Although it’s only a band on the wrist, some Burnaby residents have a hard time wearing them to prove membership at local community centres.
Hillary Tasker started going to the Edmonds Community Centre in the summer, but recently was at odds with city staff when she let them know she would most likely end up taking off the wristband while she used the workout facility.
“At first it was OK, but the second (staffer) said, ‘No,’ it had to be on my wrist,” she said. “She was very vigilant about it. Then when I went to work out on the machine, a guy came for me and said you’re the one not wearing your wristband. … He just accosted me. I’m sort of like frightened to go there now. It is just a community centre, I’m just working out.”
As the Burnaby NOWpreviously reported, resident Marlene Smith had a similar issue with Bonsor Recreation Complex staff when she refused to wear the band on her wrist. When she explained to the director of the complex, last June, the wristband made her uncomfortable, her membership was ended and her fees were prorated.
“I understand the need to make sure you’ve paid,” she told the NOWin June. “I can understand getting kicked out because you haven’t paid, but not being given an option is an affront to my personal privacy.”
The issue led Smith’s fitness classmates to start a petition asking the city to change the rule and allow members to have the band visible anywhere – not just the wrist.
In Tasker’s case, she decided to go to her doctor and get a note – excusing her from having to wear the band on her wrist – as it’s the only way she won’t have to wear one at a Burnaby community centre.
“I was so embarrassed,” she said. “It’s such a waste of the medical system. The doctor told me he hadn’t had such a request in the 38 years of his practice. And I was speechless. But he said, ‘Not to worry, I understand.’”
Tasker said the ordeal has made her attend the centre less than before.
“It’s a whole thing,” she added. “They made it, like, if I didn’t wear my wristband others would follow it, and it would just be mayhem. No one notices me when they work out, everyone’s focusing on themselves anyway.”
Dave Ellenwood, director of parks and recreation, maintains that city staffers are not aggressive, but “persistent” when enforcing the wristband rule at community centres.
“People are given their wristband when they pay at the desk and they are reminded that they need to wear it so staff can quickly see that they’ve paid without having to bother them,” he said in an email interview. “If people are not wearing their wristband because they did not see, or have ignored the signage reminding people to wear their wristband, then staff approach and ask them to produce and wear it for the purposes we’ve already outlined to them (in some cases, several times).”
Ellenwood said staff catch about 10 people a week using the pool at Bonsor and about five people a week at Eileen Dailly pool, on average, who did not pay for it.
“This doesn’t include parents and lesson participants who try to use the facilities during or after swim lessons, which is not allowed without paying the appropriate fee,” Ellenwood added. “At (the) Bonsor weight room, it’s about three to four people a week, and at (Eileen Dailly’s) weight room, it’s usually one or two a week.”
When asked if a doctor’s note is a good use of the health-care system to get out of wearing a wristband, Ellenwood said it’s meant to identify a legitimate health concern with wearing the band.
“The other alternatives are more costly, would result in longer lineups to get in, or would be less effective than we’ve found wristbands to be,” he said.
The wristband system was chosen by the city as the best way to keep track of paying members.
“Some people would put them in their pocket, in their purse or wallet, on their shoe or pin them on something and then they would fall off, etc., etc., etc.,” he said. “Simply putting the band on the wrist means staff can see it, and we don’t have to bother people.”
Ellenwood noted the wristband rule is not a big issue for most people. He said many community members understand the purpose and are willing to help prevent fraud in “the most efficient and the least invasive way we’ve found.”
For more information on wristband rules, visit www.burnaby.ca.
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