A woman told not to breastfeed in the locker room. A mother kicked out for training her son in the club. A child lost in the day care center. A two-year old sexual abuse investigation resurfaces. A man sues due to hair loss from chemicals in the pool.
It's safe to say this has not been the best public relations week for LA Fitness. All of these stories, from California to Florida to New York, have surfaced in the past few days based on allegations from LA Fitness members against the Irvine, CA-based company.
Even with social media and the immediacy of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the avenue most members are taking to air complaints publicly still remains their local TV airwaves, and in some cases, their local newspaper. From there, bigger news outlets pick up those stories, then they grow exponentially across social media channels. Keep in mind the Nielsen TV ratings sweeps period for May actually began April 24, and TV stations are craving for these types of stories.
LA Fitness is not alone. Planet Fitness has been in the news multiple times recently after members have claimed they violated the club's dress code. Complaints have surfaced from a woman in California to a teenaged girl in Michigan to a pregnant woman in South Carolina. (Club Industry did inquire about the California woman, and we did receive a response from Planet Fitness.)
Life Time Fitness is not immune, either. A recent class-action lawsuit against the company was reported by a St. Paul, MN, TV station. Current and former members allege in the lawsuit that Life Time has sent them spam text messages to sign up for memberships. The story has not spread the way the LA Fitness and Planet Fitness stories have. A Life Time spokesperson told Club Industry the company does not comment on pending litigation.
LA Fitness has traditionally not commented on stories that populate on the Internet. The company did respond to a request from Club Industry (as well as San Diego TV station ABC10) about the breastfeeding story, which involved a "nurse-in" at a club in Oceanside, CA. This event, which involved mothers breastfeeding their children outside the LA Fitness, was held after a woman, Monique Golueke, claimed she could not breastfeed her 9-month-old son in the locker room with her 2-year-old son present with her.
Here is the full statement from LA Fitness:
"We support the right of women to breastfeed in our facilities. When Mrs. Golueke voiced her intention to do so to one of our staff, she was offered space in the Kids Klub, or, as an option, the separate restroom within the Kids Klub and a chair if she wanted more privacy. The staff member initially spoke to Mrs. Golueke to let her know that children are not allowed in the locker room area. This conversation occurred because another member observed her in the locker room with small children and reported it to us. As Mrs. Golueke left the club, she spoke to the club general manager about her workout. No one was aware that Mrs. Golueke was upset until she called our customer service line."
So that's the LA Fitness side of the story—at least for this story. When and if the company responds to other complaints and allegations that have made their way onto the Internet, check back here. Or your late local news.