July 5, 2011

All Star Fitness / Epicenter Fitness - Downtown Seattle

Welcome to your definitive guide to All Star Fitness / Epicenter downtown executive club.  My name is Jake and I was an employee for over 4 years teaching a variety of martial art and fitness classes at the Olive Way branch of All Star.  Recently All Star was bought by Epicenter Fitness (they are not making this "official" to the public nor their members until they make improvements at the gym) and the two downtown gyms merged.

Since Epicenter and Beverly were so kind as to give me lots of time on my hands I thought I would give back (or perhaps pay some karma forward, if you will) and offer some insight for those of you searching for a new gym and place to work out.  For the most part I understand their are basically two factors involved in anyone joining a gym; location-location-location, and cost!  These are two variables that one cannot argue with overall as the gym is in the heart of downtown, and from what I hear there are some absolute steals in terms of monthly dues (I have heard as low as $25/month!!!).  But for the more discerning patron let me offer some morsels of insight for you to chew on while making such a decision....

In the 4 1/4 years I worked at All Star:

  • I witnessed over 7 general managers come and go, and countless personal trainers and staff swing through the revolving door of All Star.  Many were solid employee's to whom blame and fault were wrongly passed onto by upper management (owner Bob Pradgett bpadgett@allstarfitness.com)
  • The bag gloves and focus mitts originally provided (used) for my class were never cleaned nor replaced (I was in a continuous state of begging for these to be replaced).  To the best of my knowledge their were 4 cases of rashes occurring from said gloves, one was confirmed to be MRSA!  Even upon my making this information known to management I was told that their was a lock on purchasing new equipment for my class.
  • About 2 years ago I "ran-out" of jump ropes for my kickboxing class.  For two years I have been told their is a lock on purchasing new equipment for my class.  FYI wholesale on a POS jump rope is about $2.50 each.  
  • Eric Davies was let go late in 2010 for reasons unknown to me, but I must give a shout out where it is deserved... Eric was an awesome manager!  It was because of him that I actually stayed at All Star as long as I did.  
  • Under Eric All Star used to reimburse group exercise instructors up to $100 per calendar year for continuing education.  That ceased after Eric was replaced by Melissa Vrbanak.  We also used to get partial compensation for CPR / First Aid certifications.  No longer, for reasons unexplained. 
  • I had to actually fight with All Star to get them to pay for parking when I came downtown.  For a 6 month period they would not pay for my parking, so I had to park on the street which ended up costing over $40 a week!  All other gyms compensate for their instructors parking in Seattle. 
  • Employee's were never informed of the buyout from Epicenter.  I found out from my students who had heard rumors in the locker room.  To this day I have never been informed they took over.
  • I was one of a number of instructors Epicenter HR rep. Beverely CALLED on the phone and fired.  When I asked her why she is doing this via the phone ten minutes after I got home from teaching, her response was, "I tried to find you before you left the club but couldn't."  It is hard to find someone 6'4" 200#'s that is in a set room for a set 2 hours on set days!  Classy move Beverley!  
  • My (ex)students have been informed by management that the reason my classes were cut along with me was due to poor attendance.  This is true in the Kali classes which were phased out, but someone, somewhere along the line has been dishonest and inaccurate with their reporting of numbers, as my kickboxing classes are always packed!  
  • Epicenter is bringing in a MMA program that members will have to pay extra for.  I first proposed a complete program along these lines 2 1/2 years ago.  I was ignored and brushed under the rug three different times.  Something like this would have been unique (at the time) and generated more income for the club.  Nice ball drop guys!
  • I have heard only rumors so I will not drop names, but if my sources are correct the individual being brought in to teach the MMA program is not fully qualified and has some questionable qualifications.  
  • All PT's at any gym need to be fully qualified, so I am sure their is no question in that regard... but I beg you to exercise extreme caution with choosing trainers at this gym!  I have heard some amazingly dangerous and ignorant things come from some trainers ("Center of gravity on men is different then on women!"  - yup, no lie!   Apparently gravity recognizes and compensates for gender!  No shots at the low hanging fruit!!!!).  If you are looking for a reputable trainer downtown email me and I will put you in touch with some of the best (hint; none of them work at All Star nor Epicenter!).
  • Two (ex)students of mine were informed the day of my termination that neither me nor my classes were going anywhere!  That was from Merle Gregg (merle@epicenterfitness.com), president of Epicenter.
  • One student of mine was told that Epicenter offers other classes then just kickboxing and that he should expand his horizons!  

Hi Ramon,
I hope you had a nice weekend and are looking forward to the 4th of July.
I wanted to reach out to you, as I am currently a member at All Star and I feel like you should appreciate the information that I am going to give you. I myself am a sales manager and I know that if one of my clients came to me with valuable information on how to improve my business, I would be very appreciative. I will assume that you value your business and feel the same way.
I have referred 2 people from my company to All Star and both of them have joined. In fact, I have 3 other people that were interested in joining, but will not be joining now. In addition, I cannot in good conscience refer my friends and staff to your gym after hearing, observing and experiencing the changes that have been taking place over the past month.
I have been taking the kickboxing classes by Jake Burroughs since January. I knew nothing about any form of martial arts, but he was such a great instructor that he turned me onto the sport so much that I also joined another kickboxing gym. I am not the only person that has had this experience with Jake. You could ask any of his students and they will likely tell you a version of the same story.
When I talk to people about All Star and what a great gym it is, it's because of the kickboxing classes that get excited to talk about All Star. It's very disheartening and disappointing to hear that Jake will not only be cutting back his classes, but now he unexpectedly will not be teaching at All Star at all in the future. I do feel the way this was handled was not only unprofessional from a clients' perspective, but I'm also sure that Jake feels it was unprofessional as well. I am not and would not put words in his mouth, but from what I have heard from other members and other sources, the way this was handled has left a very bad taste in everyone's mouths. I know you will be losing members over this and I'm sure you won't lose enough to really impact your financials, but you should know that word travels fast and I would not recommend to anyone that they should join an All Star or Epicenter gym in the future. In fact, I will be leaving All Star to train with Jake along with many of your member in the kickboxing classes.
I will be canceling my membership this week. My husband will be canceling his membership this week. My friend that was 2 days away from joining will not be joining now. I'm of course encouraging my co-workers to go elsewhere. I do hope that you take this information/knowledge to heart and learn from the way it was handled as a professional businessman. This is no way to treat your clients and is certainly not an acceptable way to treat an employee that has been loyal to you for over 4 years.

- As a follow up Ramon never replied to her email, so the next day N went in and confronted Ramon directly and cancelled her membership with him personally.  Again he reported that he was informed that numbers were low.  He also blurted out something about Melissa was going to fire me anyways, but quickly dismissed the topic!  N also told me that Ramon said "I am surprised at how loyal the students were to Jake."  


Congratulations on your merger of All Star Fitness and Epicenter Fitness. 

 have been a member of All Star Fitness Executive Center (now known as Epicenter) for five years.
I have weathered the many changes that have occurred at All Star Fitness.  Changes that included the remodel of the Executive Center to what this facility is today, changes in management and personal training personnel and now the buyout by Epicenter.
As a paying customer, the lack of communication and customer service surrounding the latest change has been a major disappointment.

First, the All Star Fitness members were not informed of this buyout.  Most of us heard of this change through snippets of conversation in the locker room.

Second, to find out about the classes that we come to day in and day out have been cancelled completely on the day of class as well as the instructor eliminated is by far the worst change.  We were informed of classes going to summer schedule, ergo the reduction of classes.
The main reason why I renewed my All Star Fitness membership is because of the Kickboxing classes taught by Jake Burroughs.  I tried other kickboxing classes offered and this was the one that clicked. 

I do not know the reason why Jake's class was eliminated or if your management bothered to assess the situation prior to cancelling all his classes, but he had a following of a core group of people that came to his classes everyday - noon and evening classes.  In fact, some classes were so full that there were not enough heavy bags for everyone to use.  You lost an opportunity to take his classes to the next level as he was and is an outstanding martial arts instructor.

I know I am just one of many and you won't lose enough to really impact your financials, but you should know that word travels fast and I would not recommend to anyone that they should join an All Star or Epicenter gym in the future.



Response from Merle Gregg:

Thanks for the email.  I will have Beverly explain the Group X changes to you.  She is our Group X Coordinator.  The great news there is that we have actually added many classes to the schedule and I’m sure you will find a class that will fit.    We are going to be adding a lot of additional weight equipment, cardio, and group x equipment and our focus right now is getting things fixed here.  There are a lot of tv’s both on the walls and on cardio that does not work, dinged walls, old towels, and many other items that we are going to improve.  Once we get through our list and make these improvements we will be letting the All-Star members know of the merger.  In the mean time, nothing will change except the minimal changes to some Group X classes…even the All-Star name will remain the same until we let All-Star members know about the change. 

Thanks again,

Merle Gregg

In conclusion I hope I have painted an accurate picture of how much All Star Fitness / Epicenter Fitness really care about their clientele.  In the end it is shame that facilities like this exist solely for profit and not for improving lives and changing the health and well being of people.  Keep these aspects in mind when you are paying a little extra for juniors sports programs at school, or when you are paying for martial arts classes.  A good coach has a solid vested interest in his students and their well being.  

I leave you with Epicenter's Company motto, you decide how spot on ironic this is:

Our foundation will be built on our integrity.
We will have the highest standards of quality assurance in all areas to ensure membership retention.

Last I heard many of the members of All Star are quitting the gym in disgust.  

Happy gym hunting!

1 comment:

  1. “Buyer Beware! Unethical billing practices” should be at the top of every Seattle Executive Fitness (formerly Epicenter) contract. My dealings were with Merle Gregg, President and owner. They secretly keep your account information on file, quietly initiate monthly billing, then essentially ignore all billing challenges. It is a predatory, deceptive, and unethical practice.