ClassPass and the Joy and Guilt of the Digital Middleman Economy

Illustration by Erik Carter

Excerpt from this article:

Each month, I pay $99 to a company called ClassPass for the luxury of taking an unlimited number of fitness classes in and around Brooklyn, where I live. In the depths of this winter, regular exercise — a key to calming my hyperactive and anxiety-prone brain even when it’s less awful outside — has become crucial enough to maintaining my sanity that I find myself prioritizing my ClassPass bill over other splurges, like ordering in, taking cabs and expensive nights out.

While attending classes, I’ve picked up on notes of tension between the company and its partner studios. It’s not uncommon for instructors at individual studios to implore ClassPass users to sign up for regular packages and become members — an unlikely proposition for people who are already paying $99 a month to ClassPass. It’s normal enough that they would want to up-sell newcomers, but the urgency and undertone of desperation in their voices signal something else afoot in the financial realities of their partnership.