|Vietnam-based tech startup WeFit drops the bomb on customers after disappointing partners
Social network users in the early days of March have taken to field against WeFit after the company published changes in its user policy only in a private Facebook group that has only about 127,000 users, instead of posting the change on its website or official fanpage.
Whereas previous time-based subscriptions allowed users to attend as many training sessions at partner gyms as they like, the new rules introduce a tiered membership that awards points in exchange for money, with each session costing a certain number of points. Customers can now buy packages that each contain a certain amount of points.
Hundreds of feedbacks are demanding a refund from WeFit and calling it a “swindler”. Many VIP customers have calculated that with the new WeFit tiered membership policy, exchanging their two-year regular fitness package into points would give them only four months of training.If one frequents a specific gym like Fit24, what they previously spent for 60 physical training sessions is now only worth six.
Additionally, many WeFit members also complain that they have been unable to reach the company's customer service team, finding no way to get support if there are errors when checking-in at a gym.
“During almost two years of using WeFit, I even introduced it to my friends. But what WeFit pulled on us is just too much, I am completely disappointed with the way they operate and will never go for it again,” Linh Le commented.
|A comment from WeFit member
On the other hand, another WeFit member expressed sympathy for the startup, saying that it is not a big deal that it changes membership policies to balance out benefits and survive, but "Piloting a new business model or heading toward sustainable development is all based on customer trust."
"WeFit must show its responsibility by reconnecting more gyms and spas to its network which have terminated partnership with WeFit before. Now I can no longer find any gyms in Thanh Xuan district in the app and the nearest one is more than five kilometres away," he added.
Prior to this, in December 2019, WeFit came under fire from merchant partners calling it to account over its mounting debts. According to Facebooker Bao Van, WeFit has many times ignored phone calls and refused to meet partners for months. To date, many gyms and spas have yet to receive payments since November 2019, which forced them to cut off collaboration with the startup, leading to the network of partner gyms shrinking to serve WeFit members.
Khanh Ngan, who works at Satum Spa, said that WeFit has not transferred them money for two months straight, and this debt has been rescheduled three times but to this day remains irrecoverable. Previously, a well-known gym named Salsa Spring also broke up with the platform due to late payment, resulting in liabilities of up to VND100 million ($4,350).
Since the storm, the number of WeFit merchant partners experienced a dramatic drop: in Hanoi there are currently nine swimming pools partnering with the firm instead of the previous 30, while the number of Latino dance centres also went from three to one.
WeFit has later on posted a short letter on its blog, admitting to have made mistakes in operating and structuring products, as well as in financial/monetary flow managment, which mostly came from its executive team.
WeFit's case very much brings to mind other startups in the sharing economy like Indian hotel chain OYO or co-working space provider WeWork who are also showing dreadful inadequacies and are careening on the edge.
Founded by Forbes' 30 under 30 listed Khoi Nguyen, WeFit used to be a great inspiration for the startup community in Vietnam. The startup's parent company Onaclover Technology JSC in 2019 successfully bagged $1 million from the Japanese investment fund CyberAgent Capital, after receiving backing from other investors such as ESP Capital and VIISA in 2017. Also, last year, WeFit made a bold step to aggressively enhance its presence by launching the new product WeJoy and the “super app” WeWow.
Soon after the launch, Khoi Nguyen, in this February, stepped down from the CEO position, passing his position on to former COO cum co-founder Nguyen Hai Dang.