Bally Total Fitness Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chicago-based Bally Total Fitness is out of shape financially—they just filed chapter 11 bankruptcy after struggling to attract new members.

The company says that members and employees of its 375 clubs will not be affected by the bankruptcy, according to Reuters. According to the court papers Ballys has $396.8 million of assets and $761.3 million of debts.

Ouch.

Bally Total Fitness files Chapter 11 bankruptcy [Washington Post]

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  1. hustler says:

    Good. This is one of the few companies who recieved such a poor reputation for unethical business tactics that consumers nation-wide avoid them.

  2. skittlbrau says:

    maybe they went bankrupt buying all the new shiny treadmills at my gym

  3. FatLynn says:

    Is this a result of bad business practices, or is there just no place in the market for a crappy low-end gym?

  4. Buran says:

    Maybe if they hadn’t mistreated people so badly, they wouldn’t have lost so much business.

  5. Transuranic says:

    Hate to break the party line of ‘bah they r teh suxx0rs!1′ in the comments so far, but I haven’t had a bad experience with them.

    It’s advisable to visit the club locations in rich suburbs, though, instead of the downtown ones closer to where actual humans live ;)

  6. bambino says:

    Good. Now if only Gold’s would follow.

  7. hustler says:

    @Transuranic: Its actually better to stay away from corporate gyms that charge a bunch of dumb fees. Find a gym that’s full of body builders and powerlifters with no stupid fees. I worked out at a bally’s about 9 years ago, and they never actually stop billing you. They are one of the few gyms that will actually take its members to court after they cancel and don’t run the gamit of hoop jumping.

  8. queen_elvis says:

    @FatLynn: There’s tons of demand for a crappy low-end gym, at least in LA. The Bally’s near me is so popular that it’s impossible to park there. That is one of several reasons why I switched to a more expensive but better gym when my contract came up. (Other reasons for the switch: mandatory three-year contracts, shady business practices, absurd demand for equipment in the after-work rush, equipment is never where it’s supposed to be, crappy class schedule, and a truly gross locker-room experience involving a maxi pad.)

  9. William C Bonner says:

    I had dropped out of my ballys membership after having it for a few years. After a couple of years using more expensive Gyms, the national office sent me an invite to come back. No long term commitment. No start up fees. Under $9 a month. I snapped it up, and have been happy with it at that price.

  10. balthisar says:

    Am I wrong here — Bally’s Total Fitness was Vic Tanny, which went bankrupt and come out of bankruptcy with the new name and no obligation to their Vic Tanny members?

  11. logicology says:

    @baa: Shiny?! My Bally’s equipment looks like crap.

    “The company says that members and employees of its 375 clubs will not be affected by the bankruptcy”

    ^ That’s a shame… I’ve been looking for a way to get out of my contract for a while.

  12. leftistcoast says:

    Well, that totally explains why the Bally’s in downtown Boston stopped offering towel service two months ago…and why the hot water was out for two days in a row this week…and why all the equipment is in disrepair.

    It does not, however, explain why half of the ‘personal trainers’ are d-bags who won’t let you work in on equipment they’re using or put the weights away when they’re done….

  13. chstwnd says:

    I distinctly remember that when I signed up, it was at a lifelong renewal rate of $6/month. The sales guy explicitly said that was the case.
    First time I renewed, they honored that rate. But the following year, they pointed out that the checkbox on the back of the contract (in LEETLE TINY print) was not actually checked. So the rate started creeping up from there. The other fine print stated that they were allowed to increase the rate by the GREATER of a)$1 per month per year OR b) 10% per month per year (yes, that’s considerably more than cost-of-living). Doesn’t take a genius to figure out which rate they’d use at certain times. Granted, it would take about 15 years for my monthly rates to get up to what most of my friends paid at the time I signed my Bally’s contract, but my friends are far from shrewd. I still felt like I’d been cheated.

  14. umbriago says:

    I had a Bally’s membership – in 1989! I had it for a year or two, let it expire. It was fine.

    But what I didn’t know was that Bally’s could make a mint as bounty hunters. Because TO THIS DAY, almost twenty years later, I get letters from them: WE WANT YOU BACK. I got one last week.

    No matter where I’ve moved, they find me. If I moved to Fiji, I have no doubt that within six months I’d get a Bally’s letter – WE WANT YOU BACK.

    They are amazing.

  15. urban_ninjya says:

    The gym itself wasn’t that bad when I use to be a member. But they’re membership policy 14 years ago when I was a member was to disguise a 2 year financing arrangement as a membership fee. Screwing me of 100’s of dollars when I had to cancel before 2 years. I’m so glad they’re out of business, gyms that don’t do straight up month to month contracts are bad in my book.

  16. humphrmi says:

    Hey just a comment about all those folks saying “Good, they deserve it” – Chapter 11 bankruptcy is as close to corporate welfare as you get in America. Bally’s will get to keep your money, keep most of the money they borrowed, keep their assets, and nothing will stop them from continuing to scam people.

    American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey put it best when he said (paraphrased) that it would be better to eliminate corporate bankruptcies and let companies that couldn’t cut it go into liquidation. Unfortunately, that won’t happen in this case.

  17. majortom1981 says:

    They where very expensive. My local gym was much cheaper then they were. Bally’s also insisted that I sign a contract. I dont like signing a contract and my local gym allows me to pay monthly.

  18. SOhp101 says:

    Why would anyone sign up for Bally’s??? Even for a monthly contract they STILL make you sign up for a 3 year contract.

    I will NEVER recommend them to anyone after they took advantage of the fact that my mother speaks little English and signed her up for one of the worst plans I’ve ever heard of. They’re about the equivalent to car salesmen in my mind.

  19. no.no.notorious says:

    go planet fitness! i dig the judgment free zone! all egos are left at the door! yeah!

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    Their sales people give used car guys a good name. When renewing (after a promo year), they lied to me, tried swapping contracts under my nose, tried to gyp my roommie out of a finder’s fee, refused to let me take the many (many) page contract home for a read AND the jackass boasted of how many guys he cold-cocked at nightclubs because it’s “fun”.

    (He said he didn’t do that with Asian guys since they go all ten-on-one on his pasty ass when he did tried that stunt in high school. “Unfair,” he whined. My reply, “Sounds fair to me, fatty.”)

    Any company that would try ripping off eight times over a customer willing to pay them money, then boasting of recreational assault deserves bankrupcy.

  21. ludwigk says:

    My girlfriend and I signed up for Bally’s when we got a job working in Peabody, MA. The gym was connected to the mall we were working in. As far as I can tell, the facilities were fine, and the crowd level wasn’t too bad.

    We ended up being too f’ing lazy and almost never went to the gym, even though it was right there. That’s our fault entirely. After standing on your feet for 8 hours, you just don’t feel like hitting the stair master.

    About 10 months into our 2 year contracts, we were laid off, and decided to move to Maine. Once there, we were cutting everything extraneous from our budget. We tried to cancel our gym membership several times to no avail.

    Then, my girlfriend noticed the clause that stated if you moved, and the new location either didn’t have a Bally’s, or the Bally’s there did not have a facility that you originally signed up to have access to, then you could cancel your membership with no penalty.

    My girlfriend went down to the Portland Bally’s posing as a customer and took a tour of the gym. While there, she noticed that there was no swimming pool, whereas the Peabody gym had a pool/spa/sauna setup. Bally’s terminated our memberships with no penalty in the next couple days.

    The moral of the story is that having a smart girlfriend rocks. Also, hope this info comes in handy to anyone looking to get out of their gym membership. (If they still have this policy)

  22. Msgundam84 says:

    Tried a free three-day trial pass.

    I say three days because when I took a coupon off their website for a
    free week, they refused to honor it. After some arguing, the manager
    got involved and said they don’t particapte in online specials (I
    called bullshit). When I threatened to contact corporate over the
    matter the manager balked and allowed a three day pass.

    I agreed and made sure to falsify all my information except first and
    last name. The gym wasn’t bad, the equipment was up to date and the
    facilities were clean. Just the fees were insane. I remember a
    ‘sign-up’ fee of well over $200 and then a ‘low’ monthly rate of $25 to
    $45 a month depending on how long of a contract you purchased. I never
    returned after my pass expired.

    They wouldn’t be bankrupt if their prices were lower. Oh, and if they weren’t so shady…..

  23. startertan says:

    @ludwigk:

    You must’ve been born with a shooting star coming out of your arse =P

    I’ve heard of WAY too many stories where people prove they moved too far from a Bally’s or Gold’s and Bally’s still charges them. You are the only person I’ve ever heard from who had a hassle free cancellation.

    I joined Bally’s after graduating college and was stupid and got the hi-faluting plan. Needless to say when I found out I was paying double what most were I cancelled. I had my doctor write me a note saying I couldn’t work out. It took 6 months of phone calls and faxes to get it worked out. In the end I got back all 6 months of membership dues…minus processing fees, etc. etc. In the end I only got back about 40% of the dues…I considered myself lucky. Lesson learned.

    Althought I’ve heard the evils of Gold’s as well. I signed a 2.5 year contract. Went to the gym, membership expired, I stopped going to the gym. No fuss, no muss. I joined when they were still building up so they offered reduced rates and an extra 6 months. Most ‘success’ stories involve people who got in early. I was only paying $21/month. After they officially opened. New members were paying $57/month.

    I always say, signing a contract with a gym is like signing a deal with Satan…except you at least know that Satan is up to no good.

    Also, be wary of martial arts schools. I’ve been doing it for 12 years now. Signing with them can almost be as bad as signing with a gym. Standard consumer rules apply, ask around, do your research, read the fine print, and buyer beware!

  24. hop says:

    they oughta fold…..my son signed up about 12 years ago….after a couple of months he went to college in n.carolina…..according to the contract, if you relocated to an area where no center was closer than 25 miles, you could cancel the contract…..my son wrote to inform them there were no centers anywhere near his college location….didn’t do any good…they hounded him, and us, for payments……they finally turned his case over to a collection agency…..as late as last year we were getting calls from the collection agency…..

  25. beyond says:

    Honestly, I think its pretty disgusting that they can file for bankruptcy and still stay in business.

  26. balthisar says:

    @beyond: yeah, but isn’t it equally disgusting that you can file for bankruptcy and keep everything that you financed that caused you to get into bankruptcy?

    This is only a chapter 11, a financial reorganization. It gives them breathing room, but doesn’t eliminate all of their debts.

  27. Blueskylaw says:

    It’s nice to see that those who bought the stock (BFTH) at $37.56 will now get screwed.
    Fiscal fitness anyone?

  28. lucabrazi says:

    it could be better, but one month at the nicer gym in my neighborhood costs what a year at Ballys does.

  29. killavanilla says:

    My only issue with BTF is that they purchased crunch and converted my favorite, nearly empty BTF into a crunch. Then, when they sold Crunch to a private company to raise some dough, I lost my membership priveledges at that location. My only option was to cancel my BTF affiliation and sign up for a new contract with Crunch for twice the monthly fee. I did not. Now, the closest BTF is a meat market where girls and boys go to meet and hook up. I just want to workout, but get very uncomfortable when girls stare and hate to watch others flirt while I lift. Is it wrong to want to go to a gym to work out?
    Here’s the deal people. If the best you can think of to meet people of the opposite sex is to scour the gym, you need some help. LAME! Do you do the same thing when you go to the post office? Scour for people to date? How about when you are on line in the bank? Are you flirting with every one around you in the hopes of meeting your future partner? Then why the gym? A gym is a place of business and some of us are there to actually work out. Crazy, I know.
    But I digress….
    I’ve been with BTF for a long time now and my rates are very low. If I could just find a decent gym closer to where I live that was within the same price range, I’d consider switching.
    I found a gym very close to my house, but they wanted $100 a month.
    That is nuts.
    I hope they figure out how to get profitable and turn things around.

  30. Chicago7 says:

    “Why can’t I just pay as I go?” was my question to Bally’s and the answer “You can’t” and that ended it.

    I’m now happily ensconced in a health club that cost about 10x per month what Bally’s cost.

  31. skittlbrau says:

    There are two Ballys proximate to my office. The one I don’t go to is tiny, cramped, and constantly packed.

    The one I go to just got 25 new treadmills, and the staff is helpful, etc. My hearts for ballys probably are helped by the fact that they cost at least half of what other gyms in NYC cost.

    That being said, I think I will upgrade to NYHRC when I am done with my contract.

  32. catita says:

    I have wanted out of my BTF contract for nearly as long as I’ve been a member. However, due to the limited number of gyms in my local area along with the horror stories of people trying to get out of BTF contracts, I came to the conclusion that it was easier to continue my membership.

    The news of the bankruptcy has arrived just after I finished paying off my contract, which has further cemented my belief that BTF is in fact the portal to hell.

    I can’t vouch for all of the BTF locations, but my local branch is completely awful. Parking is difficult, the classes are limited, and the facilities are dirty. There are usually at least two elliptical machines out of order, and the small selection of weight machines are frequently busy for extended periods of time. The crowd is largely made up of guys who would rather gawk at girls than exercise, and on my last few visits, the air conditioning was either not on, or was on so low as to not be effective.

    In addition to the wonderful conditions above, there is a treadmill held together with a BUNGEE CORD! Surely that violates at least one safety ordinance.

    Despite BTF’s reassurances of continued access to their facilities, I’m more than a little concerned that I’ve paid for service that I’m never going to get.

  33. and their ads are still running…

    for shame!

  34. lakai says:

    This is great news for me being a vendor of their major competitor!! This is what happens when you use 80% of your ad budget on nationwide television commericals

  35. synergy says:

    @logicology: You too? I’m glad I’m not the only one…