Joining Crunch Gym Is Like Joining The Mafia

As Michael Corleone once said, “Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.”

Jill writes:

    “A couple of years ago I joined Crunch Gym in Manhattan. The terms of my membership were that I could cancel if I moved to an area without an accessible Crunch Gym. A year ago I moved upstate and tried to cancel my membership. They asked me to prove I was living upstate, I sent bills in my name which they told me proved nothing. I sent my mortgage document which they again told me wasn’t proof. It took 5 months for me to persuade them that I was telling the truth and they billed me for my gym membership the entire time I was negotiating.

    I should have tried to reclaim the money but by then I was just glad to be out of my membership and to have severed my relationship with such a sleazy company.

    Today 6 months later I received a bill from them for $79.00 it said that they had tried to charge my credit card, but the charge had failed to go through. The charge failed because they tried to charge a credit card that I had cancelled 6 months ago. I called them to find out why they were suddenly charging me. The woman I spoke to admitted the error immediately and promised it would not happen again. Here is my question – is this fraud? If my credit card had not already been cancelled they would just have spontaneously started charging me without notifying me. Did they send this demand hoping I’d be so intimidated that I’d pay rather than go through all the convoluted negotiations necessary to deal with them. Can they randomly charge me, six months after finally agreeing to let me out of my membership? My dealings with them have been so torturous that I suspect their motives.

    Jill”

Gyms are notorious at not letting customers out of contract. Don’t what it is, perhaps they’re just really dedicated to getting you in shape. In any event, It sounds like this Crunch went one step further. Instead of cancelling your contract, they put your account on a six-month “rest” and then tried to start it up again. It could be that their computer system truly made a flub, but as you said, their previous history would suggest otherwise.

Either way, more the reason why it is often advisable to sign up with gyms on a month-to-month basis. The initial membership fee may be a bit higher, often the equivalent to one or two extra months, but if you ever go on vacation, or god forbid, decide to move many miles away, the long term savings could make it worth it.

At this point, it sounds like you’re in the clear because all they have is a cancelled credit card. If they call back again, however, it may be more than a mistake and you could have a case for filing a harassment charge, just for bitch slap’s sake. — BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. timmyhal77 says:

    Best thing to do is sue in small claims. Companies view it as a nuissance and either settle, or you get the benefit of having a judge enter a legal judgment in your favor and then you can brag to your friends.

  2. momo says:

    I also received a notice in December about trying to charge me with an account I had ended (with no problems) in May. It took a lifetime to get someone on the phone, but they too apologized. I’d say put the call out to anyone that has ever had a membership and check your card statements.

  3. rina says:

    It happened to me too – the rep I spoke with said that it happend to a lot of people and it had to do with converting the computer systems after Crunch split with Bally’s.

  4. skallywagz18 says:

    Same exact thing happened to me. I was a member at crunch for 3 years. They initially conned me into thinking I had a “month-to-month, cancel anytime” membership, but later I realized I could not cancel under any circumstances. I ended up just paying for 3 years, even though I only went one year. The week before my membership was set to cancel, I went in there and made sure my balance owed was zero, then got a signed cancellation document from the manager. Finally, done. Not quite. My membership was officially cancelled for 10 months, then in December 2006…there it is on my credit card statement – “$69 – Crunch Fitness”. I called them non-stop for two or three weeks and kept getting BS answers and the typical Crunch run-around. They are pros at that kind of stuff. I also started working with my credit card company. I sent them my contract, all relevant info, and my cancellation form. They immediately credited my account, then today Crunch finally credited my account for the money they illegally swipted from my account. These guys are criminals, plain and simple.

  5. ahether says:

    same happening to me. i ended my membership in june no problem
    and now am being charged again. can u post the crunch telephone #
    you have called. each time i try calling the number i have i cant get through to anyone. have given up each time after 30 minutes on hold.
    it a real pain !

  6. SophieD says:

    You wouldn’t believe the trouble I’ve been through!! After nearly I year, I’m FINALLY being credited more than $600 in incorrect fees that were BACKcharged to my credit card by Crunch. I cancelled over the phone last winter, and they stopped the automatic charge until… a few months ago when a charge for $414 (that’s 6 months membership) arrived, as did three more months, as I was continuously calling and writing letters.
    The last call I made, a rep told me cancelling must be done in person-that it was never valid to do it over the phone. (You can cancel at any gym, once your membersip has expired).
    Anyway, it was a disaster. Mike Neff, at the NYC Park Ave. address is the consumer relations rep-address your letters to him; mine have finally been answered. In the meantime, have fun on ‘hold,’ their call center is a f*ing nightmare.

  7. bluegus32 says:

    I’ve always hated high-pressure gyms. I’ve never had problems terminating the contract but I’ve had problems with high pressure sales when you’re shopping around for a new gym. Bunch of no-neck @ssholes telling me what a wuss I am unless I join their gym, work out 15 hours per week, buy their protein shakes for $100 per month and buy $2,000 worth of private training sessions (I’m not making this up.)

    Yeah, well maybe I can’t beat you up, but I can sue you into oblivion. I’m a lawyer.

    Sorry, I think I may have some unresolved childhood issues.

  8. kerry says:

    That is the single greatest photo I have ever seen on Consumerist. Hottt!

  9. bluegus32 says:

    Kerry: I must agree. That photo is eerie. I can’t peel my eyes off of it. And I’m a very heterosexual man.

    But he’s so pretty.

  10. Docmarvy says:

    Thank you, kerry,

    I was starting to worry that nobody was going to point out the strangely compelling androgynous piece of beef/cheesecake in the photo. I would be too intimidated to work out at the same gym as that glistening, hairless young…um, man? I guess? eek.

  11. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I’m on the 3-year pre-pay plan at 24 Hour Fitness. And it’s an awesome deal. It’s a lot of money up front, but it’s definitely a bargain for people that work out consistently.

    If all these billing nightmares are scaring you away from joining a gym, you might want to check your local community college. A lot of them offer fitness or weightlifting classes and have open lab hours. Lab hours meaning, you get to work out in the school gym on your own time. The only drawback here is that these campus gyms may not have a variety of equipment, compared to a commercial gym. Also, the hours of operation may be shorter.

  12. VA_White says:

    OMG. That’s a MAN?

  13. KateH says:

    i hate the crunch hussle– you know, when you drop your card in one of their ubiquitous boxes around the city and are called a few weeks later to be told you’ve won up to a year of a free membership. when I went in to inquire about my prize, i was greeted with laughter: “sweetheart, no one’s every won more than a week, it’s a publicity stunt to get ppl to check out their local crunch, get with it…”

  14. acambras says:

    I too hate the high-pressure fitness center salespeople — it’s almost as bad as buying a damn car.

    I recently called L.A. Fitness to inquire about their rates. This guy named Dave tried to get me to make an appointment to visit. I asked, “Can’t I get some preliminary information on the phone first?” I swear this was his reply: “Yeah, you could do that, but you wouldn’t buy a BMW without taking it for a test drive first.” To which I replied, “I wouldn’t buy ANY kind of car without having an IDEA of how much it costs before going to the dealership.” Anyway, the guy was very sleazy and I felt like I needed a shower just talking on the phone with him. I did not let him talk me into making an in-person appointment. I’ve talked with people who were there on 2-week free passes and had salespeople breathing down their necks the whole time.

    A week later, I got a mailing from LA Fitness (even though I had refused to give Dave my address or phone number). The fine print is very amusing. Notable is that they say that if you cancel, it may take 60 days to process your cancellation and stop charging your account. I imagine that trying to extricate yourself from an LA Fitness membership is probably as hard as extricating yourself from a Crunch membership.

    One thing (of the many) that I’ve learned from Consumerist — never give your checking account info when signing up for a gym membership or anything else that involves automatic payments. Use a credit card — that way you have the power of the chargeback if that becomes necessary.

  15. Greeper says:

    I am fairly certain that Crunch Gym is owned by, or owns, Bally Total Fitness, which has been sued about nine million times over unfair consumer practices. (Your Crunch ID# will get you into any Bally’s but not vice versa). So it’s not really surprising.

  16. Jory says:

    I upgraded my membership at Crunch 6 months ago from the “single gym” plan to “all access”. Ever since then, they’ve been billing me double (my new and old rate). Been dealing with this for 2 weeks now and no resolution.

  17. Triple Burn, Ooh! says:

    I signed up for the three-day Crunch Trial Membership (in spite of my better judgement, and in spite of the fact that the gym was way out of my price range) planning to cancel on the third day and get a few free days on the treadmill out of it.

    I cancelled within the time allotted, only to see the charge for my first month’s membership pop up on my credit card. It took a month of wrangling to get the charge credited to my account.

    As an aside, those of you looking for a gym might do well to check out your local YMCA. My Y, which has only three treadmills, but almost always one available, costs me $22 a month, and not only are there beefcakes trotting around, but smiling oldfolks that remind me of my grandma.

  18. wickershee says:

    Oh, and just because your credit card account is cancelled doesn’t mean that you’re not accountable, as it were, for the charges. If a company believes you’re still under contract, for instance, they can continue to bill your cancelled account and you will ultimately have to pay. And the credit card companies have no problem doing this — so be careful.

  19. Melsky says:

    I don’t sign up for things where they debit your account from a credit card or bank, just because of crap like this. I’ve been burned by a gym too.

  20. TVarmy says:

    If it weren’t for the thighs, I could decide if it was male or female. However, as it is now, I can only assume it is an experiment: Man on top, girl on bottom.

  21. That looks like a still from Olivia Newton John’s ‘Let’s Get Physical’ video.

  22. bravo says:

    LA Fitness is pretty good about cancellation. I had a membership for a couple of years that I recently cancelled and it was easy as pie. They told me up front when I joined that you have to give 60 days notice for cancellation, so I think that’s fair even though acambras doesn’t appear to like it. As far as the mechanics, I just printed out a cancellation form from their web site, filled in the info, which included the number on my key tag bar code, and about a week later I got an email acknowledging my cancellation request.

  23. bluegus32 says:

    TVarmy said:

    “If it weren’t for the thighs, I could decide if it was male or female. However, as it is now, I can only assume it is an experiment: Man on top, girl on bottom.”

    Um . . . girl on bottom? Have you seen her junk? Personally, I stay away from girls whose units are bigger than mine.

  24. acambras says:

    @bravo –

    I only said I found the 60-day thing notable. I never had a chance to find out if cancelling at LA Fitness would be difficult because I was so turned off by their hard-sell tactics that I never joined in the first place. But judging from the aggressiveness of their sales staff, it would not surprise me if LA Fitness made cancellation very difficult (they work hard to get you, ergo they’re not going to let you go easily).

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m agog at that picture… So ALIEN yet so…mesmerizing.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    My Bally’s Horror Story

    I’m a jock. Go to gym ~3x a week, plus swim 3x a week. So I fall outside the normal way they rip off people – locking in overly optimistic people into 3yr contracts). Scoured a 12mo deal for $19/mo, signed up, happily worked out there for a year.

    As the year end approached, I realized I was likely to have to pay more, and was okay with it (have a workout buddy, got to know other ppl there). Knew by sight most the guys that worked there. Wasn’t a naif.

    So I was favorably disposed towards them. Was a repeat customer. Willing to spend nominally more to renew. VERY low-hanging fruit for them to snatch.

    They managed to muck it up so badly by trying to screw me 15 different, laughably obvious ways that they’ve become the company I love to hate.

    I guess I’m not alone (see http://www.ballyssucks.org/index.html)

    When I approached their head manager, I told them I was okay with paying a bit more, since I’d been sliding on a special deal for the past 12 mos. But not much more, and I’d walk if they tried the usual shennanigans. And take my workout partner with me.

    They proceeded to run through every laughably bad trick in the book:

    * verbal promises at odds with contract

    * tried to prevent me from reading contract before signing

    * refused to let me leave w/ the 15pp contract to read at home before signing

    * telling me to “ignore that part of the contract – it’s on there because our damned computer isn’t working”, refusing to let me cross it out on the hard copy

    * while one guy was “interviewing” me, had another guy come in, ask to “check something” on the computer. When he left, he’d edited the contract to more expensive options. (“Oops, dumb computer,” was the excuse given by first guy).

    * they had a promo that someone referring me got 3mos free. I gave my workout partner’s name as the referral. They entered it, then while I was reading the contract, deleted his name to screw him out of the 3mo promo.

    Truthfully, once they verbally promised items contradicted by the contract, then swore it wasn’t a big deal, I’d decided to leave Bally’s. Everything past that was for entertainment and to see how far they’d go. WOW did they exceed my expectations.

    Trying to screw my friend out of the promo was the last straw, though. :D

    Bally’s is the dumbest corporation on the face of the planet.

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    Oh, AND Bally’s tried to sue “www.ballyssucks.org” out of existance, claiming that the site was infringing upon their copyright.

    heh. They lost.

  28. jitrobug says:

    She’s even hotter than that girl in Hanson.

  29. Kalik says:

    At first, I thought it was Olivia Newton John from her Physical video.

  30. Her Grace says:

    The picture is a very good reason why I am happily a chubby girl. If working out gives women a package like that, I’m not so sure it’s worth being fit.

  31. Uurp says:

    Is that Punky Meadows?

  32. savdavid says:

    I have never liked anyone I met who used gyms. Not one. The ones I knew were really jerks who were arrogant. I once got so angry at one guy who kept talking about his muscles (not just for that reason, though) that he was paying all this money, spending all this time in the gym, going through “pain” and was going to die anyway. Of course, to be honest, I felt like crap a year later when he died in a motorcycle accident.
    I guess I am just saying I despise the gyms and the people who used them but I keep my mouth shut now.
    BTW, I had physical in March and was in great health so, no, I am not jealous.

  33. savdavid says:

    Meant to say above “I told the guy he was going to die anyway.” It was not worded well.