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The 24 Hour Fitness Personal Greeting Is Creepy

The 24 Hour Fitness Personal Greeting Is Creepy

Some of the worst ideas start when someone means well, but doesn’t think clearly. Or. maybe, just thinks clearly badly. Either way, 24 Hour Fitness’s newly impersonal “personal” greeting just doesn’t work for me.

The Facts. I joined back up with 24 Hour Fitness just over a year ago. It’s a beautiful facility with gorgeous big windows overlooking the Willamette River and Portland’s West Hills. And, I like my personal trainer, the equipment, the facility, etc…

Except, somewhere in the past few months, the front desk team received orders from above to “greet members by name”. To some executive it probably sounded like a warm, personal way to build connections with members. Perhaps it came under the category of “engagement”. Regardless it’s one outstanding example of how “personalized” can mean “creepy”.

How it Works. 24 Hour has a nice system at the front desk. I put in my phone number then it scans my fingerprint. Smooth. Secure. Effortless. And it works.

Except here’s how checking in works now…

I put in my phone number & scan my fingerprint.
Now, while I wait briefly for it to confirm my fingerprint, the person behind the counter stops whatever they’re doing (like folding towels) and turns to watch their computer screen…
So we wait together…Until it flashes “welcome” (on my side) and something like “Member Name: Doug” on their screen.
At which point the latest in a long stream of anonymous front desk help says “Good Morning, Doug”.
And I shiver at the impersonal (big brother like) creepiness of it all.

Why creepy? It’s clear the desk attendant doesn’t know who I am. And it’s clear that the only reason they’re using my name is they were told to. I could have joined under the false name of “Bubble Head” and they’d just say “Good Morning, Bubble Head”.

Given this highly impersonal personalization what they’re doing comes across to me at a minimum as an invasion of my private space. But there’s a dark undertone of “We’re watching you… We know who you are… We know where you live…”. It would be different if their knowing my name was somehow helpful to me – but it’s not.

Consider My Starbucks by Contrast. When I walk into my local Starbucks or the local coffee shop by my office I’m often greeted by name (same words – “Good Morning, Doug”). Except, they really do know my name in both places. I’ve gone to that Starbucks for nearly 20 years and ordered the same morning drink for over 10 years. Same at my local coffee shop.

In both these cases, I don’t care whether they know my name or not. What makes those coffee shops more personal is that I know the people behind the counter and they know me. If they use my name I’m okay with it – half the time they’ve made my drink the minute they see me. But what’s funny is that when some of the guys use that friendly “hey, man”, it’s just as personal as “Good Morning, Doug” (probably more).

Impersonal Personalization is Creepy. Maybe I’m more sensitive than others (certainly I make my living being aware of how communication subtleties make people feel). But the extraordinarily impersonal reality of “whoever is behind the counter” at 24 Hour greeting me by name is stupid.

This greeting won’t drive me away from the facility (it’s not THAT bad). But every time the help looks at their computer screen to find my name I want to scream “just say ‘Hi’ and don’t effin’ use my name!!!!!!!”. But, of course, I don’t do that. I just grump to my trainer about how stupid the new process is.

Still, I doubt that their brand guidelines include “get the customer so pissed they want to chew out the front desk help”.

So the next time your team decides to personalize something, ask yourself some critical questions: Does this matter? Does it help? Is it really important? And where is the hidden risk of offending big bunches of my consumers?

The 24 Hour process probably started as a naive, but well meaning, attempt to be personal. I’m even guessing it’s 50/50 that it’s the result of some “experience consultant” who visited facilities then sold them on a “big idea” of increasing consumer “engagement” with a personal greeting.

But no matter how it started, the end result is clear: It just makes me mad.

Copyright 2015 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

Categories:   Communication, marketing, Retail


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