The fitness name game — what you’re really buying

Ohiyo Gozaimasu!

The Treadmill Sensei is a bit annoyed today. Luckily for the other Senseis here at the DOJO I was out of the repair shop for most of the day. I was at Best Buy trying to pick up a new TV for the bedroom to keep Mrs. Sensei happy and able to watch Nip/Tuck on Tuesday nights. The problem I ran in to was Best Buy offering a free TV if you could find the product available at a lower price elsewhere. I’d seen the exact same television I wanted at Wal-Mart but for about $10 less, so I took the ad in to Best Buy to get myself a free 32″ tv. What I was told was that the television had a different model number from the Best buy version and therefor the tv was excluded from their advertisement. They went even further to say that the two televisions were entirely different and just appeared to be similar.

Now, knowing what I do about the world and being very stubborn, I took my digital camera back to Wal-Mart and proceeded to photograph every inch of the television they had on their floor for $10 less than Best Buy. I even convinced the poor clerk to allow me to take off the rear shroud of the tv to photograph the interior parts and boards as well. I printed out the pictures at home and went back to Best Buy. I showed the manager all of the pictures and how the interior parts were all exactly the same. The TVs even had the same part numbers on the inside (neither of which matched the Wal-Mart or Best Buy part numbers for the set)! For all intents and purposes, the tvs were identical except for what the two stores called them. After 45 minutes of arguing, the Best Buy manager finally broke down and admitted they were the exact same television and that the companies were given slightly different model numbers so they wouldn’t have to actually deal with the price matching guarantees they all offered.

“Ah-hah!” I said triumphantly and demanded my free television set. They declined giving it to me for free but did give it to me at cost which made me very happy. Now, I didn’t really expect to get the tv for free but I knew I wouldn’t leave the store until the manager admitted that I’d been lied to and that their advertising practices were bordering on false representation. I knew this were the truth because the practice is actually prevailant in the fitness industry as well. There are a number of companies that put out the exact same unit under different names (and sometimes even alter the paper specifications of the machines) in order to keep the price matching down between their product lines. On the lower end of the spectrum, Icon Fitness does this with a lot of their product, as does Horizon…both in an attempt to keep their internet and brick & mortar dealers away from each other’s business. Keys Fitness and their Alliance/Ironman/Keyes/Evolution lines are another fine example. Finally, on the higher end, Spirit does it with Sole and Cardio Strength. Think the Spirit Z88 looks an awful lot like the Sole F63? Well, it’s because they’re the same treadmill.

A very interesting fact is that the Cardio Strength units only exist on paper. If you order one from a vendor you’ll actually just get the Spirit version! Cardio Strength doesn’t exist in reality.

Do you want to know who I feel is one of the biggest perpetrators of the “name game” is? Landice. Have you ever wondered what the difference between a home , a Light Commercial (LTD) and a Club landice is? Absolutely NOTHING. They are the exact same unit. A home Cardio trainer, an LTD Cardio Trainer and a Club Cardio Trainer are the EXACT same machine. The only difference is in the use warranty. A Landice home model with a lifetime warranty can only be sold within 60 miles of a dealer. An LTD is the same model but can be sold online with a lesser warranty (probably to keep internet dealers from competing with local stores — idiocy if you ask me) and the Club is the same model yet again but is given a commercial warranty for use in gyms, fitness centers and so on. So, if you’re a home user you’re paying more for the same unit but with a lesser warranty! How crazy is that?

The benefit of buying a Landice online is that you can get free inside delivery and have the unit set up for you for free. Of course, you lose that fantastic lifetime parts warranty, but luckily the Landice treadmills are so well built they’ll generally outlast their user if properlay taken care of. If the Landice treadmills weren’t so damn good I’d almost say this practice was criminal. If nothing else it is misleading to customers, especially home buyers.

This act displeases the Treadmill Sensei for a number of reasons. First off, it makes my life more confusing! Aren’t there already 5000 different types of treadmills I already have to keep straight in my head? Do we really need fake names as well? Sheesh. Second, interestingly, it causes some review sites to rank the treadmills (and ellipticals) differently even if they are the exact same unit physically! I’m sure you’ve seen a couple of review sites out there who rank a Sole treadmill with excellent marks while only give the Spirit version average ratings. Finally, as in the case of a Landice, it can cause a buyer to spend a lot more money than they have to for something that is widely available for a lower cost under a different name or model number.

It’s a bit silly once you realize what is going on…BUT, when you figure out what game the manufacturers are playing you can use it to your advantage and get the unit you want for a lower price! For example: if you really want an Alliance A7e from Keys Fitness, then knowing you can get the Ironman Evolution for $300 less and get the exact same elliptical with a different paint job will help you save some of your hard earned cabbage.

Do your research when you’re buying equipment because with enough investigation you’ll probably be able to find exactly what you want under a different name for a lower price!

-The Treadmill Sensei

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