GymPact has been getting a lot of press for its innovative app. Here is what is supposed to happen:
1st you download the app onto your iPhone (sorry Android-ites, it’s not available for you yet).
2nd you set up an account (and you have to give them your credit card information)
3rd you create your commitment profile. This requires you to decide how many days you are going to work out the following week (not the current one) at a recognized gym which GymPact verifies by GPS.
4th you choose a “stake” amount. This starts at $5 and goes up to $100. What is this? This is the reason that they ask you for your credit card info. Each week, for every day that you committed to go to the gym but didn’t, you have to pay whatever your “stake” amount is. For example, if you select a “stake” amount of $20 and commit to going to the gym 4 days, but then you only go 2 days that week, then you will have $40 ($20 x the 2 days you broke your pact) automatically deducted from your credit card.
5th you click “done” and then “save” and everything should be set.
6th each time you go to your gym, you open the app and check into the gym, and then when you leave the gym, you check out of the app. In order to get credit, you have to be at the gym for at least 30 minutes (and don’t worry, you can leave your iPhone in your gym locker while you exercise).
7th every Sunday night, they figure out how much money they collected from people who didn’t fulfill their commitment days to the gym, the company subtracts 30% for itself and then divides the remaining 70% among the days that subscribers made it to the gym. This last part is still a bit unclear to me, because I’m not sure if failing to fulfill your weekly commitment days means that you have to pay for each commitment day missed AND you don’t get paid for the days you did go. Or do you still get paid for the days of your weekly commitment pact that you did honor?
So, that’s how this app is supposed to work.
If you look at the reviews or look at the company’s website, they love to talk about how the company’s co-founders are from Harvard and that one of them worked in a behavioral neurobiology lab. And then you find out that the Lead Developer was a programer with Avaya for 2 years before he joined GymPact. So, everything should be great, right?
This is easily the worst iPhone app I have ever tried, and if you don’t believe me, then look at the reviews in Apple’s App Store.
Let me give the co-founders a little lesson in human psychology: if you are going to ask people for their credit card information, and if you are going to create a bunch of buzz in different fitness magazines and websites, then you damn well better make sure that the app really works.
I have seen a bunch of Mickey Mouse operations, and yes, I even got suckered into sending a Western Union money order to an elderly woman who told me that she was starving and unemployed. But if ever there was a site with numerous red flags that should make people run away, GymPact is it.
It’s because the app doesn’t work.
And the only thing worse than an app that doesn’t work is an app that requires your credit card information and can take money from you AND doesn’t work.
Here are the specifics:
1) They don’t pay: I signed up for GymPact two weeks ago, and I made it to all 3 of my committed days the first week. I also had committed $10 for each workout missed (fortunately, I didn’t miss any of them). Supposedly the company is supposed to figure out every Sunday night how much money they made and then divvy up 70% of it to subscribers based on how many days that they made it to the gym. I’m now at the end of Week 2, and there has been no money credited to my account for Week 1.
2) The app is rigged against the user: During each week, each subscriber has to make a pact for the following week. So, I tried repeatedly to set the “stake” amount to $5 for the following week (Week 2). I then pressed “done” and “save” each time, and everything looked like the changes were made. Then I would open the app 15 minutes later to find that the “stake” amount had changed to $10. Huh? I have a feeling that if I had set the “stake” amount to $20, it wouldn’t have automatically changed it back to $10. This kind of situation is clear malfeasance. If you are going to deduct any money from people’s credit cards, you better be 100% sure that the system is set up to deduct the correct amount.
3) no reply: I repeatedly sent notifications to the company about my problems with the changing “stake” amount, and never received a single reply. I hope it’s not because the company employees are too busy counting all the money that their app illegally took from people.
4) shady terms of service (Part 1): subscribers agree to give the company all personal information including their credit card info AND bank account numbers. I don’t remember giving my bank account number, and there is no reason why GymPact needs both.It looks shady.
5) shady terms of service (Part 2): I can’t take credit for this because one of the other reviewers in the Apple App Store noticed this. There are a few reviewers who talk about how great the app is. However, none of us has ever read a review from anyone who has actually gotten back a penny from the company. In fact, GymPact’s Terms of Service is very clear about all the ways that the company can penalize you to pay, but there is absolutely no mention anywhere about exactly how they will pay owed money to subscribers. Will they credit it back to subscribers’ credit cards? Will they credit it weekly or monthly?
I think that GymPact is a great idea, but the people who are running it have very little idea what they are actually doing. People can understand when a new app is a little buggy. But when the bugs only seem to involve the part where GymPact can collect your money (and the bug is in GymPact’s favor) and the part where GymPact actually has to credit subscribers with real money (this app has accurately recorded that I’ve been to the gym 8 times in the past two weeks, but it tells me falsely that I have no committed days which also favors the company’s ability to show higher payouts to subscribers who may be getting credited properly), then at its best, this app becomes little more than a glorified stopwatch to tell me when I entered and left the gym. At its worst, it becomes a way of illegally charging people for faulty services.
Yifan Zhang, Geoff Oberhofer, and especially the programmer Anuprit Kale, if you are going to take the credit for the app and pose for pictures on your website, then you are going to have to take the blame that this app looks like a classic scam.
Fix your app, and you have to be as crystal clear about how you are going to credit people’s accounts with the money they’ve earned as you have been about the way you are going to take money out of people’s accounts.
As someone who also attended Harvard, I can say that Zhang and Oberhofer are an embarrassment to Harvard University for trying to benefit from its name with what could very well be the worst app in the entire Apple App Store. And until you fix this app properly, could you two please take the Harvard references out of your website bios?