Fit to be Tied in LA

PoserNote: It looks like Mrs. Lulu has snuck into the blogosphere again.

Once again I find myself in a dispute with LA Fitness’ business office.

[EDIT: I am in such strong agreement with Mrs. Lulu’s rant here that I’d love to see all our readers share their “my gym screwed me” stories in the comments. I think this is an industry-wide pattern of lying to– and screwing– customers. If you have an experience like Mrs. Lulu’s, read on & let us know. –Lucinda.]

The second time in my husband’s and my two year membership. The first time there was a problem was when he tried to quit his personal trainer contract after the so-called trial period was up. They simply ignored our written and phone requests and continued to bill my credit card. Even after speaking to one of their reps (not an easy feat to accomplish), two more months of illegitimate billing went by before I disputed the charges with my credit card company and got (partial) satisfaction.

Now the same thing is happening with our regular membership. First, let me explain why we’re quitting, as it will give an indication of the quality of the company’s customer service. This post is not a criticism of the facility, nor of the helpful, energetic and cheerful fitness professionals who work there. We always had a great time with our actual work-outs and classes. It is the corporate division with whom I have a beef. I called them in March to try to re-negotiate our contract when I noticed that they were advertising a special at a lower rate than we were paying. I was told that the special was for new members only, but that if I wanted to save money I could drop the towel fee of $10/mo I was paying for my husband and myself. Towel fee?! I had no idea I was paying such a thing, having never been offered, nor even seen, a towel at my gym. I wasn’t told of this fee when I signed up, nor was it made explicit anywhere on my contract. So, great, I had been paying $20/mo for 20 months for something I never wanted, didn’t know I had, and had never used. Any chance for a refund of part of this? Ha, ha, ha. At that point, I decided to look for another gym.

Now to quit. Chastened and hyper-careful after the above experience, I called to make sure my reading of the fine print instructions for quitting in the contract was correct before I even began the process. Since I had monthly billing charged to my credit card, and we had paid the last month’s dues upon membership (along with an initiation fee

and first month’s dues), we were not able to quit until two months after I started the ball rolling (to use a fitness metaphor). I called in early April and since I needed to provide them with 30 days written notice, my automatic payment for May would be deducted on April 25th as usual. Then we had another month to go since we had already paid for the last month; our membership wouldn’t end until the end of June. The fact that we were traveling most of May and June and couldn’t used the gym was of course beside the point, but okay, I understood that contractual obligations are contractual obligations, without which society and culture would fall apart as no one could trust another’s word; dark ages would inevitably follow, wherein the life of man in the City of Angels would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Btw, I’ve always found it ironic that Tom Hobbes lived to the age of 91 (he must have had a gym membership), but I digress.

But the infuriating part comes next. I wrote a letter stating that I was resigning my “family membership for my husband and myself” effective ASAP. I included the membership number on my contract, signed, dated, stamped and mailed it. Taken care of, right? Wrong. After traveling most of the summer, I last week finally got around to checking my bills carefully. Lo and behold, I was continuing to be billed, but only for one, rather than two, memberships. So I called and here’s what I was told by Christine, the member service manager. My letter was interpreted as meaning that I wanted to cancel for myself but not for my husband. I pointed out that I clearly stated I was canceling for both and she retorted that I should have written two separate letters and had my husband sign the second one. I again explained that I had one contract and that payment was made for both memberships by me on my credit card and that the letter clearly stated I was canceling both. She said that I should have known they wouldn’t read the text of the letter and that she could not credit the charges (but would be happy to cancel my membership now). I kid you not, she said I had no right to expect that my two sentence letter would be read and that therefore I hadn’t really cancelled my husband’s membership. I sent her a copy of the letter and another demand that she credit the charges, but she has not responded. So I again have disputed the charges with my credit card.

Is there a moral to this story? Maybe it’s that jocks can’t read? Or that once fitness becomes a habit, it’s hard to quit? Or that “throwing in the towel” is sometimes for the best? But for me, it’s that we should fight capitalist greed, even in small ways, stand up for ourselves against big corporations, and go see Michael Moore’s new movie.

14 thoughts on “Fit to be Tied in LA”

  1. These places are fucking criminal. I severed all relationships to gyms long, long ago for the exact same reasons.

    Seriously, some watchdog local news anchor needs to get on these places. Their relentless & egregious abuses of contracts & trust in general is just nuts. It’s industry-wide.

  2. What Lucinda Michele said. Every time I’ve tried to cancel a gym membership I’ve been hit with months of fees and mouthfuls of excuses, most recently with, yes, LA Fitness. Never again.

  3. Since there are plenty of gyms around which compete with each other, I’d be surprised if some didn’t have better customer service regarding these issues. If it was me, I’d quit L.A. Fitness (after whatever contract or pre-paid period has run out)and try to find a better one, so that I could then rave about it here and drive others to it from the bad guys’ gym.

  4. Matt, I should have clarified that I did indeed quit and now Lulu and I are happy members of 24 Hour Fitness. We joined them with a one time payment for the year and at about half the price we were paying at LA Fitness.
    Mrs. Lulu

  5. LA Fitness has been fine with me; I canceled my membership last year without any hassle. But don’t we have Yelp for posting complaints like this?

  6. There was a class-action lawsuit against 24-Hour Fitness maybe 3 or 4 years ago regarding these exact tactics. I don’t remember the details, but perhaps bringing it up with LA Fitness might make them more accommodating.

  7. Thanks for all the comments and info, everyone. Sorry if this rant was inappropriate for this venue–I’m new to this blogging stuff and didn’t know where (or if) I should post it, but I was angry and wanted to share my story. And, no, that’s not my husband, just a cute guy with muscles to remind us all of what a gym membership is all about.
    –Mrs. Lulu

  8. I found it really easy to sever my ties with 24-hour fitness, but it may be due to the class action suite Robb mentioned. My brother had major issues severing his ties with Bally’s over 10yrs ago, but because he was under 17 and my mom was pissed she showed up at Bally’s and told them off. Bally’s was happy to oblige.

  9. In my case instead of screwing me Bally’s actually screwed themselves by giving me an angry reason to break my apathetic multi-year addiction to paying $20-plus a month for their facilities that I rarely used.

    I’d had my wallet stolen out of my car back in the early 90s and in the course of replacing the various cards it had contained, I called Bally’s and requested a new one. The rep told me there was a $10 fee involved and I asked if they could waive it given that the card’s loss resulted from a crime. The rep said that wasn’t possible due to it being company policy so I canceled my membership instead. For that rep’s/Bally’s unwillingness to save me what’s a ridiculous fee to begin with, they lost the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that I would have continued to throw away at them. Thank you Bally’s!

  10. Amount of time you wait to talk with a SALES representative: 1.5 seconds.

    Amount of time you wait to talk with MEMBERSHIP CANCELLATION: 15 minutes.

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