The Lunk Alarm and the Misguided Motives of Large Corporations

Planet Fitness might make a profit from it’s lunk alarm business model, but what are they really doing to our society?

Before I delve into the larger issue behind the lunk alarm, immerse yourself in the following firsthand account of a Planet Fitness experience from my friend, Mark:

“I moved from St. Louis to Michigan in January of 2012. With a job in tow and a place to stay, one of the first items on my to-do list was finding the right place to work out. I decided to sign up for Planet Fitness simply because it was the closest option and is famously only $10/month. Whether you’re in college or just embarking on your professional journey, opting for the cheapest pricing in just about everything is a great way to develop a foundation for your worldview.

I had heard plenty of quips—mostly negative— about the institution and seen their “Judgment-Free Zone!” and “No Gymtimidation!” commercials. However, I usually wore headphones through the entirety of my workout anyway so I figured I probably wouldn’t be bothered by the oversaturation of predominantly less agile customers or low-level machinery/weight selection. (Sadly, 65 lbs was the highest dumbbell)

During my first session at Planet Fitness, I distinctly remember finishing an overhead press with just some 45’s or so. I set them on the ground and subsequently nearly jumped off my seat. Was there an alarm going off? Nope. Am I listening to ‘Shake Ya Tailfeather?’ No. Is there a cop INSIDE the building? No again. I then saw in the mirror that quite a few people were looking at me intently. My eyes were drawn to a rotating light, shining in full force, mounted on the wall above the mirror. Written above it, in giant letters, was the word “Lunk.”

Scrawled in paint, the letters read: “Lunk (lunk) n. [slang] one who grunts, drops weights or judges.” I didn’t know whether to be proud that I was deemed a ‘lunk’ or disgusted that this facility to which I was voluntarily giving money was run by people trying to put motivated, fit “lunks” like me down. In spite of this incident, I stayed at Planet Fitness for over a year and made it my goal to set off the “Lunk Alarm” once a week.

Planet Fitness has a business model which is fairly simple and quite successful: low pricing = low barrier to entry = high numbers of subscribing customers that otherwise wouldn’t have a gym membership at all.

Heard the media talking about the lunk alarm? Yea, that’s Planet Fitness.

They grab an untapped share of the market that has a low amount of dispensable income, some minimal motivation to work out, and probably a very low actual exercise adherence rate. Thus, despite the great numbers of people that actually pay for a Planet Fitness membership, the gym itself is never actually packed to capacity which minimizes staffing and equipment maintenance costs. It’s a brilliant money-making model if you think about it, but it’s also conniving and ultimately ill-intentioned.

Men’s Health Magazine called Planet Fitness “the worst gym in America.Shape Magazine outlined the toxic environment there and the subsequent abuse at the hands of its management. Heck, the news has even covered these moments with video coverage.

Gyms, at their core, are intended to empower people to improve their physical health. Yet Planet Fitness, no joke, has “free pizza Mondays.” What in the actual f*ck? So you lure these unsuspecting, unfit people into your gym, just so you can get their $10/month, and then you keep them there by feeding them the very thing that’s causing their problems in the first place?

It’s like inviting a drug addict to a $10/month ‘rehab’ facility only to introduce a promotion called “Meth Mondays!”

lunk alarm


To add to this travesty, Planet Fitness also lures in customers through their commercials that promise a “judgement-free” zone. A plethora of articles that mirror the story above describe the plight of many “fit,” paying customers, who could only afford Planet Fitness due to their low dispensable income, yet were spurned because their appearance was deemed “too intimidating” to other clientele. 

Gah… again, are you kidding me?

Those stories only further prove that Planet Fitness seemingly has no vested interest in improving the health of their patrons. They just want to keep their core clientele, who are very much in need of actual quality guidance, in the endless circle of pizza eating, twice a month gym visits, and monthly money transfers.

Obviously, there is another side to this. I’m sure there are people, genuinely intimidated by commercial gyms, who find refuge at Planet Fitness. However, are these same people truly making measurable improvements in their long term health? Or are they continuing to stagnate in their ineffective exercise routines thanks to the free pizza/elliptical machine model Planet Fitness has implemented?

And now we arrive at the point of this rather antagonistic article:

Just because a business opportunity exists, does NOT mean we should take it. 

Don’t embark on the low road that Planet Fitness chose to take. Ask yourself whether or not your business is going to add any value to society. Where is the revenue stream coming from? Are you truly helping to improve the lives of your customers?

In life and in business, your goal should be to offer authentic value. Ask yourself if your business, interactions, decisions, etc. are offering true value to others. If the answer is no, it’s time to reevaluate.

We recently published an article on how to make a million dollars.  We acknowledged that there are literally thousands of ways to make money online today, but if you’re not doing it in a value-driven way, it is not sustainable. As entrepreneurs, we always strive to take our creativity and give it to others so that they can benefit from it. In return, we are confident that we will be rewarded for our time and effort.

The same should go for corporations.

Capitalizing on the ignorance of others is, in my opinion, one of the worst offenses we can commit against our fellow man. We should seek instead to empower each other and, in doing so, we will slowly be able to mutually improve the state of society. 

Title Photo Credit: Flickr