James Rait posted some interesting commentary in Design-at-the-Edge in response to my Curves pieces from last week. Mr. Rait's wife is a Curves member, at a location where they sometimes give away doughnuts. [I know, it's hilarious, except it illustrates just how difficult it is to manage services with consistency to standards.]
I had outlined some possible backfires to the adoption of RFID tags to plan and track individual goals and progress. These were:  staff having to take their own initiative to interact with clients, instead of being forced to do it by the operational routine;  two classes of member emerging;  clients losing the happy ritual of taking their pulse rate together.
Mr. Rait, a guy with serious industrial design credentials, proposes some interesting alternative solutions to these issues in his post, here.
He also suggests that running some live market tests would have uncovered the potential issues I mentioned. I would be amazed if they had not done live market tests, actually. The execs at Curves have strong marketing backgrounds, and with 10,000-plus locations, I assume their budget supports quite a bit of research.
Sometimes it takes a while to understand what is going on. Plus the hype surrounding new technology can generate enough excitement to mask the longer-term impact. These phenomenon would have been unlikely to come to light in a short test. And if the test markets were conducted with the very best franchises -- which is usually the case -- these individuals may well have responded differently than the average.
I suspect the social evolution is not yet done. [There's lots of observing still to do. Yippee!]
Mr. Rait's post made some other interesting points about design in general, which I'll pick up tomorrow.
If you go back to read the Curves posts, note the passionate comments from one fan of the company. This kind of evangelism is a huge asset to a brand.
The photo came from a film in the Prelinger Archive, Exercise and Health, 1949.