Don't Get Benchpressed By A Gym Contract Scam, A Cautionary Tale

So you go through the process of selecting a gym, asking yourself whether you want one close to your house or to work, choosing between opulent technoplaygrounds and piles of torture devices in an old VFW lodge, and most importantly, determining whether your goal is to actually get fit, or get laid.

Then after working out there for a few months, the whole kit and kaboodle goes bankrupt and sells your contract to some other gym. They’ve got five locations. One is 25 miles away. The other four are women-only. That’s what happened to Daniel, and they won’t let him cancel, but just cuz he’s working on his abs doesn’t mean he’s going to take it lying down…

(Photo: numberstumper)


The following is a merge of information I have already forwarded to the AL and OH attorney general offices as well as the Better Business Bureau of Akron OH.

Date: 6/19/2007
Name: Daniel
Age: 25
Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
City, State, Zip: Birmingham, AL 35215-1010
Home Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Work Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

—Info about complaint—
Firm Name: Fair Finance
Address: 1500 Canton Road
Address2: Suite 208
City, State, Zip: Akron, OH 44312
Phone: 800-877-0457

—Details—
Date of incident: 6/8/2007
Did they sign a contract? Yes
Did they inform firm/person of complaint? Yes

Product/Service involved:
Installment Plan for Gym Membership. This company takes out on your credit as a loan and makes monthly payments to your gym on your behalf.

Amount involved: $522.00

Relevant Documentation:

1. Gym Contract with Steel City Fitness (formerly of Birmingham AL)

2. Transfer Letter from Fair Finance (of Akron OH)

3. Called to cancel payments 6/19/2007

Complaint:

I was until recently a member of Steel City Fitness in Birmingham, AL. I took out an installment contract with them in December of 2006 through Fair Financial for $29.00 per month over 2 years. Steel City Fitness went out of business on June 8, 2007.

I was told by the owner (Linda) of Steel City Fitness and the Fair Finance representative I spoke to at the time that I would be debited one more month (June) and then my contract would end.

Yesterday I received a transfer letter – notifying me that my membership was being transferred to 1 of 5 locations. 4/5 of these locations *only admit women* (Riviera Fitness for Women)- thus I am ineligible. I called Fair Financial in regard to this and was told that “since I have options” they were enforcing the contract and I would be required to continue paying them or that they would ruin my credit.

The only one of the locations that admits men is 25 miles away from my home – and the contract states that anything more than 10 miles away allows me to cancel. The representative kept me on hold for 30 minutes reading my contract and running my address through MapQuest – and then told me that since I had an option that they would still enforce the contract.

I did not sign any contract with Riviera Fitness. I signed a contract with Steel City Fitness – which has no more locations as they went bankrupt. I was told that “None of our people would ever say that” when I informed the representative that I was told my contract was ending. I got angry that I was being insinuated as a liar, and the call did not end well except with the promise that “July 16 your payment is due. If you do not pay us this will reflect on your credit.”

Thank you.

BBB Complaint: AA967-9BB66-A34B3-9A438-FD700-793E3-FF

Resolution requested:

I want the contract declared null and void as a Fair Financial representative told me prior to the dispute that my contract would be canceled as Steel City Fitness went bankrupt and offered no locations to its members per the contract I signed with them. Fair Financial offered 4 women’s gyms as a replacement (I am a male) and told me that since I had options (the single co-ed gym that is 25 miles away from my home – the contract specifies 10 miles) that they were going to continue enforcing the contract that I was under the impression had ended. I have contacted the Ohio and Alabama Attorney General offices and will pursue this matter to its conclusion. I have dealt with Fair Finance for nearly 3 years and this is ridiculous to threaten to ruin someone’s credit if they don’t accept the shady deal that is offered.

Daniel to tips
Jun 19

I have faxed the following in writing to get it on written record with the finance company:

To:

Fair Finance
1500 Canton Road Suite 208
Akron, OH 44312
Fax: 800-230-3006

ATTN: Laura

RE: Account cancellation due to terms of contract.

Account Information:

Name: Daniel [redacted]

Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

City/State/Zip: Birmingham, AL 35215-1010

Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Return Fax: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Account at Gym: xxxxxx (not sure if this is the same account number) – this memo was included in the debit: (800-6509786) and my last 4 digits are xxxx.

As you are aware – Steel City Fitness in Birmingham, AL closed its doors on June 8, 2007. I was told at the time of June 1, 2007 when I reported the closing to your office by a Fair Finance representative who knew the owner (Linda) that my contract would end and my last payment would be June 16, 2007.

Yesterday I received a letter informing me that my membership would be moved to one of 5 locations. 4 of these locations only admit women (I am a male) and the 5th location (Riviera Fitness in Midfield) is 25 miles from my home, and 15 miles from the former location of Steel City Fitness. In either case – more than 10 miles away from the location of my former gym is outside the contract stipulations as I was told them by a CSR earlier today (who also insinuated that I was a liar at least 3 times when I told her what I was told on June 1, 2007 leading that call to not end well).

I can apologize for saying ‘damn’ a couple of times due to that – but I also thought that this contract was complete as I was told on June 1, 2007. I am insulted that I was told “since you have options we are enforcing the contract” when my options consist of ladies-only gyms and I was insulted when I was told that “legally we have to stop debiting your account – but if you don’t pay us on July 16 this will be reflected on your credit.”

I have dealt with your company for 3 years, and up until now they have always been friendly and receptive when I ask questions or for assistance.

Today I was kept on hold for nearly 30 minutes while your CSR ran my address through Mapquest against each of the gym locations and ultimately telling me that “since it is within 10 miles you have an option” although checking for myself against both my own address and Steel City Fitness shows that it was 25 miles/15 miles respectively.

I have already made other gym arrangements because I was told on June 1, 2007 that my last debit would be this month since Steel City Fitness was closing. Further – the “options” offered by your company boil down to a single option that falls outside of the contract stipulations that I agreed to with Steel City Fitness.

I am requesting acknowledgment that the contract has been canceled. I was told that there was a ‘cancellation’ fee although I do not remember agreeing to this in the contract. If there is indeed such a fee – please remit a bill to my home address along with written acknowledgment that our business relationship has ended. I do not appreciate having my credit threatened after being called a liar 3 times.

If for some reason you believe that the contract has not ended please send me written correspondence stating such along with the reason(s) including the specific clause within the contract. Since the only gym available falls outside of the 10 mile limit imposed by the existing contract – and since this gym is also nearly 30 miles from my place of residence – I do hope you can see why I believe the terms of the contract has been met.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Daniel to tips
Jun 20
A few updates:

1.) I raised enough hell yesterday that I was finally told that my contract was being canceled – but I requested a written acknowledgment of such to be delivered to my home address. Until I receive that I am going to assume that this decision might be an ‘oops’ and they debit me next month anyway.
2.) I pulled out a copy of my renewal contract with Steel City Fitness that was executed on 12/16/2006. Under the Membership Cancellation section it states that “You may also cancel if Steel City Fitness of Mt. Brook goes out of business and fails to provide facilities at 201 Office Park Drive, Suite 100, Mt. Brook, AL 35223.” And unlike my initial contract of 2004 does not specify that I have to accept facilities within 10 miles.
3.) I am assuming that I have not heard the end of this and there may be more strong-arm tactics to push me into another facility. The only available co-ed facility is in a high crime neighborhood 25 miles from my home.

Thank you for looking into this.

We wish Daniel luck. If he keeps pressing his case, he should get the contract revoked. He can also try doing a charegback on the account they’re debiting.

Moral of the story: only sign up for gyms with month-to-month contracts. — BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. bnet41 says:

    Wow!! That’s crazy. I hope this is resolved for good.

    What is with the new trend of gyms with 3 year memberships? That is so dumb its not funny. I think it’s been going on for a while, but now it seems to really be spreading.

    One year I can kind of understand for some types of gyms, but 3 years is just insane. My life is so different that it was 3 years ago, and I suspect many people are the same.

  2. Daniel-Bham says:

    This is Daniel, I had an initial 2-year contract with the gym that I cancelled before the auto-renewal in December of 2006. I took out another 2 year contract on December 16, 2006 with different terms (one of those being that I had a right of cancellation if the facility went out of business and failed to provide facilities at the specified address).

    Bottom line:
    *I was lied to about the terms of my contract by Fair Finance’s CSR.
    *It was insinuated multiple times that I was a liar by their CSR.
    *My credit score was threatened if I did not accept the new terms.
    *I was offered a mandatory ‘choice’ of 4 different ladies-only fitness centers and a co-ed center that was 25 miles from my home.

    Whether my contract was sold or not – it specified that any holder of the consumer agreement was bound to the same terms. The relevant clause:

    “You may also cancel if Steel City Fitness of Mt. Brook goes out of business and fails to provide facilities at 201 Office Park Drive, Suite 100, Mt. Brook, AL 35223.”

    I had no problem signing another 2 year contract because I go to the gym religiously and felt like I’d renew again after this 2 year contract ended. I’m an IT person and I would (and have) blow up like a balloon if I stuck with nothing but my mouse and keyboard to exercise.

    Then again I’m also someone who understands enough about contracts/responsibility to know when something is not correct.

    They have told me that my contract was canceled – but I will be running my credit report in July and watching for any charges. I also requested written acknowledgment of the cancellation to be mailed to my home address.

    In any event, with the way I was treated by their CSRs I am not just dropping the matter until I am satisfied with the resolution for myself and any other affected members.

  3. dbeahn says:

    Gyms are the WORST when it comes to this kind of crap scam. If I can’t go month to month, I don’t join. Most places, if pressed hard enough, do end up having a month to month option.

  4. rbb says:

    If he really wanted to tweak them a bit more, he should file sex discrimination complaints against the female only gyms…

  5. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I say he starts showing up at the women’s gym and demands to work out there. After all, it’s one of his “options”.

  6. tcp100 says:

    I’m really not sure why so many gyms are like this, but they are. There must be something endemic in the industry.. I imagine that it’s the fact that a lot of people start up, but then get tired of it and stop going, so there’s a high churn rate..

    A lot of gyms though, from local ones to big chains like Bally’s, are downright shady in their behavior.

  7. dirac says:

    Gyms truely are masters of unfair practice, the local golds gym goes out to bars at night and forcefully talks drunken college kids into signing contracts, sometimes leaving these kids unaware of any such commitment in the morning.

  8. So, in Canada a lot of places have municipal recreation facilities, which more often than not have great gyms and pools at good prices, and location-UNspecific memberships.

    We also have YMCA’s here, and in Canada they let you use a Y membership at any location.

    Do they have these things in the states?

  9. morr1025 says:

    Gym contracts are always a bad idea. After one bad experience with Bally Total Fitness I’ll never sign a contract again.

  10. jerseyjokeboy says:

    Most people sign up for gym memberships in January and drop out two weeks later, and gyms make probably the most money out of these people if they put them in a contract. My gym has no contracts to sign, I’ve been there for years now, and I still don’t see any new faces there. It’s a non-chain gym, and it’s always the same people.

  11. jaredharley says:

    I have never heard of a third-party company involved to join a gym – they give you a “loan” to join a gym? That’s strange enough I wouldn’t join just because of the creepy factor. I like to do my business with a company person-to-person (I don’t even like automatic withdrawals from my account – nobody moves my money but me!)

    On a side note, my wife and I just joined a local gym – local in both proximity and ownership (it’s not a chain). Their membership policy is different than any other gym we’ve been to – we signed a year contract, and after the year is up, our membership changes to a month-to-month – and it’s like this for every member. My boss, who turned us on to the place, signed up a few years ago, and she said they did the same thing. They’ve also been around since 1971, so I don’t expect they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

  12. SadSam says:

    Gym contracts suck, prepay for a few months in cash and then determine if you are going to stick with it. Even then, don’t sign a contract pay by the month or sign up for 3 or 6 mos. and again prepay in cash.

  13. clementine says:

    A local news station did an investigation of gyms a few years back. Most gyms were found to give different rates according to how attractive you are and also refuse to give you the rates over the phone and require you to come in and tour the facilities. There were more shifty practices found as well. No wonder the home gym industry has taken off they way it has.

  14. Islingtonian says:

    @Pope John Peeps II: Many cities have municipal rec centers with gyms, and the Y network is pretty good across the U.S. Unfortunately, there aren’t any of these facilities in easy access of my house, so I joined the big chain that’s a 5-minute walk away. But no direct debit! Never!!

    If I move someplace where I have a car, though, I’ll probably sign up at the Y or something similar.

  15. acambras says:

    @Pope John Peeps II:

    Yes, a lot of the Y’s here are members of the AWAY program, which means Always Welcome At YMCA. But in my experience, YMCA chapters vary tremendously from area to area — in facilities, services, fees, and AWAY program participation.

    The location where I was most recently a member had really inflated prices for singles. Childless couples were in the same fee bracket as “family” memberships, so couples without children paid the same as couples with ten children. The inflated fees of singles and childless couples seemed to subsidize a lot of children’s programs/services, like daycare, swimming lessons, and summer camp. I admire the work the Y does for communities, and I’m not anti-child, but I was looking for a low-cost place to work out, and the Y wasn’t it.

    Add to that the cuts in services that I did use (e.g., cutting pool hours), and the fact that if I wanted to work out at a Y branch near my office (about 25 miles from home), I would have to pay a $2 per workout fee (since they weren’t an AWAY participant). If I end up moving somewhere else, I’ll certainly check out the YMCA there, but I no longer deal with the Y around here.

  16. virgilstar says:

    All gyms are a joke. Get a bicycle, ride everywhere, eat less crap, problem solved. The whole notion of going to a regimented specific place for the purpose of physical exercise is just completely alien to me. If your lifestyle dictates that a gym is necessary, it is your lifestyle that’s the problem. A gym is not a good solution.

  17. acambras says:

    @clementine:

    The new LA Fitness in my town was like that when I called them. “Dave” was really reluctant to give me any numbers over the phone and was really pushing for me to make an appointment to come in and tour the facility. He ACTUALLY SAID, “Well, you wouldn’t buy a BMW without taking it for a test drive first.”

    I responded, “I wouldn’t CONSIDER buying ANY car without having some idea of how much it costs.”

    His slimeballism was such a turnoff that I vowed never to set foot into LA Fitness.

  18. Peeved Guy says:

    Zoinks! Just reading the headline of this article, I had the expectation of a “DUH” thread (The gym ripped you off? DUH!).

    But this sucks.

    Makes me wonder what type of corporate culture is in place at companies that give consumers this much crap for trying to cancel their contracts. Why would the CSR be suck a jerk about one customer wanting to cancel? Simple explanation is that it is drilled into them to not let anyone cancel otherwise its their ass.

    Good luck Daniel.

  19. cademan60 says:

    The same thing happened to my parents, when a local chain of gyms closed one location which was closest to their house. They were not able to get a refund from the gym, but were able to get a refund from Visa or their credit union, like a chargeback.

    That being said, even though LA Fitness seems to be a big company that would do contracts, they only do month-to-month. I joined about 8 months ago, and they had $0 down for a sale and it was $25/month, no contract or anything, just billed monthly. There are no cancel penalties.

  20. acambras says:

    @virgilstar:

    The only reason I wanted a gym is because here in New England, outdoor workouts in the wintertime aren’t always possible.

    And a lot of people find it easier to work out where a lot of other people are working out, vs. exercising solo.

    That said, I’ve been enjoying the summer weather with a lot of outdoor activities, and I only go to the fitness room at our apartment complex when the weather’s really bad.

  21. bnet41 says:

    @virgilstar:
    Well, that comment is a little shortsighted. Not all people join gyms to work out on exercise equipment only. Some join to also use the hot tubs, pools, and such. Many people join gyms to use Tennis, Basketball, volleyball and Racquetball/Handball or squash courts.

    Most gyms are a whole lot more than just weightlifting equipment.

    Someone above also covered the weather aspect for those of us who deal with long winters.

  22. tcp100 says:

    @virgilstar: “All gyms are a joke. Get a bicycle, ride everywhere, eat less crap, problem solved. “

    Hmm, nice try, but that kinda depends on where you live. I’ve got 15 miles of freeways between home and work that a bicyclist would last about 30 seconds on. Couple that with the fact that I wouldn’t be caught dead living in the city, and that there are no sidewalks or trails near my house, and the gym is the only reasonable option, really.

    Not everyone’s the urban bike messenger wanna be type, nor does everyone live out in the sticks where they can pretend they’re in Chariots of Fire in their own backyard. Thanks for the suggestions, though, glad you got it all figured out for us.

  23. RandomHookup says:

    Perhaps we should merge this with the Gawker thread on the gayest gym in NYC, so we can understand why people really go to the gym.

  24. MandM813 says:

    @tcp100:

    Haha, “Chariots of Fire”

  25. junglee069 says:

    I have one thing to say – Life Time Fitness. No, I don’t work there, have any vested interest, or represent them. I am, however, a member.

    No contracts. None. Yes, they are on the pricey side. After having surveyed all the other gyms, it is the mother of all gyms. LA Fitness comes close, but really can’t touch Life Time.

  26. timmus says:

    In some places it sounds like the market really is wide open for a co-op gym, run by people truly interested in fitness rather profiteers and slimeballs.

  27. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I generally tell people to join a gym with the most locations and buy a membership that allows you to use any of them. I’m not sure about other chain gyms, but 24 Hour Fitness has different levels of membership. You can buy a cheaper membership that lets you use one location. Or you can pay a few bucks more for a membership that lets you use any of them, except the “upscale” locations. Also, they offer pre-paid plans where you pay a lump sum up front that’s good for 3 years. After your 3 years is up, you pay a low annual fee. Mine is $20!

    If gym membership doesn’t appeal to you, then your local community college could be an option. A lot of them offer some sort of fitness or weightlifting class. You get instruction on how to perform exercises and you get to use the school gym.

  28. startertan says:

    I remember when I tried to quit Bally’s. Ooh, what an adventure. It only took 6 months, a note from my doctor about “pain” in my leg and that I couldn’t work out for a year (very important to specify a time), several phone calls, and fax upon fax of my documentation. When all was said and done it took 5 months, they credited back to me 5 months worth of gym fees…less processing, this, that and the other. In the end I should’ve gotten back $350 but only got about $180. I considered myself lucky.

    Signing with a gym (or Kim’s Karate…I do martial arts) is like signing your soul over to the devil…only the devil is typically more forthcoming.

  29. IC18 says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers

    I second that.

  30. Crazytree says:

    legally here’s your position:

    1. most contracts can be assigned
    2. this contract was validly assigned unless there was a non-assignability clause in the contract which I doubt
    3. the assigned contract still has the same legal effect
    4. your contract is cancellable due to the 10-mile clause

    give written notice that you are cancelling based on the 10-mile rule. cite the provision in your contract. hopefully there’s not an arbitration clause in the contract, or else you can threaten a small claims action.

  31. ahwannabe says:

    I could have gone the whole rest of my life without seeing the “Physical” video again.

  32. zolielo says:

    I have read about the loan “scam” with a wide range of big name gyms.

    What I did to avoid it is sign up with the YMCA. They insist on automatic payments but there is no contract. To double save guard I setup a checking account just for the Y so that if there is any trouble I can cancel the checking account as well.

  33. urban_ninjya says:

    yeah, long term gym contracts suck. I was at Bally’s before, and their sales rep told me, “Oh, don’t worry about the 2 year contract, you can just cancel when you want with little penalty.” Big load of BS, it turned out it was 2 year contract that was paid up front using some creative financing which they disguise as a monthly payment. Then there were all these early cancelation penalties, etc… Moral of the lesson, don’t trust sales reps.

  34. TWinter says:

    This inspired me to pull out my gym contract and give it a read. Looks like the only way I can get out of it is if they go out of business or if I become permanently disabled, move far away, or die. Lovely!

  35. Daniel-Bham says:

    @Crazytree:

    There is a clause in the contract that states the following:

    “You may also cancel if Steel City Fitness of Mt. Brook goes out of business and fails to provide facilities at 201 Office Park Drive, Suite 100, Mt. Brook, AL 35223.”

    The 10-mile radius clause was not even in my contract – the CSR just told me it was.

    Even if it was – the only eligible gym was outside of that (she lied about as well after keeping me on hold for 30 minutes).

    Another important clause:

    “Any holder of this consumer agreement is subject to all claims and defenses which the debtor could assert against the seller or goods or services obtained pursuant here to or with the proceeds hereof.”

    Someone can buy my contract all day long – the way I read it is pretty iron-clad as to what is allowed under that.

    I have filed a complaint with the FTC in regards to the CSR threatening my credit being a violation of Federal Law (FCBA).

    Supposedly it has been canceled – but I should not have had to deal with the hassle I was put through. They have not apologized, just stated that they were ‘waiving’ cancellation feeds that were not in the contract. No telling how many other former members of the Gym are being drug through the dirt as well.

    I fully intend to put as much pressure in my power as a consumer to bear on this company’s practices. There are some people who get bullied and intimidated into compliance – not me. I’m going to shine as big of a spotlight as I know how to help others who were duped.

    Thanks everyone.

  36. cmac says:

    I had a similar issue with the same company, Fair Finance, about 10 years ago, so this is nothing new for them. I had to send a copy of my drivers license or a utility bill as proof that my residence was more than 10 miles away from any of their locations. Consider sending them a utility bill as proof of address and a copy of the mapquest distance.

  37. timd1969 says:

    @acambras:
    I work out at LA Fitness. After joining Bally’s right out of college, I vowed never to sign another long-term gym contract. LA Fitness has a 60 day cancellation rule, which seems reasonable.

  38. acambras says:

    @timd1969:

    Good for you — seriously. I agree that a 60-day cancellation rule is reasonable.

    My experience with the local LA Fitness was such that, being so turned off by the hard sell tactics I was hit with over the phone, I decided to take them off my list of possibilities.

    Since then, I’ve run into other people who were also turned off by LA Fitness’ hard sell, at least at that location. I’ve talked with a couple of people who had free two-week trial passes. After a few days of being hounded during workouts by salespeople breathing down their necks to join, they never went back.

  39. joeblevins says:

    Seems like your issue shouldn’t be with fair finance. You borrowed money from them to pay another party. The gym has been paid for. You still owe the money you borrowed. But I can see that the gym should refund your money. Wreck your car, still gotta pay the bank.

    Or did I read this whole thing wrong?

  40. For those of you in the midwest, we’re with Cardinal Fitness (small midwestern gym chain) which has very reasonable monthly prices ($19.95 single, $31.95 couple) and ONLY does month-to-month memberships. (They also have excellent babysitting rates.) It’s only cardio and weights, no pools or racquetball, but we’ve been quite pleased.

    @acambras: “Childless couples were in the same fee bracket as “family” memberships, so couples without children paid the same as couples with ten children.”

    THIS. MAKES. ME. CRAZY. I love kids, I don’t mind special family rates, but it makes me absolutely berserk that we can either pay two individual fees or one family fee that comes with all kinds of benefits like “Four free passes for children under 12 so your kids can bring friends along” and “special admission to the zoo festival.” I would TOTALLY pay the same as a family rate as a couple if we could get things like “passes to bring your ADULT FRIENDS” and “special admission to the cocktails in the garden” instead of useless kiddie perks.

    (Although my beef isn’t so much with gyms or YMCAs — mine’s with local arts organizations. We’d belong to a lot more of them if they had “couples” memberships. Everywhere here even has GRANDPARENT memberships but WE DON’T NEED KIDDIE BENEFITS! I truly don’t mind paying the same as the “family rate” to organizations we support; a childless couple is generally financially better situated than a similarly-salaried couple with children, I want to support the organizations, and I want kids to grow up to support the same things so they SHOULD be inexpensively exposed to the arts. But it chaps my hide and really makes the membership a lot less useful when I can’t go see an exhibit with a girlfriend over our lunch hour, but I COULD take all my neighbors’ kids on the entire block.)

  41. queen_elvis says:

    @joeblevins: It looks to me like Daniel signed up for a payment plan and GOT signed up for a loan without his explicit knowledge.

    Has anyone ended a Bally contract in the last year or so? My contract runs out in August (after which I will run screaming to the YMCA), and while my friend said they just stopped charging her when she asked them to, I do not trust them. And ballysucks.com doesn’t seem to exist anymore. I guess I should write them a letter and CC my bank.

  42. laurenl842 says:

    I just recently joined a brand new gym with a few friends after taking full advantage of the “free week trial” they were offering.

    We all decided to pre-pay for a full year and it worked out great. Since we were a group of 5 or more, they hooked us up with the corporate discount and waived the initial fee. We also got 1/2 off for pre-paying.

    We only signed a contract outlining what happens if we die or they go out of business within the time that we’ve paid for. Didn’t have to put a credit card on file or sign over my firstborn child.

    Such a refreshing change from the Gold’s Gym debacle I had a few years ago.

  43. mantari says:

    I remember the last gym membership with a contract that I got into. I treated it like I was negotiating for a used car, and boy did they seem to fit right along with that method.

    Go towards the end of the month. Sign up sometime WELL AFTER the first of the year when they’ve got a mad membership rush. Do those two things and your salesperson will be HUNGRY.

    As for a month-to-month price, or a year prepaid price (that goes month-to-month afterwards). Insist on it. If they can’t / won’t give it to you, leave.

    Talk them down on price. Tell them you don’t need all of _x_ services like daycare and this that and the other thing.

    Don’t believe anything they say. “We never offered a membership as low as you’re asking.” Bullshit. They’ll feed you a lot of bullshit. Just know that they’re lying to you in order to get the most money they can.

    Drag ‘em down, and reach terms or leave. If you really like the place, you could probably set up an appointment with some other hungry salesperson.

  44. mantari says:

    Yes. Also, if you’re prepaying, make sure you don’t give them a credit card (unless it is about to expire, perhaps) and pay them with a money order or cash, not your checking account.

    If they don’t have your account information, they can’t start drawing funds, say, once your pre-paid membership ends.

  45. mantari says:

    Oh… go in with a false name, address, telephone. Make one up. If they ask to see ID right away, come up with a story. If it doesn’t work, leave.

    Many times they’ll hit you with an ‘amazing offer’ that is good until you walk out the door. Then the price will be twice as high (so they say). (They have your name to enforce that, right? You are Bob Enzyte, aren’t you?)

    Likely, this ‘only good right now’ thing is not true, but if you didn’t give them your real name to begin with, they don’t know that you’ve been there before. And if you think you could have gotten a better deal, all you have to do is come back and speak with a different sales rep.

    Aside from a pressure tactic on their end, it is also designed to prevent someone from coming back a few times to negotiate a sweeter deal, which you want to do.

  46. Daniel-Bham says:

    Seems like your issue shouldn’t be with fair finance. You borrowed money from them to pay another party. The gym has been paid for. You still owe the money you borrowed. But I can see that the gym should refund your money. Wreck your car, still gotta pay the bank.

    Or did I read this whole thing wrong?

    The only contract I’ve signed is a single document between myself, Steel City Fitness, and Fair Finance.

    This contract specifies terms, membership cancellation, and a “request for preauthorized payment plan” which specifies my payment method and requested the third parties services to charge me the payments for the gym directly.

    Specified also: “Any holder of this consumer agreement is subject to all claims and defenses which the debtor could assert against the seller or goods or services obtained pursuant hereto or with the proceeds hereof, recovery hereunder by the debtor shall not exceed amounts paid by the debtor hereunder.”

    Under Membership Cancellation, I am given a few rights:

    I can cancel within 3 days for any reason.
    I can cancel if I die or have a permanent disability.
    I can cancel if I move more than 35 miles from an affiliated area.
    I can cancel if Steel City Fitness of Mt. Brook goes out of business and fails to provide facilities at 201 Office Park Drive, Suite 100, Mt. Brook, AL 35223.

    Those cancellation terms apply to all parties to the contract as it is all a single document.

  47. lihtox says:

    @acambras: In a New England winter, just *being* outside can be a workout. :) Try walking to the store in three feet of snow….

  48. krunk4ever says:

    I always hate it when you guys post a “moral of the story” and make it appear to be a 1 size fit all suggestion, but in reality, it’s not.

    month-to-month contracts are nice, but you often miss out on other perks such as lower price, bonus month, cash back, freebies, etc.

    Also a contract allows you to lock down on a low price. When I was on a month-to-month contract, my rent got raised every 3 months, but I was planning to move out soon anyway, hence I kept it as month-to-month.

  49. TWinter says:

    @krunk4ever: True – my gym offers month-to-month plans, but it’s much cheaper if you sign on for a year.

  50. kaikhor says:

    My first comment has nothing to do with gyms, but with the location. As someone from Akron, OH (but no longer living there, thank goodness) I really doubt the BBB will do a whole lot. Never were a helpful bunch.

    Now for the gym. Memberships are bad, I’ve learned way too well. I can understand why you want to join a gym, but I’ve never seen such terrible things as contracts with them (which I got sucked into once myself. Never again….)

  51. Ponygirl says:

    @BEN POPKEN
    “Moral of the story: only sign up for gyms with month-to-month contracts.”

    Can you please find me a single gym with a month to month contract? I haven’t been able to find one in years.

    I have also had to deal with Riviera. They do not let you out of contracts. We joined a gym in New Orleans and explained that we might be moving to SF in a few months. The intake guy said no problem it would simply cost us $150.00 to get out of contract. When we did move to SF (rather Oakland) they would not release us, saying the contract said $150.00 to get out of the contract is we moved 45 miles from an affiliated gym. There was one within 25 miles so too bad. I explained I didn’t drive and was told “Too bad”. I reported them to the BBB. Nothing came of it. Finally we closed the bank account and my boyfriend got literally daily calls from them asking for huge sums of money for months before they allowed us to pay 150.00. It took months for them to provide in writing an agreement that this 150.00 would release us from our contract. Good luck with that.

    We decided never to join a contract gym again. When I joined Courthouse Athletics in Oakland I made them let me pay cash every month and while they didn’t want to when I walked away they called me and said it would be fine. That being said every time I tried to pay cash for the month all the employees had no idea what to do and would not accept my payment so eventually I had a balance of $250.00 and they canceled my account.

    Gyms are bad news. I can’t believe how hard it is to get a gym membership and just go to the gym. No wonder we are all so fat.

  52. Ponygirl says:

    @tcp100:

    I think the point was you don’t need to spend money to exercise. While I think Virgilstar’s post is over simplified, I find it hard to believe you live in a location so extreme that no options for physical activity exist other than paying a gym.

  53. snowferret says:

    I never dug that whole “women only gym” thing. Isn’t that sexual discrimination?

  54. Msgundam84 says:

    @snowferret:
    Many women don’t liked being leered at by men when working out. My gym
    has an open room for ‘jazzercise’ and dance aerobics. There’s always
    about 30-40 women of all ages with ONE guy (old, young, whatever….but
    ONE [creepy]) guy.

    Dan should record any new phone calls and contact an attorney and sue.

    I can cancel if Steel City Fitness of Mt. Brook goes out of business
    and fails to provide facilities at 201 Office Park Drive, Suite 100,
    Mt. Brook, AL 35223.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^
    That alone should make it plain and simple as to why he has a reason to cancel.