Paywalls and Kettlebells

The other day, I was working out in New York Sports Club in Bay Ridge, doing my kettlebell swings and basu ball as per the Four Hour Body.  I was standing in an area marked "for personal training only -- when personal training sessions are occurring, this area is private" or something to that effect.  When I started, there weren't any trainers to be seen.  After a few minutes, a trainer just walks by and moves the basu ball I was using over to his client without saying anything.  Because he was already using something else, I asked if it was in the way or if he needed to use it.  He said he was using it and then just rudely pointed to the sign without saying anything. 

I get that there are people paying up for personal sessions that might need more room, but I don't think that expecting someone to drop everything and vacate the area immediately in the middle of a workout is a reasonable way to treat existing customers.  On top of that, taking without asking, even if you have a right to something, is just plain rude. 

I felt like a second class citizen in a gym I've belonged to for 10 years.  The person being trained might be higher margin, but I provide the base of the business--consistant and predictable revenue that isn't likely to suddenly fall off.

I also had an odd kettlebell experience a few weeks prior.  At the 14th/5th location, they started locking the kettlebells up.  When I asked to use them, they offered to get me a personal trainer to show me how.  I knew how to do the one exercise that I wanted to do, and said I didn't need one, but they were insistant about making sure I don't get hurt.

Meanwhile, anyone can go up to the dumbbell area and pick up an 85 pound weight and swing it around as they please.  I have a feeling that anyone who goes over to try the kettlebells probably knows what they're doing more so than the average meathead who tries to lift too much at the free weights--simply because kettlebells are new and probably intimidating to newbies. 

A much better sell would be to ask anyone who tries to use them if they need some help.  Keeping something I want to use away under lock and key was frustrating.

It made me think of the questions that people have around freemium and where to put paywalls.  I'd say the number one thing you want to make sure is that whoever isn't paying for your site doesn't feel like a second class citizen.  They should just feel like the features that other people are using aren't of interest to them and it shouldn't degrade their experience not to have them.  At NYSC, the personal training areas are getting bigger and bigger.  While I'm sure they make more money from people getting trained, I wonder whether they stick and how the growing training area makes the rest of the gymgoers feel--especially when certain equipment is behind the paywall.   I don't like feeling like I'm intruding in a place I pay to use.

On top of that, you want to make sure that your targeting is right--that the right feature set is being offered to the right customer.  I'm the last person on the face of the earth to pay for a personal trainer--and so to try the hard sell on me in exchange for releasing equipment that I use normally was a bad idea.  How can you watch and segment user behavior so that you have a high conversion rate--not because the product is good but because you're offering it to the right people?