Self-exclusion noted a gym where non-attendance at scheduled workouts results in fines. The fine system is presumably motivated by the gym's capacity constraints: popular classes are over-subscribed, so reservations are required. The fines dissuade people from making, but then not honoring, their reservations. The system is similar to cancellation fees for hotels or airlines or upscale restaurants.
Via the Freakonomics blog, we learn of a Boston-area gym-pricing option that features higher fees for missed workouts. The variant of the fee schedule that involves enhanced payments for missing a daily workout has much in common with the fines imposed by the Chicago gym. Nevertheless, the motivations behind the two plans seem to be quite different: one is about managing a capacity constraint, and the other is about bolstering workout incentives. (And as the Boston plan is one that is self-selected among other fee arrangements, perhaps there is a systematic difference in the "types" of exercisers in the two locales.) Does the motivation behind the pricing scheme matter, or will the two similar plans produce similar results in terms of exercise behavior?