Denying Discounts: A Short Guide for Gym Owners

A closeup image of various signs offering discounts and specials.

Hard truth in the gym world: Discounts kill businesses.

Even if you know that, it’s still hard to say “no” when someone asks for a rate reduction—especially if a nearby gym is slashing prices in an everything-must-go fire sale.

To help you do the right thing for your business, I’ve got a list of the easiest ways to decline when someone asks you to chop your prices.

1. “We don’t have discounts.”

This one is my No. 1 response. I don’t reduce prices for anyone, so I can simply say “discounts don’t exist here.” This four-word statement has solved our “discount” problem for almost a decade.

2. “We don’t play those games.”

Say this if another gym is slashing prices for people.

Discounts are “subjective”—they require a human “decision” to be made. So it’s easy to question the intent of the discounter.

When I sold high-end fitness equipment, the store was always losing price battles to department stores that had constant “sales” on treadmills. When someone asked when we’d have a sale or requested a price match, I just said, “We don’t play those games.”

This line had the desired effect: You could see a visible shift in purchasers as they became suspicious of the stores offering the discounts. Why? Some of the stores were playing games. One of them was sued for advertising a regular price on tires that it never actually charged. Stuff was always on sale, and the “discounts” were fake—I brought that up from time to time.

3. “We treat all our service professionals equally well because we know our service is critical for your safety.”

Use this one when police, military personnel, firefighters and others ask about discounts.

Members of some service groups receive discounts from other businesses, so they’re sometimes inclined to ask for them at gyms.

But you provide a greater service to members of these groups than $20 off: You help them get fit so they can stay safe on the job. Gently remind them of that and anchor your position by referencing their peers: “No one else gets a discount, and you don’t want to be different from the crowd, do you?”

Bonus: If you are a veteran yourself and you’re running a fitness business, you’ve already sacrificed enough (thank you for your service). Now it’s time for you to get paid fairly for the value you provide.

4. “This rate is as inexpensive as possible for this level of service.”

Use this when someone asks why you charge more than other local gyms.

Do not ever use the word “cheap”—unless you’re talking about the competition.

What you’re doing here is sticking a big wedge in the conversation: “for this level of service.” The phrase gives you a place to lay out the value you deliver—but don’t go there unless you’re asked to.

Additional Advice

A few more notes:

Don’t over-explain. These one-sentence responses are simple and direct. Saying more usually just encourages the person to keep trying to get a discount.

Keep it black and white. If you offer a discount to one person in your gym, everyone else is being treated unfairly.

Your primary duty is to your current clients. Offer huge value to your current clients and treat them like gold. How will they feel if you suddenly throw discounts at new clients while they pay full price? It’s far easier to retain great clients than acquire them.

Don’t run through all the scenarios in your head before a conversation starts. If you try to “get your lines memorized,” your answers won’t feel natural and honest. Strive to be forthcoming and direct, not overly rehearsed.

If they say, “I’ll go join the cheaper gym,” that’s a win. You want the best clients, not all the clients. Focus on high-value clients. If people want the cheapest rate, they’re better off elsewhere.

Finally, don’t presume anyone wants a discount. This is the biggest mistake business owners make: We project our own budgets onto other people.

Lower Prices Require More Clients

When my gym opened more than a decade ago, I was desperate for cash flow. So I started offering all kinds of discounts, and I constantly added groups to the discount list.

I’d actually try to find a reason to drop my prices. Before a prospective client even asked about pricing, I performed mental gymnastics to try and find a reason to offer a cut rate. Soon my gym was full of members but I was working 15 hours a day and coming home to a shrinking bank account.

Every time you give a 20 percent discount, you increase the number of clients you need to run a profitable business.

You weaken your business and impoverish your family by slashing rates. Build value instead.

You know why no one ever asks me for a discount?

We don’t have discounts.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.