Yoga studios are asking students to provide an increasing amount of personal information. Name, address, telephone, email, along with a release of liability is pretty standard. But they also want you to log in with Facebook, which gives their program access to all your friends, as well as date of birth, and provide the name of an emergency contact (whatever happened to 911?). All of this may be to cover their ass for legal reasons, but there’s the undeniable truth that they’re also compiling data. Data to email you things that you don’t want. But you wonder if it’s a matter of time before they start asking about ethnic makeup, marital status, income, education, medical questions, and whether you have a dog or cat. All of this data compiling can be used for a myriad of things –none of them relating to your consent.
Recently, I went to a hot, stuffy, dark yoga studio, and the woman thrust an iPad in front of me to register. There wasn’t an “option” -let alone any indication she would be willing to do the data entry herself. I can just imagine her thinking, “All I do is click this mouse”. Mind you, I work daily on an iPad. Still, asking the public to perform a quick registration on one is short sighted. It’s a clumsy, awful process –I’d never ask anyone to register with anything less than a keypad. But as I did, the program kept rejecting me –passwords didn’t match, a missed field, a button that didn’t work. Typeface and fields –all too small, which had to be adjusted continuously. Oh, yes, and did should I mention again that she hadn’t turned on the fucking lights? What is this –they hadn’t paid the electric bill? She chastised me: you should come in earlier! Well, I had –if I had been allowed to simply pay a fee, sign a waiver, and go take a class.
What irked me was this: A lack of choices. You HAD to use the iPad, you HAD to provide all the information, you HAD to create an account. And then I realized that if one of our wounded warriors had come in, how the yoga-clerk would have sat idly by, watching him or her fumble, get frustrated –all before going to class. God forbid, one of my veteran friends with limited vision, or anxiety issues should go in. Yeah, disaster time. The yoga-clerk wouldn’t have had either the insight or inclination to say, “Look, go take the class. We can sort through this later.” Like an info-automaton, she just kept insisting that we go through this process. Rejection after rejection, plus her chastising. Honestly, SHE wasn’t worth it.
So I did the sensible thing. I went back, rolled my mat (which the teacher had nicely put down for me –I hope she finds a better studio, maybe one with lights), and told her that I had to leave because their computer wouldn’t let me login. The girl looked on dumbly, only offering, “The computer is saying….” Which pretty much says that she wasn’t thinking, and was without a clue that even she had choices on how to handle the registration process. (I’m reminded by many yoga teachers who say that yoga is all about choices. It should be that with the business side of things too).
So here’s the deal: if you’re going to open a yoga studio, you have to give people CHOICES. You cannot assume everyone is going to want to give you personal data, because we can’t be sure how secure your firewall is, nor can we be sure that at some point you won’t be hacked, and that our data will either sold or shared by you, used to support some bogus study, or stolen by sheer thievery. And the other truth is this: maybe we’re not there for your friendship. Maybe we just want to be an anonymous yogi.
And if you’re going to work with a veteran, you’d damned well better give them a choice because they fought for that right.
Offer your students the choice to create an account. Or simply give them a piece of paper, collect basic data, and enter it yourself. And still –some people might not even want to give you their name, let alone their email. Are you going to turn them away? Or will you let them sign a release of liability, and send them onto their way into the yoga studio?