Article by Kim Hull
We have a small gym at our house and recently decided we wanted to add another piece of fitness equipment to the treadmill and spin bike we’ve had for a couple of years. While an elliptical was definitely the next machine we wanted, the question was which brand and what machine should we purchase?
To start, we conducted some preliminary research and developed a list of criteria for the purchase.
Elliptical purchasing criteria
Performance. Our treadmill is a ProForm and we’ve been pleased with its performance, so we were leaning toward staying with the same brand. However, we were open to other brands if one seemed to be a better deal or if it performed better.
Price. We wanted to stay under $2000. A quick internet search told us this would put us in the upper end of the home elliptical offerings.
Technology. We wanted the most current technology available. The screen on the treadmill is very small, so we were looking for the largest, color screen available in our price range.
Stability. Spending so much of the time on the road and in hotel gyms, we often find ourselves on Precor or LifeFitness fitness equipment. We didn’t want to invest at that level for our home gym, but did want to have a machine that wasn’t too wobbly. Research told us that the weight rating was the key factor here. For example, a machine rated for a 350 lb. person is even more stable for a person considerably smaller than that, as we are.
Heavy flywheel. From having shopped spin bikes in the past, we knew the significance of a heavy flywheel for smooth operation. We wanted the heaviest flywheel available in our price range.
Size. The machine obviously had to fit in the gym. We measured the space where the elliptical would be located to determine our maximum dimensions before we started shopping. The rear drive machines appeared to take up more space, so we decided on a front drive, which is generally shorter.
Wireless heart monitor. This was a big one for Greg, as he always wears a monitor when working out.
Incline. While resistance is pretty standard on most machines, not all have the ability to adjust incline. The incline capability burns more calories and is a better simulator of hiking uphill.
While there were some other “nice to have” features, like workout apps and a fan, the features listed above were our key product selection drivers.
Shopping for an elliptical
We started with an internet search to get an idea of online pricing, brands, and features, then set out for the stores. Our first stop was a home furnishings store that carries home gym equipment where we tried a few machines. Most of the trainers were lower level than we desired – in other words, none of them had all the features, like a big screen.
We next visited two large sporting goods stores and essentially found the same thing. What was good about shopping in-person was it gave us the ability to try out different weights of flywheels and test how the difference in weight capacity affected the stability – and it did.
Based on what was available in the stores, we determined we would need to purchase one online to get all the features we desired and the newest technology. In our internet searches, we also uncovered that the parent company of ProForm, Icon Health, and Fitness, also owns the largest competitors in that price range, NordicTrack and Freemotion Fitness. Additionally, they own Weider, Healthrider, Weslo, Gold’s Gym Equipment & Accessories and iFit. So, the majority of the options are made by the same people with just different branding.
Why we chose the ProForm Elliptical Pro 16.9 direct from ProForm
After further research and comparisons, we selected the ProForm Elliptical Pro 16.9 because it was their newest model with all the features we wanted, it was $1499, which was within our price range, and the ProForm website said it was “New 2016,” so we figured it had the latest in technology. It also met all of our initial criteria, including a heavy flywheel and a big screen.
Shipping was free and they offered no interest financing through PayPal Credit for 18 months. We ordered the machine on a Friday afternoon. At the time of ordering, the website said it would be delivered in three weeks. I received an email soon thereafter that said it would come in two weeks. On Thursday six days later, I received a call from the freight company that they would deliver on Friday. So, shipping time for us was exactly one week (it didn’t have far to ship according to the lady that called).
Proform Elliptical Pro 16.9 arrives – well an elliptical arrived anyway
The delivery came at 2:00 pm on Friday afternoon. The box was very large and heavy – it definitely takes more than one person to move.
We began taking the pieces out of the box and then opened the manual – which said it was for a Pro-Form Pro 14.9 Elliptical. After searching through the array of parts scattered around the floor, we found a part that said 14.9, looked at each other and said… well, use your imagination.
And then, the runaround
ProForm primarily uses text chat for customers to communicate with their sales team, so we started there. Here’s how it went…
- Text message to sales. We chatted with someone and explained what had happened. She advised us the two models were completely different, with the 14.9 actually not being sold any longer and not available on the website. She located specs and said it was older technology, with a smaller screen, fewer apps, and a lighter flywheel. She asked if we would consider keeping it if they discounted it. We said, no and she gave us a customer service phone number to call.
- Call to customer service. After explaining the situation again, the customer service person said the model number, which showed PFEL 31315.0 on the box we received, was the same as the 16.9. We told her both the box and the machine we’d received said 14.9 – she said we should talk to sales about that.
- Text message to sales. Prior to purchasing the unit, we’d chatted with a sales person about the size of the elliptical, and she was very helpful. We opened another chat and asked for her, but she’d left for the day, so we once again explained the situation to the person that had taken the chat. This time, we were told it was actually a version that was sold through Sears. We said we didn’t think that was correct, that the website said we would receive the “New 2016” 16.9 model, and that we had received a 14.9. He said it was the same thing and the only difference was the label. After some back and forth discussion, he advised us to call customer service again.
- Call to customer service. After explaining the situation for the fourth time, the customer service person came to the conclusion that all of the other people were wrong. It definitely wasn’t the Sears machine – they sell a NordicTrack 14.9 with a different model number. The ProForm 14.9 was model number PFEL31315.0 and the ProForm 16.9 was model number PFEL3135.1, but the specs were the same. She wanted to talk to the VP of Sales, but he’d left for the day, so she said they would call us on Monday. We discussed that we had the parts out of the box and inquired as to what she thought we should do over the weekend. She was rather non-committal and said she’d talk to us on Monday.
Bottomline – We feel we were misled by ProForm
We had arrived at the conclusion that we were shipped last year’s discontinued 14.9 model instead of this year’s “New 2016” 16.9 model, but that the models were probably the same or at least very similar. Either way, we felt scammed. We paid for a new model and were shipped a discontinued model from last year. Best case, it was the same as last year’s and, if so, the advertising for “New 2016” is false and/or misleading.
With the parts scattered over the gym floor, we decided to put it together and try to get some sort of resolution on Monday when they called back. No real surprise – as you’ll see below, no one ever called us.
Assembling the ProForm Elliptical
The ProForm website says “you can assemble your elliptical in minutes and get started on your workout. With just a few simple set-up steps, your elliptical is out of the box and ready to use in minutes.” While it took more than “minutes,” assembling the elliptical was a fairly straightforward process and was completed in about an hour.
Setting up the elliptical on iFit
As soon as the elliptical was assembled, we plugged it in and added it to our WiFi. The screens are very easy to navigate and it soon asks if you want to join iFit. If you’ve ever seen the ProForm Tour de France bike commercials – the maps and routes are running on iFit. The elliptical came iFit-enabled, with some routes already on the machine, and a library of others available for download. You can also create your own routes using iFit’s Global Google Maps™ Routes. It is pretty cool and we wanted it, so we signed up for a year.
Elliptical set up, ready for a workout and… it doesn’t work
Yep. The elliptical was ready to go, so I jumped on to give it a whirl, but every 20 or 30 seconds a screen would appear and say the workout had ended.
To its benefit, the machine was incredibly smooth, the screen is great and the menus are highly intuitive. But, pushing the resume button every 20 seconds was like being in the old Lost television show where someone has to push the button every 7 minutes so the world didn’t end.
We disconnected it from the internet and from iFit, but it still didn’t work. It was then that we noticed why it was happening – the elliptical wasn’t recording any of the movement. No mileage, no calories, no watts. It didn’t know the pedals were moving. I likened it to when the magnet falls off of your wheel on your bike and your cycling computer won’t track your speed.
Why not call customer service?
About now, you might be thinking – so, call customer service. Well, it was after 6:00 pm mountain time and they were closed until Monday.
How a consumer-oriented company as large a ProForm gets by without providing customer service after hours and on weekends is beyond comprehension.
Taking apart a brand new $1500 elliptical trainer to fix it
Left to our own resources to try to fix it, we turned to the internet to find a solution. About 8:00 pm, we found what appeared to be the answer. Apparently, machines can get out of calibration during shipping and the reed switch needs to be adjusted. To do so, you have to remove the side cover on the flywheel, find the reed switch and re-align it until it is 1/8th inch away from the pulley magnet. Here’s the article we found to fix it.
It worked. The elliptical would now register movement. We tested it in manual mode (shown below), then reconnected it to iFit. It has worked fine since then.
Monday rolls around – no call from ProForm
On Monday, when no call ever came from ProForm, Greg contacted the original sales person and told her what had occurred. In the end, ProForm offered us $50 or a credit on our one-year iFit membership. We accepted the iFit membership offer, which had cost us $99 for the year.
Would we buy the ProForm elliptical again? We really like how the machine functions and the iFit-enabled capabilities. It is the advertising, that incorrectly stated we were buying a machine that was “New 2016”, and the less than wholehearted post-sale support we feel we received from the company, that we find questionable. Given they own most of the major players in the home fitness equipment market, it makes the process even more frustrating because they’ve virtually eliminated a competitive marketplace. If our experience was in any way close to the norm, they need to take a second look at some of their business practices.
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