Miss Jones take a letter …

Earlier this week my club secretary recieved an email from an individual at a well know leisure centre we’ve been using asking us if we could tell them why we’ve cancelled our block booking.

To say I wasn’t impressed is an understatement. I ran the full gambit of raving and ranting emotion – ‘grrrr are these people so stupid, we’ve been on at them for two bloody years!’ – to ‘well activeLUTON are a ‘not for profit trust’ so they’re bound to supply an inferior service!’

In the end I decided to write a letter. Unfortunealy as is my ‘style’ it went a little over the top and just a little wayward so I gave up and decided to let my club secretary provide feedback as she saw fit, however ….

I’ve also decided to publish the ‘letter’ on this blog – a process that’s sort of cathartic. Read it, rubbish it, laugh or critise I don’t mind.

…. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. ….

Dear poor, lonely and oh so lost, activeLUTON employed person,

I write this response in reply to your email, not in the belief that you will read, digest or even be interested in it’s content, but more in the hope that in the distant future, after mankind has managed to blow himself up and rebuild, archeologists, having found the letters P,R,E along with preserved fragments of this diatribe, will conclude that people once gathered at a place called Despair to sacrifice to the god of ‘crap customer service’.

I am actually insulted:

“please may I ask why you have chosen to stop your booking at inspire?”

Really? You can’t work it out for yourself?

After 2 years of non-stop enquiry and dissatisfaction from us, you’re asking us why we have chosen to stop!


What sort of myopic brand of disinterested management do you employ at Inspire – don’t answer I already know, you don’t employ any brand of management.

But I digress, you asked and so you shall receive …

Once upon a time …

We were looking forward to our move from LRSC to the spanking new and shiny Inspire. I’d even had a letter exchange in the Herald & Post with a particularly stupid Stopsley resident bent on painting a picture of doom and gloom about increased traffic, noise pollution etc., etc. I would love to point out to the cretin, how pathetic and unfounded his complaints were, but suspect, as he seemed to be of the ‘Mr Angry from Surbiton’ brigade and probably moaned about everything, one of his neighbours may have buried him under the foundations of a new patio.

Anyway, on we moved and, despite silence to enquiries regarding invoice systems payments etc., we welcomed the new shiny future.

Opportunity knocks, but some are too deaf to hear

Google is a magnificent invention. So good that it allows people of limited intellect to search for information using single syllable phrases and the odd word or two. People have always and still continue to use the search term Stopsley Sport Centre. One of my websites uses those key word phrases, it uses them very well.

What’s the relevance?

Well apart from displaying my knowledge of key word searches and how I’ve saved oodles of cash not employing specialists in the field, it also illustrates that:


‘Cos people are so desperate to contact you they conclude my website has something to do with Inspire and activeLUTON and ring my damn phone!

I got phone calls on my mobile from anxious parents wanting to know why no one has contacted them about their little Sophie’s swimming lessons or will Courtney be running tomorrow’s Zumpilateathon ‘cos she’s ever so good and we miss her.

Some of these calls came at 6am in the morning, some late at night and all expressed the same concern that the phones at Inspire don’t get answered.

Now, because I had a healthy relationship with activeLUTON at LRSC and the other centers I’d used, I was quite happy to tell them that this wasn’t Inspire’s number, give them the correct one and apologise on your behalf saying you were very popular and thus very busy.

There was one notable exception. A young Asian lad who moaned at me ‘cos he said my site was misleading. I told him he was obviously not old enough to use t’internet and that he should get the help of a grown up.

Now of course Inspire can’t be responsible for people mistakenly ringing my phone, can you? No, but perhaps if you had answered your own phones I wouldn’t have got so many calls. They’re few and far between now and depending on my mood they either get your number or are told I can’t help.

Let’s move on a bit. Forget the ridiculous hoops we went through trying to pay our block booking fees, resorting to knocking on Wigmore Hall’s door and forcing them to take a large amount of money on account. Let’s move on to the storage and leaflet issue.

If you don’t see it, it don’t exist

I’ll admit you don’t have to supply storage for private club equipment, but we expected a level playing field and after being told ‘NO’ to our requests, one of your ‘senior managers’ was surprised to learn that a club had already managed to secure some storage space without his knowledge – finger on the pulse, or up his arse?

We had an agenda meeting with this ‘senior manager’ about this and other issues; we gave him a copy of the agenda and arranged to meet again in a month’s time to discuss progress.

A month later ‘senior manager’ had no recollection of our meeting or the agenda. I suspect he only remembers his name ‘cos he wears a name badge. F*** knows what meltdown his brain goes through when he stands in front of a mirror and tries to read it!

That was in January 2013. That’s the point that I decided enough was enough and that we needed to get out of Inspire. So we began looking for alternatives but pressed on with our Inspire bookings. Eventually we were allowed to install a one-meter storage cage, which we were very grateful for.

The quality of our leaflets is not strained

Inspire has many leaflet dispensers full of activeLUTON run activities (in fact at the time of writing, the same leaflet virtually festoons a whole wall.) We asked about having our own and were told that only activeLUTON ones were allowed even when quite clearly leaflets for non-active clubs were on display (forget the paid for ones, we’re talking about the ones left on the counters, ledges upstairs etc.)

This was a constant bugbear, with me telling the staff that they weren’t supposed to allow 3rd party leaflets on display – just like the storage issue, it was going to be a level playing field for all or none.

We pushed the issue and were told by ‘senior managers’ that the problem was one of synergy and aesthetics. Allowing poorly designed leaflets on display would create a poor impression –


Well go figure!

Well lucky I’m an okay designer then. I designed a leaflet that looked for all intents and purposes like an activeLUTON one, sent it in for approval and waited, and waited, and waited.

Eventually after a bit chasing by our club secretary we got the okay – she’d done so much chasing I’d thought about hiring her out to Henlow dog track! I got them printed installed them at Inspire and was pleasantly surprised as they seemed to fly out the door – only they weren’t! I kept finding them stuffed behind activeLUTON leaflets.

Oh well! A small victory of sorts, except it wasn’t, judging by the number of naff looking leaflet specimens now allowed on display for other non activeLUTON clubs.

But that’s okay, ‘cos Inspire should be doing more to help promote non activeLUTON clubs and activities. Of course, I’d had to pay good money to replace my existing leaflets so that the new ones wouldn’t look out of place; even more motivation to leave Inspire – they just kept on giving!

It doesn’t mat(ter) anymore

Now we move on to the mats. When the mats are in use, your studios are an accident waiting to happen. The mats are okay, but the floor when used with the martial arts mats isn’t fit for purpose, rather like your management. They slide all over the place and have to be constantly moved back into position. Some of them also have little rips and tears, but they’re acceptable.

However, ‘senior manager’ told me that they were all brand new and that none of them should be damaged.

Ah! But some of them came over from LRSC says I.

No they were disposed of says he.


As many of my students and some of your staff who had transferred form LRSC could confirm, some of the old Stopsley mats were/are at Inspire. That’s not a problem in itself, but again it illustrated how ‘senior manager’s’ finger on the pulse was again actively employed elsewhere – and lest I forget, one day ‘senior manager’ entered studio 3 and looked horrified at the small but obvious wall damage at the far end of the room. I was touched by his concern; it had only been there about 6 months!

Finger, pulse, finger pulse – anyone spotting a pattern here?

Customer service, new heights of Inspiring mediocrity

You’re staff have no concept or understanding about what goes on at the center or when. I’ve had karate students and people interested in that Korean thing I can’t bring myself to name that looks like River Dance, sent to my class and individuals I’ve expected to turn up directed to other classes. I don’t expect your staff to have an in depth knowledge of what’s on offer, but the club or activity location is that too much to ask?

Well yes, obviously, ‘cos we’ve raised this before!

We’re nearly at the end, be patient (I f****** have been for 2 years!)

I’ve lost count the number of times that the mats have not been put down ready for one of my classes. It beggars belief that having been there since day one Inspire staff are still confused as to when they should be laid (the mats, not the staff).

We used to play a game ‘mats or no mats’ and place small wagers. We stopped when the popular outcome swayed massively in favour of no mats – it was no fun anymore.

We’ve had individuals turn up at 4pm on a Saturday to remove the mats in readiness for events on a Sunday – we finished at 4.30pm. One poor lad said he’d been told to put them away early by his manager. My club secretary got to him before I did, he should be eternally grateful to her.

On a couple of occasions breaking all the rules governing health and safety the kids took it upon themselves to lay out the mats – I’m still expecting a call from UNICEF on that one.

I’ve had a female chirpily inform me on arriving to set out the mats 15mins after my Saturday class was due to start that she thought we there on a Sunday. When I asked her to get a manager she informed me she was one and promptly took offence and got very defensive when I pointed out that we’d never been at Inspire on a Sunday and challenged her to check her computers.

I was actually quite calm so, if she offends so easily then perhaps a career at Inspire isn’t the place, but then awful customer service does begin with denial, and phrases like: “If you raise your voice at me…” and “I don’t have to listen to that tone …”

Well guess what hunny bunch neither do I!

As a club we run a number of coaching initiatives under various ACS brands, one of them features Bollywood Fitness run by my club secretary. She approached ‘senior manager’ and some other individual possibly cloned from the same useless material as ‘senior manager’ about running a class, initially as a demo to introduce it.

When, where, how, if, what, was left with both ‘senior manager’ and ‘senior manager clone’ Good stuff, except we’re not sure in which year to expect a response on how to progress this.

We’ve given up waiting and will be launching these classes ourselves elsewhere very soon.

Opportunity knocks, sure does, but ignore it and it walks

And lastly (I’m sure that there’s others I’ve forgotten, but even I’m starting to get bored with this)

Having secured storage space it was annoying in the last few months to be denied access to the cupboard except to remove items I needed at the start of the lesson.

This is the same cupboard, open to all, that had previously compromised Data Protection laws by having the records of children using the playgroup session at Inspire in a folder for all to see. We pointed this out to ‘senior manager’ who of course probably had no idea that a playgroup even existed at the centre and was probably to busy trying to locate his missing finger.

I asked why the ‘lock out’ and was told that things had gone missing. Would that be the same sort of things as my folding sack barrel truck that someone had pinched a few months earlier that no one new anything about – pathetic!

Perhaps if you improved security by installing a card gate system that worked and locking the building on closing so no one could actually walk into the place with intent to steal then I’d be more sympathetic. But having someone walk into the gym and use it with all the lights off after the center was ‘closed’ tells me that your security protocols were created by a child of six.

In summary. I like Inspire (the building) it’s a classy looking leisure center with enormous potential. I like many of the young staff that work there, what I don’t like is the rubbish management, the inability to handle simple processes, the naff phone system – I’ve seen how it works, a flashing light on the edge of counter staff’s peripheral vision, no wonder nobody gets through – and the appalling, mediocre, useless, mind numbing, customer service.

Active Luton needs to pull it’s finger out – ‘senior manager’ can leave his where it is, it’s f****** useless wherever he puts it – Start employing quality managers and that’s from the top level down. They need to engage in new levels of customer satisfaction, customer experience and the customer journey, ‘cos many people have taken that journey and will never return.

The new and young staff needs leadership, nurture them, lead them, train them, and create some pride and fulfillment in and around the place.

There’s a famous often quoted (most of the time misquoted) line of dialogue from the baseball movie ‘Field of Dreams’

“If you build it, he will come.”

Well guess what, it was built and he did come but now he’s f***** off because he don’t’ like you anymore!!