The world is facing a cataclysmic problem that is bearing down on us at the speed of George Jetson walking Astro on that space treadmill, yet I’ve not seen one answer to this burning question: when the supply of essential resources is not enough to meet the demand, how should we allocate those resources?
As you may have guessed from my (dare I say) clever intro, I’m talking about our soon-to-be-scarce treadmill resources.
When I head to the YMCA tonight, I’ll have my pick of treadmills. High supply, low demand. Come Monday that will no longer be true. That’s when everyone’s New Year’s resolutions kick in. Same supply, high demand.
Next week there won’t be a parking spot anywhere near the Y. You’ll have to slog a mile through the snow to get to the door.
When you finally get in, you won’t be able to move because of the 8,000 kids running around, hopped-up on soda pop and too much Christmas vacation. While I suspect that their mothers are using the Y as free daycare, I recognize that most also have a noble motive. To prevent murder. Which said mothers are sure to commit if they are stuck in the house, just one more day, with their little darlings.
Worst of all, there won’t be an empty treadmill to be found.
I know that everyone who pays their dues at the gym is entitled to use the facilities. But what about those who paid their dues twice – once in dollars, and once in sweat?
I’m not claiming to be Jacqueline LaLanne – far from it. I’m the “before” picture. But I, and others like me, have been loyal. And I say to you, is it fair that faithful customers will be stuck on the sidelines while Flabbies-Come-Lately get all the treadmills?
What is the best way to allocate our precious treadmill resources?
Let’s look at techniques used by other industries.
Airlines need to allocate their service time. Frequent flyers get rewards, including special lines at the ticket counter. This gets the preferred customer through the check-in process quickly. The YMCA could set up something like that. You scan your ID card when getting on the treadmill and earn frequent walker miles. Once you hit a certain number of miles, you get rewards. Like being able to kick January Jills (or Johns) off the treadmill of your choice.
Fine restaurants have to allocate a limited number of tables. They use a free-market approach to determine who gets in and where they sit. Their control is the maitre d’. His criteria? How much you tip.
This could work in the gym. Treadmills would be controlled by the maitre d’sweat. What you get is determined by what you pay.
If your gym is laid out like mine, the following might be a good guide for tipping the maitre d’ sweat.
- $0 – No tip = no treadmill. Remember the 8,000 screaming, running kids? The “I paid my dues” mentality gets you an exciting, roller-derby experience with them on the indoor track.
- $3 – gets a treadmill in the first 2 rows. You’ve got the workout necessities, but none of the luxuries. TVs are mounted from the ceiling and only show reruns of “Two And A Half Men”. The sound never matches, and is usually tuned to ESPN bowling highlights.
- $5 – gets a treadmill in the 3rd row. Now you’ve got your own little TV mounted on the treadmill. The drawback is everyone in the 4th row is watching your butt jiggle through the workout.
- $10 – gets a spot in the coveted 4th row. This has all the benefits of the 3rd row, but with no treadmills behind you to observe your butt jiggle. Only the free-weights room is back there, and that doesn’t matter. The guys in there are too hardcore to be interested in any butts except their own.
While we can and should use such rational planning to allocate our resources, it isn’t always about supply and demand, dollars and cents. There is a human element to the equation. Even in the cold, hard business world.
Think about the Italian restaurant in New York that always had a table ready for Frank Sinatra. The oyster house in Boston that kept JFK’s table empty. These weren’t moneymaking schemes. It was about respect.
At the Y, the last treadmill on the right in the last row will be reserved for such a special patron. It will have a brass plaque and a velvet rope around it.
For whom will the maitre d’ sweat hold back that velvet rope?
The plaque will read “Reserved for those who worked out the week BEFORE Christmas”.