 40 personal trainers on perennial break. as you were waiting for someone to man the entrance desk, they would look you in the eye, through the glass wall, and turn away.

3) it was two stories, with all weight equipment tucked waaaaaaay in the back of the upstairs. There was no continuity to the equipment arrangement. The flat bench was surrounded by ab machine benches and leg curl machine. The fly machine, a logical choice to be located near the flat bench, was clear across the gym upstairs area.

4) they sold me the idea that it was only crowded at 7 pm, when I happened to wlak in there looking for membership. BULLSHIT. I tried going in there every concievable hour they were open. The fire marshall would have shut them down.

5) The people that did go there would wear spandex unisuits, and camp on the one available piece of equipment talking for thrity minutes without movin any weight. this was not the exception, but rather the rule there.

6) I tried to get my girlfriend a 'week pass' as was advertised. Instead, they kidennapped us into a room, with no glass walls. gave us an inane, rambiling fumbling sales pitch about saving money in the long run by signing a 10 year contract, even though the monthly payment would be $54 a month, and I was paying $30 a month. and then started talking about turning his pants into a frisbee. . . He gave us a tour of the gym, even though he knew I was a member, he gave us a tour, on which he proceeded to perform exercises incorrectly. I dont think this dude had ever worked out.
AND then when we said fuck it we just want to go, because it had been two hours and were trying to get some morning cardio in on an empty stomach, he 'went to go see what he could do' for a half an hour. . . probably went to the glass room to show off how little he could do and still get paid for it. comes back, and wont let us leave without either paying for a membership, or required my girlfriend to 'Leave your driver's license, so I know tha tyou will come back'. HOLY FUCK.

7) Then one magical day, even though I was a paying fucking member, they slapped a sticker on my card saying NO ENTRANCE, and told me to call this 1-800 number to get it straightened out. The 1-800 number was open, no shit, from 9 am to 30 pm, plus they went ot lunch. while working at Imagineering, you can imagine I was busy during my working hours. but I tried several times to get through, but somehow, I never did. they wouldnt let me into the gym I was paying for. I stopped payment, and started the appeal process. My appeal was denied and now some fucking credit agency is after me for $800.

there are countless others, but if I go on, Ill become irregular.
any other bally's members needing to vent?


I haven't had nightmares that bad.


Holy dogshit. If I were you, in the middle of the night, I'd go and weld the front door shut as well as superglue the lock.

Or if you're really pissed off, you could just bomb the place.

Wow, suddenly Gold's doesn't seem half bad.


I worked at a Bally's for a while as a (you guessed it) trainer. I wasn't certified (they have NO requirements in this area), but could do mental circles around the ones who were. Equipment-wise, they had one cage, two Smiths, open open rack, two leg press sleds (and one Hammer leg press), the whole line of Hammer machines, 6 benches, and a whole slough of Life Fitness and Kaiser (sp?) machines. Their whole emphasis is on generating contracts. Their idea of educating the trainers is to tell them how to pressure clients into signing expensive contracts. Bally's gets, on average, $50 an hour for a training contract, and the trainer gets, at most, $20 of that. After just 3 months of that, I'd had enough.

I also saw people who had similar problems with their memberships.

All this is why I'm going to open my own gym with a very different set of rules:

  • I will only have a set number of members. When the list is full, it's full. If you still want in, you go on a waiting list.

  • Membership dues are on a month-by-month basis, paid by the 10th of the month, period. If you don't make the payment, your slot goes to the next person on the waiting list.

  • I'll have certified trainers (good ones) on staff at all times, and you can use them or not. No extra charge.

  • Conduct rules are pretty simple: (1) I don't give a rip if you use 'roids, but if you do them or sell them on the premises, you're out. No appeals. (2) If you abuse the equipment, you're out. (3) If you abuse the other members, you're out.

  • Equipment will be a lot of free weights, cages, platforms, sandbags, stones, heavybags, etc. Not many machines. Lots of space. No music (if you want it, bring your own and keep it to yourself).

Yes, you'll all be invited.


Why wouldn't they let you in? Was it getting too crowded in there? There has to be a reason? If they cancel your membership, why are you still expected to pay?


cuz it is a fucking scam. they said there was an issue with my membership. I brought in paperwork showing that I had paid, and they said they would take care of it. But noone did anything. I think they were too busy trying to scam other people into buying their memberships. Alas, I am now in 'slow pay'.


lol @ bally's.

Does sound like a nightmare doesn't it?

I've looked at ballys around here, did notice the high pressure sales, and the lack of useful equipment. Also was totally inconvenient location from my house so wasn't even an option.

Brider, how do you propose making enough coin to cover the cost of the trainers/insurance without charging for their services?
I'm assuming to have good ones on staff full time it would require $40k+/year salary plus bennies and all that, and then all the legal garbage companies have to do, which would cost a business owner roughly $80k/year per trainer..

That's a lot of money to spend without a return, I assume you would have to fold that cost into the membership fee which would have to be fairly high to cover it.

Your rules look pretty good, just wondering on that point.


I dont think I would EVER get a membership at a commercial gym after this post. I'm lucky in that I work in a corporate fitness center...so I can workout while at work...muhahahaha. And I am also a member at my local gym which is in a VERY small town, so it is rarely crowded, except for you know....after New YEars and for the most part it has everything you need there. I absolutely HATE overcrowded gyms, it is just so darn frustrating and annoying. At most gyms (especially commercial gyms)...its more of a social hour and competition to see how many numbers you can get. Absolutely pathetic! I feel bad for you bro!


Ya better read that contract that you signed. Every word. Even the "small print". Check your state's laws regarding such contracts; contact your state's Better Business Bureau and file a complaint.


To Antiliberal:

I've been questioned on this point before, and the thing I come back to is this -- I don't plan on running this gym for profit. I would own the location outright, and so the overhead on the land would be taxes only. No debt to build or equip the place. If it's large enough and has enough equipment (which it will), I can accomodate a pretty large client base. In that regard, it wouldn't take much of a charge to cover. I'll admit that this is one area that I don't have completely ironed out, but I also haven't given it a lot of mental gymnastics. Do you have any suggestions? Maybe just allow people to bring in their own trainers for free? Don't charge a set amount of trainers to use the gym as their "personal" grounds?


I had a friend that worked there, he told me to NEVER join. Many people have sued them over alleged scamming and stealing of money. Part of the problem is their billing system sucks and can't get anything right, and they have no incentive to fix it.

My friend manages a few health clubs for a much better (and smaller) company now.


the summer before, I worked out in a place called Olympus Gym, in the DC area, right across the street from the Home Depot where the sniper got one of his victims, which kind of freaked me out. Great gym, cant say enough good things about it. . Bally's on the other hand should be fire bombed with all the trainers locked inside.



Ok land costs will all depend on where you live. Building costs will be that way also, although to be in an area with enough clientele base will certainly not be ultra cheap.
Then you have equipment, which adds up quite fast.
Having all of those covered out of cash would be nice, could run anywhere from say $20k-$250k+ depending on size/location.

Now let's get into the uglies.. Liability insurance, property insurance, property tax, utilities, local permits, fees, licenses.. All that crap adds cost without any obvious benefit to members. You also have maintenance costs of things like cleaning supplies, towels, broken parts..
Those costs will all vary based on location/size, so you can only really nail them down once you figure out that first part.

Then you have employees. Figure employees are going to run you about 2x of what you pay them in salary, sometimes more.

As far as letting trainers from outside sources come in, just be aware of the insurance issue. People are lawsuit happy, and lawsuits get expensive really fast.

Finally, what's up with no profit!?!? Are you seriously going to tie up that much capital and assume that business risk without making any return on it?!?! You gotta be nuts! I could see not expecting profit if you keep it really really small and in a very small town where costs are low, but even in that case it's quite hard to do all the "unfun" work associated with running a business of that size without some pay out of it.
I don't know about you, but managing employees, taxes, payroll and dealing with govt issues isn't fun for me, and I'm not willing to do it for free.

Unless of course you are talking about not making a corporate profit and instead keeping all excess as salary for yourself..


Antiliberal --

No, I'm totally talking about running this business for passion, not profit. My cash flow comes from a different source. If it makes a profit, I lower fees. Break even is the goal. Maybe I'm totally living in fantasy-land on this one. Fine, at least I have a goal to get there. This is just one item on my HUGE list of dreams that I WILL make happen.


I've heard SO MANY horror stories about Bally's.

You should check this site out..


also, just a HUGE wish/dream: now I know it wouldn't be practical, but in my dream gym, how cool would it be if you coul reserve workout equipment? So like, if you were doing supersets you can reserve 2-3 pieces of equipment!


ooops, here's a direct link to the BallySucks site



I have never been treated so poorly by any other company in my life as I was at Bally's.

I had just moved to the area, and found that there were only two gyms, Bally's and Merritt. I went Bally's to check it out. After giving me a tour, they sat me in a room and started talking prices. I said I wanted to know what it would cost to join for a year. They told me and then started pushing their 3 year plan. They had so many plans it was very confusing. Then told me that I had to join today if I wanted these "special" prices. I told him that I wouldn't make a decision tonight and that I didn't appreciate his high pressure sales techniques. He said to hold on. The Assistant Manager then came in and tried to talk me into joining. Again, I said I was just pricing different gyms. Eventually the Manager came in. It was rapid fire high pressure from the 2 of them, trying to get me to join. I stood my ground and said no. I went home, and couldn't believe what I had just gone through.

A week later, aa got a phone call from Bally's. They wanted to know if I wanted a 2 week pass to try out the gym. Merritt had given me a 1 week pass the first time I had stopped by, so I figured I could compare the two. I decided that even though they treated me bad, it may be a good gym. So, I went down, went to the front desk and said I was here for the pass. They told me to wait. More than a half hour went by, I was just about to leave. Then finally someone came and took me back into one of the offices, again. And, they tried to get me to join. I finally got fed up asked if they were going to give me the pass. He said no and that I should join the other gym! So I did.

Would you believe Bally's called again a week later? Ahhh!!!!!!!!


I go to a new Bally's that they just built here, and its like... not that bad. My dad bought me a membership for my birthday last year. Its got a big free weight area, bigger than the machine area. There's 2 cardboard signs that say "Arms tired? DO SQUATS!" Granted, there's only one squat rack, but still. It isn't really that crowded except around 6 or 7, which is why I'm never going at that time again. I went once and was doing db presses on a flat bench and I walk away to put db's away to get a heavier pair. I come back and this old lady is laying on the bench with a 5lb dumbbell doing what looked like pullovers. She only took a few minutes, and I thought it was hilarious anyway. But I try to workout at home as much as possible, I don't have a squat rack though.


Jeff, I feel you.
remyc88 -- awesome site. I was reading one of the posts there, and someone said that they started their contract in '84 and had a locked rate forever. But when they started raising their rates, that person went back to complain. They 'accidentally' put the person's birthdate as 84, rather than their start date. bu=t it was written in 2001, which would make the person 17, not legally able to sign the contract. not to mention complete lack of common sense.
Im sooooo glad to see I wasnt the only one to get anally raped by these fuckers. there is comfort in knowing others have walked this path before.


Ive been a member since 1995..I signed up in Phoenix. I use the Ballys' here in Atlanta on a fairly routine basis. I have paid off my contract and now pay the 8 bucks a month dues. I had no problem using the gyms here in Atlanta or even Orlando when I visit with the membership I bought in Phoenix. I can't complain a bit..but I am also waiting for the other shoe to drop one day!!! The equipment is mediocre at best in all the gyms. Its not my first choice as a gym..but sometimes it comes in handy in a pinch when I am traveling.
I "feel your pain" if you have had problems with them though. They are basically an unethical company from a business standpoint.