A Westwood, Mass., woman learned there’s a limit to how much free speech you can exercise at the gym, after Planet Fitness yanked her membership for yakking on a cell phone while working out.
Tina Santoro Asmar said she got the boot after answering an unexpected call from her doctor’s office while training on the elliptical at the Planet Fitness in Dedham on Thursday.
That violated a rule restricting cell phone use to the lobby, but the 49-year-old owner of Santoro’s Sicilian Trattoria in Dedham claims the gym’s general manager violated the chain’s “no gymtimidation” mantra with his “bizarrely angry” crackdown.
“He was enraged,” Asmar said, adding she didn’t want to leave the workout area because her iPad was plugged into the elliptical machine. “I said I’d be off in a minute. He said, ‘I said now.’ His demeanor was very threatening. I said, ‘Oh, please, please step away from me,’ and he continued to say, ‘No, I need you to hang up that phone now or I’m going to cancel your membership.’ ”
But club co-owner Brian Kablik, a franchisee with eight Planet Fitness locations, said a regional manager witnessed the incident, and it was Asmar who was belligerent.
“This is a member that’s had repeated issues and incidents with cell phone use,” Kablik said. “I can assure you that our manager would not be treating a member poorly. Her reaction, when she was approached in a professional way, was extremely unprofessional and rude and dismissive.”
Planet Fitness — a New Hampshire-based chain known for its “judgment-free zone” and “no lunk” policy against members grunting while lifting weights — has about 10 “no cell phone” signs posted throughout each of its 620 clubs to ensure a comfortable environment for members, Kablik said. The policy is aimed at preventing members from being interrupted by loud phone conversations, and it also eliminates concerns about video recording or photographs of people in their exercise outfits.
New York attorney Lori Pines, author of “The Little Book of Gym Etiquette: A Handbook for Dealing with Annoying People at the Gym,” said she sides with Planet Fitness. While no one should be treated rudely, cell phone calls in the middle of gyms are problematic, she said.
“I sympathize with the gym here … especially since she’s been warned before, and it’s a posted rule,” Pines said. “She couldn’t have been in a dire medical emergency, because she was in the middle of working out.”
Asmar said she understands that cell phone use can be annoying in certain situations, but she felt mistreated by Planet Fitness.
“I’m not asking for my money back or anything, just an apology,” she said.