Next day soreness: 3
Duration: 60 min
Sweat Level: Moderately Sweaty
Parking: Depends on location
Amenities: Water fountain, shower, swag for purchase
Requirements for class: Need to get to class 30 min. early if it’s your first class.
Though the workout at Orangetheory is decent, I can’t say that the customer experience is pleasant after giving it two tries. I had recommended Orangetheory to a friend after taking a out-of-studio class with one of their trainers in Santa Monica at Stylefirm LA’s Bend + Burn event. I really liked the session and decided to give their in-studio session a try. I ended up getting to the studio 5-10 minutes early (instead of the recommended full 30 minutes), and was denied entry. I found this really bizarre considering most studios allow you to join as long as you get there a few minutes early. But, I’ll take full responsibility for not being early enough.
The owner at OTF Santa Monica, Jim, came over to explain the concept to me while my friend participated in the class. He was very friendly, and acknowledged my frustration that I couldn’t participate. Also, their website says that your first class is free, but the studio had told me via e-mail that the first session would be $12. Jim, after learning that I blogged from my intake form, offered me 2 free sessions to compensate for the fact that I could not participate that day. He then told me that I could go to any studio nationwide, and even looked up a few in MA when I told him I would be traveling for the holidays. I really appreciated Jim chatting with me and taking the time to walk me through everything, though to be completely honest, I did not think the walkthrough required a full 30 minutes. The rowers and treadmills are all pretty standard, in contrast to what they say, and anyone who has ever done a class at Barry’s Bootcamp, Burn 60 or Speedplay would have no trouble jumping right in.
The one thing that differentiates OTF from the above studios is that participants wear a heart rate monitor, which tracks your performance and heart rate on a screen throughout the workout. The monitor is worn around your chest and strapped tightly. Your optimum heart-rate should be in the orange zone for 1/4 to 1/3 of the workout to get the most benefits, giving Orangetheory its name. For your first class, the heart rate monitor is free. After that, you have to buy the monitor, which you can only get at OTF and will set you back about $70 (not cheap). They’ve also recently come out with a wrist monitor, which is even more costly than the one around your chest. You can do the workout without the monitor, but it kind of defeats the point.
So during this holiday break, I decided to go to one of the OTF studios in Massachusetts. I signed up online no problem, and got to class about 5 minutes early. I told the front desk that I had gotten the run-through at another studio, but that this was my first class. They had me fill out another intake form and told me to jump right in and that they would fit me with a heart-rate monitor during class. After the first block was over and they had walked past me a few times but still hadn’t approached me with the monitor, I went back out to find them. The lady at the front (I assume the owner), said they needed a credit card on file, which I said was not a problem, though I asked if they were charging me for something. She said she would be charging me the drop-in rate of $28.
I told her that I had a comped class that I had used when I signed up online. She responded that I would still be charged since I was not a member and the comped class could not be used at her studio. I then told her that this was my first ever OTF class and I noted that the website said the first class was free. She contended that it was not the case for people who were not local – and she did not care that I was “home” at my parents’ who are local. I don’t mind paying for my first class, but the fact that this conversation caught me off guard and was happening while I was already into the workout really frustrated me. It seemed like the studio was only in it for the money (the class was only about half full), and none of this “local” business was explained to me at either studio I went to. In fact, I told this lady that the other studio specifically told me I was able to us my class at the MA location. Extremely frustrated and on the verge of tears, I grabbed my things to leave since at that point I was not in any mood to continue working out, but then she learned I was a blogger and stopped me and told me to continue the workout. Visibly upset, I told her how frustrated it was to be told one thing and to find out mid-class a completely different story that wasn’t listed anywhere. She then said she was going to call OTF Santa Monica, and told me I could stay. I took a few moments to calm down and went back into class.
When I first got to the studio, a lady who had been to the studio before was extremely upset because she was not told that she had to buy a heart-rate monitor after the first class. She had obviously purchased a package but didn’t realize she needed to spend another $70 for the monitor. She opted to do the class without the monitor but was upset she could not see her results. Despite all of this, the trainer, Kina, was very nice and helpful. She explained the OTF concept to me again after class when she saw that I was new.
However, based on the poor customer service, I don’t think I will go back to OTF. I got an overly pretentious vibe from it – like it was trying to be a Soulcycle and Barry’s level brand, but the franchise-model of the business obviously fails in costumer experience. It does not seem like each studio upholds the same standards and levels of service, and that is what differentiates OTF from other national-level luxury fitness brands. Without the heart-rate monitors, OTF is just another average cardio and toning working out. By being completely obvious that it puts money before customers, and falsely advertising free sessions, the brand, I suspect will lose to its competition.