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Shady practices in London

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Declaring an interest here - I'm a regular at one of the walls, but wondering what the community thinks of the behaviour of new gyms opening up at London?

I train at a small gym (Blocfit), very reasonably priced (£38/month), and based in a railway arch. Nothing particularly glamorous. 30-40 hard boulders, a circuit board, and some training boards. I'm pretty certain it doesn't make much/any money - it's a passion project of the owner. Great place, and always willing to help out visitors - even setting project replicas, running small intro classes at low/no cost, etc.

Recently a new wall has opened up nearby - full commercial backing, and an extremely extensive ad campaign. Membership is £75/month - the most expensive in London. 

I was quite excited to visit and make it my "regular non-regular" spot which I went to for some variety. But recently several friends have pointed out that the wall is aggressively promoting itself by:

1) Throwing shade at its nearby neighbours in its descriptions;

2) Directly buying up digital advertising so that when you search for any of the other walls they show up instead;

3) Deleting any criticism or comments when asked about why they're doing it.

Not really what I'd expect in this community tbh, but maybe I have an idealised view of what climbing should be.

Post edited at 13:14
3
In reply to Cyrees:

No 2 is normal in the advertising  business world.

1 and 3 is not good practise.I would just ask their management why they are doing this.

1
 chris_r 09 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

£75 a month? Madness.

 subtle 09 Feb 2022
In reply to chris_r:

> £75 a month? Madness.

Its London.

2
 Iamgregp 09 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

Mate you might as well name them, it's pretty obvious who you're talking about...

 Arms Cliff 09 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

Anyone interested in who the OP is talking about can Google Blocfit and see who has purchased the massive Google Ad at the top of the results! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad with multiple links in before, that must be expensive. They probably also pay per click…

1
 derryclimbs 09 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

Climbing is not what it used to be. Some will say for the better, some will say worse. But it is now a mainstream activity, with bouldering certainly being something anyone can try with little investment. Therefore it is a product to sell.

None of the above surprises me as it happens in business all over the world. IMO its a shame its crept into the activity I love. But it was pretty inevitable.

In reply to derryclimbs:

I did a quick bit of googling. Top results for me at least:

Blocfit =  blocfit, blocfit instagram, blocfit facebook,

Blocfit London = same

Blcofit Brixton = other advert at the top, otherwise all the same blocfit links below.

Doesn't seem particularly unfair or egregious to me.

 JoshShaw 09 Feb 2022
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

Same for me.

 deacondeacon 09 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

Which wall is it?

In reply to deacondeacon:

Substation is the first advert if I search for Blocfit Brixton

In reply to Arms Cliff:

And...its normal in digital marketing. Might be expensive but that is there decision.

In reply to Cyrees:

When I googled Blocfit, the top advert was Substation Brixton.

It might be 'standard' practice in digital marketing, but seems sad that a gym is targeting another's membership base.

And if they are deleting comments that raise this question, then it seems like they knowingly doing so.

ps. £75 per month is f..king ridiculous, its Brixton not Knightsbridge. Maybe this is being run by non-climbers as the marketing strategy and price point doesn't align with normal climbing walls.

Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.....

1
In reply to Have you seen Free Solo:

> It might be 'standard' practice in digital marketing, but seems sad that a gym is targeting another's membership base.

Being Sheffield based and not visiting walls on the whole, I've not dog in this fight.....but isn't that pretty much inevitable for a 'me too' business operating in the same location? Open a coffee shop near some other coffee shops and your strategy for success had better involve enticing customers away for the others, rather than purely trying to appeal to a whole new, previously untapped base/demographic of coffee drinkers. 

That said, in this instance, Blocfit's 'membership base' is (are?) less likely to be googling the Blocfit, as they're already members..... Instead they're targeting curious/undecided punters... which is also not uncommon in business, and not entirely unfair in my opinion.

edit to add: £75/month. lol. 

Post edited at 16:13
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

Just a cautionary note on comparing Google results. They're highly personalised, especially the adverts. If your results don't align with what someone else is seeing, that doesn't mean they're deluded. I live in Manchester so any targeted ads the Blocfit competitor might have paid for probably wouldn't appear for me.

In reply to ChrisBrooke:

> That said, in this instance, Blocfit's 'membership base' is (are?) less likely to be googling the Blocfit, as they're already members..... Instead they're targeting curious/undecided punters... which is also not uncommon in business, and not entirely unfair in my opinion.

That's a fair point, I can understand targeting your adverts on keywords like "climbing in Brixton" but it does seem odd to target your ads on "Blocfit Brixton"  ... just seems a bit unscrupulous

2
In reply to Have you seen Free Solo:

Normal in the competitive world of digitla marketing.. Type in say any brand name and you will almost certainly see a competitor listed.

In reply to neilh:

It might be normal in the digital marketing world, but I had hoped that our small niche community wouldn't eat into each other's market share wittingly but instead grow it. Especially when the "competitor" is a small business.

Whether gyms, trainers, hold makers, setters, apparel companies etc ... would have expected better. But thats just me and my 0.02

4
In reply to Have you seen Free Solo:

> It might be normal in the digital marketing world, but I had hoped that our small niche community wouldn't eat into each other's market share wittingly...

> .. would have expected better.

They are probably using web design/host/promotion people, and paying them by results. The IT guys will be doing what they consider normal business practise (including deleting comments about their marketing policies). 

In reply to Cyrees:

Just sounds like a new business doing online marketing to get some customers.  What are they supposed to do?  They've got tax, staff, rent and interest on the loans to fit ot out to pay and they are starting with zero customers.   If they charge £75 a month they aren't going head on for the same customers as an established wall that charges £38 a month.  They're probably think they can find rich noobs in London and they'll probably want a more 'upmarket' look and set easier problems than a wall in a railway arch focused on hardcore climbers.

When I run Facebook ads I hide or block comments which aren't constructive.  I've paid 10p to 24p a click to sell product and I'm not going to have anything on the landing page that is aggressive, rude or puts people off. If there's constructive but negative comments which help differentiate the advantages/disadvantages of my service then I might reply and leave them.  But fundamentally, I've paid Facebook and I can curate it if I want.

3
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

That's what I thought, but then the OP said that they were deleting/removing posts on their social media that raised these questions. If that's the case, it sounds like it's a more calculated approach. Unless their social media is also run by a tech firm....

Post edited at 16:55
 Iamgregp 09 Feb 2022
In reply to Luke90:

Dunno what you mean mate, I googled BlocFit Brixton and got a load of ads for "Horny Singles in my Area".  Seems ok to me? 

 Misha 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Iamgregp:

What else have you been searching for 🤣🤣🤣

 timjones 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Have you seen Free Solo:

Do the concepts of markets and market share have any place in a decent community?

Like it or not climbing changed when we all started looking for a convenient indoor fix.

3
 Trangia 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

From the title I was expecting more revelations from No 10 etc

 Marek 10 Feb 2022
In reply to timjones:

> Do the concepts of markets and market share have any place in a decent community?

Hmm, I would suggest 'markets' (somewhere where people get together to exchange what they have a surplus of for thing they need) is very much central to any community.

The concept of (competitive) 'market share', less so.

> Like it or not climbing changed when we all started looking for a convenient indoor fix.

By that argument, climbing changed when people started paying others for climbing services such as guiding - i.e., pretty much right at the start.

In reply to Have you seen Free Solo:

Small niche community is last century for climbing  I am afraid.

2
 John Whittaker 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

If its the wall ive managed to find on google which correlates well to the £75/month price tag then it seems they like to harp on about how ethical meat free, plastic free, renewably powered, no packaging, child slave free clothing etc etc. they are.

But it seems this ethical high horse they have sat upon doesnt extend to the points you have made.

Cries of hypocrisy.

On the other hand it does open at 7am. I wish Lancaster bouldering and Kendal wall did.  

3
 McHeath 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Misha:

> What else have you been searching for 🤣🤣🤣

Maybe he's a cattle breeder? :P

1
In reply to Arms Cliff:

I just get the Blocfit webpage as my first hit? No adverts for anywhere else? Your cookie preferences may have a role to play in this...

 timjones 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Marek:

> Hmm, I would suggest 'markets' (somewhere where people get together to exchange what they have a surplus of for thing they need) is very much central to any community.

> The concept of (competitive) 'market share', less so.

Once you start paying to build something that you didn't have then market share has to be considered.

> By that argument, climbing changed when people started paying others for climbing services such as guiding - i.e., pretty much right at the start.

That is a whole different area for debate, monetisation of hobbies can lead to all sorts of conflicts

In reply to Cyrees:

According to Blocfit's social media, the other gym have recognized that it was an oversight and changed their google key words.

In reply to timjones:

I have yet to come across a hobby/sport which is not monetised. At some stage somebody somewhere is selling materials, a facility or advice/instruction.

In reply to Cyrees:

A slightly different perspective: London climbing walls are usually heaving - demand far outstrips supply. Evening climbing at the Castle or Mile End, at least pre-covid, was becoming a nightmare. More walls opening up and thus spreading numbers out is not necessarily a bad thing, and as others have said, this new gym probably has a different ideal customer base than the more hardcore, training-orientated vibe of Blocfit.

Even my beloved Yonder has stared to become noticeably more busy in the evening as the post-Omicron relaxation takes hold. And that's with Mile End, BethWall, CanaryWall and the Castle all within easy striking distance. So long as this huge growth in the numbers of climbers remains an indoor phenomenon and they don't polish the outdoor routes, I say Let The Walls Open and Let Them Advertise Around, if that means we don't have to queue 5 deep for every problem.

In reply to Cyrees:

However I'm especially interested in the idea of a 'plastic free' bouldering gym - are all the holds made of wood, then?

In reply to Cyrees:

When the majority of the target market are new climbers you need to offer a product that makes them want to stay.

Most of the new breed are gym goers s normally and happy to pay exorbitant amounts to David Lloyd, Virgin Leisure, Bannatyne Leisure etc etc so £75 is a total bargin especially in the city. And that's not the most expensive wall in London for membership!

Comes down to that argument again about what do you expect/want from your gym experience. If a decent woody, a campus board and some free weights float your boat then there are gyms that cater to that but if you're there for the social, good coffee, fun blocs, interesting holds, showers and top notch facilities then yes, that costs a ton of cash!

The wall in question has gone absolutely full biff, balls to the wall on construction as you can see from the Wallopia logos on the wall and the exquisite hold selection. At the absolute top end of the cost scale. Very European in it's appeal and style. If it's not your cup of tea there are other options in London but I think accusing them of opening the lid on the climbing community and trying to say its a place where everyone is fair and loves rainbows and unicorns is overly idealistic. It's a business. It's core aim is to generate income and a strong customer base.

simples.

P.s. I don't work there or anywhere near London!!

Post edited at 13:32
1
 Misha 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Paul Sagar:

In think that’s generally right re demand outstripping supply. Whether that’s true in a particular area (and indeed what the catchment area actually is) is a separate question. Clearly if a large new wall opens next to a small independent wall and charges the same for better (or just more extensive) facilities, that could be an issue, unless the small wall can’t cope with the demand anyway. However here the cost is not the same and I suspect there is plenty of demand (however I don’t have any local insight on that). The vibe could also be quite different - training vs casual. 

The other consideration is that large walls can create demand. This happened here in Birmingham when the Depot opened. I was sceptical that there was sufficient demand for it but it’s been consistently pretty busy (although not ridiculously so) and hasn’t taken significant custom away from the small independent wall (BBC - which is excellent; if it were mediocre, it would have suffered I suspect but who needs mediocre walls anyway?). I don’t know where all these people appeared from but they did. Most seem to be students in term time. 

 Marek 10 Feb 2022
In reply to timjones:

> Once you start paying to build something that you didn't have then market share has to be considered.

Depends on what is meant by 'market share'. If it is an ambivalent measure of how good your 'product' is seen to be in comparison to others, then that's fine. If however its pursuit is used as a means to disadvantage your competitors (e.g., gain an effective monopoly) then it is in effect undermining the normal (ideal?) market dynamic and becomes a negative influence on the society as a whole (even though it may advantage the holder of the dominant market share).

 Marek 10 Feb 2022
In reply to timjones:

> That is a whole different area for debate, monetisation of hobbies can lead to all sorts of conflicts

There's nothing special about money (as in a mechanism for monetisation). Any market can lead to conflicts irrespective of whether it's based on barter or money. Money is just a method to improve the efficiency of the market by reducing interactions from many-to-many (hard) to one-to-one (easy). And there aren't many hobbies that don't require access to some sort of market (means of exchange).

1
 Marek 10 Feb 2022
In reply to McKEuan:

> ... It's a business. It's core aim is to generate income and a strong customer base.

That may be true, but whether it's good for society (the greater good, GDP, whatever...) is another matter. A lot of businesses are playing a zero-sum game (or worse) and that's good only for their stakeholders, not for the rest of us.

You may say "that's the world we live in", but that doesn't mean it's the best we could live in. Business is ultimately a means of exploiting human greed in order to improve the lot of everyone. It's a complex trick which has to evolve with time, but the worst thing you can do is to ignore human nature. Or do nothing. Neither is a winning strategy.

Post edited at 15:39
1
 DannyC 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

I'm (pleasantly!) surprised that £75/month is seen as wildly expensive in London. 

In Edinburgh, monthly passes at Eden are £55. It's a superb bouldering wall but it's a fairly big journey out of town for most visitors. Alien Bloc (smaller but justifiably busy due to its walkable location and good routes) is £60/month. Both are good walls but I've never bought a monthly pass as I quite like visiting more than one wall, even when before I'd kids and was training regularly. 

Given how much everything seems to cost in London (I remember paying £14.50 entry at the last wall I visited there), £75 seems about what I would have guessed. Good to know that's not the case! 

In reply to DannyC:

I pay just over £50 a month at Yonder, which has everything you could desire from a bouldering centre. As far as I’m aware that is pretty much the norm in London. Mile End used to be a bit cheaper (not sure if it still is?) but it used to get crazy busy, the training facilities were utter dump, and the lead wall far from great. To be fair they compensated for this (back when I used to go) with probably the best bloc setting in the city. Swings and roundabouts. 

 Only a Crag 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

1) Throwing shade at its nearby neighbours in its descriptions;

3) Deleting any criticism or comments when asked about why they're doing it.

Bawbag move

digital advertising a different matter 

 mondite 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Have you seen Free Solo:

> According to Blocfit's social media, the other gym have recognized that it was an oversight and changed their google key words.

Hmmm. Quick check gives "blocfit climbing", "castle climbing", "arch climbing" and "stronghold climbing" without and ad but "yonder climbing" gets substation

In reply to Marek:

Well I suppose that's one way to look at it.

The other is that the guys have provided a top class leisure facility that will appeal to many people and provide hours of enjoyment to thousands of people....

If their cafe is as good as the one at Macclesfield then I don't even care about the climbing. Lead me to the pizza!

 Marek 10 Feb 2022
In reply to McKEuan:

> If their cafe is as good as the one at Macclesfield then I don't even care about the climbing. Lead me to the pizza!

Agreed! And I quite like the bouldering there too.

 Monk 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

I live near the original Substation, and they have always come across as really decent people. Genuinely interested in climbing and sustainability. This sounds like an overly aggressive third party to me. 

1
 Marek 10 Feb 2022
In reply to McKEuan:

> If their cafe is as good as the one at Macclesfield then I don't even care about the climbing...

Actually, that's a good example of how it should work. There are two excellent bouldering facilities in Macc within a mile or so of each other - arguably one too many - but they are quite different and cater to quite different needs and expectations. I wouldn't want to lose either of them and I don't think that either detracts from the attractions of the other (no pizzas at the Chapel - although you might find a lost chewy bar down the back of the settee).

In reply to Cyrees:

> Not really what I'd expect in this community tbh, but maybe I have an idealised view of what climbing should be.

The flip side is that they appear to have attracted a couple of "review bombs" - 1 star Google reviews that have nothing to do with their bouldering provision.

 mrjonathanr 10 Feb 2022
In reply to Monk:

Cost a lot for what they offer though, don't they? And especially in the context of the climbing quality. 

1
In reply to Marek:

God the Chapel is good. Shame I'm too weak to enjoy it properly!

Substation Macc providing the jugs!!

In reply to chris_r:

> £75 a month? Madness.

One step beyond and a bit of an embarrassment to charge that much. 

 bouldery bits 11 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

Is this the most London thread ever? 

 mark s 11 Feb 2022
In reply to Cyrees:

The name blocfit alone is enough to put me off,I'd never pay that to climb inside anyway. 

 duncan 11 Feb 2022

IIn reply to jp3:

> ps. £75 per month is f..king ridiculous, its Brixton not Knightsbridge. 

When was the last time you were in Brixton? It's now so gentrified it's got a branch of Foxton's.

.

In reply to mark s:

I don't know you personally but, from your online persona, my guess is you'd like blocfit a lot. 

The new place is mostly rather vertical and not a venue for serious training. They and blocfit are aiming at a very different clienteles. The attempt to poach customers smacks of badly briefed marketeers who don't understand their market. 

.

In reply to everyone:

Use duckduckgo as your search engine.

In reply to Marek:

> Depends on what is meant by 'market share'. If it is an ambivalent measure of how good your 'product' is seen to be in comparison to others, then that's fine. If however its pursuit is used as a means to disadvantage your competitors (e.g., gain an effective monopoly) then it is in effect undermining the normal (ideal?) market dynamic and becomes a negative influence on the society as a whole (even though it may advantage the holder of the dominant market share).

Monopolies are not necessarily bad.  Big Rock operate two walls in MK, I suspect the reason for this was to try to keep competitors out as if they hadn't opened another one someone else probably would have done e.g. the very competitive Awesome Walls.  But they don't take the mick on prices, allow access to both with their memberships and generally operate a pretty good setup that people like.

On the other hand, look at how the coming of Tesco Express etc has forced quite a lot of normally-dire, poorly-stocked corner shops to improve their offering markedly.  Being able to do a decent weekly top up shop locally was not a thing 20 years ago in most places (all you'd have would be a tobacconists/newsagents with a few overpriced tins of beans and bottles of Coke), it now very much is.  This is a good thing for lots of reasons.

Post edited at 10:26
In reply to duncan:

There might be pockets of Brixton that Foxton's covers- but I bet it doesn't cover the Angell Town Estate. It's still a working-class part of London

1
 timjones 11 Feb 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

It appears that you expect higher ethical standards from  climbing walls than you do from food shops

 Marek 11 Feb 2022
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Monopolies are not necessarily bad...

No indeed. They may arise simply because one company has a significantly better product. The issue with monopolies is twofold: (1) whether the power that comes with a monopoly is abused and (b) given the potential advantages of a having a monopoly, what companies may do in order to achieve them. Few companies has the ethical will power to avoid (1) given that the 'abuse' may well be perfectly legal (and their legal duty is to their stakeholders and no one else). This is where external oversight (and indeed limitations) becomes really important both in principle and in practice.

In reply to timjones:

> It appears that you expect higher ethical standards from  climbing walls than you do from food shops

I don't believe I said that.  Most small to medium towns only have one large supermarket, yet Tesco etc don't treble their prices.  But small local shops *did* abuse their monopoly by being expensive and rubbish until the big guys came along and competed with them.  Some of them closed, but others improved to match or at least near the standards of the big guys - there are examples of that both in my estate and a nearby one.

It's not about whether you have a monopoly, it's about what you do with it.  Competing by being better or better value than someone else is fine (and if the other guy can't be bothered to match it, often they'll close, that's life), anticompetitive behaviour is not fine (e.g. if Tesco moved into a town and offered food at a loss to kill the local grocer then stuck their prices right up once they closed).

Sometimes the little guy fails to see what is staring them in the face, and that leads to their fall.  A good example at the moment is businesses persisting in using Hermes and Yodel to deliver stuff, as a result I won't use them and will use Amazon, who operate a reliable courier service.  If small businesses (a) didn't use those two, and (b) clearly stated that they didn't on their website and who they did use e.g. DPD/Royal Mail, then I'd order from them.  But they don't, and so I don't patronise them, and so Bezos wins.  Personally I have a problem with businesses who get big through offering bad service (e.g. Hermes/Yodel), but not so much with businesses who get big by offering what the customer wants (e.g. Amazon or Tesco).  Some just seem to hate big business entirely, which is fair enough, but I hate poor service more than that.

Post edited at 13:15
In reply to Neil Williams:

>  A good example at the moment is businesses persisting in using Hermes and Yodel to deliver stuff, as a result I won't use them and will use Amazon, who operate a reliable courier service. 

Our local Hermes guy is great and got a good tip at Christmas, Amazon on the other hand range from great to shocking.

Your driver threw our item over the fence and it's broken,  our driver would never do that sir, do you have a link where I can upload the cctv? Would you like another sending or a refund sir?

Your driver left our package in the middle of the drive in the rain and its ruined. Our driver would never do that sir. Do you have a link where I can upload the cctv?, would you like another sending or a refund sir.

My parcel hasn't arrived, its been delivered and signed for sir, maybe but not here and not by me, its in your name sir, can you give me the date and time please so I can check the cctv. Would you like another sending or a refund sir? 

In reply to Dax H:

The problem with Hermes is that there is basically no management so the bad ones are not managed out.

But the general point remains - if a business doesn't state which courier company they are using, then I can't be sure it is not a bad one, thus I will not take the risk, thus they lose my business.

Post edited at 08:38
 griffer boy 12 Feb 2022
In reply to McKEuan:

agree, the pizza is top notch

In reply to Neil Williams:

> But the general point remains - if a business doesn't state which courier company they are using, then I can't be sure it is not a bad one, thus I will not take the risk, thus they lose my business.

I'm just pointing out that your holding amazon up as a shining light but we have had very bad service from them. Had a few bad experiences with DHL too. There are good and bad with every delivery company and I wouldn't not use a shop based on who they use to deliver. 

In reply to Cyrees:

Wow £75 is absolutely laughable. 

That is 5 months worth of membership at my closest wall (Newburn)

2
 George Frisby 13 Feb 2022
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

Have you got ad-blocker on? First thing that comes up for me is substation if i google any variation of blocfit. Or maybe it's just set so different google users see differnet things....

In reply to George Frisby:

I have an adblocker on and I get substation ads when I search for blocfit, I'm also up north though I don't know if that makes a difference in ad targeting.

What a saga.

In reply to George Frisby:

> Have you got ad-blocker on? First thing that comes up for me is substation if i google any variation of blocfit. Or maybe it's just set so different google users see differnet things....

No ad blocker but I guess Google show you different things based on your profile/history etc. I’m no expert on search/digital footprint, but I understand that has an effect, which is why I said about the results ‘for me’. 

 George Frisby 13 Feb 2022
In reply to Boris's Johnson:

Also up north and i get their ads, maybe trying to nab visiting climbers? 

In reply to Dax H:

> I'm just pointing out that your holding amazon up as a shining light but we have had very bad service from them. Had a few bad experiences with DHL too. There are good and bad with every delivery company and I wouldn't not use a shop based on who they use to deliver. 

With Hermes each area typically has one or at most two couriers.  We have only one and she is useless.  As such I am guaranteed a problem with every Hermes delivery without fail.

Amazon are not perfect but they have good tracking and in my experience refund without question if it goes wrong.

Post edited at 15:48

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