Update 9/5/20. Each time you enter a gym, what’s the first thing you normally see – the people at the front desk, right? It's ironic that these people are so important to the gym -yet the front desk staff is those the health club managers appear to give the least thought to. This is a mistake because they are critical. They are the nerve center when emergencies happen. Regrettably, its been my experience the owners of fitness centers do NOT train them properly – putting YOU at risk.
Front Desk Staff Are Important
It's very disappointing that gym owners and managers give so little thought or training to those working at the front desk. Not only are they the first people you see when you enter the facility, but the fitness center front desk staff can also be the first line of defense when it comes to keeping members safe from crime or medical emergencies. A recent incident got me to think about this.
In July 2010 a woman was raped after leaving an LA Fitness in Washington. The perpetrator of this horrible crime ran up behind the woman in the parking lot of the gym after she left the fitness center at midnight.
Could this crime have been prevented?
If the person working at the front desk watched the woman as she walked to her car? I don’t know, but this is a question that I think the gym industry needs to talk about.
If you belong to a health club – or work there yourself – how many times have you seen the people at the front desk:
- Text messaging
- Talking on the phone
- Reading magazines
- Doing homework
- Flirting with the fitness staff
If you work out on weekends… find nobody at the front desk!
I see this all the time. Do you?
Front Desk Failure
Gyms often hire anyone to sit at the desk. I remember seeing someone so short he could not even see over the desk. It didn't matter even if he could see over it because his face was obscured by a hoodie and he was staring down at his phone. He could not greet me as I entered if he wanted to.
While many fitness centers have become better prepared for catastrophic emergencies like heart attacks, what emergency training does the front desk staff receive? Unfortunately, I don't think most get any training in emergency procedures.
As proof of this, in 2012, a horrible incident occurred at Planet Fitness in New York. Early one morning on February 6, 2012, a 22-year-old woman named Emily Hamiln died after entering the lady's locker room following a workout.
Security video from the incident shows that when the first woman informed the guy at the front desk of the incident, the male not only did not call 911 but says that he did not know what to do and that was not allowed to go in the ladies bathroom.” Only later, after a second woman runs to the front to tell what happened does he call 911.
He was obviously not properly trained.
Here is the security video. Watch it. Share it with others. This should NEVER happen again!
I'm hoping that these words don't fall on deaf ears and that something good comes from these terrible incidents.
Train Front Desk Properly
If you own a gym you MUST train your front desk. You need to have policies and procedures in place for what to do during medical and criminal incidents. All front desk staff needs to be both CPR and AED certified.
If you work at the front desk of a gym, I know it can be boring –especially on the weekends. But, please remember that bad stuff happens when we do not expect it. While you may not think about it, you CAN make a difference in the lives of others in ways you may not even be aware of. Watching members as they leave at night to go to their car can be a deterrent to crime.
If there is a medical emergency, you ARE allowed to go into the bathroom and locker-rooms of the opposite gender. It's our moral responsibility to help others, if we are able, no matter what the perceived consequences might be. When I worked in a gym, I have entered ladies' locker rooms during medical emergencies.
As I read this out loud to myself in preparation for posting, a friend of mine who happened to be visiting remarked: “but nobody cares.” Is that really how people feel? Is it really true that nobody cares about what happens to their fellow human beings? Does our moral obligation to safeguard gym members end when they walk out the door or go into taboo places like locker rooms or bathrooms?
I believe we are better than this.
I believe personal trainers and front desk staff need to think about this before they become involved in this industry. Working in at a gym is not like working at the local convenience store because at any moment when we least expect it, bad stuff can happen. When it does happen, how will you react?
I work at the front desk at Planet Fitness. I was instructed on everything that should be done if there is ever an emergency. Ive been there 3 months and so far there have been no problems. Crossing my fingers it stays that way
Hi Becky, that’s terrific! I’m so glad Planet Fitness taught you what needed to be done in case of an emergency. I’ll say a prayer you never have to use that training too 🙂
Most front desk staff are as useless as an anvil in a game of water polo. how many times have we been put on hold for 30+ minutes only to be put back on hold. Many times I would have to call back because they would hang up. Try to leave a message for someone? Forget about it. It will probably never be passed on. Salutations are not genuine. Many won’t even say anything. the job may not pay much, but its easy money and you get free membership.
Many gyms don’t even consider hiring males for the front desk. The front desk staff is usually mostly female. I found a website that explains the difference between. American girls and foreign girls. one of the many differences was American girls won’t answer their phones unless its someone they are really close to. if they don’t recognize the number, they’re not answering (Donald trump could be offering a lucrative proposition but they wouldn’t know because of their idiocy).
They will, however answer the business phone simply because its their job. I had girls and women tell me they won’t answer their cell phone if they don’t recognize the number. I asked them what if it was their husband calling from a pay phone. What if it was the hospital trying to tell them their mother/father is in the emergency room! I tell them sincerely that they need to start answering their phones.
besides that, many gyms usually hire inefficient help. They usually hire folks everyone complains about. I’ve seen some give members a hard time. I remember one funny incident when an older gentleman told the woman (after getting under his skin), he has been a member before she was born.
Fitness centers have a tendency of hiring incompetent individuals. They won’t hire competent folks whom members love. They hire phoney, unreliable folks who would screw up a glass of ice water. This reminds me of how Joseph Stalin fired/killed his elite officers (mostly due to jealousy) and replaced them with a bunch of amateurs who couldn’t even lead a thirsty horse to water. What kind of an army is it when you have officers who don’t know what they’re doing?! It won’t stand a chance.
THAT was the beginning of the end of the soviets. What kind of gym is it when its filled filled with incompetency? Unless it has state of the art equipment (ideal for bodybuilding) and a wide variety of cardio (including sauna), members either complain, slander, or just cancel and join another gym.
Joe Cannon says
Blain, another example of how front desk staff isn’t trained properly happened at planet fitness last year. After a 22 year old girl died after going into the ladies locker room, the front desk staff guy didn’t even call 911 and said he wasn’t allowed to go into the ladies locker room. Very sad…
Coming from a Reception staff member of a health club, I can say Blain is completely biased in his own opinion. Every employee at my Reception are predominately smart college students with great hospitality and we sincerely care for our members. The problem is upper management. They pay us minimum wage when we are the first line of defense. Upper management trained us poorly in emergency situations while they are poorly trained themselves.
I have found this website solely because I wanted to train myself for future emergencies at my job even if I get paid 10 dollars an hour. Instead of creating these offending stigmas against front desk staff, you should educate yourself on how much they really have to do, especially in an emergency situation.
Also see if upper management is underpaying and over delegating tasks to the front desk. As for the boy saying he can’t go into the women’s locker room.. at my gym, my general manager is an intimidating, unconfrontational lady and I can see why some of the staff would be scared to potentially lose their job if they were to do that especially in today’s society.
It’s sad that the managers at my “health” club do not care enough for their members to train and educate staff for emergencies. Especially the staff that deals with members the most. They are more concerned about the income.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Rebecca, you bring up some very good points about management. I do believe many are dropping the ball when it comes to properly training front desk staff. As for going into the ladies locker room during emergencies, this is another example too. I just taught a class recently and 2 personal trainers, working at a VERY well known fitness club chain said they were not told what to do during emergencies (other than “call 9/11”) and when I pressed them on whether or not to go into the ladies locker room, there first instincts were to not enter. That says to me nobody preparing them for emergencies.
I am so happy to hear you thinking about this now before problems arise. If your place of employment doesn’t have an emergency plan in place, show your manager my review of what to do. Maybe that will get her to start thinking also.
Here’s the gym emergency procedure review.
Keep me posted on how things are going at your facility and if you have any questions.
At my gym, although the front desk staff are intelligent college students, can usually be found yakking it up with their friends or working out. I can’t find anyone to offer assistance if I go after 5:30 when the manager leaves. I’m not sure if I should complain or just go somewhere else where the staff is competent.
2dgym, you are experiencing pretty much the same thing I’ve seen too. Having lectured to thousands of people over the years I can tell you college students are usually not thinking medical emergencies etc can occur at the gym. When I tell them people have even died while working out, they are shocked. Nobody ever told them it could happen.
Why don’t you bring it to the attention to the gym manager and see what she/ he has to say. Let me know what happens and if you see any change in the situation after you speak to the manager.