Category Archives: Fitness

Thanks, Decathlon – Customer experience feedback

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything about Customer Experience, a topic that’s been a passion of mine since working a long time ago in Boston at Forrester Research. (Also, since moving to Spain 15 years ago and seeing the total lack of focus in this area.)

Now, a post back at it. For anyone who doesn’t know Decathlon it’s like the Walmart of sports stores here in Spain (and other countries in Europe). Decathlon is in 57 countries and is the largest sport retailer in the world – they’re pretty big. And they have almost any sport gear and apparel you can imagine at great prices. In general the people that work there are friendly, nothing over the top or special, but nice enough.

Here’s what happened: at the checkout, for some time now, they give you the option of having your receipt printed in paper or emailed to you. Now most of the time I’ll just print it out because it seems more secure, even though I know it’s a waste of paper. The other day I bought a few articles of clothing. For some reason I decided this time that I would have it emailed to me. I double checked my email, confirmed the purchase, and out I went, happy as a clam.

Unfortunately, I later discovered that not only did one of the articles of clothing not fit at all like it looked on the store model (surprise surprise), but also I never received the electronic receipt. Yes, I checked spam, etc etc. oops.

Here’s what happened next: to my surprise when I brought the article back to decathlon and talked to the person at the front of the store and explained that I never got the receipt, they were totally fine with it. As long as I was going to exchange the item for another one and not interested in getting my money back there was no problem.

Wow. Since when did the customer is always wrong turn around over here? I have to say I was pretty impressed. Thanks, Decathlon, for understanding a common customer’s situation!

Volava (Spanish Peloton) – big thumbs up!

I’m loving my new Volava bike! I never had or used a Peloton bike back in the US (they launched almost 7 years after I moved to Spain), but I thought this might be interesting to US expats here.

Before having kids I was obsessed with spinning classes; I couldn’t get enough. Then once my first kid was born I couldn’t get enough sleep…

I’m an avid runner and have always maintained that with my kids being born, and it’s also the easiest and less time-consuming exercise to do. However, I’ve still always missed the spinning classes but never returned just because of the time commitment.

We just purchased the Volava bike (a copy of Peloton). I’m obsessed! I’ve already done quite a few of the live classes, and there’s a huge library of recorded classes to choose from. For me the most important aspect is the instructor, and so far they’re all great. Great music, great exercise, and hardly any technical issues (just a little complication with the heart rate monitor). There are classes in English too, although to be honest I prefer listening in the instructor’s native language and haven’t tried out the English ones yet.

Photo courtesy of my 4 year old exercise buddy

Although I do still miss the actual live classes in person where you can look around you and see everyone else struggling (I mean having fun) as much as you, it’s awesome and convenient to be able to do it from home and still have a fun workout. Definitely recommend it if you’re into this – and this is coming from someone who’s an avid exerciser but a hater of gym machines like treadmills, ellipticals, etc.

Getting called out during a live class
My exercise buddy pretending he has a mini Volava

My first “faux” flash mob in Madrid

The Flash Mob is an American-originated concept that’s made its way over to Spain, similar to other things I’ve written about (like Black Friday, Running Strollers, Babies R Us, etc.). Here they even have customized versions such as the “Flamenco flash mobs” ( The general gist, as you’re probably familiar with, is a large group of people coming together suddenly in a public place to perform a coordinated act or dance for a brief time and then quickly dispersing. Keep this in mind as you keep reading.

Yesterday I participated in my first flash mob here in Madrid – or what I thought was going to be my first flash mob… Let me back up for a minute: a few days ago I was in the Corte Ingles picking up my dorsal for my last 10k race of the season. As I was waiting in line, a cheerful cheerleader-like girl approached a group of us to announce that a dance group called SLS Dance was organizing the first flash mob in a large sporting event in Spain. Intrigued, I logged onto the web site back at home and found the choreographed dance that I would have to learn to participate, to Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” no less. I figured, “Well, I’ve never been in a flash mob before, so why not?”

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was pretty pumped for the upcoming mob, actually moreso than for the 10k race that would follow. To my surprise, as my friend and I were at the starting line, the same girl who I had seen the other day at the Corte Ingles announced to the crowd over the loudspeaker that in one minute we would all be performing the first sporting event flash mob in Spain. Fifty seconds later she proceeded to start a 10-second countdown.

Wait a minute – since when do you announce a flash mob over a loudspeaker and have a countdown? I also don’t recall flash mobs having people on stages showing the dance to the crowd….So, A for effort for the dance group wanting to organize a flash mob, but downgraded in the actual execution part. I think we need to recognize it for what it was: an organized dance.

In any case, there were two positive outcomes from this faux flash mob experience for me:

  1. I started off the race in a good mood after dancing with the crowd and set a personal record.
  2. I’m determined to take part one day in a real flash mob so that I can really check it off my list.

Overall it was an amusing experience. Hey, I guess any import takes a little bit of time and tweaking to get it right 😉

Trendsetting? Baby running strollers make their appearance in The Corte Inglés

Just the other day I was commenting on how I felt running outside pushing my baby stroller (see: Last post about gyms). To refresh your memory, I was questioning whether I had forgotten my pants at home because of the crazy looks I was getting.

Well, it seems like I’m not so crazy after all. Look what I was greeted with at the Corte Ingles, the largest department store here in Spain, when I got off the elevator in the children’s department:

Bugaboo running strollerBugaboo Running strollerBugaboo running stroller

It seems that Bugaboo, one of the posh, popular stroller brands here, has just launched its “Athletic Extension” stroller. In theory this is great, and I’m looking forward to seeing more people out in my neighborhood exercising with their strollers. I guess it is true what a lot of people tell me, that sooner or later most things from the US make it over here to Spain.

Good luck with the marketing Bugaboo! And make it clear that this kind of stroller, despite the brand, doesn’t mesh with heels…

A few thoughts about working out and gyms in Spain

A while back I shared my experience with different gyms here in Spain (See: Finding a great gym…deserves a piece of cake.), but I talked more about the actual gym than peculiarities vs. gyms and working out back in the US. I’m a pretty avid exerciser (both in gyms and out), so I like to think I’ve seen some interesting things. Granted I’ve been away from the US for almost a decade and sometimes I don’t notice differences anymore, but… I’d venture to guess that some of this is unique to Spain.

  • Saying hello and goodbye in the locker room. As with elevator etiquette, it’s quite normal here to say hello and goodbye when entering and leaving the locker room, despite people being in the middle of various stages of hygiene and/or undressing. Since in the US, silence is the golden rule, I was a bit confused the first time someone said hello to me as I was getting ready to get in the shower after a workout. Was she talking to me? However, nowadays I expect a stranger to greet me in the locker room. And I do the same.
  • Inappropriate English lyrics. I’m all for music during group exercise classes that’s energetic and motivates you to work out. And if you can sing along even better. A few times in spinning classes though my mouth was wide open – not because I was singing at the top of my lungs because I was the only one who really knew the words – but because I couldn’t believe the lyrics I was listening to. Just wrong and totally inappropriate. All I was thinking was that no one else in the class seemed to be bothered by it (or understanding maybe), so I just kept on working out and waited for it to pass. In hindsight it was pretty funny, once I got over my initial – am I really hearing what I think I’m hearing- shock.

parental advisory

  • Running with a baby stroller. The first time I went out for a run, pushing my baby along in his stroller, I was convinced that I had forgotten my shirt or pants. Why? Everyone looked at my like I had three heads. Something had to be off. As it turns out, it just isn’t that common to see a mother getting a good workout at the same time she’s with her baby. For me it was great; I got to spend time with the little guy and get an even-more challenging workout. I know back home this is definitely more common and the sales of specialized exercise baby strollers (like the BOB) are through the roof. But…apparently that’s not the case here. Being the only one definitely didn’t stop me, and in a few occasions I even got some local cheering on from passersby. Maybe I’ll start a trend in my residential baby-friendly neighborhood…

Running baby stroller

  • Gym clothes be gone. After a good workout at the gym I like to stay as far away from my workout clothes as possible until I put them in the washing machine. Much to my surprise, one day I forgot my clothes in the locker room, only to go back later and find out that my spinning shorts and sports bra (not the top) had been stolen. I really don’t know who would want to steal my dirty gym clothes, but best of luck to them.

These are just a few thoughts from my experiences. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience if you’re reading this from over here in Spain, or maybe there are other peculiarities about the workout world back home that I’ve forgotten.

Just like maybe I could start a trend with stroller running, maybe if you’re in another country you could start a trend by starting to say hello and goodbye to people in locker rooms. Or you could just get that startled expression that I’ve seen in Boston after being away so long away and saying hi to people in the elevator…

Gym picture

Finding a great gym…deserves a piece of cake. (Go Fit)

Like a lot of Americans, especially those living in a city like Boston, I’m a fan of working out and going to the gym. Strange as it might seem here in Spain (or normal as it might seem in Boston) I can’t imagine not belonging to a gym.

As you may know, sometimes just getting the motivation to work out can be enough in itself, so you want to make sure you find a gym that’s inviting and makes you want to keep going back.

Gym picture

Now, here in Spain I wouldn’t say that people don’t work out because you can go to the big parks on any weekend and find them filled with people running, practicing yoga, skating, etc. (the weather definitely helps as well). But… gyms in general here definitely are not as popular. And you don’t have the same American craziness of everyone working out during lunch time and then eating lunch at their desks. From my experience trying out a few different gym chains here, I’d have to say that they can leave a bit to be desired….*:

  • Urban Fitness and Electrification (San Bernardo area). I got electrified at least a few times every time I worked out here. Read again. Yes, shocked. The treadmills were insulated behind glass panels without much space between them and the wall. Now I’m no scientist, but I can only guess that so much energy with so many people running in such a small, closed space and so much built-up friction could be the reason. I would like to think it was just poor planning, but after a while I just got too nervous that “the big shocker” could come one day, and I quit. Aside from this, the gym itself was rather small and ordinary. 
  • Holiday Gym and the Whistle Blower (Bernabeu/Lista). Holiday Gym is a large chain with gyms all over Madrid. In general, these gyms are quite inexpensive and provide the basics to have a decent workout. Don’t expect anything special, and don’t expect great group classes. One of the main reasons I go to a gym is for the group classes like Spinning or BodyPump, etc. One day shortly after joining Holiday I decided to try out a Step class. Now, keep in mind that I had been going to Step classes for over 5 years back in Boston and considered myself pretty familiar with the moves… the professor was a whistle-blower. He didn’t talk much; he pretty much just blew a whistle and made crazy moves with his hands, and supposedly people were going to understand this. Needless to say, I don’t speak “whistle” and promptly left this gym.
  • Fit Island and the Silence (Las Tablas). I tried out this new gym in my neighborhood not too long ago because of the location. It definitely has potential as it’s really big and has a lot of new machines. However, of the few spinning class that I tried out the professor was really new and with only a few participants, it wasn’t exactly the most motivating. Another problem I saw here was that there were no classes on Sundays (maybe this has changed by now).

….until I joined Go Fit ( Go Fit does a great job of providing a full-service fitness center (fitness machine room, group classes, large swimming pool, sauna, children’s activity center, etc.) and a great cross-channel customer experience. How? Keep reading:

Gym Spain Go Fit

  • Physical experience in the gym. The group class instructors, music, structure and overall energy are great. But Go Fit takes it one step further, adding surprises to excite its members and shake up the ordinary like Master Classes with guest instructors and special-themed classes (and I won’t forget my surprise with the Halloween dressed-up classes and contest).Go Fit Halloween
  • Experience outside of the gym. From time to time during the spring/summer the gym organizes group classes outside, under the sun, like during their “Olympic Days”, as well as organizes groups for running races and biking outings.
  • User-friendly and updated web site. This might seem simple, but it’s not always that common to find businesses with an updated site with the latest news and schedules. Now recently, due to customer feedback, you can reserve spots in group classes through the site as well.Go fit Reservas
  • Frequently-updated Facebook page with responses. Go Fit posts center updates/news and writes back to user comments and complaints. They listen to customers such as with complaints (including my own) about problems to find parking (they installed new parking this summer) and a request to have instructors names be listed on the schedule (now included).
  • Interesting email newsletters. Just today I received the latest newsletter with info about signing up for a new “challenge” that the gym has set up: sign up for a team led by one of the trainers. The team that has run the most collective distance at the end of the month wins a number of prizes including workout gear and beauty prizes.

Overall, in my opinion, Go Fit provides a great overall customer experience and keeps on innovating. I’ll be curious to see what new events are in store for the coming months!

*Note: these comments do not necessarily refer to the current gym experience if the installations and/or classes have changed since I was there.