Health & wellness

Fitness

ClassPass raises prices and local fitness buffs fume

A barre class at Flywheel Gym at the Prudential Center.

jonathan wiggs/globe staff/file

A barre class at Flywheel Gym at the Prudential Center.

The announcement landed Wednesday with a thud in the inboxes of Boston fitness fanatics.

The e-mail was an announcement that ClassPass — the popular service that formerly let subscribers attend a variety of classes at boutique Boston gyms for $119 per month — is raising its Boston rates to $150 per month for current unlimited users, and $180 for new ones.

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Soon, the Internet exploded in outrage, a sea of local exercise junkies clutching skinny vanilla lattes, hovering over Twitter and Facebook, seething over the increased prices. Some began to use the hashtag #ClassPassGate to express their disgust and declare their defection from the service.

“This is definitely a tipping point,” says Caitlin Croswell, a 27-year-old digital marketing professional who uses ClassPass to visit a variety of spinning studios.

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“My immediate thought was ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me, this is ridiculous,’ ” says Mandy Zobel, a 34-year-old educational consultant who lives in Back Bay.

The price increase comes less than six months after a hike from $99 to $119 per month for ClassPass users.

The company cited the service’s tremendous popularity as the reasons for the price increase for unlimited class attendence. The company also introduced two other tiers in Boston: 5 classes for $65, and 10 classes for $120.

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The announced changes only affect the Boston area, for now. ClassPass can be used in 30 cities around the world, including New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and London. Launched in 2012, the company has drawn tens of millions of dollars in funding.

“We’re encouraged by the engagement on ClassPass and the tremendous growth we’ve had that shows we are fulfilling our mission of helping people live a more active life,” CEO Payal Kadakia said in a statement, “but we’ve also realized that a one-size-fits-all membership is not diverse enough to serve all of our members’ unique needs as well as a healthy business long-term, which is why we have decided to adjust pricing and roll out new plans.”

Whatever the reasons, some Boston ClassPass devotees say they’re frustrated.

“I’m sorry. You should say, ‘What’s going to happen to our customer base? How disgruntled are they going to be become when we start nickel-and-dime-ing them for this?’ ” Zobel says. “They should have projected a lot of people would try to take advantage, realizing what a great deal it used to be.”

Haley Rose, a 31-year-old independent publicist in Bay Village, says her immediate response was to cancel.

“The two price increases in such a short amount of time, and the company’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude, left a bad taste in my mouth,” Rose says. “Thousands of users helped make ClassPass a success so early on, but these early adopters have seemingly been discounted.”

The South End’s Amy Deveau, a marketing and event professional, says the price increase is also the tipping point for her.

“I could join my favorite spin studio and be able to take any class I want,” says Deveau, 32, “book as many per week as I want, and not have to deal with all ClassPass’s restrictions.”

Still, other ClassPass users intend to stay. Travis Dagenais, 30, who says the announcement was “all the talk” in Boston fitness circles Wednesday morning, says he’ll remain loyal to the service.

“I am absolutely not planning on canceling. The schedule I am able to cobble together via ClassPass each week is an absolute steal at the rate ClassPass charges — even the increased rate,” says Dangenais, who counts Barry’s Boot Camp and Flywheel as his favorites.

“I regularly find myself doing the math in my head and the conclusion is always the same; it’s a no-brainer.”

Sara Steele-Rogers is the founder of bWell Marketing, a community-driven social media and marketing company. The Beacon Hill resident is as frequent face in boutique studios around town, she hits up about 14 exercise classes a week and noticed the immediate response to the price hike was not a positive one.

“I think at $150 you’re really getting up to the price that you’d pay at a high-end gym like Equinox,” she said.

So will exercise junkies ditch ClassPass and smaller boutiques for large, pricey gyms? It’s unclear. But just hours after the ClassPass e-mail hit inboxes, a variety of other Boston fitness apps and boutique gyms started rolling out deals to recruit ClassPass defectors.

Megan Johnson

Megan Johnson can be reached at megansarahjohnson@gmail.com.
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