By Liz Barnet | photo credit: ClassPass
It’s been a few weeks since ClassPass announced its new pricing structure, and there’s been no shortage of responses, ranging from not at all surprised, to understanding but inconvenienced, to more than a little annoyed, to full blown pissed off. There was even quite the lively dialogue going on on my Facebook page after I put out a request for opinions so that I could contribute to this post.
The bottom line summary of what I’m hearing/reading from my informal research:
- Most people understand that practically, ClassPass’ business model was probably not scalable or sustainable with its generous initial pricing of $99 per month for unlimited classes, or even $125 as of July 2015.
- Even before last month’s increase to nearly $200 a month (a 90% increase over time), customers had their issues with the scheduling + class availability; it’s a mad rush to sign up Mondays at 12pm, and many coveted classes or instructors don’t have spots available
- In the midst of all this, the fitness studios themselves expressed opinions ranging from still believing that ClassPass is a good marketing tool + way for new clients to discover them, to deciding it might not be the right option for them, to no comment at all
- There’s a clear opinion from studio “regulars” that in some cases, the influx of new and/or irregular clients via ClassPass can disturb the workout experience and sense of community most boutique studios try to maintain
- Some people are going as far to say that with this price increase, they “might as well join Equinox!,” and that fitness (in NYC in particular) is becoming cost-prohibitive
(Read the post The Sweat Life wrote after the ClassPass announcement.)
While I can relate to practically all the opinions above, as well as offer my two cents, my overwhelming reaction to this entire debacle can be summed up in two separate points I haven’t heard touched upon. Today I’ll be outlining my first point, which comes from Liz, the lover of all things fitness-related, often a regular consumer and sometimes a dabbler as well.
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ClassPass is a business, as are the studios they partner with. They each provide a service that is non-essential to living a healthy and enjoyable life, and it’s up to you to decide if it’s “worth it” to budget (money, time, effort) it in.
The fact that ClassPass is, at its core, a business has been mentioned, but I do want to elaborate. I think their initial concept of a deeply discounted introduction to a boutique fitness experience was brilliant. I personally have been known for buying a Groupon or Gilt voucher to try out a new studio or service, particularly if it’s “pricey.” (I’m sure there’s a psychological classification for not wanting to spend money on something you’re not sure is “worth it,” but whatever it is, I’m that.) BUT, after my initial trial, if I believe that studio or service is something I enjoy/get results from/want to frequent, then I’ll purchase packages via the studio or provider. Most businesses offer some sort of incentive to becoming a repeat customer, in the form of discounted packages. Usually, the more you purchase — and therefore, theoretically commit — the deeper the discount.
A little history: when ClassPass launched as Classtivity and offered its Passport, it was $50 for 10 visits to 10 different studios. It was an awesome way to visit new studios you hadn’t heard of, or maybe otherwise wouldn’t be interested in trying, particularly if you didn’t have first-hand experience or a recommendation. It was also WAY easier to sign up via one platform, versus needing a separate login for every studio, as used to be the case for MindBodyOnline. (They now have an integrated app.)
From a studio perspective (and please note I am not speaking on behalf of any particular studio), I would imagine the “investment” of discounting a class for the exposure of such clever marketing made a lot of sense. But then, ClassPass became an entirely different animal. And frankly, I have nothing intelligent or “insider” to comment on how or why that happened, other than the fact that whether we like it or not, ClassPass has the right to evolve, even if it’s not convenient for us.
Although I think ClassPass could have planned and executed certain strategies better, their biggest mistake was setting up unrealistic expectations. In the end, they are a business — as are these studios and providers we frequent. The fact of the matter is, whether they are charging us a “fair” price is sort of irrelevant; most people are considering the price change over time, when in fact, you actually have to consider whether or not you think it’s “worth it.”
For example, I have absolutely no problem paying nearly $150 for a wonderful massage, if I feel that the experience is going to get me closer to my goals (of not being in pain and performing at a higher level). I also had no problem last Wednesday night going out to dinner with friends (where we discussed #ClassPassPocalypse at length) and spending $75. Two hours, two glasses of wine, a shared appetizer, and a bun-less burger later, I didn’t blink when the check came. I enjoyed the time I spent with my friends, and the food was very good; but was it that good? Were those 2 glasses of pinot at $12 a pop “worth it,” when I could have gotten an entire bottle for nearly the price of one drink?
Things that are currently not “worth it” for me: expensive designer shoes, living in NYC, a 2x a day almond milk latte habit. Things that at one point have been “worth it” to me that don’t make sense right now: hiring a cleaning person, paying for online grocery shopping and delivery, taking on so many classes and clients that my own health becomes a non-priority, maintaining relationships that are no longer working for me.
Whoa whoa whoa. I thought we were talking about how ClassPass was a bunch of jerks?
Hear me out:
Life is constantly evolving – sometimes in enjoyable ways, sometimes not. Everything comes at a cost. You want a deeply discounted workout? Well, you might not get to sign up for the time slots that are most convenient, or you might have join a bare bones gym without many amenities, and definitely no instruction. Eucalyptus towels, post-workout snacks, a highly skilled + enthusiastic instructor to not only program an effective workout, but motivate you, give you detailed hands-on adjustments, provide a killer playlist, oh, and also tell some funny jokes so you are distracted from the pain of burpees more your thing? In New York City, that will be an average of $34, please.
I think last week’s very vocal reaction to ClassPass’ pricing structure change highlighted two issues that I haven’t heard discussed:
- These days we want what we want, when we want it, how we want it.
- We’re interested in the above without much inconvenience, cost (financial or otherwise), or general effort on our parts.
Hell, I am GUILTY of this myself!
Like that time I went to a yoga class, wanting a really sweaty, hard core strengthening workout with a playlist to match, and I didn’t jibe with the instructor, her plan for the class, or the particular poses we did. (WHY WAS THERE NO PIGEON?!)
Or that other time I paid a little more than I would have liked for 3 meals that are fully portioned + prepped, with illustrative recipe cards, to be delivered to my front door in an dry iced-filled box, and decided that in fact, I didn’t really want steak salad with feta and roasted red peppers for dinner.
Or, how about my $60-a-month membership to a franchise massage provider, where I constantly leave so annoyed because this therapist who I just met and doesn’t know much about my body or activities, and is likely fresh out of school, gave me a mediocre massage?
GUYS: WE CAN’T HAVE EVERYTHING. Things can’t be always be high quality AND cheap. We can’t expect a perfectly programmed + executed class at a popular studio at a prime time AND that we can decide 5 minutes before we want to go. We can’t go out hard on the weekends, not prioritize our sleep, go out to dinner every night AND wonder why we’re constantly tired, bloated, or unmotivated.
Only you can pick what’s worth it to you; then, you will likely have to make sacrifices to make room for that thing in your life. It might be money, it might be time, it might be your Friday morning bagel with cream cheese. But I promise you, once you decide what’s worth it, and then make the effort to assure its place in your life, you will be a lot less stressed, more motivated, and more content.
So, if a certain fitness studio is worth it to you, check out their package options. Maybe take a look where else in your budget you can cut every. single. day., commit to one that is in line with your goals, plan in advance how many times a month you will go, and make it happen. (Like my girl Evann, NYC-based fitness blogger, who dropped ClassPass and bought a 50-class package at Mile High Run Club.)
Or, if variety is the spice of your life, and you really need the extra push of a motivating instructor, keep your ClassPass membership and realize that you might not get the classes you want, with the instructor you want, at the studio you want, when you want. (The lovely Kayla talks about why she uses FitReserve, and mentions some really good reasons for maintaining a membership like this.)
Or, if it’s truly cost-prohibitive to pay for classes or a gym membership, the internet LITERALLY has no lack of options (seriously; Google “fitness video”) that are very affordable or free. You may want the high quality, one-on-one attention, and engaging experience of a class, or the amenities and options at a high end gym, but please don’t allow cost to be the reason you don’t commit to a fitness program, or more importantly, just being more active daily.
Because, you guys….
And finally, in anticipation to my forth-coming follow-up post, please ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Why am I running around the city, sometimes at random, to take boutique fitness classes that I may-or-may-not enjoy, that may-or-may-not be in line with my purported goals, all the time while complaining (internally or on the internets), about the cost of them?
(Particularly, when there are these 5 free alternatives.)
If you love ClassPass, make it work for you, If you love one studio, make that work for you. FIgure out what's "worth it" to you, and go for it.
NOTE: This post originally ran on Liz Barnet's Fitness + Food Coaching blog, Wednesday May 4. This post is purely Liz's own personal opinion, with some reflection based on published commentary, and discussions with individuals who have given her permission to share.
Liz Barnet is a Fitness + Food Coach who enables and encourages her busy clients to implement specific, sustainable changes that add up to big health benefits. Each client has a unique set of goals, abilities, and limitations, and Liz works to design a customized strategy to meet his or her needs. Liz believes that by making fitness + food approachable, interesting and fun, clients are motivated to commit and much more likely to succeed long-term. Liz feels that in fitness, food and in life, it's all about the progress, not perfection.