The “Wolves’ Den” or PT office is this 8 x 8 foot utility room entrance. The utility room housed most of the electrical wiring of the gym. It was preceded by the Wolves’ Den. In the den, Jake conducts team meetings to ramble on about points and client workouts, compliance, and all of the other bullshit that comes with keeping order of a team of people who provide services in a retail setting. Team meetings were just another excuse to bullshit about shit employees really don’t care about—and show off their points.
We were the “Tiger Team” a collection of guys whose average age is in the mid-twenties with quasi-professional personal training certifications; who, based on that knowledge, give advice like actual medical doctors—from shin splints to how to beat Munchausen’s syndrome. Jake, our “leader”, was the type of dude to ‘kick knowledge’ to his subordinates.
Everybody came to the arena of personal training for different reasons–Jake came to personal training from the Information Technology (IT) field. If intelligence was one eye, he would definitely be the king in this land of friggin’ musclebound morons. Of course there were a few other trainers who had mind and muscle. Mark Masterson, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) guy who resembled a superhero; Junior (called so because his name was also Jacob; it probably sounded better than little Jake) seemed semi-intelligent; Billy, a kung-fu head, had intellect, but he was mostly street smart; George was pretty smart; Francis was a knowledgeable English-Nigerian, but she mostly sounded intelligent because of her British accent; and last, but not least, myself (of course because I have the intelligence to write this book). All the other trainers were morons. Two of them had halitosis (DK and Junior) and two of them had serious problems with math (Roderick and Bryan).
As we all huddled in the room, all eyes were on the scoreboard. The scoreboard showed how many points each trainer was making over a month’s time. I knew the reason for using points by retail psychologists—to make the numbers look bigger than they actually are. Maybe the underlying reason is so that people cannot see how much each individual was getting paid—explicitly. To find out the commission dollars of the associate, one had to know the percentage level of the employee. The percent level itself was determined by the level of sales—creating a spiral that allowed the well connected and paid to get paid better. The larger the client base, the larger the percentage level.
This didn’t account for the way employees were price discriminating. What we were supposed to do was to sell clients packages at different price levels. Giving them miniscule price breaks for buying more sessions. The trainer’s sales expertise came in when they would bullshit clients with bells and whistles—working the same muscle groups but with plastic and elastic equipment colored like Fruit Loops—resistance bands, kettle bells, baps boards, Bosu balls, dyna discs—all of the fucking alliterated marketing-muscled shit that was being fed from above to us down below. We were the front-line soldiers in this war—the war to rob the post-modern consumer of their money through intricate and confusing pricing schedules.
But we were being fucked too. We got paid when sessions were redeemed, not sold. So in essence, the company can get the revenue from the sales in a lump sum, and disperse it out piecewise—insurance company bumfuckery. I’m sure that the company invests the lump sums into whatever is making them money and generating a rate of return while we wait for one of our clients to come back sun-baked from Aruba.
“Hey guys. I know you are out there working your asses off. I’m not going to bitch at you about points today, you know what you have to do to finish the month strong. The reason I called this meeting is to let you know about a couple of certs that are coming on the horizon–”
“Oh shit. Here comes the bullshit.”
I said to myself after hearing Jake talk about certifications. That was another thing. Bailey’s had a stupid tiered pay system that was also tied to the number/type of certifications a trainer had under his/her belts.
“—the new certs are the battling rope and kettle bell certs. They will increase your percent level by 3%.”
As soon as Jake finished his sentence, Roderick clapped his hands together and vigorously rubbed them, as if he were a Somalian looking down on a slice of pizza.
“It’ s time to make some real serious bank now—“ Rod said.
“You ready to make money?” Jake said with an elevated voice
“Yea!” Rod answered
Jake got up from his chair and looked at all of us. “So Roderick is the only one in here that is ready to make some money?”
“We ready.” Bryan said.
“And what about you DK? Billy? Mark?”
They nodded their heads. Then Jake looked Roderick in the eye and walked over to him and stood nose to nose with him.
“How bad do you want to make this money?!”
“I can’t hear you!”
Jake slapped Roderick on the arm while he stood there tensed like some steroidal marine. He looked about the crowd, eyes wild.
“So none of you have the passion the Roderick has? He just joined the team and his point values have been soaring!”
“But Jake—“ Bryan said in the background “—I am currently leading in points and I have raised my points to a higher level this year than the last. My performance speaks for itself. I don’t need to shout at the top of my lungs to prove that.”
Jake relaxed his eyebrows and approached Bryan.
“Bryan, I know you have worked hard, and while your points at a higher level, guess what? The growth rate of Roderick’s production is soaring faster than yours. It’s only a matter of time—if you sleep—that his points will overtake yours. In addition, the Tiger Team needs new recruits—and fresh blood!! Blood and passion to keep our team above all of the shitty teams in the district!”
Jake paused for a minute then his eyes turned toward me.
“I know this mothafucka ain’t comin over here to fuck with me.”
“Yo Reggie! How’s my new bilingual trainer! Getting all the great Spanish FWO!! Whoop whoop!”
“Whoop Whoop!” all the other trainers said in unison and laughing–this fucking Tiger Team and all of its testosterone-based hoopla.
“Everybody give Reggie a hand—he got his cert from NASM this month and has been training two new clients in addition to giving us a hand with the FWO…”
There was a sparse applause from the other trainers, then Jake continued.
“So now it’s time to make the big money! Get a cert and increase your pay level! Are with me!”
I stood silent.
“Are you with me?!”
“Before I tell you whether or not I am with you, lemme ask you somethin’. Are you guys going to give us a credit for the kettle bell cert or the battling rope cert like you did for the PT certifications? ”
“Well since the PT cert and the CPR cert are the minimum you need to even train, we had reimbursed one third of the cost of the PT cert and the –.”
I interrupted. Then I continued.
“The CPR cert was done in house. So it shouldn’t count as a credit—I mean think about it, we are waging war to get people in shape right?”
Jake was silent and rolling his eyes. I turned and looked at all the other trainers including Broderick, who’s adrenaline seemed to have subsided.
I didn’t get the same responses as Jake. No standing ovation or nothing, but I preached on. And paced back and forth amongst the trainers.
“So since we are waging this war, we are on the front lines—the soldiers, fighting flab. We are eradicating cellulite from every nook and cranny of big mac sauce slurping schoolteachers, hot-dog devouring contractors and canoli-craving cubicle employees. You wouldn’t send some of your finest soldies out into battle unarmed would you Jake.”
I said with my hands spread pointing to the crowd.
“Reggie, what the fuck are you talking about?”
Jake asked annoyed.
“This cert that you are recommending me to get, is it in house or by a private company?”
“It’s in house.”
“Is Bailey’s paying for the cert?”
Jake paused then he spoke.
“The total value of the cert generates profit for the trainer.”
“Ahh I get it. So basically we’ll have to front the initial cost of the cert and then the money we make back over time at an increased level will ‘pay for’ the cert?”
I made quotes with my fingers when I said “pay for”.
“Yeah that’s the idea.”
“You said the cert would increase our commission level by 3% right?”
“How much is the cost of the cert?”
“$200, cheaper than the PT license.”
“$200! For an in house cert? That sounds like robbery—here let me show you something—“ I said reaching for a calculator on the table. “Follow me closely, especially you Roderick, because you ain’t that good in math.”
“Motha—“ Broderick said balling his fists.
“Roderick let him speak his piece. I wanna hear this…”
“For us trainers to get a return on investment, we would have to have $200/.03 = $6,666.666667 well lookey here, the mark of the beast!”
The other trainers laughed as I showed the calculator.
“—for us to make back the money we would have had to earn about six thousand and seven hundred dollars—rounded, not including taxes. For the regular trainers who pull a commission level that gives them an average hourly rate of $80, the would have to work $6,700/80 = 83.75 hours to pay for the cert. While this might be about two weeks and a day’s work for trainers who work 40 hours, we already know—one, most of the trainers here don’t work 40 hours, and two, they would have to charge their clients an excess of $114 at a commission rate of 70%.”
“Whoa, don’t hate, congratulate.” One of the dufus trainers said.
“I’m not hating, I’m showing that the probability especially of me, a newer trainer who hasn’t built the networks, of getting a clientele base high enough to get the clientele base fast enough to benefit from the cert is a losing deal. Add to that Bailey’s is prostituting us for trying to get more money out of us to purchase a certification to show somebody how to fucking slap ropes against the ground with their butt sticking out.”
“So what’s the point?” Jake asked with his hands on his hips.
“The point is I am not with you, and especially since you haven’t gotten the matter with my commission checks squared away, I probably won’t be.”
“Reggie, didn’t we agree that the commission check issue was a private matter?” Jake said using a businesslike tone.
“Yea, and it’s my personal matter, and I can bring it up if I want. And all these guys should know is that we are being prostituted by this system.”
“Speak for yourself man—I ain’t no fuckin’ prositiute.” Roderick said eyes gleaming.
“Whoa—whoa cowboy, don’t get all OK corral on me quite yet.”
“Motha fucka” Roderick said coming towards me.
Jake held him back as I walked out of the office.
“Go Tiger Team!” I shouted as I made my exit.