DUNCAN BANNATYNE has been slated online for an “abhorrent” response to a disabled man who requested a ‘swim only’ pass at one of his health clubs.
The Scot, 69, was approached on Twitter by Simon Ball who explained that he had a muscle-wasting disease and that staff at the club in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had refused him a membership without use of the gym.
He asked the tycoon if he would be able to intervene and look into the possibility of accommodating his request.
Bannatyne replied bluntly: “Sorry, we will not do that.”
His terse response has irritated many social media users, who accused Bannatyne of being “harsh”, “savage” and a “joke”. Others defended the entrepreneur, saying he was entitled to make a business decision.
The original tweet from Simon said: “Good afternoon Duncan, I enquired the other day at your gym in Rotherham the possibility of a swim only pass (I can’t use the gym as I have a muscle wasting disease) they said they can’t do that. Is this something you can look into?”
After the Dragons Den star gave the negative reply Simon did not respond, but other social media users jumped in after being unsatisfied with the way the question had been handled.
One user said: “Wow. Savage. Good to see you cater for people with disabilities.”
Lucy Hale said: “Sorry Duncan this is a joke. One it is another customer for you and two you would be helping him. Really bring yourself back to reality from your high and mighty lifestyle and see it from your customers’ points of view. No one is better than anyone else, you had to start somewhere.”
Jody Lewis said: “The way I see it is a sale is a sale. Swim only would bring more people in like himself. You should be more compassionate, never know when an illness will come into your life and change everything you’ve ever done before.”
Ian Lambert said: “Seems a bit harsh on a guy with his personal circumstances? Can’t you make the odd exception for a person like that? He could do with a break.”
Another user added: “Abhorrent response. Shame on you Bannatyne.”
There were some who weighed in to stick up for the entrepreneur.
Claire Maher said: “There is no disability discrimination here. He is saying his gym doesn’t do swim only memberships.”
Stephen Baxter said: “I agree with that decision. Love the facilities and great staff too.”
Ben Dawson added: “I’m pretty sure he’ll have plenty in place for disabled people. There’s plenty of other places he could use for swim only passes. Can’t change the whole system for one person, that’s not how business works.”
Bannatyne responded to some of the comments explaining that introducing a swim only membership would leave them open to people expecting gym only ones, or other specific packages.
He also denied claims that other health clubs do offer them and said that council run leisure centres are only able to do so because they are funded by the “deep pockets of the taxpayer” and don’t have to pay VAT to HMRC.
Speaking today, Duncan further explained why swim only packages are not available.
He said: “It would be extremely unfair to our members, who pay for full use of our facilities, to offer swim only memberships, which would potentially overcrowd the pools at peak times.
“Our memberships are very good value and often prove much cheaper than using a local council pool on a regular basis.”