I’m in a pickle and I need your help. One of my friends who so happens to be a client, but who really is just a great friend who so happens to be a very large client, invited me to play tennis at his posh tennis club the other day. After we hit around for an hour, he mentioned I should join and he could be my primary sponsor. I told him I’d think about it over the weekend and let him know.
I did some digging with the Membership representative afterwards. The first hint that told me I was in for a big dilemma was when she said there were no brochures as everything is “exclusive and private.” “We don’t advertise our club Sam.” she said. OK, great, how is that going to help me make an informed decision, I thought to myself. Not wanting to piss her off or anything, I just asked her if she could tell me about how to join. This is what she said:
Great to hear that you are interested in joining, but let me warn you that not everybody can. First of all, it takes one sponsor, a co-sponsor and 5 other members to write you letters of recommendations. Second of all, once all your documents are gathered, your name is put up on our main bulletin board for guests to review. If even one member is not satisfied with you for some reason, you will go under review and be asked to explain yourself for whatever grievances the member may have.
After a month, we will then invite you to meet with the Membership Committee to have a semi-formal interview for final review. Finally, if you are invited to join, we would require the $10,000 upfront, and the dues are only $175/month thereafter, with a low $100/quarter food consumption minimum.
At this point, my head started spinning. Am I applying to buy a fancy New York City Co-Op apartment, the CIA, Harvard University, or a tennis club where we have fun and play a game I love? Jee whiz, this sounds so exclusive and as an outsider, I’m not sure if I’ll fit in. The average member is a couple decades older, and there’s really not a lot of diversity, which is odd in a city like San Francisco. That said, the location is wonderful, the people are kind, and the courts are always available.
GETTING IN IS THE HARD PART
As I got past the exclusivity part of getting in, I started fixating on the costs. $10,000 is a lot of money. I could buy a car, a new kick-butt home theater system with 60″ LED TV, or 10,000 Super Lotto tickets with that much money! To my friend who wants me to join, $10,000 to me is like maybe $500 bucks to him. He’s much wealthier, but at least I’m better looking and have a nicer backhand.
The issue I’m facing now is whether or not spending $10,000 to join this exclusive club where there are plenty of well connected members is worth it. I feel bad for my friend who always pays the guest fee. I also feel bad for my bank account to just write a $10,000 check to play tennis since I’m already a member of one club, and there are some free courts just three blocks away from my house (they suck though). This may very well be a case of lifestyle inflation, which I’ve done well to avoid for the past 5 years. At the same time, I’d like to join an establishment that always has courts readily available to play on, with great people to connect with.
* Great facilities that are always available.
* Good location that’s closer to home.
* A new network of friends and connections to tap into for leisure or business.
* New social functions to attend.
* Honor my friend’s gesture of sponsorship which doesn’t get offered to all.
* Not simplifying life as already a member of a couple clubs.
* No equity in the $10,000 membership fee.
* Exclusivity and the negative connotations that come with being exclusive.
Sports knows no bounds, and the good thing is if you are an advanced player at a tennis club, you could be fresh out of undergrad and people want to play with you because after all, people are there to play tennis and not conduct business. There’s really nothing new about joining an organization. It’s the feeling of camaraderie and kinship that makes organizations so special. I just wonder whether this is the right thing to do.
Update 8/27/2017: It’s been 7 years since I first joined and it was THE BEST investment I could have ever made. I’ve met a tremendous amount of cool and highly connected people who have hooked me up with a $14,000 stay in Paris, invited me to their vacation property in Napa, helped write letters of recommendations for various things, and more. Further, I’ve gotten to keep up my skills and get bumped up to USTA 5.0!