Bally Cashes Cancellation Check, Continues To Bill For 15 More Months, And Now Demands "Past Due" Payment

Ashoka just found out that Bally never canceled his membership, even though they cashed his $50 cancellation check a mere 5 days after he mailed it to them last year. They’ve said there was no date on the paperwork, but Ashoka has a printout that proves otherwise. And they said they tried to contact him last year about the “problem,” but not by phone—even though they called him promptly this month when he changed his credit card info and the automatic billing didn’t go through. Bally, just admit it: nobody gets out, ever.

Here’s Ashoka’s story:

On January 2007, I moved back to my residence in Daytona Beach,FL from Boca Raton, FL. In finishing up my loose ends, I needed to cancel my Bally’s Membership as there is not a Bally’s within a 25 mile radius to where I live. I made it a priority to take care of the gym membership issue as I had troubles with Bally’s before. [We cut this backstory for length, but it involved a billing issue between Bally’s and Crunch. -Ed.]
 
On January 5, 2007, I sent in a cancellation payment and proof of relocation in the form of a telephone bill to Bally Total Fitness as I moved back to Daytona. I never received a confirmation of cancellation by mail. However, Bally Total Fitness did cash my check on January 10, 2007. I assumed that my account was canceled. However, I made a serious mistake in believing that and I should have known better.
 
Bally’s has been billing my credit card for over 15 months now for a service that I have not utilized since January 2007. They have been billing me without my knowledge. I should have looked at my statement closer – shocking to me. I was notified about this situation by Bally’s as they called me in regards to payment as I changed credit cards.
 
When I discussed the situation with the Bally’s Rep, I was told that the cancellation bill I sent did not have a date on it. I find this very absurd as I was able to print a copy of the bill from ATT and the date is in the top right corner of the bill.
 
What really infuriates me about this situation is that Bally’s still cashed my cancellation check and kept billing my credit card at the same time. They stated they notified me by mail about the cancellation not taking effect, but I have never received any correspondence about cancellation from Bally’s. I find it appalling that they can easily make a call and contact me about payment, but not about the cancellation of my membership.
 
When I asked for a refund from Bally’s for a service that I have clearly not used and canceled that totals over $950.00, I was told that they will have to investigate it. The Rep continued on with the path that I owe past due payments and they will continue to collect these payments until the issue has been investigated. The rep told me to put together a letter about the issue and proof of bill from Dates of cancellation. I immediately faxed this over to Bally’s. When I then called to confirm they received the fax, I was told that I would need to check back in 2 WEEKS and that the process will take an additional 30 days from the date they have logged receipt of the fax.
 
I find this very absurd and infuriating because it is a total scam in Bally’s trying to charge for additional months of service and rip off their customers. I feel totally victimized over this situation and really have no idea of what course of action that I have other than waiting on Bally’s to first confirm they received my fax and then on the decision of weather they cancel my membership and refund me my money all the while I am continually been billed by Bally Total Fitness. What happens if I need to correspond further about how they respond to my proof, will that be another 30 days?….I HATE BALLY TOTAL FITNESS! This is by far the worst company I have ever done business with.
 
Is there anything else I can do?

Here are some ideas:
 
1. Contact your credit card company’s fraud department and explain that the company has billed you for 15 months after you explicitly revoked their authorization, and explain that you have proof in the form of a canceled check. Even if this doesn’t meet your card’s definition of fraud, you should be able to charge back 2 or more of the most recent monthly charges by contesting them.
 
2. Do you have any lawyer friends? Das Ubergeek wrote on an earlier Bally’s post that “a nicely-worded nastygram via certified mail from a lawyer friend” helped him get a huge chunk of unauthorized fees canceled. Since it’s only $950, paying for a lawyer might be more than you’re willing to spend right now, but you could likely speed up Bally’s correction process with some legal help.
 
3. Read up on your rights at the Florida Attorney General’s Health Studios page. Unfortunately, a cursory reading of your state’s Health Studio Act indicates it mostly addresses gyms that go out of business or try to sell “lifetime” memberships. At the very least, they have a phone number you can call for more information on your rights: 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).
 
4. Consider taking them to small claims court to recover your fees.
 
5. Start reviewing your credit card statements every month! Or hell, at the very least, every couple of months. You only have so long to contest most charges.
 
6. And finally, never sign up with Bally’s again, and be sure to tell everyone you know that they really, really suck.
 
Readers, any other/better suggestions?
 
RELATED
“Bally Total Fitness Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy”
“Bally’s Tele-Customer Service Blows”
 
(Photo: cameronparkins and .Bala)

Comments

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  1. Snowblind says:

    I have found that calling up and getting a new card with a new number by reporting it lost/stolen is a good way to stop the rebilling cycle.

    I have a card just for such things, I cancel, get a new card, then let the people I like know about the new card.

    When/if they call and say the charge can’t go through I remind them I canceled. Usually that makes them go away.

    I don’t have many such re-occurring charges, right now it is the lawn/bug service and an online game. I have found they tend to be leeches, so I avoid it unless I trust the company, like Blizzard or Turbine

  2. tk427 says:

    Why was the OP sending “proof of relocation”? Is it any business of the company why he wants to cancel?

    Suggestion #2 above might be a good idea right now since Bally is clearly not throuh with him (2 weeks for this, 30 days for that, etc.)

  3. tk427 says:

    through with him

  4. scoosdad says:

    Bally’s has been billing my credit card for over 15 months now for a service that I have not utilized since January 2007. They have been billing me without my knowledge.

    But FIFTEEN months??? ‘Nuff said. Game over.

    Honestly, we’re seeing way too many of these stories where the OP’s first and biggest mistake was total ignorance of the bills they pay every month or by allowing auto-pay to reach into their pockets without so much as a “what?”.

  5. Amelie says:

    @Snowblind: That is an excellent idea.

  6. Amelie says:

    @scoosdad: And you’ve never made any mistakes in your life?

    As for the lame “game over” comment, it’s not up to you!

  7. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    @Amelie: everyone makes mistakes. But fifteen months is a bit much. I auto-pay my credit card, but verify each and every charge every month before I let the bank hand the money over.

  8. Buran says:

    @Snowblind: Or, disposable card numbers set up for renewable billing.

  9. Buran says:

    @tk427: Because some contracts only allow you to cancel penalty-free if you move somewhere where they don’t have service.

  10. Buran says:

    @scoosdad: Fraud is fraud. Game over.

  11. Snowblind says:

    @Buran: I have done that a few times too, especially when dealing with EBAY (which I don’t do anymore, not for a year or more)

    I had a case where they processed multiple purchases and I had to charge them back. MBNA at the time you could make a temp number and just the amount you wanted.

    renewable billing is a bad idea if you ask me, spending should never be on autopilot.

    That is how people make 100K a year and feel poor.

  12. @scoosdad: Yeah, Bally’s should be allowed to break the law because this guy was too busy to notice it for over a year.

  13. Buran says:

    @Snowblind: You still can do that. I use that feature all the time on my BofA Visa card (BofA bought MBNA).

    I used it once to cancel an order from a shop that would only cancel if your payment method was invalid, but I no longer wanted the item. Fortunately, I’d used a disposable number. I closed the number, watched them flail, and eventually the order was cancelled. Not gonna shop there again; I got the item for less from Amazon.com.

  14. ShadowFalls says:

    For small claims, this is an easy case to win. There is a cost for early cancellation of the contract and it was paid. Proof has been showed it was paid and when it was done so.

    The judge should rule in your favor in a matter of moments after seeing the proof you already have.

    Depending upon the contract you signed, you might want to read that closer too. You might be entitled to your $50 back as well.

    I wouldn’t expect to get very far with their customer disservice either. They are clearly trying to delay things to get you to just give up on the matter. Next time you would call back they likely won’t have any records of you calling before or will tell you some error occured and it will take another 30 days.

  15. RandomHookup says:

    I refuse to play the ‘blame the victim’ game, but 15 months is a very long time to miss something like this. The gym is obviously at fault, but consumers need to pay attention to their bills. Judge Judy would not be happy.

  16. Maulleigh says:

    I am laughing out loud at that picture. Awesome!

  17. TPS Reporter says:

    I never even looked at my statement for 15 months, and they billed me the whole time. It’s Bally’s fault I didn’t check up on this for 15 months!! Sorry, it has to be said.

  18. scoosdad says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: “law”? Are there laws now against companies having broken billing systems and incompetent employees? This isn’t fraud, it’s just stupidity on a grand scale.

    @RandomHookup: and yeah, most definitely the Judge Judy treatment would be appropriate here: “You’re both idiots, Bally, you pay him back; Akosha, you pay attention to businesss, now get out of my courtroom!”

  19. I had a similar issue when I left Bally’s a few years back. I paid off my member ship and put the thing on ice hoping to maybe sell it at some point. They kept billing me crap after the fact for eons until I told them I was going to kick them in the nuts for mail fraud.

  20. bohemian says:

    Who doesn’t check their credit card statement for 15 months? That is just setting yourself up to be ripped off.
    But Bally’s also has a track record of being impossible to leave.

    The only solution for things like this is to use a disposable number or a debit card with a finite amount of money in it.

    A better solution would be to find a fitness center that has better terms. Most of the ones where I live will let people buy month to month or punch cards. You can also buy recurring memberships but they are very clear about the terms and cancellation. Look for a fitness center tied to a local hospital group or a YMCA. Most of those charge less and aren’t membership mills.

  21. Roxie says:

    Wow. At least the OP didn’t use a debit card with the Bally’s membership–that would’ve been much, much worse. Back when I worked in the bookkeeping section of a bank back in the day, almost all of our received debit-card related disputes were for Bally’s memberships, actually–people thought they had canceled their memberships and Bally’s kept right on billing them. (To be fair, this bank I worked at was very small, so it’s not like we got a lot of business to start with. But yeah–just about anyone who had a dispute with a debit card transaction was someone with a Bally’s membership.)

    Back when I was working in the bookkeeping department of this small bank, we could fill out a dispute form specifically for debit card transactions and hand it to our supervisor, and our supervisor could go into the debit card system herself, on the spot, and attempt to fix the problem. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that anymore–now folks with debit card disputes would have to call the number on the back of their cards and talk to Mastercard instead. I’d hope that would work out equally well, but who knows? :S

  22. chemmy says:

    I had a similar problem. The direct debited by account to the tine of over $1500 over 18 months. I argued with them the entire time and when I threatened to take them to small claims court, they refunded me. I had email correspondence between myself and several CSR’s where they said the account was cancelled and they would stop the debit and would refund me the debits since the account was cancelled.

    Just try emailing them get it all in writing and keep on top of it. Once they realize you won’t just go away, maybe they will give in for you too.

    And I second the motion for reporting the card stolen next time. Then they can’t debit it.

    Good luck.

  23. katylostherart says:

    @Amelie: not looking at your credit card statement for 15 months is a pretty big and stupid mistake. bally’s in the wrong, but the poster is just a moron for this one. what if there are other fradulent charges? he’d never know until he got the card denied for being over balance.

    lesson to this man: don’t be so ridiculously oblivious to your personal finances. even a cursory glance is worth it.

  24. steveliv says:

    i agree that Bally’s should refund the money, but i can’t comprehend how it went on for 15 months and he didn’t notice it. how hard is it to read through your statements? you might want to use quicken or some other money management software.

  25. EricaKane says:

    Hmm..sounnds like a lesson here.

    If you are dealing with fraudsters, fight back! include some nice language on the check like “this represents a total accord and satisfaction for all debts due under the contract and cashing this check is acceptance of cancellation” or some other mumbo jumbo.

    Good luck.

  26. bjarmson says:

    It’s amazing how companies get away with this kind of crap. Cancellation, smancecellation, we’ll just keep right on billing these people, and then threaten to ruin their credit if they don’t pay. Reminds me of when I changed car insurance companies a few years back. We had set it up as a direct withdrawal from our checking account. But the cancelled company just keep merrily withdrawing from our account after cancellation. I went to the bank and told them to stop automatically paying this insurance company and was told I couldn’t without the insurance companies consent. WTF, it’s my account and I couldn’t stop an automatic payment without the payees consent? So I simply informed the bank I would be closing all my accounts and moving them elsewhere. Bingo, suddenly they could stop payment and refund the after cancellation payments. More than one way to skin a cat (metaphorically speaking, of course).

  27. umbriago says:

    The game is never over for Bally’s. Never. I signed up for a couple years once, it was all fine, then my contract was up. And no matter where I move, I get “we want you back” letters offering me a cheap rate.

    That time I signed up once was twenty years ago. Marriage, divorce, different addresses, different states: Bally’s tracks me down and sends me a pitch every 9-12 months or so.

  28. TechnoDestructo says:

    The fact that that page, and the law about which it speaks, exist says a lot about that industry.

  29. @scoosdad: If it was just a matter of “oops, our billing system is broken, sorry about that man,” then why is Bally’s dragging it’s feet fixing the problem? Because they are trying to find loopholes in their own contracts to justify keeping money they know isn’t theirs by giving this guy the run around. And when they violate the terms of their contract, they are breaking the law.

  30. nardo218 says:

    You guys make me paranoid, I just checked my credit card statements. .. and discovered that freecreditreport.com has been fraudulently charging me $10/mo since last June. Thanks guys! Sorta. :( Check your statements for “CIC*CE Credit Manager”.

  31. newfenoix says:

    @Buran: You are correct, they committed fraud, plain and simple.

  32. newfenoix says:

    I had a similar situation several years with a company that I did business with. I had bought some products from a catalog and paid with my VISA. The rep that I spoke with tried several times to get me to sign up from a “special members club” for discount prices. I told this moron no. Well I received the stuff about three days later and I also received a conformation about my “membership.” I called the company and asked them about the situation. They informed me that they had “a signed request” that authorized the membership and that I was trying to get out paying for something. I then identified myself as a police officer, which I was at the time, and told the woman that I was now recording the call.

    Well, about a month later, VISA called me and asked if I had authorized an automated payment with the company for “special service.” I told them no and had them fax the request to the detective bureau of my department. One of our detectives called the company and told them that a fraud report had been made and they assured the detective that the situation was now resolved. Two months later and one week after the death of my mother, I received a letter from an attorney demanding that I pay for the “membership” that I ordered. I once again went through the id ordeal and started recording the call. After nearly 15 minutes of arguing with this ass I lost my temper and told that if he had a “signed” authorization, it was a forgery and that I was turning the entire matter over to the state’s attorney generals office and to our local prosecutor.

    Well, the AG’s office prosecuted the company and made them pay me the $120 back and added damages of $1000. Also, the local collections attorney that the company used was disbarred for “aiding in the commission of a felony.”

  33. The Bambino says:

    Long term gym membership?
    Worst. Idea. Ever.

  34. Clsmooth says:

    Ballys is a terrible company.

    I signed up when I was 18 and went for 3 mons.

    10 years later I still get letters from a collections agency for 1500 dollars – too bad the statue of limitations has ran out and I will never pay those jerkoffs back a dime of that.

  35. P.T.Wheatstraw says:

    If you guys live in Hampton Roads, VA, there is an excellent gym there called “Fit Company.” If you join you meet the owner on a daily basis when you come in to work out. If there is ever a billing issue, he works it out personally.

    One of the many benefits of supporting local independent businesses over chains :)

  36. tk427 says:

    @newfenoix: Name that company, this sounds familiar.

  37. cheryls50 says:

    Even though it will cause you some time and effort (and more money in the short term) definitely write to Bally’s attaching copies of all relevant documents. Send the letter via Certified, Return Receipt Requested and copy your credit card company and the State Attorney General’s office division of consumer fraud making certain the cc is noted on your letter to Bally’s. Hopefully you have kept a log of all conversations you’ve had with Bally’s and your credit card company – if so, attach a copy of these conversations as you have recorded them. Ask for your refund AND a letter from Bally’s stating that they have not and will not report any negative information to any credit reporting agencies and then of course keep a copy of all correspondence and responses. Your state Attorney General’s office will correspond with Bally’s, copy you and this should resolve the issue. I did this with a debt collector who contacted me 2 years after a bill had been returned to his client because the CLIENT had failed to put my apartment number on the invoice (this was an item that was covered by my insurance company) but had been mis-coded by my provider, denied by my insurance company and no one at the provider’s office attempted to resend the information on a timely basis. Rather they waited until they had an internal audit to attempt to collect the money. By the time I was made aware of this debt I had changed employers and no long had the same insurance carrier. The collection agency couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide me a copy of the bill even though I phoned them for several weeks running at least twice a week requesting this documentation. Their “advice” was that I send them a check and then we could get it resolved! I made certain that my correspondence to the Nevada State Attorney General’s office included this information so they were aware of the tactics used by this agency. After all was said and done the debt was erased, the Attorney General had record of this agencies strong-arm tactics and I had a letter stating that no negative information would appear on my credit rating. It was a hassle to be sure but companies like this need to be reported so the abuses stop.

    Just keep in mind as you go through this process…you will encounter rude, pushy individuals who will use any means available to them to make you feel badly that you want your money back because they have a vested interest in keeping your money, i.e. commissions and bonuses, this is NOT your problem nor are you looking to make a friend.

    Hope this helps!