Last weekend I came to the realization that my gym "membership" was, in reality, a service subscription.  I have a membership at 24 Hour Fitness, and I love the convenience of being able to work out at any time of day, whenever works best for my schedule.

Last month, 24 opened a new gym near my church.  I figured it would be a great way to get in a morning workout before church ... unfortunately I have a single-gym membership, so regular attendance would be out of the question.  To let members experience the new facility, 24 announced that all members would be able to use the new gym without paying extra for one month.  According to the printed, email, and verbal announcements, I would be able to use the gym for free until May 15th.

So on Saturday, I finally had the opportunity to check out the new gym.  I packed my bag, jumped in the car, and drove across town to the new facility.  I was greeted at the front door with the same cheerful "good morning" of my own gym.  The attendant took my membership card and scanned it.

Then frowned and handed my card back.

"You're not authorized to use this gym."

"But I'm supposed to be able to use it for free through the 15th."

"Oh, we changed that because we opened 2 weeks early.  You could only use it for free through the end of last month."

So I turned around, jumped back in the car, and drove back across town to my regular gym.

If my "membership" were truly a membership, this situation would have been handled differently.  When you subscribe to a service, you're purchasing a particular service for a certain amount of time.  When you're a member, you own the service - the employees work for you.  Think of the difference in service you get between a bank (where you purchase an account plan and pay for differing levels of service) and a credit union (where you own the bank and the employees work for you).  One is a service subscription, one is a membership.

When you're turned away at the door to a new facility and the employees make no effort to solve the problem, that means you're not paying enough for your subscription for them to care.  When they, instead, offer you a free one-time pass to check out the new facility (in an effort to up-sell your account) or for any reason try to make your experience more pleasant, then you're a member of that organization.

My 24 Hour Fitness card might say "membership," but I'm definitely just a subscriber.