Credentials pumped up at famed gym: CTV investigation
Published Thursday, October 20, 2011 3:40PM PDT Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:19AM PDT
A world-famous gym is disciplining staff after a CTV News hidden camera investigation revealed staff members claiming to have university degrees in kinesiology as part of sales pitches for gym memberships and personal training.
One employee has resigned from Gold's Gym, and another has been suspended after making the claims while offering the training packages, according to Gold's Gym management.
And one former Gold's Gym employee is alleging his credentials were regularly embellished in order to sell more fitness products.
"I was constantly being sold as a kinesiologist," said Lewis Hart, who worked for Gold's Gym for two years before he quit a few months ago. "It means they can sell a lot more."
However the owner of the Gold's Gym franchises denied that the company instructed its employees to pump up credentials to improve sales.
"It's a mistake by some employees who have overblown their credentials," Victor Newman told CTV News. He said the company just hadn't been checking credentials, and would start right away.
"This is a wake-up call for us. We want every person working in Gold's Gym to have proper credentials," Newman said.
Gold's Gym was where Arnold Schwarzenegger worked out in California, and he became a household name in the movie Pumping Iron. It boasts more than 650 locations around the world and millions of members.
Three B.C. locations have been recruiting members by offering a free appointment with a kinesiologist, a professional who helps athletes improve performance.
"Kinesiology is seen as a higher standard than a personal trainer," said Daryl Reynolds of the B.C. Association of Kinesiologists in an interview. He said while most kinesiologists have a university degree, it's not required.
Hart claimed to CTV News that the company told customers he was a kinesiologist, even though he had no extra training or a university degree in kinesiology.
"I was told that if someone thinks I'm a kinesiologist, agree with it," said Hart, who calls himself a personal trainer.
Hart said he sold personal training packages for Gold's Gym that totalled thousands of dollars a year per person. He said he tried to correct the assumption that he had better qualifications than he did.
Hart quit his job and now works at another Lower Mainland gym. "I wasn't comfortable with it…. It's awful. It's sad. There's no service in that."
CTV News wanted to see what was going on at Gold's Gym, so we signed up a member and got a free consultation with a kinesiologist at the UBC location. With a hidden camera, we recorded the consultation.
Our employee was put with Katie, a young woman who showed the customer a few minutes of exercises, and then spent a large part of the session trying to sell personal training. Her education was a large part of the sales pitch.
"We have our entire degrees in how to change the body," she said while the hidden camera watched. "I did my degree in this stuff."
Another claim: "I've learned a lot in four years, five years." She was asked if she went to UBC, and she replied, "Yes."
She offered a personal training program that cost $243 a month for a year – about $3,000 in value. And she recommended the services of another kinesiologist – a man named Justin from the Richmond location.
When our employee arrived in Richmond, Justin offered the same claims.
"I have my university degree in kinesiology, so it gives me a different perspective," Justin said on tape.
When CTV News approached Gold's Gym and the trainers for proof of the degrees, we were told a different story.
Gold's Gym manager Andre Nite forwarded Katie's transcripts, which showed she ended up eight core courses short of a degree in kinesiology at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Nite said Justin was hired because he held a kinesiology degree, but Nite couldn't provide any proof. Justin told CTV News in an email that he quit after CTV News approached him.
"I have terminated my employment from Gold's Gym for personal reasons," he said. "Therefore, I feel no need to produce any documentation regarding my education for you."
Katie emailed CTV News to say that she was sorry for "misrepresenting herself."
"I have never been instructed by any of my bosses to mislead members about my credentials. This was a personal decision I made for myself and I accept full responsibility for my actions," she wrote.
Newman, the owner, provided CTV three copies of kinesiology degrees from staff who worked at his fitness clubs.
He admitted that the salespeople are under pressure to sell personal training. But he said that no amount of pressure allowed employees to lie.
"We never do that kind of thing. We are as honest as we can be," he said.