Weight Watchers changes and closures frustrate some suburban Chicago members – NBC Chicago
Some members of Weight Watchers who attend a weekly meeting in the suburb of Countryside denounce the closure of their establishment.
“The only reason we’re doing this is for support and to hold ourselves accountable,” said Weight Watchers member Barb Ebersold, who is attending the Countryside meeting.
Shelly Burke is one of many members who received an email from Weight Watchers, explaining that the Countryside studio will close on Saturday March 25, 2023.
“There was almost no standing room until we had our Saturday meetings. We couldn’t figure out why they were closing us down,” Burke said.
Maria Bucur de Berwyn also attends the Countryside workshops.
“Obviously if a group of members shrinks to 10 or 12 people, Weight Watchers has to look at that and say OK, it’s not really economical and make those decisions, but we have, I think, over 130 members. who meet at Campaign, so I speak for us and nationally for any other meeting that has many members,” Bucur said.
In an email response to questions from NBC Chicago about the shutdown and other nationwide issues, Kelsey Merkel, director of corporate communications for Weight Watchers, wrote, “In the United States, we will rebalance our studio footprint and significantly reduce the number of fixed-lease studios, but we will retain approximately 100 fixed locations, moving studio delivery to flexible third-party locations, or Studio@, bringing that total to approximately 725.”
“Overall, in-person workshops will continue to be widely accessible, thanks to a mix of studios, studios, and our extensive virtual workshop schedule,” Merkel continued.
The members we spoke with, however, do not want to attend the virtual meetings.
“I don’t want to be behind a screen with 300 other people listening like a podcast,” Bucur said.
“It’s just not the same. We need that support. We need that physical hold, we need those physical hugs. That’s what’s important to us,” he said. said Ebersold.
Along with a change in localization strategy, earlier this month WW International bought Sequence, a telehealth prescription service that gives members access to Ozempic and Wegovy, weight-loss drugs that have skyrocketed in popularity.
“A lot of people feel like they’re trying to say, Oh, you can take a drug now instead of going to a meeting or you can do virtual. It’s like nobody wants to do virtual” , Burke said.
“Despite the timing, these two actions were unrelated and one did not trigger the other,” Merkel wrote. “These were two independent decisions made in the best interests of consumers and members to ultimately grow our business and thrive well beyond 60 years.”
Several members of the Countryside site have signed this change.org petition in hopes of preventing the Countryside site from being shut down.
“Please Weight Watchers don’t shut down these critical meetings, in-person meetings for your members. We’re counting on it,” Bucur said.