The pros and cons of ClassPass

More than 275 studios in Atlanta are on the app, but many have mixed feelings about the benefits

Classpass Atlanta
Fitness studios have a love/hate relationship with apps like ClassPass.

Photograph by yellowdog/Cultura/Getty Images

Ours is a world of hyper-personalized consumerism: facial lotions that consider your genetic predisposition, vitamin supplements based on your DNA, meal plans made for your particular combination of lactose-intolerance and beet allergy. With our simultaneous embrace of technology and rejection of anything one-size-fits-all, it’s no wonder we seek and expect tailor-made, just-for-me gym memberships, too.

Enter the apps. Though the companies’ head honchos are loathe to release data on market penetration and growth, it’s clear from local gym owners, operators, managers, and clients that more and more consumers in Atlanta are forgoing traditional gym memberships in favor of plans that allow them to sample everything from Megaformer Pilates to martial arts.

In Atlanta, the biggest multi-studio fitness membership app is ClassPass, with more than 275 studios on its roster. Peerfit, which began primarily as a multi-studio app for employers to offer their employees, offers access to about 37 studios in the Atlanta area. Another competitor, called FitReserve, is said to be coming to this market soon.

Feelings about these apps in general, and ClassPass in particular, are mixed. Studio owners like that ClassPass helps them overcome the significant challenge of client acquisition, filling spots that might otherwise have been empty. This allows the studios to generate at least some revenue (the amount depends on the business and its negotiations with ClassPass) where there would likely have been none. (Studios can limit how many seats, machines, or spots go to ClassPassers.)

But some studio owners complain that ClassPassers are purely price-driven, unlikely to become repeat customers, and see less impressive physical results because they don’t consistently practice any particular fitness discipline.

ClassPassers hail the app for the variety and the access to expensive classes without the membership commitment. But they say they’re sometimes treated as less important than full-paying members. ClassPassers have also been known to complain about the credit system. (A fee of $15 a month gets you seven credits, which translates to two classes per month; $49 gets you 27 credits, or up to nine classes; $79 a month gets you 45 credits, or up to 15 classes; $139 a month gets you 85 credits, or up to 28 classes; and $199 a month gets you 130 credits, or up to 43 classes a month. Popular classes require more credits than less popular classes.)

All four of Vibe Ride’s locations—three in its home city of Atlanta, and one in Detroit—are on the app, and the relationship has been “more positive than negative,” says owner Courtney Anderson. “We have a great conversion rate. Many clients who find us on ClassPass become members and join our community.”

But when ClassPass clients are unhappy, as they were with the company’s three-visit studio limit (lifted last year) or when monthly dues rose a startling 90 percent in 2016, these concerns are sometimes passed on to the studio. This “can be frustrating,” she says. “Studios do not have control, so there is not much we can do to address these issues.”

ClassPass has acknowledged the frustrations and now promises “a drastically improved service,” says Mandy Menaker, who does public relations for the company. “We now offer more choice in where you work out, no studio limitations on the number of classes you can attend at any particular place, and lots of flexibility in our plans, including 10 credits that rollover every month.”

Love it or hate it, ClassPass seems to be here to stay—with more competitors on the way, ready to capitalize on our desire to have our cake and eat it too, and burn that cake off with as many different workouts as we damn well please.

ClassPass in a nutshell:
Pricing: $0 for first month; $15 to $199 a month thereafter, depending on how many credits you want
Number of studios in the Atlanta area: About 275
Limits: Different classes are assigned different credit requirements (“gym time shouldn’t cost as much as megaformer Pilates. Credits consider a class’ popularity, equipment, and more”); up to 10 credits can roll over every month.
Does membership travel?: Yes
Some of the Atlanta studios available on this app: Solidcore, Stellar Bodies, exhale, 9round, Vesta Movement