If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I like techie things.  And I appreciate when new technology can be applied to make things more efficient or achieve improvement in business or personal performance. It’s one of things that makes me enjoy my career and chosen profession. On the other hand, I’m also equally frustrated when technology is applied or introduced under the guise of “it’s better for you” when it’s most definitely not a benefit to me.

When I first moved to Dallas, a good example of this in my mind was a toll tag. I used the toll road maybe once a month and for that limited use, I didn’t see the value in paying the toll authority $40 up front of my money for a shiny new tag so they could earn interest on it.  Maybe that’s stubbornness, but I just didn’t see how that tag helped me much considering I could just as easily deposit coins. Others must have felt the same way because over the last 4 years, the same toll authority has made tag usage substantially cheaper vs. coins or even the other EZ tag camera they deployed. So they have effectively mandated an improvement (that actually penalizes some consumers) to decrease labor overhead at toll stops and help their own bottom line, not that of their consumers.

Recently, the gym that I belong to started a similarly asinine process and tried to pawn it off as a benefit to me. Let’s call the gym 48dayworkout. For years, they required that to enter the facility you needed to bring an ID card with at least a xerox copy of your driver’s license to prove it was you.  This didn’t seem to be that big of an issue for me and I adapted my behavior.  Though occasionally I forgot my ID card and/or my license copy and had to resort to my actual Texas drivers’ license. So once in a blue moon it annoyed the heck out of me. I would say an equal amount of times, no one was at the desk rendering the card almost useless. Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago and my gym rolls out a new finger print scanner and keypad tool to gain access to their club. Let me write that again. My gym has decided that a creating/remembering a 10 digit code AND placing my thumb on a keypad is a simpler solution to determining if I am a valid club member or not.  More simple than a carrying a piece of plastic with a scannable bar code.  A technology that has been around for decades and is seemingly suitable for such a use. The same card based technology that if I lost my card a month ago, they would have charged me $25 in processing fees to replace the plastic.

When the gym attendant presented me with the opportunity to break free from the constraints of that “horrible card” three weeks ago, my first response was no. A little stunned, he responded “Well, we’re phasing out the card entry system and moving to the scanner. This actually helps you”. My terse response was something like, “How does this provide me any value? and Why would I want to give you my finger print?” After going back and forth with him for several minutes, and the poor guy trying to convince me that the scanner is not really a finger print scanner rather a device that captures 10 distinct points on your finger (UM, what does he think any biometric device does?!) he finally relented and said that yes, I could continue to use my regular driver’s license but I would have to bring the real one, not the xerox.  I might have even dropped in the “I work in IT line”. I can’t completely recall.

To clarify, I don’t fear big brother and I’m generally supportive of biometric solutions when they make sense. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why providing a biometric marker to a gym who already has my banking information, birthday, Social Security number, address, phone number etc is really necessary. Maybe to get a loan approved, but not to work out. This seems like a completely inappropriate use of technology in fact. Do I really want all of that data and my thumb markers stored on the servers of 48dayworkout? And how does it help me at all? I don’t get a discount because you can staff one less person at the front desk per shift, do I?  I understand that labor rates are increasing but it appears to me, that’s your staffing problem. In addition, I can’t imagine that the variable cost of one extra person, who borrows his friend’s ID to work out, causes any issues whatsoever. I don’t see a tremendous security risk with the card either. What I see is that your organization has become bloated (work force, high overhead, debt load, etc.) and some slick sales person/operations/consultant sold you on a way to market this as a good thing for your customers. Oh, and save a few bucks per location. I ask again, how does this thumb solution help me?

Needless to say, I continue to gain entry using my driver’s license. I’ve noticed I’m not the only one, but I’m sure they’ll continue to try and phase us all out of the habit. Maybe they’ll raise my rates just because I refuse to use the scanner and keypad. Two thumbs up for this Family Guy clip, but at least one down for my gym’s poor use of technology.