Related to the recurring topic of akrasia and anticipated near-mode losses, here's an article about "Gym-Pact," an arrangement whereby people precommit to pay penalty fees if they don't stick to their planned workout schedules.

In other words, they aren't charging customers money in exchange for a service, nor for violating an agreement associated with a service... rather, they are charging money as a service.

Had I encountered this in fiction, I would have considered it satire.

(I'm being somewhat glib here, admittedly: in this "experimental" phase, they are giving people free gym memberships as part of the deal, and using the penalty fees to pay for the memberships. But that doesn't sound like the ultimate business model.)

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NYC LW Group has branched into self-improvement; we get together to state our goals for next week, associated with a penalty. Money or public shaming are common choices.

I work in NYC. When/where does this go on and how do I get involved?

Please sign up for this list, this is the core group meetup. Just tell the mod (who is Will) that you are from LW.

There is also a public meetup planned this week:, you can meet the same people there.

What list do you mean? (The link was dead, not sure if it that's where the list was supposed to be or not)

Go y'all!

Are you keeping track at all of the results? E.g., do stated goals get met; do participants get more done than they did prior to participating; do participants get better at not stating goals they aren't going to get done, etc.?

do participants get more done than they did prior to participating

We just started, so it's hard to answer with confidence. Since many of us (like me) did not previously keep track of goals it's hard to say anything with precision, but subjectively I find this setup motivating: the thought of public commitment and potential money loss pops up in my head quite a bit.

I'd like to read more details on this.


I'm in this too. We set goals at weekly meetups (or email equivalent if we can't make it.) One guy keeps track of everybody's goals, whether they've achieved them that week or not, and penalties. There's a communal money pot. Goals tend to include: work productivity, personal project productivity, health/diet/fitness, social skills improvement, and personal life tasks (like moving, getting plane tickets, cleaning house.)

I tried something like this with a friend of mine in 10th grade.

I was making $2 a day working at a lunch cart. I ended up giving him $2 a day for a week or two, as a failed incentive to do my homework.

The conversation went something like:

  • Me: "Hey, how about I give you $2 every day I don't finish all my homework?"
  • Him: "And what do I have to give you if you finish it?"
  • Me: "Nothing..."
  • Him: "Sweet!"

After a little while it felt pointless, because I was giving away all my money, and not doing my homework. It still seems like a good thing to try though.

I..I can't work up the will power to make the obvious joke about this.

If you like, I'll charge you $20 if you continue not to make it.

Strikes me as rather clever, actually. I'd expect the rate of absences to converge down on some stable value from the (high) base rate, so you'd probably need to do some experimentation to figure out what the stable rate is. Subsidizing a low monthly payment with penalty fees might end up being a better business model in the long run, depending on what the numbers turn out to be. But paying penalty fees feels like a failure where continuing to pay a monthly fee doesn't, so I'd expect it to be effective at encouraging people to work out.

The downside is that I'd expect a number of people to be shamed into dropping their memberships altogether. Shouldn't hurt the business model as long as it's not everyone, but it does change the expected income math.

they are giving people free gym memberships as part of the deal, and using the penalty fees to pay for the memberships.

That sounds like a slightly different framing of the way things usually work-- people pay for gym memberships they don't get around to using.

I have no idea whether it will work either to make more money or to get people to exercise more than the usual payment structure, but it might appeal to a niche market.