In early December, a resident of New York City we'll call J had what he thought was a good idea. With Mayor Bill de Blasio threatening to shut down gyms (again), the Upper West Side apartment dweller placed an ad on Nextdoor.com, the hyperlocal social networking site where people can swap goods and information.
"Hello all," the ad read. "I recently purchased a Peloton to keep in the office/gym of my apartment." J and his girlfriend used the exercise bike, which streams video workouts, "5-10 times a week combined," which left plenty of time for others to rent it "a couple of times a week at pre-agreed upon times for a fee of $50 per month. This is a great deal."
J saw no downside to the arrangement. A self-employed fitness trainer whose livelihood had taken a hit during COVID-19, renting the Peloton would put some money in his pocket and, considering a gym membership at a Manhattan Equinox can run $260 per month, help others save money too. It also sidestepped the ongoing capriciousness (some say cluelessness) by officials that had left New Yorkers not knowing from week to week whether they'd be able to work out or eat out or send their kids to school.
J thought his offer, to let people into his home and use his equipment, was straightforward, even generous. His neighbors, not so much.
"I think 'great deal' is a stretch," wrote someone from West 72nd Street. "If you finance the bike itself it's $50/month."
"Yes, I have a Peloton too and it's $40/month," added West 58th. "If you have a Chase credit card, they even automatically reimburse you monthly if you pay with your card."
"The $50/mo. wouldn't cover 10 min of a civil defense attorney worth their weight in salt… the penalties for infringing IP are steep," wrote West 67th, and included a link to Peloton's terms of service and its 27 sections of restrictions.
Apparently, people shut up in their apartments are a little cranky, maybe a little insecure. This is understandable. Since March, new rules set in place by politicians seem designed to foster insecurity, to refashion a global pandemic into local pain. For instance, instead of allowing bars to just serve alcohol, Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided in July to mandate that bars also serve food. How was this helpful? Was this the same arbitrariness that had Cuomo declare gyms "high-risk" in the spring but this week say they "are not major spreaders"?
In his ad, J addressed COVID-19 concerns, assuring potential customers the space was private and clean and, because the user would be in the room alone, "you will not be required to wear a mask during class, blah blah blah." J was not being cavalier about the virus, but offering some freedom from the mask, which during a workout can become suffocating and damp. Lift your mask for a moment in public—even when on an outdoors run or ride—and you risk the stink eye or reprimands from people nearby.
But J's neighbors—despite not being personally at risk—weren't having it.
"Although a nice gesture you should be careful as covid aerosols live in the air for up to 3 hours," wrote 9th Avenue. "So unless the room is going to be totally unused for the day between people this seems like a bad idea."
They also had qualms about the offer. What was J trying to get away with, anyway?
"We have a Peloton, the monthly subscription is $40," wrote West 72nd. "Your pricing seems a little steep!"
"That's your opinion," responded J. "Clearly you're not even interested–and just here to vent. I don't see you offering to rent out your bike to help others."
"And you'll be declaring this on your taxes?" asked West 74th.
"I appreciate your concern," wrote J, but your unsolicited tax advise [sic] is not wanted at this time."
"It was not advice," answered West 74th.
"Wow this is really an entitled group," wrote J. "If you are really opposed to it, that's great for you. Just keep your thoughts to yourself. I'm not trying to rip anyone or screw anyone over here."
Not all neighbors were naysayers. West 65th said, were it not for COVID-19, "I would totally do this," and West 86th, who mentioned he owned a $2,400 Peloton, explained that J's proposal was, in fact, "a great deal."
"For $50/month, and not having to buy the bike, it makes TOTAL sense," he wrote, "especially as 'Winter is Coming' and pandemic restrictions."
Pandemic restrictions that may or may not end as the temperature drops, as New Yorkers honeycomb away during the dark days, their lives upended by what a pal of mine calls "the whims of Lord Cuomo."
Three days after placing the ad, J took it down. What he saw as ingenuity and friendliness, others eyed with suspicion. As far as J knows, no one actually threatened to report him to the city, but perhaps it was only a matter of time.
"Such a weird time. Everyone is so opinionated," he told a friend of his Nextdoor foray. And while he did get a few takers, including a woman interested in replacing her $32 per class Soul Cycle regime, J does not plan to repost his Peloton. The combination of erratic threatened government closures of gyms and local busybodies means J's Peloton will sit idle and neighbors who might have enjoyed a good, relatively safe workout won't get the chance.