Bally Reps Drove Developmentally Disabled Man To Gym, Signed Him Up

Family members of a developmentally disabled 49-year-old man told 6 News in Indianapolis that two men from Bally Total Fitness showed up at the man’s apartment, drove him to a Bally location at Pike Plaza, and signed him up to a monthly membership. When the man’s family asked Bally to invalidate the agreement, the gym refused.

The brothers told [6News reporter Rafael] Sanchez that they went to the gym Monday hoping to resolve the issue, but that their requests were rejected by the management at the facility.

[...]

“I’m wondering how more people are they going to do it to? After meeting two young gentlemen yesterday, they don’t feel they’ve done anything wrong,” said [brother] Pat Hannon. “They feel it’s their right to get America fit.”

So there you have it. Bally’s wants the developmentally disabled to be physically fit. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing—we should all take care of our health—but it seems weird to target men and women who, you know, can’t drive themselves to the gym they’re joining. Maybe the two salesmen who showed up at the apartment—where “no soliciting” signs are posted—should agree to shuttle their new client back and forth whenever he feels like it.




Update: Bally’s PR firm just contacted us with the following statement on behalf of the gym:

We regret that this incident occurred and have accordingly addressed the issue with the employees involved. It is common practice that we market our clubs with free trial passes to the local community but it is against our corporate policy to transport anyone to or from our facility. When our management found out about Mr. Hannon’s disability, we immediately cancelled his membership and refunded all of his fees.

“Family: Gym Took Advantage Of Man With Disability” [WRTV Indianapolis] (Thanks to Becky!)
(Photo: geocam20000)

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  1. crymson777 says:

    Doesn’t the lack of ability to transport himself to the gym automatically invalidate the contract? In addition, there are predation laws that protect the mentally and physically handicapped…which all should lead to some well deserved Bally smackdown…

    • ubermex says:

      @crymson777: Depending on how disabled he is, he might not have the authority to enter into contracts without a guardian present.

    • ludwigk says:

      @crymson777: I doubt that there would be a clause allowing you to void your contract for a lack of transportation. I’m sure plenty of people take the bus or something to get to the gym, so, for instance, if this man didn’t have a driver’s license or car, that would not affect the contract.

      It’s been a while since I’ve read a Bally’s contract, but the main ways of getting your contract invalidated are:

      1) At Bally’s sole discretion
      2) Due to a move of more than 30 miles resulting in no Bally’s center within a certain radius of you, or a Bally’s center with different facilities such that they are inferior to the other location’s, for instance, a lack of a swimming pool.

      When we moved, the lack of a pool is what allowed us to get out of our gym membership.

      Hopefully, this matter has been fully resolved, and the contract invalidated.

    • MsFeasance says:

      @crymson777: Well, the lack of capacity to obtain a driver’s license probably indicates a lack of capacity to contract, which is generally sufficient to invalidate a contract. Speaking hypothetically, anyway.

  2. Gtmac says:

    Bally’s behavior is unconscionable.

    IANAL, but I would think it would be no problem to get that contract invalidated by a court based on the man’s level of competence to enter into the agreement.

    • FatLynn says:

      @Gtmac: One of Bally’s “out” clauses is a doctor’s note saying you can’t work out, in case you get sick or injured. Of course, he absolutely should not have to go to that trouble.

    • your new nemesis says:

      @Gtmac: Ok, i give up, what does IANAL mean?

      • Geblah187 says:

        @skizsrodt:

        It means “I Am Not A Lawyer” … basically, “here’s some legal advice, but I haven’t got a clue what i’m talking about” :)

        That aside, it doesn’t take a lawyer to recognize a person being taken advantage of. If it’s not illegal, it SHOULD be.

      • Cyberxion101 says:

        @skizsrodt: I am not a lawyer.

    • zacox says:

      @Gtmac: This doesn’t even need to go into a court. This screams to just be ignored until Bally’s sends the item to their collection goons, then sue the pants off Bally’s for multiple infractions. The store manager knows that the score is by now, and if he should choose the hard road, he should be aware of the consequences.

  3. Awjvail says:

    Does the fact that the man is developmentally disabled invalidate the contract? I know it has to be decided in court, I can’t quite remember the word for it though…

    Anyways, stay classy Ballys.

  4. Duckula22 says:

    Bully Total Fitness

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    When will being an employee stop shielding people from criminal sentences?

    Even if this goes to court, worst case is Bally’s might pay a fine and the employees might get fired, but am I the only one who thinks this is worthy of jail time for the two men?

    • Onion_Volcano says:

      @SkokieGuy:

      This isn’t worth jailtime. Maybe a judge can smack them on the head with a spoon like mom used to do.

    • fantomesq says:

      @SkokieGuy: I don’t see a criminal charge here… its not kidnapping, if he went willingly. Larceny by false pretense? Not if a court invalidates the contract. Attempted larceny… its a long shot and I doubt you can get a prosecutor to take the case. Civil damages will suffice.

      • frank64 says:

        @fantomesq: I see a criminal charge. Fraud at least.

      • NewsBunny says:

        @fantomesq: I have a mentally retarded uncle. He will do almost ANTHING to make another person happy, and to make sure that person isn’t angry at him.

        He would also be thrilled to sign up for something on his own, even though he’s really not mentally capable of doing so. My mother is his legal guardian.

        For these people at Bally’s to take advantage of a person such as my uncle is reprehensible.

  6. SacraBos says:

    I feel a golden poo is forthcoming. I LOATHE Bally’s. I once signed a contract at one of their gyms, with an addition that when the gym I joined at closed (it was due to be closed), that my membership would transfer to a specific other gym close to me. When the gym closed, they transferred my membership to the farthest one they could and still be within the mile limits of the original contract. Even though there were about a dozen closer gyms available.

    When I tried to get it resolved, one of the supervisors snarled at me that I should just upgrade my membership and leave them alone. Eventually showed them my copy of the contract and got it resolved, which also required several hours on hold with their corporate office.

    Never again. Ever. If they drove me to Bally’s, I’d sooner crawl home over broken lemon juice bottles rather than sign a contract with them.

    That they did this doesn’t not surprise me.

  7. damageddude says:

    Assuming the developmentally disabled man was under the guardianship of somebody and couldn’t legally give consent to be driven to the gym or to sign the contract: 1) ask the Bally’s reps what the gym’s legal department thinks and 2) ask the Bally’s reps who took the man and drove him over to the gym to sign the contract, or their attorneys, if they know the meaning of the terms: incompetence, duress or kidnapping.

  8. Mackinstyle says:

    I’m an out of shape 23 year old student but I have enough energy and anger from this that I feel like I could floor both of those Ballytards in half a round at the same time.

  9. RobertBaron says:

    Just playing devil’s advocate here… but in Bally’s defense, it’s not like the guy was a slobbering retard. From the video, it also appears he was alone and not with some caretaker or guardian when they knocked on his door. So it’s easy for us to say they’re targetting the mentally challenged when in actuality all they did was knock on some guy’s door.

    Now the contract will probably get torn up in a court if he’s unable to give informed consent and I suppose the Bally’s reps could get in trouble for soliciting (are those really laws or just signs?), but both stories are somewhat disingenious in their titles unless the reps knew the guy was mentally challenged (which isn’t really clear from this article or from the news video.)

    • DeathByCuriosity says:

      @RobertBaron: Where I live, putting a “No Soliciting” sign on your door means it is illegal for others to solicit at your residence. It’s a municipal law.

  10. jpdanzig says:

    This is despicable behavior, even for Bally’s. How did they find this poor man, any way? Did they lurk around outside a health facility for the developmentally disabled and follow him home?

    Some companies are just plain evil and corrupt to the bone, and from everything I’ve ever heard, Bally’s is one of them.

    The FTC should shut them down permanently. Failing that, I would like to see everyone they’ve ever scammed take them on in a class action suit and sue them for every penny they’re worth.

    Not every gym chain is so addicted to pernicious business practices.

  11. parkj238 says:

    I remember it used to be impossible to get out of those three year contracts they would make you sign. I had thought they might have improved their practices since they got their asses sued a bunch of times.. guess not.

  12. MrEvil says:

    My friends keep trying to get me to join a gym despite the fact I lost 100 pounds in the past year without ever setting foot in one. After reading all the stories here on the Consumerist as well as numerous hidden camera investigations by the media. It tells me that I should just stay the hell away from these gyms.

    • TWinter says:

      @MrEvil: Not all gyms are evil.

      My gym is great – it’s locally owned, appears to have a fair number of adult, full-time employees, and the facilities are nice, clean and up-to-date. They also make an effort to attract a broad range of people by organizing a weight loss support group, offering a series of over 55 classes, offering beginner versions of many of their other classes, having on-site daycare, and partnering with a physical therapy clinic to allow physical therapy patients use the facility as part of their treatment. There are plenty of young muscle-heads there, but there are lots of other kinds of people too.

  13. Crazytree says:

    well most of the people work at Bally’s are borderline retarded too… so I think it kind of equals out.

  14. ElizabethD says:

    Planet Fitness >>>>>>>>> Bally’s

  15. Straspey says:

    If this man has been diagnosed as being legally unable to care for himself and/or make competent decisions on his own behalf, then had I been one of his relatives I would have contacted the local Federal authorities and filed a complaint of kidnapping.

    I certainly would have contacted Bally’s corporate legal department and presented them with that scenario.

  16. tankertodd says:

    Sounds like Bally’s has been hiring ACORN community “get out the vote” employees. All they have to do is drive him to a chiropractor for Medicare fraud and they would have a Chicago Democratic Party trifecta.

  17. RogueWarrior says:

    Ah, so they’re taking a cue from Acorn driving illegals and people who don’t live in the district to polling places.

  18. LeChiffre says:

    If this story IS true, the contract is void. This is Contracts Law 101. Good grief it can’t be more simple.

  19. McCrazy1881 says:

    Bally’s SUCKS. Never join their Gym. They Lie like hell just to sign you up.

  20. Schmeeky says:

    If I recall correctly Bally’s sells their contracts almost immediately for less than their value. So a contract that’s worth $1000 over it’s yearly term would hypothetically be sold for something like $800 to a management/collection agency. Which means Bally’s pockets the 80% of the total amount up front. This means they’re more concerned about bringing in new members than keeping old members because once you’ve signed your contract they’ve made their yearly profit off of you.

  21. kateblack says:

    @FatLynn: Does that mean blind people never have to pay?

  22. Blueskylaw says:

    @FatLynn:

    There must be enough holes in that promise to drive/fly a mothership through.

  23. yume_ryuu says:

    @FatLynn:
    You can get your money back by posting an embarrassing story about the company in question on a consumer website that gets tons of hits.

  24. rewind says:

    @Smashville_now with Monster Energy: Plus the vitamin supplements. Don’t forget those.

  25. redskull says:

    @henrygates: It seems like once any gym signs someone up, that’s pretty much all the money they can get out of you until your contract expires. So their profit probably comes from constantly bringing in new blood. If the new blood happens to be retarded and might not understand what they’re signing, so much the better for Bally’s.

  26. lmarconi says:

    @damageddude: That’s a good point. I wonder if kidnapping laws protect the mentally handicapped in that way…

  27. frodolives35 says:

    @skizsrodt: Me 2 lol

  28. corbyz says:

    @skizsrodt: You could always go to acronymfinder.com when you can’t figure one out.

  29. egoods says:

    @skizsrodt: Hate to change the subject, but, I, myself am a somethingawful.com “goon” and I’m deeply offended that you would use our name when referring to the idiots at ballys. That is all.

  30. RobertBaron says:

    @BytheSea: Yes I agree, but that’s not the core of either the consumerist or the local news story. Both headlines make it appear Bally’s targeted a mentally challenged man to sign up for a membership.

  31. HogwartsAlum says:

    @Julia789: That’s awesome your hubby has the gym right there. If we had one that wasn’t evil and it was that close, I might be tempted.

    I’ve just been doing Pilates and walking. In the winter, since I wont’ be able to walk, I bought a Richard Simmons DVD. Should be fun. And of course, skating on weekends.

  32. Julia789 says:

    @catastrophegirl: That is great you’re getting a gym at your work building! Especially in winter it will be nice.

    While hubby has a gym next door to his office, I have a MALL next door to my office building. A mall with PF Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Cosi, and a Mexican place. I would rather have a gym! Lunch hours are horribly dangerous for both my wallet and my waistline. Macy’s alone, I swear they know me when I walk in…

  33. erratapage says:

    @RobertBaron: Please don’t use the word “retard”. The truth is that people with developmental disabilities have varying degrees of cognitive impairment, some of which may not be visible. My stepson is pretty high functioning in some ways. But he is impulsive and prone to make bad decisions–especially about money. He also has a speech impediment that makes it sometimes difficult for him to communicate, but which marks him as a vulnerable adult. Nevertheless, we are routinely called upon to cancel contracts and recover money that businesses should have known better than to take from him. Fortunately, once we talk to management, we are usually able to fix the problem. There is no devil’s advocate position that is valid here.

  34. frank64 says:

    @el elarmist: The employees probably crossed the line somewhat, but in the company culture it was probably difficult to tell.

  35. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    @gStein_has joined the star bandwagon:

    The only misconception about religion that needs to be addressed is the one where people prescribe any amount of validity to them.

    Fix that one, and we’ll be OK.

  36. RandomZero says:

    @gStein_has joined the star bandwagon: No, the correct answer would actually be “That’s offensive. Find out what we really believe for in a few easy sessions at your local Dianetics center for a nominal fee.”

  37. zlionsfan says:

    @RobertBaron: True … a more accurate headline could be “Another Bally’s Scam Uncovered; Developmentally-Disabled Man One of Many Targeted”.

  38. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @lmarconi: They ought to if they don’t and if that’s the extent of the man’s disability then they should be criminally charged.

  39. magstheaxe says:

    @frank64: Exactly. And if the man functions at such a low level, someone in the family probably has legal guardianship, which precludes the man entering into a contract of any sort without the guardian’s consent.

    I’mm glad Bally’s canceled the contract, but I wouldn’t blame the family for suing.

  40. trujunglist says:

    @RogerTheAlien:

    Must be a San Diego epidemic then because the machines at the 24 hour fitness I go to in Escondido are almost all broken in some way at this point. They don’t even bother to put an out of order sign on them, I think because you can pretty much assume that they’re all out of order to at least some degree.