How To Punish Your Clients

Ashley’s first visit to a CrossFit gym was long overdue.
I’ve known Ashley for a LONG time. She’s the ideal client for a CrossFit gym: interested in trying new things; a high-earning professional; and she has a long history in fitness.
It took me months to get Ashley to try CrossFit. I even drug her to a Regional event to show her how supportive the community can be. So she signed up for a free trial class.
My feelings on “free trial classes” notwithstanding, I thought, “She’ll be hooked right away.”
She wasn’t.
The class started on time, but one client was a few minutes late. The coach stopped the class, and everyone turned to watch the latecomer tie their shoes.
Then the coach said, “Bill is six minutes late. So we’re all going to do sixty burpees while Bill watches us.”
I’m sure that taught Bill a lesson. And it taught Ashley one too: “CrossFit treats you like a preschooler.” She never returned.
Ashley’s case is an extreme example. But every day, I see gym owners asking, “How do you punish clients who are late?”
The answer: you don’t.
We’re all adults here. We have good jobs. We have responsibilities outside the pursuit of fitness, and options outside our gyms.
We don’t need to visit a place where we feel embarrassed to arrive late. Or punished when we forget our shoes once or twice.
Imagine this: you’re a busy professional, and you attend the noon class to reduce stress and clear your head before a crazy afternoon. When class is over, you’re already thinking about your 2pm client meeting. You leave your lifting shoes behind.
The next day, your coach says, “It will cost you 25 burpees to get your shoes back. You can start now.”
I’d leave. But let’s say I didn’t: who, in this situation, will NOT feel awkward?
The coach will probably feel embarrassed to mete out the punishment. This isn’t the army.
The client will feel embarrassed to be singled out. Even if the “fine” is paid in private–probably not–they’ll have their coach standing over them and counting as if they were a child.
The rest of the class will feel embarrassed to watch a respected member of their community reduced to a ridiculous punishment.
Who really wins here?
Client punishments usually serve ONLY the owner’s ego.
We get it: you’re tired of cleaning up chalk spills. And you’re surprised by clients who are messy in the bathroom, or too distracted to remove their shoes. You’re fatigued, under stress and maybe broke. You think, “I don’t need this…” and then “There’s only one way to teach these guys a lesson.”
There are other ways, of course. We teach those methods of behavioral change in UpCoach. But that’s beyond the scope of this post.
And latecomers need to warm up. We teach modified warmups in UpCoach, too. And that’s also a separate issue.
The REAL issue is owner and coach frustration, not client behavior. If you catch yourself punishing those who pay your bills, you might be sabotaging your own business.


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.