*Let me forewarn you, this is a rant. It is a topic near and dear to my heart and I am, indeed, venting.
After a decade of teaching (high school, middle school, and some elementary), owning and operating my own preschool through high school, and running a personal training business, I have noticed some disturbing ethics among business owners here. I am sure it is similar in other parts; however, all I know is my experiences here and it has seriously bruised my faith in humanity.
I guess I just naturally assumed (since the pay is quite horrific) that all people who get into the education field, do it to make a difference in the world; for the sake and love of kids; to provide a stronger generation of future leaders; to provide an equal educational opportunity for all.
As educators, we spend many years in school and thousands of dollars gaining a top-notch education in order to be underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated by all. However, that is not why we do it. Underneath it all, we know what we do has purpose, has meaning, has a real, genuine connection to a society of youths that will eventually run the planet. That said, when I encountered other schools in the area, I just naturally assumed they were on the same page, that they too understood this universal passion and teacher/education code. However, I was naive.
After we established our school in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, we were blindsided by a particular scandalous competitive school in the area trying to sabotage our efforts. Instead of teaming up with us to try to educate the community the best way we knew how, Valley school* started spreading rumors, lies, and contacting parents trying to run our business into the ground. The owners even showed up to our open houses disguised as potential parents in order to gain inside knowledge.
All we were trying to do was improve the local educational system here. We were all ex-teachers fed up with the poor curriculum standards who decided to do something about it. Instead of supporting us, Valley school actively campaigned against us, running horrible mudslinging-type campaigns. They often solicited our teachers and parents to join their school, and they frequently made complaints to the government which meant a raid to our school — disrupting the entire teaching day. I will not get into every details, but we were shocked and appalled to say the least. The worst part was we were not the only school hit by Valley. Sharing my frustration with another local school owner, I discovered Valley school made very similar efforts to sabotage them as well.
Well, I guess it just boils down to Valley School being more interested in making money than properly educating children.
As a passionate educator, this is disturbing.
Still Teaching, Just a New Curriculum
Over the last two years, I have been personal training part-time and, therefore, slowly reducing my teaching time in the classroom. Today, I am out of the classroom and personal training full-time. I am still a teacher, just a different type. Now, (instead of grammar, reading, and writing) I educate people on longevity, fitness, and nutrition. I love helping people live healthy and happy in order to be able to participate in life, such as playing a sport, engaging with their kids, or even climbing a set of stairs. However, just like in education, I have quickly discovered not all people in the health industry feel the same.
The Big Box Gym Attitude
Here in a small beach town in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, there are not many gym fitness options. I normally train my clients at my home gym, but I have had a few that required some different equipment. Thus, I consulted with the owner of Mango Gym* (the only big gym here) in an effort to train a few clients in poor physical condition and in dire (life or death) need of fitness; the gym owner had no desire to help. I explained that these clients all were scholarship and I was training and educating them for vital reasons, one being: to see their kids grow up. Mango Gym did not care. The owner reminded me that his prices were set and not subject to change for anyone. Sadly, I actually have a personal relationship with this owner; before I built my at-home gym, I was a faithful member to his gym (before it got huge). I never missed a payment, always paid full price, and brought him several referrals. He then asked if I would take his resume and consider him for some extra work, and we hired him as a temporary P.E. teacher for my school a few year back.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand he needs to pay the bills, but he showed zero flexibility at all. For me to train a client 3x/wk he wanted over $240/ month (even though his membership fee was only $50/month). I asked if my client and I could just buy monthly memberships totaling $100 and we’d just workout together to which he replied, “I’ll have to think about it.” I even tried enticing him with incentives, discussing a group rate and I’d pull in more clients for his gym and also offered myself for personal training, but nothing worked. I was actually both hurt and shocked. Obviously Mango Gym is more interested in making money than changing/transforming lives.
After this encounter, I spoke to a few other small health facilities and quickly learned that Mango Gym had been sabotaging small businesses trying to close them down (sounds familiar, doesn’t it). Again, my heart sank. The problem is that he is a giant, the only giant in our tiny beach town who now has the money to create an expensive gym and therefore gets clients to pay into his vicious business cycle. These other fitness facilities don’t stand a chance when he is deliberating sabotaging their efforts. I have even spoken to a few
people in town who were pursuing opening another gym and the first thing they told me was, “You cannot tell anyone, because if it gets back to Mango Gym, then he will put me out of business before I even start.”
The more ways we can get people engaged, moving, and thinking about health is a good thing!!! The more fitness facility options, the better! Any just and noble fitness professional will tell you the same. Business competition, makes us thrive and better ourselves, always thinking of ways in which to improve. The problem is Mango Gym knows if he has competition, he may have to change (many things). It seems he has little desire to help the community get fitter, stronger, and healthier; he only has a desire to make his wallet healthier.
As a passionate instructor, this is disturbing.
You as a fitness consumer looking to improve your health and/or as a parent wanting a good school, you need to understand your money potentially supports these tyrants’ horrible business ethics and practices and gives them the financial support to continue doing it. Whether it be that small school, small gym, or local farmer, these smaller, organically-built businesses tend to have a passion for life and humanity and want to provide the best for everyone involved.
Do your homework, ask around, meet with the owners, do some digging and find out the history and background of the people with whom you entrust your health, food, and kids. What is their mission and passion for their business?
Find out how much do they really care about the people their business is built to support.
*the names of the local school and gym have been changed
Photo Credits: Tamarindo Family Photos