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March 10, 2007 - Stupid Questions

We commonly get questions from guys and gals selling machines in stores.  This was actually, for the most part, a good email except for the fact that many of the questions could have been answered by reading our FAQ but we wanted to let you in on what we hear daily, and give you a taste of how we answer since many of you may have the same questions.

QUESTION

Hi Guys

I am the General Manager of a fitness equipment store in a major US city.  I really appreciate your site.  It helps customers get a second opinion on things we teach or show them.  I have always told my customers that you guys are the most unbiased & comprehensive website or publication they can get information from.  However, I have some concerns and I would like to know your reasoning behind some of the things you do.

You rate the Sole treadmills very well, giving one a best buy and much praise.  I would agree 100%. But where I am confused is why you don’t have the Spirit XT series rated the same if not better.  Did you know that they are identical treadmills save the XT series has a few extra features for the same price or a better price overall?  Why would it not make the top 3 list?  If the Sole is a "Best Buy”, but I can pick up an XT 200 (the same treadmill EXACTLY) for $100 less with a bigger HP, why would I not go for the XT 200?  This is the type of conversation I am CONSTANTLY trying to explain to customers because of you.  Secondly, you have a Proform as a third runner up in the $1000-$1500 category.....are you crazy!?  And lastly, we've noticed that since you have been taking advertising dollars from certain manufacturers ( Lifefitness), that their treadmills miraculously jump to the top of the list overnight to claim a best buy award.  Is it just me, or is this tread a "pay for the name" treadmill thru and thru...not a best buy.

You guys have become a "go to" website for treadmill buyers.  With that being said, you have to know your stuff inside and out.   Please do the fitness industry a favor and continue to support up and coming brands such as Bodyguard, Spirit, SportsArt, etc.

ANSWER

Good to hear from you and maybe we can help shed some light for you.  The biggest problem that Spirit has is that they submit to us enormous MSRP's in relation to the street price.  As we've told factories for years, in the past, a high MSRP with a big discount on the floor sold treadmills.  But, with the information available to the public, that is no longer the case since most consumers know in what range a treadmill should sell.  Our basis for rating the value of the machine is based on MSRP that the company submits to us, so if we are given lemons...  Most factories feel that they have to submit high MSRP's to us because fitness stores raise hell when we list a MSRP that is lower than a price they list on a tag in the store.

Have you bought a Proform (Nordictrack, Reebok, etc.) lately?  For the 20 years I've been in this business, everyone in the know has said that Icon is a sleeping giant.  The sleeping giant is stirring and we aren't alone in this opinion.  We talk with most of the factories regularly and the smarter ones are taking note.  The quality of many of the drive system parts are equal or greater than those of machines priced similarly.  For instance, the Proform model that we are "crazy" for rating has a very similar motor as a $3000 Landice.  They still have some refining to do and Icon is cleaning up the areas where they still are deficient.  From what we have heard, they hope to have their manufacturing inline by the end of the year.  If Icon achieves its goal, the fitness landscape will have a radical shift.

Not sure what site you were looking at, but we don't accept advertising.  We did for about a year back in 2003-2004, if I remember correctly, but Lifefitness was never an advertiser so you must be confused.  The ad program was largely a bust since we weren't able to get anywhere near the advertising revenue we had hoped.  The companies we consistently rated well like Precor, Landice, Lifefitness, True, Pacemaster, etc. wouldn't even talk to us.

We don't support any fitness manufacturer.  We are here for the consumer and that has always been our singular reason for doing the reviews.  I would suggest that you take a primer on what's on the market now.  The market is changing rapidly toward the lower end models and most smart factories are noting this.  As with most consumer markets, there is a bifurcation going on within the fitness business.  There are some massive changes taking place at Precor and we know several large companies are making radical moves to position for the future.  If Johnson gets their act together with the electronics or if Icon does indeed get their quality issues completely solved, everyone in this business will be looking at a vastly different landscape within a year or two.

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March 15, 2007 - Affiliate Review Websites

Affiliate websites are new phenomena that have started appearing in mass during the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007.  These websites are funded by referral fees paid by the different treadmill manufacturers like Smooth, Sole, and Icon.  The affiliate sites conduct reviews (we use the term 'review' loosely in connection with these sites) and direct consumers to products that they will hopefully will buy.  If the consumer buys, the affiliate rating site will receive a percentage of the sale – typically 8% of the sales price.  For the typical $1500 treadmill this amounts to roughly $120.  These sites have been made possible for the most part by Treadmill Doctor.  Due to the large amount of information available on our review pages, these companies will take just enough information to make their reviews sound authoritative.  It is easy to identify these scoundrels if you are careful.  These sites will have links to the sponsoring site, and when you click on the link, you will temporarily see an unrelated URL appear and quickly disappear – this is the tracking cookie that will tell if you took the bait..  When judging review websites just remember one important fact – how does the website make its money. Treadmill Doctor has never and will never accept a referral fee. Treadmill Doctor does not get paid for our reviews, we make our money be selling parts, accessories and service. If a website makes its money by referral fees, how unbiased can it be? Remember, follow the money!

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March 20, 2007 - The Customer Strikes Back

We got this email from a customer. We had announced on the blog back in February that Costco has the Epic 425 MX running online for $799. Well, leave it to the American consumer to find a better deal than we did. Read on and send us your stories about finding good deals. It sure is easier to post these than to write my own entries from scratch.

THE COSTCO.COM DEAL OF $799 ENDED 3-18-07.GOOD NEWS FOR SOME IF THERE IS MORE THAN ONE COSTCO NEARBY. I CALLED THREE COSTCOS WITHIN 100 MILES OF ME. I FOUND THEM ON THE SHELF AT THE ONE THAT WAS CLOSEST(50 MI.). I ASKED FOR A MODEL NUMBER BUT IT WASNT THE "425MX" BUT "EPTL88105". I CHECKED ON THE WWW.EPICFIT.COM SITE AND THE MODEL NUMBER MATCHED.I ALSO GOT THE ACTUAL COSTCO ITEM NUMBER, "936516". ALTHOUGH THEY WONT TELL YOU THE EXACT PRICE I ASKED IF IT WAS THE ONE FOR $799. SHE ANSWERED ABOUT $700. I CONFIRMED THAT THEY HAD SOME ON THE SHELF, I DIDNT WANT TO DRIVE 50 MILES FOR NOTHING. IT WAS CONFIRMED AND WHEN I SAW IT ON THE SHELF I SMILED EAR TO EAR BECAUSE THE PRICE WAS $699. 1/2 THE COST OF THE EPICFIT SITE OR ANYWHERE ELSE. I RECOMMEND PEOPLE CHECK BACK OFTEN WITH THESE NUMBERS. LAST WEEK THIS COSTCO HAD AN EPIC 550 ON THE SHELF. I AM HAPPY I DID NOT SHELL OUT THE $100 MORE JUST TO MAKE THE 3-18 DEADLINE. BAD NEWS, I HAD TO GO GET IT.
     COSTCO INFO:   ITEM NO. 936516
                            MODEL NO. EPTL88105
                            EPIC MOD NO. 425MX 

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March 27, 2007 - The End of the Walk Talk Newsletter

It’s a great time to be a fitness equipment buyer.  The full effect of Asian sourcing has hit the States so you have a great opportunity to buy a machine that is higher quality than units in past years that sold for the same price.  In general, we have noticed the quality level is rising as is the competition between retailers.  We have expanded our information to the public by posting this new blog along with yearlong updates on our reviews.  Our Best Buy list will still only be posted once a year but we are planning this year to move up the schedule on the posting.  We realized last year that a January posting was far too late in the season so we posted this past year’s Best Buy list in November.  This year, we are going to attempt to move up the date once again to the beginning of the buying season with an expected posting sometime in the range of August or September so our review process has already started for this fall.  We have already visited a number of companies this year and have several trips already planned for the new few months.  There are some really good treadmills in the works for this fall.  It seems that many companies are responding to the high level of competition by putting out their best effort ever so we expect to see some big changes for the market this fall.  All of this to say, the new models coming out are going to give consumers more choices, better features, and higher quality; all of this at a better price.