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Woe, the Drama That Comes From Change

One last thought about change: generally people don't like it. As humans, we are creatures of habit. We have our routine. We know where things are. We like things the way we like them. End of story. Well, not exactly. A recent experience at my local club made me realize how reluctant people are to change, even when it's for their own darn good.

Setting: A clean, independent, bare-bones club. There aren't many amenities at this club, just cardio equipment, free weights, selectorized equipment, a small locker room and a couple of tanning beds.

Cast: Some of the cardio equipment is pretty outdated and the décor is basic, so the facility mainly attracts diehards who will work out just about anywhere. You know the type. Every gym has a few and some gyms have a bunch — this is one of those gyms.

Plot: Almost all of the club's 10 wall-mounted televisions are set at maximum volume to drown out the noisy hum of the 5-year-old-plus treadmills. Each TV is tuned to a different channel, depending on the viewing preferences of the diehards stationed closest to it. But here's where the problem comes in — sometimes more than one diehard is stationed by the same TV and their viewing preferences differ. This can lead to a channel war that often begins as one person touches the dial and the other person screams, “I am watching that!” To deter further conflicts and to prevent the entire membership from going deaf or insane from the blaring audio chaos, the owner of the club invests in a wireless FM audio system for the TVs and no longer allows members to change channels. The club posts signs informing members that they can now program their personal portable music devices to the frequency that corresponds with the channel offered on the TV in front of them. Other signs taped over the channel up and down buttons read, “Do NOT change the channel. To listen, please tune to 107.7.”

Climax: Rather than producing the desired effect (quieting the floor to just the steady hum of the treadmills), the signs frustrate members. Their frustration leads some members to tear off the signs. The next day, the signs return, now secured with two layers of tape.

Ending: As the weeks pass by, the battle continues — signs go up, signs get ripped down. TVs blare. Members shout, “I was watching that!” The staff spends a fortune on masking tape until things slowly begin to settle. Members begin to acclimate to the change (or the troublemakers get so frustrated that they don't return). They begin bringing in their personal radios and asking for help if they have a problem. As everything quiets down, the club once again allows members to change the channel on a few televisions without the presence of a staff member. However, those TVs remain on mute with the close captioning on. Except for conversations between now friendlier diehards and the slight mumble of sound escaping from a pair of headphones that are turned up too loud (some habits just don't go away), the gym is darn near peaceful.

Moral: The blaring television wars were a bit — okay, incredibly — annoying. The club was correct to seek a resolution to the problem. However, the amiable compromise eventually reached could have occurred sooner — and with a lot less tape — if management had first consulted its members and convinced members about the benefits of the change. Change is never easy, but with a little involvement from your members — maybe even a roundtable discussion or an open forum on your Web site — the drama (and noise!) in your club can be kept at a minimum.

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