Joining Lucille Roberts Gym Is Like Joining The Mafia

Fitness club chain Lucille Roberts is apparently notorious for illegally preventing customers from canceling their memberships. Now a once-scorned former-Brooklyn customer who hasn’t been able to cancel her membership even though she moved to London has started a website in the hopes of exposing the (alleged) scam—LucilleRobbers.com:

My work out experience was fine, as I didn’t mind the bad smell, chipping paint, or inattentive staff. The problem came when I tried to cancel my membership. I moved to London in April 2007 (less than 2 months after joining), but they refused to cancel my membership and continued to charge my credit card each month. Under my two year contract is a section entitling me to a no fee cancellation if I move outside of the Lucille Roberts catchments area. They demanded proof of my move, which I supplied. Apparently, 3,000 miles away isn’t far enough to be considered outside the catchment area!

On a technicality, they rejected the first set of paperwork: a copy of my London lease and a utility bill (the lease was not admissiable). So I did what they said and sent two utility bills instead. Still I was charged. They didn’t accept one of my utility bills! Apparently “British Gas” is not an acceptable utility company!!!

I have called them several times (long distance, mind you), and mailed them and to absolutely no satisfaction. The staff is unprofessional and rude. I have jumped through every hoop they have set for me and still I am left with a monthly charge.

Sadly I am left to conclude that my little ‘cheap’ gym in Brooklyn was in fact a con. They clearly have no intention of stopping charging me when they satisfy themselves that I have moved to London. Their aim is nothing short than to drag the process out as long as possible and to extort as much money from me as possible.

Yes, sadly I am left to conclude that Lucille Roberts are robbers.

Not allowing members to cancel if they move 25 miles away from the nearest gym or suffer from a physical condition that prevents them from exercising is illegal in New York City. Here’s a NYT article from 1999 in which the chain ran afoul of the law and was facing $150,000 in fines:

Jules Polonetsky, the Consumer Affairs Commissioner, said yesterday that the chain, which has branches throughout the city, would face an administrative law judge on Jan. 28 to answer 19 complaints, half of all the agency’s current complaints against health clubs in New York City.

One member, Melissa Boyle, a 19-year-old dental assistant from Brooklyn, said she mailed 10 letters to Lucille Roberts, asking the gym to cancel her membership and stop billing her credit card a membership fee of $31.49 a month because she suffered from a condition that causes the dislocation of her kneecaps. In addition, two of Ms. Boyle’s doctors sent notes informing the health club that they had advised her to stop exercising. It wasn’t until the Department of Consumer Affairs stepped in that the gym stopped charging her, she said.

Under state law, Mr. Polonetsky said, ”if there is a physical disability that keeps you from using the gym for six months, then you’re entitled to a refund” for that period.

The law also says that members who move 25 miles from the gym’s nearest location are entitled to void the contract. Similarly, members can void the contract if they change their minds about joining within three days of signing the contract.

”Lucille Roberts violated the law in their contracts, which state that the contract can be canceled only if there is a permanent disability,” Mr. Polonetsky said at a news conference in the 92d Street Y. He said complaints were also filed against Lucille Roberts by the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s office.

It’s the time of year when people join gyms, so if you’re considering signing up—be sure to research the gym with the BBB and try to avoid signing a contract if you can.

LucilleRobbers (Thanks, Doree!)
Fines Sought Against Health Club Over Refusals to Cancel [NYT]

RELATED: How To Negotiate Your Gym Membership Like A Diva

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. DallasDMD says:

    Chargeback?

  2. homerjay says:

    IIRC, a chargeback instantly costs the merchant something like $25 per occurrence- whether they win the dispute or not. That would be fun to chargeback every month’s payment.

  3. Buran says:

    Just keep filing a chargeback since they are now in breach of contract due to the clause that says that if you move, the contract is over. They have no cause to continue charging. Also contact the NY AG’s office.

  4. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Chargeback!

  5. QuantumRiff says:

    I dig the chargeback idea.. I can see it now.. The gym calls visa to complain about the chargebacks, says “they didn’t really move to london…” Visa says, Yes they did…

  6. jamesdenver says:

    Why not just changed the credit card #? Yeah it’s a hassle if you have it linked to a bunch of accounts, but seems worth it in this case.

    Then watch your credit report close too.

  7. inno says:

    @homerjay:
    I was always curious, can they then send you to collections and/or screw up your credit history?

  8. forgottenpassword says:

    @jamesdenver:

    I think that the credit card company can still allow charges on a cancelled card…. as long as you originally approved the charges (I think meaning that you signed a contract for monthly charges). If you have a new card, then they will link the charges to that. If you cancelled all cards they(your credit card company) will just send it into collections.

    Gotta love that crap huh?

    Makes chargebacks a pain when the company keeps making charges on it. I was told (by citibank rep) that they have to accept the charges & if it happens again… to just dispute the charges…. over & over. So if they keep charging your credit card on a monthly basis… then you pretty much have to do chargebacks month after month.

  9. Daveed says:

    For anyone that lives in NYC, check out the city’s recreation centers [www.nycgovparks.org]

    You don’t get caught in a contract and it’s $75 a year to go to any of the city’s gyms. They may not be everywhere, nor have pretty television screens on their treadmills, but I feel like it’s well worth avoiding these nightmare gyms.

  10. m0unds says:

    Gold’s Gym was a joke in this regard also– They wouldn’t accept me walking into the building and saying “cancel my membership”. They required that I send them a certified letter stating that I wanted to cancel.

  11. johnva says:

    @inno: Yes, if you owed them a valid debt. Winning a chargeback doesn’t absolve you from paying money that you legitimately owe. In this case, however, since it appears that she doesn’t actually owe them anything, she could dispute and/or sue them (for statutory penalties in addition to the money in dispute) if they sent her to collections.

  12. homerjay says:

    @inno: Who knows… but I seriously doubt they can recover the chargeback fees that way.

  13. the_wiggle says:

    @jamesdenver: won’t solve the problem with contract based recurring transactions. the merch only has to resubmit the amount(s) to the issuer w/a copy of the contract to have the auto-billing shifted to the new#

  14. Trampas says:

    If possible, get a membership through your workplace.

    Where I work they have the local gyms over a barrel in that the membership is on a per month basis. Something most gyms won’t let you do as a plebe.

  15. Major-General says:

    A nice letter to the Attorney General’s office, with copies of the lease, utility bills, and the contract (relevant portions highlighted) should light a fire under them.

    And the same to your credit card company.

  16. pdxguy says:

    I had a membership at the Gold’s Gym in Anchorage, Alaska. Moved out of the Anchorage area (but still in Alaska) and thus it became impracticable to continue going. Called them and asked to cancel my membership. No go. Sent them a certified letter asking the same thing and no go again. Finally, got fed up and took them to small claims court, sued, and won by default since they didn’t even bother to show up. I then paid extra and had the Anchorage Police show up and garnish their cash register and any other cash on hand. They apparently had enough on the day the cops went as I got a check for my judgement. On the rare occasions over the following years when I happened to drive by I couldn’t help but smile. Eventually they went bankrupt at that location. Very karmic.

  17. spinachdip says:

    I once fell for the “Hey! You won a free one-week membership!” scam at Gold’s when I was young and naive, many eons ago. Before I could start my “free” workout that I “won”, the sales rep took me into the office and gave me standard sales pitch, and when I hesitated, he brought the manager in. No one put a gun to my head, but damn, that was intimidating – the obvious thing to do is to politely decline and walk out, but when you go in unprepared, the pressure tactics work.

  18. Xerloq says:

    @johnva: Move your card to England, wait for a fradulent charge and sue them there. It’s just a hop across the pond.

  19. homerjay says:

    Oddly enough, my desire to cancel my gym membership coincided to my losing my wallet (for real). I was told when I asked to cancel that I needed a note from my dr (it was for medical reasons). A week later I called and reported my card lost/stolen.

    Never heard from that gym again. That was 3 years ago.

  20. sarahdipity says:

    I actually canceled my membership with the same gym pretty easily by photoshopping my name onto a couple of utility bills my mom got in Iowa and having her send them from there (for the postmark). Worked like a charm!

  21. shaymiz says:

    I myself have a problem with Lucille Roberts.After a 2 year contract my membership was up. I called and try to cancel before December/5/ 2007.My calls were ignored. It was not until i started receiving invoice in the mail, stating that i owe.I found out they automatically renew my contract without approval. what kind of business practice is that.

  22. WashingtonLagninja says:

    Comment on Joining Lucille Roberts gym is like joining the mafia I have also had horrible problems with this Health Club. I called the ‘corporate headquarters’ at 212-734-9717 in 2/08 to inform them that I was pregnant and would no longer be able to use my membership (which was due to expire in 3/08). I was told ‘OK, we will take care of it, thanks for calling’. In 4/08, I received a letter stating that I owed 78.72 for delinquent dues. I once again called ‘headquarters’ and spoke to Colette and her ‘supervisor’ Carolyn, both of whom were completely rude repeating that a call had never been made to them and that my membership would cancel at the end of 5/08. They also stated that I would be responsible for late fees totaling over 100.00. I can’t believe that a company or it’s so-called customer service dept would operate this way!!!!!!! I will definitely be filing some complaints against this company.

  23. Val26 says:

    the best way to deal with a situation like this is to not loose your cool. Be polite and try to speak with them in a calm voice. If you begin to yell or be rude you usually wont get a positive response from people.

  24. Anonymous says:

    My fiance is trying to cancel her Lucille Roberts account and having the same problems – branch reps direct her to the corporate number which is perpetually busy. Has anyone found a solution to this in the last 12 months?

    She’s on a month to month contract and SHOULD be able to cancel at any time regardless of health issues or where she lives, but there doesn’t seem to be a working method to do that.

    Thanks.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I had called Lucille roberts a yr ago to cancell my contract,hence it was only for a yr..I just was notified that they continued to bill me through my chking account..I called
    in reference to this..they have no record of me cancelling and said there will be no refund..This is ludicrous..