Crunch Gym Tries To Charge Extra For "Improvements"

Personally, we are allergic to high-pressure sales people. This is the reason that we do not work out at Crunch Gym. It may look like a gym, but it’s actually a festering pool of high-pressure sales douchebags.

Crunch Gym is like Glengarry Glen Ross, but with sweatpants and without Alex Baldwin. Take Reader Jacob’s experience for example. He signed up for a month-to-month membership at $69/ mo. As he was touring the gym, the douchebag sales guy was explaining all the wonderful improvements and renovations that they were doing to the gym. Jacob signed up because of one of them specifically: A boxing ring. Months pass and as the improvements near completion, Jacob receives a letter:

And then something interesting shows up in the mail. I get a letter full of hip self-praise “We worked around the clock (and spent lots of money) to make fabulous changes….” and that they are ‘offering’ me a year-long contract for $79 or $84 for month to month. Heres the great part: the letter is dated 2/6/07, I received it 2/20/07 and it says to return it by 2/21! (thats today)

Ain’t that some sh#t.

Yes, Jacob. That is some sh#t. Read the rest of Jacob’s email, as well as the letter from Crunch, inside.

Jacob writes:

I have had a very interesting day dealing with my Crunch Gym.

I joined Crunch for a $99 initiation + $69/ mo. month-to-month contract in late September of last year (less than 5 months ago). Before today I had been peeved that on my initial ‘tour’ – i.e. high pressure sales pitch – I was shown all the fabulous development plans for the gym that included boxing facilities, extra studios, larger rooms, etc. It’s now late February and Crunch is finally near completion.

And then something interesting shows up in the mail. I get a letter full of hip self-praise “We worked around the clock (and spent lots of money) to make fabulous changes….” and that they are ‘offering’ me a year-long contract for $79 or $84 for month to month. Heres the great part: the letter is dated 2/6/07, I received it 2/20/07 and it says to return it by 2/21! (thats today)

Ain’t that some sh#t.

I learn in an initial call to the gym location that the corporate office had sent out the letters and had only given the branch about a days notice. The gym had been getting tons of calls about the matter from other confused members.

Eventually I speak to someone there at length:

Crunch: you had questions about the letter?
Me: I’m confused because the contract I signed says that…
C: is supposed to be 30 days notice?
M: yeah
C: alright, so what we can do for you is that it won’t start ’til April
M: uh huh
C: alright? (in a finalizing tone)
M: umm, We’ll the thing that I ‘m kind of annoyed about is that when I signed up in September, the person taking me around was telling me about the great improvements that were coming and that were very slow to actually come, and the one I was interested in the most which was the boxing ring…
C: The boxing ring? did you know that that is now in right?
M: I was in last week and it wasn’t done. It was there but it wasn’t finished.
C: It is done now.
M: Ok, umm … But you sell the gym at one rate, you know, implying that you are going to get everything that is coming with it with the upcoming changes and then once the changes are made theres a higher rate.
C: I totally understand what you are saying. what that is is that is a renewal. everyone gets a renewal after your one year is up.
M: Ok. but I… first of all I joined 5 months ago and …
C: (surprised) Five months ago you joined? You didn’t join a year ago?
M: No. I joined at the end of september and I basically started in October, so thats less than 5 months ago.
C: how do you spell your last name?
M: (spelling ) and also I don’t have a contra…
C: (interrupting) You shouldn’t have gotten a letter.
M: yeah, well…. its giving me the option of $79 with a one year contract or $84…
C: (interrupts) Can you actually fax me your letter?
M: Its easier for me just to bring it over
C: that’s fine, because you shouldn’t have gotten a letter… your one year is not even up
because what you have is a one year renewal.
M: Well the letter says nothing about renewal. it trumps up all the changes you’ve made ( then quoting the letter) and then it hits you up for more money.
C: from my understanding, these letters are only renewal letters
M: it says nothing about renewal
C: hold on for a sec
can you bring in the letter?
M: yes, I’ll be by in about 20 minutes.

I copy the letter, grab my original contract and go by the gym. I ask for the Rep and I was told by a nervous attendant that she was in a meeting. “what’s it in regards to?”
“the letter”
“OK great, have you made your decision yet?”
“we’ll actually I need to talk to (Rep), she wanted me to bring a copy in.”
a subtle hush falls… “OOHHH you’re THAT guy.”

While I’m waiting I notice a few more unhappy crunchers clutching white letters milling about. I also go inspect the boxing ring, it’s there but there is no tension on the ropes, even though the screws are fully tightened, it looks pretty sad. The only other thing in the room is a deflated speed bag mounted to the wall that looks like a saggy scrotum.

The reps were apparently holding a meeting on how to deal with this major f#ck-up initiated by the corporate offices.

When I come in, the rep and the GM seem to be exchanging glances and for the second time we I am referred to in code as “the special one”. There is no talk about how I shouldn’t have received the letter. The GM intercedes at one point and says that because of the 30-day clause that this wouldn’t start until April. (here we are again) The Rep says she will email someone and find out if the rate change applies to me and gets back to me.

I also remind her that I am on the month to month plan. She seems surprised and said that in the computer I was listed as a 1-year contract. Luckily I had my contract in hand that said otherwise. She then updates the computer.

The gym would be nice if it wasn’t for all the writhingly slick sales and management people, all this ridiculous maneuvering to save and add memberships. The smirky corporate marketing doesn’t help either. I feel bad for the people driven by quotas, sales goals, covering their asses from all directions – it would be nice if their goals were health, fitness and customer satisfaction. but hey – ‘No Judgments’. I’d rather go running in the cold or join the local Y than take part in yet another corporate scheme.

Let’s hear some alternatives to Crunch’s “saggy scrotum” speed bags in the comments, shall we?—MEGHANN MARCO

Read Crunch’s Cool “Insider” “VIP” Offer

Comments

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  1. r81984 says:

    If they had you in their system for a one year contract and you still want to be in that Gym then why wouldn’t you just keep the contract at $69 a month for the remainder of your 7 months.

    Also then if you did want to cancel your membership you then could have shown them your original month to month agreement.

  2. codegrl says:

    I actually worked collections (yes, I was a bill collector for 2 whole years) for Bally’s accounts. You’d be amazed what these gyms do. NEVER, EVER, EVER sign a contract with a gym, EVER…I don’t care how much you work out, DO NOT DO IT!!

  3. mand0 says:

    @codegrl

    Why not? Can you give us any specifics? I am a member of Sport and Health Club and I’d like to know what I may be in for in the future.

  4. not_seth_brundle says:

    The whole point of month-to-month is that either party can cancel at will on no more than a month’s notice. If you wanted to keep your nice low rate you SHOULD have signed a longer-term contract.

  5. 75Sasha says:

    If you’re in the Chicago area a good alternative to Crunch is XSport Fitness. You can get a month to month rate that’s a lot less than Crunch’s. Mine is 42$/month, but that’s a lower rate they give to students (grad school).

  6. I-gor says:

    I was a member of the NY Health & Raquet Club for years. Over three years the location I used went down the drain. They had a tight space, and kept moving exercise machines closer together to make room for the exercise fad of the month (kickboxing, tai bo, boxing, etc.) The machines were getting dangerously close together, to the point where people using some of the weightlifting benches were always in danger of hitting someone with the weights they were lifting. In order to get out of my contract, they made me send a certified letter to their headquarters – which is just a delaying tactic.

    I recently joined the local Y. It’s about half the price, they have great facilities, and I don’t get hassled by personal trainers when I work out.

  7. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Sorry, but who in their right mind would join Crunch for boxing? You wanna box? Then join a boxing gym.

    I still think 24 Hour Fitness has the best deal for their pre-paid plan. It’s a big chunk of money up front, but if you’re serious about working out, it’s cheap in the long run.

  8. WalkenTall says:

    That Alex Baldwin is great. Almost as great as his brother Bilbo Baldwin

  9. bluegus32 says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: I’m with you. I paid the pre-paid plan. i work out about 3 to 4 times per week and have been doing so since I got the membership two years ago.

    For me, the end cost turns out to:

    $20 per mo. for the first 3 years
    $8 per mo. for every year thereafter for the rest of my life.

    And this membership gets me into every one of their gyms in the U.S.

    Can’t beat that.

  10. faust1200 says:

    Several years ago I was new in town and staying at my parents waiting for my new place to be ready. I worked out regularly but had no equipment at my parents. I thought I could go to Bally’s and get a free workout thinking that they would have to give it to me if they thought I was going to join. Well they did give me the workout but not before sitting through a 30-45 minute sales pitch. When he was to reveal the price which was never spoken out loud he brought out a book which I was to look through. Each page contained all the selling points and on the final page was the price. The rep said “Is this price OK to you?” I said “Well I’d like to workout first and see how it is.” He kept saying “Is this price ok?” From what I could remember it was a 12 month contract with a $150 signup fee and something like $75 a month. I got the distinct impression there was a lot of haggle room and that this fellow would be getting commission. Well I guess that’s not too bad but all during my few hours at this place there would be announcements over the PA every 15 minutes mentioning their products for sale, etc. I found it highly annoying. I mentioned it to the rep and he said that they were required to do so, every 15 minutes. Because I wanted to show my parents how expensive joining a gym was (because I wanted to rationalize to them the purchase of some of my own equipment) I asked the rep if he could photocopy his price sheet. He strongly objected and said something about their policy. I never intended to join a gym but after that experience I was certainly never going to join Bally’s. I would describe the rep as VERY shifty.

  11. royal72 says:

    much agreed codegrl. unless you are a complete gym rat, the odds are against you.

    i used to work for a fitness education company (basically like an online college for fitness professionals) and we’d study the market research of the industry. i don’t recall the exact number, but much like dieting, something like 90% people stop or greatly diminish their gym usage within three months of signing up. so of course gyms want you to sign contracts and pay tons of “setup” fees, because they know they would never make it, signing up people month to month.

  12. codegrl says:

    @Mand0: basically Bally’s did what the cellular companies are doing. I had a debtor who was on strict bedrest because of a pregnancy and she faxed all of the paperwork to Bally’s Corporate and to the local gym. They claimed that they would cancel her. She was sent to collections. Some people had Bally’s accounts 10+ years old still on their credit. It is almost impossible to cancel the account. People would have their local gyms close down and Bally’s would say that a gym 50 miles away was close enough to keep the member locked into their contract. It was VERY shady and my sister had a membership at the time that I was collecting and once her contract was up I told her to run and never look back. The stories are too many to list here…

  13. acambras says:

    In the town where I live (suburban New Haven), the major players are Bally’s, YMCA, Planet Fitness, a brand new LA Fitness, and a couple of other small local outfits.

    I found the Y (at least my branch) to be way overpriced, especially for singles. After talking with salespeople at Bally’s and LA Fitness, I felt like I needed a shower just to wash the slime off — lots of high-pressure tactics as described in comments above — especially in the case of LA Fitness.

    I have a basic membership at Planet Fitness. $10 per month, no contract, a $29 start-up fee, and a $15 annual fee. They also have a $20 month membership with more perks.

    It’s a no-frills place — no pool, no child care, no free personal trainers, no group classes — so it wouldn’t be a good fit for everyone. But it works for me. The hours are convenient, the cardio and weight machines are plentiful and well-maintained, and the staff is friendly and available if you have a question about a specific piece of equipment. And it’s not a meat market.

    And they’re a very no-pressure place. When I went to check it out, they let me take some written info home with me and they didn’t hassle me to join right that second. I am pretty sure their staff doesn’t have sales quotas or commissions — understandable, since a $10/month membership can pretty much sell itself if the place is decent.

  14. Wasn’t Alex Baldwin on ‘Firefly’?

  15. dancemonkey says:

    I hear that in SF a good gym is Club One. They’re not high-pressure (at least not the one my wife joined), they don’t push contracts or auto-debit payment plans. For sure you get better rates if you go for all of that, but they don’t put the squeeze on you.

    I’m a lazy slob so I don’t belong to a gym.

  16. bluegus32 says:

    royal72 said:

    “i used to work for a fitness education company (basically like an online college for fitness professionals) and we’d study the market research of the industry. i don’t recall the exact number, but much like dieting, something like 90% people stop or greatly diminish their gym usage within three months of signing up. so of course gyms want you to sign contracts and pay tons of “setup” fees, because they know they would never make it, signing up people month to month.

    Actually, gyms aren’t the only ones who want you guys to show up for only a few months. Regular gym rats like myself want you to as well. Why? Because it keeps my dues down and my gym less crowded. The more people that pay for a gym membership without actually attending the gym, the better my membership is for me.

  17. hop says:

    @codegrl: you are right…do not join one of those things..my son joined a balleys in belair md…after a couple of months he started school in greensborogh n.c….at that time there were no balleys within 60 miles of the place so he tried to cancel the contract….this was about 15 years ago….they are still looking for him and have turned the matter over to a collection agency…..

  18. homerjay says:

    Oh good Lord, there are FIVE Baldwins now??? Kill me…

  19. thejbs says:

    This was my post –

    I actually used to go to Gleason’s, one of the most famous boxing gyms in the country. It was dirty and had no machines, nothing really worked and I loved it. paying for my trainer plus the dues was just getting too expensive.

    I joined Crunch because it was 2 blocks from my apartment and if there were going to have heavy bags and the likes I thought it would be a convenient way to get my sweat on. A crunch in Manhattan had a very well run boxing facility and I was looking forward to the same.

    before I started reading all the negative posts on the net I thought Chrunch had a good reputation.

    The worst part of the gym is that their ‘negotiation tables’ are right by the entrance. So every time I’m there I get I see another poor sap like me going through the same rigamorole.

  20. Sandy Magic Jackson says:

    JBS, this wouldn’t happen to be the Crunch on Flatbush, would it?

  21. thejbs says:

    no str8, down the block at Ft. Greene on Lafayette, do you have any similar experiences?

  22. swalve says:

    XSport in Chicago (and on Long Island??!) are a client of mine, and I have heard nothing but good things.

    Here’s my question: you signed a contract. Why is it somehow OK to think one can back out of it without any failure to perform on the gyms’ behalf?

  23. thejbs says:

    @swalve:
    I signed up for a membership. I HAVE NO TIME LIMITED COMMITMENT TO THE GYM. I have a MONTH to MONTH agreement, a so-called “freedom plan”. I can walk at any time, and when the gym raises its rates for things they promised months ago that they have just finally completed, I feel like doing just that.

    what do you do for them as a ‘client’?

  24. thejbs says:

    @swalve:
    are you actually getting paid to be the devils advocate?
    seems like most of your comments are sly corporate defenses of the companies criticized on this site.