He’s done a Gerald Ratner!


Recently, I attended a presentation by the Chief Executive of one of the UK’s largest health club chains. It was all rather predictable stuff – aren’t we doing great blah blah blah…

However, it suddenly became very interesting when he started to poke jokes at some of his more `weight-challenged` members. Up flashed a slide showing three over-weight women sitting by the side of an outdoor swimming pool in normal clothes simply chatting and enjoying each other’s company. He then proceeded to say that many members visit his clubs simply for the social experience (fair point), but went on to crack a joke about how the size of those three women suggested that they never set foot inside the gym or exercise studios…

“as this picture shows, those ladies have never used that pool or any of our other facilities!`.

It got a laugh from the audience of about 80, but over coffee, it was clear that he had a hit a raw nerve with some of the other delegates, not just me. `That could have been my Mother he was poking fun at“ one said to me.

I spoke to a Club Manager about his presentation the day after who told me that he had cracked the same joke at an internal regional club managers meeting earlier in the year, but had received a verbal battering from the audience. So it seems that the opportunity to get some cheap laughs at his members’ expense, was just far too tempting.

I have no time for a Chief Executive going around mocking customers who are ultimately paying his over-inflated salary. It left me thinking that he didn’t really care about people. This year health clubs, next year photo-copiers; who cares as long as it sells and I make money.

Fortunately, for this gentleman, there were no national media in the audience. However, if any are reading this, I do have the full recording of his presentation!

Ps Who is Gerald Ratner? He is the former Chief Executive of Britain’s largest jewellery business who told a group of analysts during a company briefing that the company’s products were `crap`, but customers kept buying them. What happended? There was a media frenzy who thought that Christmas had come early and Ratner was forced to resign.