Why Corporations Hate Capitalism
Here’s a post I never thought I’d write, but it has everything to do with throwing caution to the wind (what a cliché) and pursuing passion.
Without further ado, I’m going to tell you all straight up I practice exactly what I preach:
Why I was wrong about Franchisees.
For those following my blog, you’ll recall I stated my day job was as a trainer for a franchised “small business,” which is also part of a corporate brand.
You may recall I took pride in working here rather than a large, corporate entity. Rather, I learned the hard way that just because something is franchised doesn’t mean it’s exempt from a corporation’s iron claw.
For all legal and privacy purposes, I’ll refer to this place as 247 Fitness, the same fictitious business I talk about in a non-fiction piece I’m writing, to be released next year after Lord of Columbia is up and running.
One of my greatest motives for writing such a piece is because I want to expose to the fitness world why it’s an awful idea to work for a corporate-based fitness franchise. To workout in one is a separate entity, as I workout in a gym I’ll call Break Fitness, again to protect identities here.
For all purposes of this article, names and places have also been altered in case my writing falls under the wrong eyes. I can tell you right now it’s something neither the corporation itself nor the franchise owners want you to read, and they’d go out of their way to file a lawsuit, although you’ll later see why at the end of the day, they’re in the wrong.
My goal today is to reach out to the fitness community, which I’d been part of for six years and was totally into from 2005 to 2015, before the itch to write again took over to the point I could no longer control it. However, my writer following can also benefit from such a post, as again, I practice what I preach, and this post illuminates it.
On the fun side, one can even call this work a brief summary of my nonfiction piece I’m penning, working title of which is Five Autumns in the Gateway, and I’ll explain what the title means in a future article.
West Virginia Days
Just beyond the West Hills of Pittsburgh is where I received my start. 247 Fitness had the commercial look yet at the same time appeared free from corporate’s grasp. It was really amazing, to have the power to do whatever we pleased.
And my, did we build quite the culture. My job was simple: Just train client. But, it was more than just training; it was relationship-building. As someone who’s openly an INFJ, good friends and relationships are tough to come by, and at the same time, when one seeks a good relationship, it typically goes down in flames.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation multiple times.
But, I’d never made so many friends in a work atmosphere. In many cases, it didn’t even feel like a work atmosphere. It felt like, well, a party. Have you ever seen Cheers? It gives you a good idea of what 247 Fitness was like in Northern West Virginia.
I even had a client tell me we could make a sitcom based on the place. Heck, even to this day I’d love to submit a pilot to something like an NBC or ABC studio.
What’s holding me back?
Eh, just check out my ‘Truth’ and ‘Opinion’ categories. They’d never sign me to a contract even if the show had potential to be the next Seinfeld.
Okay, well maybe being the next Seinfeld would be the only show that would land me a contract, but for now it’s a pipe dream.
Never had I seen a place of work where anything and everything was under the table. I mean, we’d have members in both offices for hours, discussing things most shouldn’t discuss at work. And it was beautiful, baby.
Lunch dates in the office with several rather-attractive female members. Getting loaded a time or two the night before and coming to work smelling like booze (I haven’t done this in five years, just for the record). Hell, talks about who was sleeping with who, and where they were sleeping. I’ve even gone so far as to think we’d be able to set up a little Quid-Pro-Quo with the members for sex more than once…females, obviously.
Anyway, the above gives you an idea of what I have planned for Five Autumns in the Gateway. Again, it’s a working title, just as Once and Age of Columbia were two of several working titles for Lord of Columbia.
After spending a little over four years in Northern West Virginia, I migrated to South Pittsburgh and took up a similar job on the other side of the Monongahela. This experience was overall good but as I’ve stated in previous posts, paying the bills became a struggle. Ironically enough, in hindsight, I probably should’ve stuck with these guys and if they’re reading this article (and they very well may be) though the money wasn’t as good as I would’ve liked, management and ownership were far better.
Furthermore, I lived in Bethel Park at the time, and just this past year, they acquired Bethel Park’s training department. Nonetheless, had I been more patient I’d still be there today. And Bethel is a nice, nice area. Very congested, but I liked living there. If it wasn’t for massive traffic, it’d be ideal.
Anyway, this was what I’ll call the hybrid 247 Fitness, because it’s where I started to suspect 247 Corporate wanted to gain a firmer grasp on its clubs. Corporate-sponsored flyers were hung up, and there was always a little fear in everyone’s minds they’d be making their rounds sooner than later.
The people were just as good, though not as friendly and down-to-earth as the Northern West Virginia crowd. However, they were most definitely on the friendlier side, despite showing traces of pompousness.
But, I felt corporate was getting a little tough on these guys for one reason or another. It could’ve easily been the declining paid memberships on the other side of the Monongahela, with most insurances giving our customers free memberships, which hurt the club. Let me tell you, if you’re ever on the other side of the Monongahela, the people there are ancient. Worse yet, it’s next to a town called McKeesport and if you’ve ever been to McKeesport, it’s one of those towns you keep your windows up and the cops don’t even care if you’re cutting red lights.
It just showed me what the other side of the Monongahela was going to become. If you’re wondering why I keep referring to this place as such, it’s because I crossed a bridge from the South Hills to the East Hills to get to this job, and I’d cross another bridge over the Youghiogheny River. Hey, if you’re ever in Pittsburgh, get used to bridges; you’re going to be crossing about fifty of them.
Okay, I’m about to get really cryptic here, because here’s where things get really interesting. Never had I been part of a 247 Fitness that had what I’ll call Total Corporate Control (TCC). 247 North Side’s owner, we’ll call him Shaw, was two things:
1. A numbers guy, which is okay, because I like to obsess over numbers myself.
2. A corporate numbers guy. Not okay, because different 247 Fitness Franchises are located in different areas, meaning there’s going to be differences in competition for each.
We were located in a very competitive area, with another dozen gyms to contend with. Compared to Northern West Virginia, we competed with three gyms, one of which was on the other side of the Ohio River. And compared to the other side of the Monongahela, we competed with three gyms. Still not a big deal.
Though us trainers never needed to be concerned with sales numbers, the way it should be, we were aware in Northern West Virginia we grew quite quickly. However, when the owner over there opened a club in Northeast Ohio, they weren’t as lucky.
So, Shaw was basically cowering to corporate unlike I’d seen the other owners do. He’d hold weekly calls with them, he’d make us act like salespeople rather than fitness professionals, he was always concerned about sales numbers, it was sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade.
It was insane, and it was never about the client. Look, I realize selling and upgrading makes the money. I get it, and at times, I don’t know if Shaw thought I did. No, Shaw, I get it, trust me, man, I get it.
But at the same time, I requested the following, which would’ve put sales numbers through the roof, and any trainer would back me up on this:
1. Picture frames displaying clients’ progress at their consent, along with bodyfat and bodyweight numbers. That didn’t happen.
2. I’d never been so bored teaching group classes in my life, a far cry from both Northern West Virginia and the other side of the Monongahela. I needed a beat box. That didn’t happen. I needed a digital timer with a loud ring. That didn’t happen.
3. I would’ve love trainer notebooks to write the workouts in and record bodyweight and bodyfat numbers, and so clients could log their food intake and I could write detailed plans. That didn’t happen.
4. And finally, oh, I don’t know, evidence we had qualified trainers other than a simple bio? Trainer tip of the month? Something that had evidence I was here and ready to work with people? That didn’t happen.
5. Free incentives for purchasing training other than a fake discount, which is what we did. What happened was, we’d inflate the training price and call it a “normal” rate, which wasn’t a rate at all. The “special discount,” the real rate, the only rate, was shown, and we called it an incentive. There was no incentive at all; it was a scam. We did eventually give incentives, like a free water bottle, towel, tee, something to incentivize our people. But for it to take nine months was simply inexcusable.
So, needless to say this particular experience is (and soon to be) was a disaster, but it shows what corporate interference really does. People came to 247 Fitness because it didn’t feel as corporate-based like LA or Planet Fitness. Well, now 247 is becoming corporate-based, and I’m sure the North Side Club isn’t the only one feeling this.
But, I could be wrong. Perhaps it is owner’s discretion and if it is, I have a message for Shaw: Stop listening to corporate.
Corporate got so involved Shaw cut my pay by 40%, which eventually morphed over the last two months to a 60% reduction. This occurred after we’d signed a contract and agreed on a pay, and I never signed a contract or gave any express written consent for that matter, on a 40% to 60% cut.
Why cut my pay?
He wasn’t making money.
The business was six months old.
If you’re a gym owner and you’re making money after six months, I don’t know what you’re doing but you’re in a tiny, tiny minority. And you should probably write a book on it, because it’d sell millions upon millions of copies as it takes an average of thirteen to eighteen months to break even, Mr. Shaw. And, per a couple gym owners I talked to in Northern West Virginia, which has since become a fitness hotbed, it takes two to three years to really start reaping revenue.
So, Shaw’s revenue hurting excuse was weak and if there’s one thing I never should’ve let happen, it was the way he took advantage of my pay. I never consented, but I still let it happen.
My theory is either the manager, or I’ll call Crystal, or corporate told Shaw to cut the pay. So, you expect me to go from making $700 a week to making between $300-$400 a week while driving forty-five minutes up the road to work?
Not going to happen, and it’s where corporate overreach swooped in.
Corporatism Isn’t Capitalism
I’m writing about this today because I want people to realize this is corporatism, and it’s not capitalism. Though alike, corporatism will force people to adapt to their ways and policies. In other words, corporations own people, their employees, and if anyone even designs a product that’s remotely like theirs, expect a lawsuit.
Corporations benefit from increased government regulation and they crave higher barriers to entry. Corporations are greedy, and many politicians you see today are bought by corporations. Corporations will also force an individual to continually buy their product, regardless of how dated the product is, because they’re keeping others out of the business with their purchased politicians passing laws in their favor.
In other words, when socialists blame the free market for a discrepancy in social class, remember who’s really responsible: Corporate America.
Capitalism, on the other hand (I hate that term, but for all purposes of this article, we’ll use it) is purely free market. It’s run by the invisible hand, and for those socialists who just love regulation, nothing is regulated more than capitalism. That’s the beauty of capitalism.
However, no large, overreaching government entity will run capitalism. The people, in other words, the free market, runs capitalism. There are little to no barriers to entry, the government stays out of the way, and the people (the market) picks and chooses winners and losers.
Because there are no barriers and the government stays out of the way, companies are forced to innovate and work to keep their customer base happy. If a new company swoops in with a better idea, companies must work to top that idea. This continues, and innovation is king. There’s no forcing others to buy a product; only the people forcing companies to abide by their demands: more innovation.
That’s the beauty of the free market. That’s the beauty of capitalism and it’s what capitalism truly is.
The people are the market.
What socialists tend to hate is corporatism, not capitalism. However, I truly believe if we can educate socialists and tell them the truth, that corporatism isn’t capitalism, and that’s the whole point of this article.
See, in a capitalist society, people would be free to choose their…everything. However, the fitness industry has gone corporate and knowing this, I can no longer work for such a corporate entity that does the following, and most corporate gyms do this:
1. Forces people into signing contracts.
2. Forces people into automatic payments (and trust me, they hope you don’t use the gym and forget you ever signed up).
3. Tries to sell a bunch of add-on’s, like personal training, which in the corporate environment costs a lot of money for thirty minutes, once a week.
4. Some have strange rules, like no grunting, or even no gallon jugs.
5. Has an insane checklist for people who want to cancel.
Meanwhile, the independent gyms have the following:
1. Better, more honest training.
2. Some allow you to pay as you go, or just pay in a certain tiered package.
3. Doesn’t require auto pay.
4. Won’t try to sell add-on’s. Instead, the customer is free to choose if they wish to approach any add-on.
5. Since many are pay as you go, there’s no real cancellation policy.
It’s what I try to get through to most socialists. You don’t want government regulation, because it’s only been shown to make a bad situation worse.
Instead, you want regulation, and I’m all for regulation of industry. All Libertarians are, but we want regulation to rest with the people, not government. In fact, the more the government stays out of industry, the more likely these corporations are to get reigned in by the people, and they’ll lose their power.
Freedom isn’t what caused such corporations, or what Marx termed Bourgeoise, to gain power. No, perks and protections instituted by government is what puts corporations into power. Capitalism, true capitalism, speaking in Marxist terms here since it’s become the most recognizable, is the cure to corporatism. Corporatism isn’t capitalism. Corporatism is, in a way, socialism.
Only capitalism can cure corporatism, but to do so, regulation of industry must be returned to the people, not government.
I’d like to thank all of my readers for coming across My Freedom Flame, please come back soon.