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I’m Sorry; It’s Just Our Policy



You probably wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I belong to a gym.

It’s not the fanciest gym on the planet, but it’s reasonably nice and the only gym in town that also has an indoor and outdoor pool. And a big glass water dispenser at the front desk with lemons in it. I’m a sucker for a nice water dispenser. My husband and I joined the gym years ago, stopped for awhile, and then rejoined with our children.

I don’t use it as often as I should, one of the main reasons being it closes at around 8:30pm, which is about the time I feel like working out. I know I could just get up early and go work out before the day starts, but the “get up early” part of that plan prevents me from executing it.

stairsPlus, they keep the women’s dressing rooms upstairs. Upstairs. As in, you have to climb the stairs to get to them. I realize how foolish this sounds, complaining about climbing up steps at a gym, but if you’ve ever walked out of a class on legs that feel like jello, the last thing you want to do is climb two flights of stairs to get to the dressing room. I think an escalator would be nice, but that’s just me.

And, to top it all off, it isn’t cheap. The gym is a little pricey; they know if you want to take a dip in the pool after your workout, they are the only game in town.

Yes, I like my gym, but, I just wasn’t using it enough to get my money’s worth from it, so I went in to cancel my membership. As I mentioned, I’d done it before and rejoined later when life wasn’t quite so hectic. Our gym membership fees are automatically deducted at the first of each month, so on August 3rd, I walked into the office to cancel. I knew it was too late to cancel August, but figured the cancellation would take effect at the end of the month.

Boy, was I wrong.

contractAfter complimenting me on the fact that I was a Long Time Member, the nice gym employee informed me that the gym needs a solid 30 days to cancel, which would mean my membership would be in effect until October 1 and they would deduct yet another month’s fees from my account.

Mind you, it was August 3rd.

When I pointed this fact out to the nice gym employee, that, considering it was only the 3rd day of August, it was a tiny bit absurd to make me maintain my membership until October 1st. After all, as he so accurately pointed out, I was a Long Time Member and had given the gym years and years of membership fees, and it’s not as though I wouldn’t return at a later date.

The nice gym employee listened patiently as I talked and said he understood. He said that he was very very sorry and that he recognized I was a Long Time Member and sure thanked me for it, but when it came to the 30 days cancellation period, there was nothing he could do about. It was simply…wait for it…gym policy.

Now, at this point, I could have ranted and raved and jumped up and down on his desk, shouting that if they ever wanted my business in the future, they would make my cancellation effective September 1, but I didn’t. I simply signed the papers and walked out, knowing full well I would never, ever join that gym again. Ever.

And it got me thinking about policies. And how stupid they are.

Yes, I said stupid.

Because a policy should be nothing more than a guideline; a blueprint to help business owners and those who work for them handle situations. They should not be carved in stone nor unbreakable.

nordstromTake Nordstrom’s, for example. For years, their employee handbook consisted of a card containing only a few words:

“Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our company. Our number one goal is to provide 

outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. 

We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. 

Nordstrom Rules:

Rule #1: Use best judgement in all situations. 

There will be no additional rules. 

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.”

How great is this? The only rule is there is no rule; the only policy is there is no policy. An employee’s best judgement determines the course of action.

dmvPolicies can make or break a business, because policies determine the outcome. A list of rules treats you like a number; a faceless, soulless number. It’s like the feeling you get when you visit the DMV and find that you are number 93 and they are serving customer number 22.

A list of rules doesn’t take into account your relationship with a business. It doesn’t factor in future business. It doesn’t incorporate compassion or the human element; it is simply a list of Do’s and Do Nots. Mostly Do Nots.

And policies are waved about like a flag, almost as if a business is proud of its unyielding ways, and it always surprises me when a business stands on a policy and allows a customer to walk away angry. (It also surprises me when a business talks smack about a customer on social media, but we’ll save that for another column.)

“Im sorry, but it’s our policy. There’s nothing I can do.”

There is ALWAYS something you can do; the real question is whether you want to do it. Or not. You know it and the customer knows it. So throw policy out the window and just Do the Right Thing.

As for me, I know that my doughnut eating ways mean I must put effort into exercise, so I’ll be joining another gym September 1–one with a policy geared toward the customer.

And hopefully one with a big glass water dispenser at the front desk with lemons in it.

Image credits: Gym by Casa Velas Hotel, Endless Stairs by RomainBihore, CONTRACT by Steve Snodgrass, Nordstrom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Fan of Retail, 404 by antigone78