FitnessFirst turns bus-stop into giant scales to violate privacy and humiliate passers by!

// 16 March 2009

fitnessfirstsucks.jpgAs you can see from the image on the right, the gym chain FitnessFirst has done some… erm… interesting advertising in a Dutch bus stop.

The bus stop seat has been turned into scales, and the weight of the person sitting on the seat appears on the billboard.

As AdFreak says:

We’re sure Fitness First is expecting a huge spike in membership from this, but the effect is ruined the moment two people share the seat. That and, you know, trying to win people’s business by humiliating them.

Melissa at Shakesville further points out this is:

Not only fat-hating/shaming, but deeply hostile to the physically disabled, who have to exchange their privacy and dignity for their basic comfort just to wait for a bus.

Of course, FitnessFirst has gyms dotted across this country too; I used to be a member of one, actually. If I still was, I’d be writing to the manager to complain…

The problem seems to crop up in every gym I’ve been to, although I’ve thus far not seen anything as bad as this particular example. (My gym features ‘motivational’ stories on posters, about gym members who went in for personal training with good body-image, for some other reason, like, say, wanting actual instruction on a decent, safe workout, then suddenly realised they did ‘need’ to lose weight after all! And they’re so much happier now! They were just fooling themselves before! )

Comments From You

Kakoli // Posted 17 March 2009 at 12:47 am

I don’t usually endorse doing things that are against the law, but somebody needs to vandalize that shit ASAP. Cover it with black paint, take a knife and cut into the seat to find and destroy/steal the scale. Whatever it fucking takes — that is NOT okay. I don’t know what city in Holland this is in, but people should also write to the transportation agency there and demand this shit be taken down.

Laura // Posted 17 March 2009 at 1:46 am

Despite this being a rude and obtrusive invasion of privacy, could they begin to imagine what this might do to the growing number of people (mainly women) who suffer from Eating Disorders?

For me, having suffered from one, to sit down to wait for a bus and find my weight broadcast on a six foot high billboard next to me would do unmentionable damage to me self esteem, security and my recovery.

A ridiculous, ineffective and wholly offensive failed marketing ploy.

Samara // Posted 17 March 2009 at 7:46 am

I joined a gym to help me gain some weight when I was about 18, only for the guy doing my induction to come up to me and say, “So, you wanna lose weight?” I was clinically underweight at the time but he assumed, presumably because I was female, that I was there to lose weight.

Actually, the biggest problem I’ve noticed in gyms is sleazy guys trying to pick women up. Gyms are second only to clubs in this respect and it completely astonishes me. I’ll be waiting to use a treadmill or whatever and there’ll be some guy looking me up and down in a really aggressive manner. I’ve even had men say competely inappropriate things that I’d happily laugh off in a club but really don’t appreciate when I’m sweating like a pig on a treadmill. I was a member of a gym once where they used to have classes in a studio that could be seen from a viewing gallery at the top – whenever there were women’s classes, the guys used to congregate there and salivate over their backsides. Luckily I’ve now found a friendly gym – they do exist!

Emily K // Posted 17 March 2009 at 8:10 am

This is ridiculous! Thank you for drawing our attention to it. What a disgusting way to advertise. I am going to write to the UK head office and complain, but also make it clear that they shouldn’t attempt the same strategy in the UK, as I think it wouldn’t be too hard to make a case for it against ASA regulations.

Kez // Posted 17 March 2009 at 9:37 am

How utterly ludicrous. Even if this wasn’t a gross invasion of privacy (which it clearly is) it’s also a completely pointless campaign. As pointed out, it becomes completely ineffective as soon as two people sit on the seat – or, as in the picture, someone puts their bag on it. (Wishful thinking: maybe the bag contains a bomb with which she’s planning to blow up the seat?)

And, y’know, trying to win business by humiliating people in public? Not clever. But it’s got them publicity, which was doubtless the point of the exercise.

Jane // Posted 17 March 2009 at 10:28 am

I read an interesting survey recently (sorry, can’t remember where) that linked girls playing sport to high self-esteem because they would grow up to see sport and fitness as recreational and fun rather than an ‘aid’ to weight loss.

My old gym used to deliberately set their scales about half a stone higher. For a long time nobody mentioned it, for fear of looking silly but one day I hopped on the scales and it said I weighed about 25 stone. It turned out that EVERYONE felt that the scales were lying, and it eventually came out that the company deliberately set the scales higher to ‘encourage ‘ us!!!!!

Denise // Posted 17 March 2009 at 12:56 pm

I live in NL and I’m afraid this kind of rude/shaming/judgemental ad is typical, although this is the worst I’ve seen. Before I went to live here I had a view of the Netherlands as being an incredibly tolerant and open country, but it really isn’t. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who think it’s okay to stare at you or make all kinds of rude/nosey comments as you go about your daily business. And if you’re a foreigner, don’t be surprised to get asked where you’re from and what you’re doing here even if you buy a loaf of bread or lump of cheese.

And not so long ago there was that AWFUL sexist ad for an opticians (to which the F-Word alerted people).

They even (sorry, this is a bit off-topic) have an anti-swearing organisation! here which runs billboard campaigns with stupid pompous slogans such as “Swearing Doesn’t Solve Anything”. You don’t even have a swear word in your head, then you see that irritating lecturing slogan and think, “It FUCKING does!!!”

Joanna // Posted 17 March 2009 at 1:11 pm

Samara – I had exactly the same thing at my gym. There was a glass wall seperating the gym and another room and every time I was there as soon as the women would start doing exercises in that room, all the men in the gym – literally all of them – would stop what they were doing and stare. So I would be forced to wait for them to stop salivating before I could use the machinery. It was pathetic, and must have been really uncomfortable for the women. This is a gym, people, not a peep show. These places are not female friendly.

Kate // Posted 18 March 2009 at 2:23 pm

So true about all gyms assuming women want to lose weight. I went for my mandatory induction and was told my fitness goal must be to “lose weight”. err why, to bring me down into that coveted underweight category? And they wonder why I skipped the offer of free nutritional advice and six-weekly weigh-ins.

Cara // Posted 18 March 2009 at 4:26 pm

OMG that is SO wrong.

Sounds like everyone has been going to some sleazy gyms. I have to say mine is great. Induction guy told me I *didn’t* need to lose weight – I actually do, btw, in terms of BMI am now (just) in overweight category *blush*. (It’s weird, am 5ft 0 so people seem to perceive me as birdlike framed, I’m really not).

There are good gyms out there. My point isn’t to deny anyone who has had crappy experiences, just to point out that not all gyms have staff that assume a woman’s motivation for going to the gym is to lose weight…couldn’t possibly be to get fit and healthy, could it? *sigh*.

Which is really my main aim, too; after years of depressing yo-yoing, I have decided that focusing on looking after my body by eating properly (by which I mean eating a balanced diet and enough of it, including treats but without bingeing) and exercising is more productive than obsessing over every calorie / pound. In the long term, of course, that will result in a healhy weight (barring medical conditions that make people unable to lose weight, which I don’t have, but I know some people do).

That was rambling.

Jessica Burton // Posted 18 March 2009 at 6:03 pm

totally shocking and as you’ve all said – pointless.

My partner and myself have both been attending a kickboxing class for just over a year and have recently (5 months) been training for a tournament. We are both fitter than we have ever been, my legs are thinner yet stronger, my arms look about the same but are now composed of more muscle, my bum more pulled in, my tummy a bit flatter etc. etc. and we have steadily been putting on weight, though not intentionally.

We are both now “overweight” according to the chart at the doctors and yet more healthy than we’ve ever been in our lives. That’s how pointless measuring weight like that is.

Michael // Posted 19 March 2009 at 6:24 pm

You can’t stop people looking at you and guessing your weight. Sure it says it in numbers, but come on, it’s not like it’s insulting you, just stating a fact.

Anna // Posted 20 March 2009 at 12:42 am

Micheal – what about people with eating disorders?

Holly Combe // Posted 20 March 2009 at 11:08 am


Okay, so you can’t stop people looking at you and guessing your weight but I think you might have something to say about it if they decided to hold up cards with their guesses on them or carried scales around so they could put them on your seat to get a more accurate reading!

I don’t think the person who likes to wile away the time by guessing people’s weights in his or her own head is in the same league as a device that invades people’s privacy and attempts to broadcast the true “facts” of the matter (which I suspect they actually won’t be anyway because some people will be wearing heavy bags or coats (see Kez’s comment)).

Also, this advertising ploy isn’t just neutrally attempting to state a fact. It isn’t just saying “hey there, isn’t this seat cool? It’s telling you what you weigh!” It comes from a gym that wants people’s business and is publicly reminding people of their weight to convince them it might be a bad thing they need to change by using their services. How is that intended to be anything other than an insult, albeit a “helpful” one?

Sabre // Posted 20 March 2009 at 12:21 pm

This is such a stupid gimmick and in a society where weight has so much meaning and is a widespread cause of distress, it’s shameful. I don’t weigh myself on principle, and I’d be pretty pissed off if someone else was doing it for me on the sly!

Having said that, perhaps an individual’s weight is not far from being common knowledge with ID cards on the way…

Aimee // Posted 20 March 2009 at 4:02 pm

Sorry, but what kind of people go round trying to guess people’s weight?!

Kez // Posted 22 March 2009 at 11:44 am

Aimee, I agree – it seems a strange way to entertain oneself! Personally it’s not something I really notice about other people – of course, I would generally notice if someone was exceptionally fat or exceptionally thin, but I don’t go around thinking “Ooh, she (or he) looks like a 12-stoner” or whatever.

Anyway, the reason the bus stop is problematic (I’m addressing Michael, here) is because in our thin-obsessed society, weight is not a neutral issue, particularly for women – though increasingly also for men. Unfortunately for many people nowadays, “thin” beats “healthy” every time – just look at certain celebrities whose figures are admired despite looking as though a light breeze would blow them over and as though energetic exercise may actually kill them.

Many women (and men) would be hideously mortified and humiliated to have their weight broadcast to passers-by, because they are ashamed of it – and that is not only people who are significantly overweight, but includes those whose weight is perfectly normal but who still want to be thinner. Clearly, that is what the company is playing on, although I am not sure the strategy will actually work in terms of getting people along to their gyms… but that probably doesn’t matter, as I suspect it is an attention-getting gimmick rather than a serious sales ploy.

Chris // Posted 9 June 2009 at 4:58 pm

Ok, I see how this bus stop can create massive problems with some people. Especially anyone with an eating disorder.

But I think people really need to get over this obsession with what their weight is. I think the whole BMI thing needs to binned. It is utter s**t! According to BMI calculations I am Obese. My Body Fat however is within the “acceptable” limits, 3% lower and the lack of fat would start to mess with my bodily hormones. (I know this because I am an Exercise Science Student and Qualified Gym Instructor).

So my point is I think people care way too much about some number on a scale…. its just a number! If you are happy with what you see in the mirror and happy with yur life… who cares what anyone else thinks?!

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