Terrible Product Design of the Day: 24 Hour Fitness

Feb 23, 2011

I've been a member of 24 Hour Fitness since they sold me one of their "used car deal"-style plans where you sign up for several years with a lump sum, and then pay a reduced annual fee each year thereafter. I rather like the gym, which is utilitarian and has tons of gyms throughout the bay area.

As I'm on the annual billing plan I get an email from them every year indicating it's time to pay, and they include a handy link in the email for you to click through and pay your bill.

Now this is all well and good, but when I attempt to log in they ask for a username and a password. First off, why do sites like 24 Hour fitness require a username instead of your email address? Do you really need an online persona for your gym membership account? This is an example of terrible product design, as the use main use case for logging into 24 Hour Fitness' web site is to pay your bill. Why do I need a username to give 24 Hour Fitness my money?

Okay, fine, enough ranting about the username. Let's now move on to the forgot username/password flow. 24 Hour Fitness asks for my last name, email, and date of birth. I personally think the email should be enough, and they should email me a link to reset my password. If someone has hacked my email then they can probably get into my 24 Hour Account - what is the worst they can they do, pay my bill for me? As long as they require verification of the credit card there is nothing any hacker can actually do in my account.

After entering in my name, email, and birthdate they ask for a security question: the name of my high school mascot, and it's case sensitive! Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME? I just want to get in and pay my gym bill - why does this site put up so many barriers to entry?

I ended up calling in and paying my bill on the phone, which is what their management didn't want - they wanted a web site where people can log in and do this themselves and save cost. But their product managers, in the name of security, have built a web site that makes it so difficult to do simple tasks that I have to call them over the phone. Terrible.