Bally Total Fitness Will Never Release Me From Its Finely Toned Clutches

Bally Total Fitness teased Jonathan with an introductory rate, drawing him in. Once that special rate was over, he canceled his membership. Or so he thought. He received a bill for his $29 “annual fee” and learned that he had somehow racked up a $400 balance after he thought the membership was already canceled.

I was a member of Bally Total Fitness for the first few months of 2011, but the last time I went there was in April of that year. I was only a member for a few months, and shortly after my introductory rate ended, I cancelled my membership. Then, I got a bill at the end of May 2012 stating a payment of $29 was due.

I called Bally, and they said my account was in fact not cancelled, and I had a balance of a few pennies short of $400. I told the customer service rep that the account should be cancelled immediately, but I would not pay one penny, since it was their error they couldn’t process my request in the first place. I told [S], the rep, I wanted to speak with his supervisor, and after going round and round for a minute or two, he said he could get fired if he couldn’t resolve my issue.

I told him I wasn’t going to pay no matter what, and after a few minutes, he backed down and said not only had he cancelled the account once and for all but also cancelled my balance and past due amounts. My bill doesn’t display an account balance, only an amount due, so even if I paid it, I’d continue to get bills, since I’d never actually pay down my balance.

Bally Total Fitness is shady, and this is just one more reason why I will never again sign up with a major gym!

This is interesting, because at first it sounded an awful lot like the sneaky fake past due billing that Bally was noted for in the past. We looked at the bill that Jonathan received, and it doesn’t re-up his contract. It appears to be just a mixup involving an account that refuses to die.

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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If I take all the stories I’ve heard to heart, I have to conclude all fitness centers are crooked.

    Even from personal experience: We took a local fitness center up on their 7-day free membership, because we were honestly interested in joining one. We were given a tour and then brought into an employees office to try to get us to sign up for a membership. This was before we’d ever even gotten the chance to TEST the facilities out!! It immediately turned me off to the whole experience. If they had come to me on day 7 and talked to me about memberships I would have expected and anticipated that, and listened intently. But pushing me to join before even getting to try their gym was moronic and crummy business practices.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I countered exactly this same b.s. by politely standing down the salesguy within a minute of my arrival. I asked for his card, and said that I had 15 minutes to spend during which time I would like a tour, a couple of guest passes (that I was willing to pay for) to test the facilities out, and a copy of membership terms in writing. And if he engaged in any sort of sales-y talk or was unable to meet my simple requests, I’d move on. It went alright.

      • balderdashed says:

        I tried something rather similar when applying for membership at a popular chain in the Midwest, but you know what? The sales rep was utterly incapable of deviating from his standard script, and I ended up walking out the door. I have the feeling that if I’d waved ten $100 bills in front of his nose and said, “This is yours — my personal gift to you — if you’ll just shut up a minute, stop with the canned speech, and answer my questions,” he’d have still kept giving me the standard bullshit spiel.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      My karate school does a week for free and all you do is sign an injury waiver. No other info is given until you want to sign up at the end of the week. That’s how it should be done! I had thought that fitness centers did this too until coming to Consumerist.

  2. JennyS says:

    I used Bally’s many years ago and began to have “issues”, such as the child care room being supposedly bee-infested (aka not staffed). Couldn’t use the gym w/out the child care being available, so after some time i attempted to cancel. Ha! You have to live over 60 miles away from any Bally’s location to cancel (like anyone would drive 60 miles to work out) so I admit I engaged in some shady behavior to be free of these awful people. Good thing I’m good friends with someone who shares my first name and happens to live over 60 miles away from any Bally’s. Tho I’ll admit, they still made it difficult, and I had some BS bills to contend with afterwards, too. LA Fitness is fine, the YMCA is fine, a local gym I joined in VA was fine. This seems specific to Bally’s!

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “bee-infested (aka not staffed)”

      I really need a further explanation as to how these two thoughts are connected.

      • MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

        I’m guessing that Bally’s didn’t have enough employees to staff the child care room, so they told the parents, “We have a bee infestation in the child care room, so we can’t take your kids.”

      • KlueBat says:

        My guess is that “Bee Infested” is their excuse for not wanting to pay for someone to staff the facility.

  3. CrazyEyed says:

    I know a lot of gyms are shady but more information would have been helpful such as the cancellation policy, how long his intro offer was for, when it ended, when he actually cancelled..

    • ChuckECheese says:

      No that’s not helpful; it’s superfluous. The issue as clearly explained here is that the ex-member canceled his membership, but BTF conveniently forgot to cancel his account. Sorta the way the banks do it so they can continue collecting fees on zombie accounts. Deny, deny, deny!

  4. Rogersda76 says:

    After years of hounding me for $$ that I did not owe and trying endlessly to get me to renew (following me over several moves to different states) I finally wrote “deceased” on a statement and mailed that back to them. They stopped sending me bills/renewal notices and even sent a letter of apology.

    I have not heard from them in 10+years.

  5. longfeltwant says:

    YMCA FTW

    • ChuckECheese says:

      At least in Phoenix, the YMCA isn’t the best option.
      It costs nearly twice as much as the other gyms (memberships about $45/month here).
      I am not anti-child, but they are more full of children than ever, running around creating damage and disruption because nobody is supervising them. There is an overabundance of children’s and family programs of various sorts, and although I am pro child and pro family, they need to not forget that the majority of their memberships are held by singles and childless couples, and provide programs that appeal to these people also.
      Most of the Y’s here with the exception of the over-the-top downtown location, are mediocre in quality and maintenance.
      The pool is constantly full of duffers floating around during the limited lap swimming times and the lifeguards won’t enforce the pool safety rules, making lap swimming unpleasant.

      • chiieddy says:

        Same here for YMCA. I recently got an ad for Work Out World and they have $20/mo gyms including child care. I’m not interested as everything I do in a gym, I can do at home with a few weights and a treadmill.

    • vivalakellye says:

      Not when they require you to allow them to auto-debit.

  6. El_Fez says:

    after going round and round for a minute or two, he said he could get fired if he couldn’t resolve my issue.

    Simple soultion? Solve the funkin’ issue.

  7. Costner says:

    Just do what most Americans do… buy a treadmill, install it in your bedroom, and then use it as a drying rack for your towels and sweaters.

    • J. Cohen says:

      Stay out of my house. Creep.

    • BennieHannah says:

      I actually use my treadmill every day. I keep it in my office though — no clothes in there, so that I can watch hulu and other online media while I’m walking, or mostly I read a book. I’m wont to get sucked into a book and then I’m lying around for a full afternoon, so I set rules on when I can read: You can read when you’re on the treadmill or in a waiting room somewhere.

      • chiieddy says:

        Actually mine is in pieces, but I walk outside in the summer. Although, I’m on ‘rest’ until the mother-blister on my heel is fixed. That’s what I get for climbing the wrong side of Cannon Mtn :-)

    • nugatory says:

      its not a treadmill its an elliptical. Now its time to ensure my bedroom blinds are actually closed.

  8. Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

    What I never understand about these stories is why a business is allowed to claim out of the clear blue sky that you owe hundreds of dollars in racked-up fees after months or years of not sending any type of statement or notice. Jonathan got the notice about the annual fee, so obviously it’s not a problem with his mail. Why would any company that was legitimately owed money not send bills to claim it unless it was to their advantage? If they’d done that from the start, Jonathan would have insisted they cancel. This way, they can just keep adding month after month of fees plus possibly late charges.

    • jylcat says:

      Obviously they know it’s shady because they clear it right out if you stand up to them. If they really thought they had a leg to stand on, they’d certainly go after people for those bills.

  9. chiieddy says:

    I honestly thought Bally’s had gone out of business and their locations were either closed or taken over by LA Fitness?

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I’ve heard the same story/rumor, but I know that there are at least 2 locations left in Phoenix AZ.

  10. BennieHannah says:

    When you can, go local. I used to work at a locally-owned recreational gym (mostly gymnastics), but we offered a variety of adult classes as well. First class was free, after that you had the choice of paying annual membership fee of $40 and getting the monthly rate OR if you thought you wouldn’t come to class regularly, you could pay the “by class” rate which was a few dollars more per class. You could switch over at any time. There were many times I ran the office while providing free babysitting for (older, well-behaved) children or a sleeping baby. If the policies were causing an inconvenience for customers, then the policies had to be altered — and businesses that are independent have the flexibility to make those changes quickly. They have to, or they go out of business.

  11. Portlandia says:

    Most of the agreements say if you move an a club isn’t within 15 miles they will let you out of your contract. When I moved I needed to cancel Bally’s but couldn’t get out of my contract because there was technically a center “near” my house. It was a run down, smelly ancient place that hadn’t been renovated since forever. No way I wanted to work out there.

    I just went online, found a generic lease agreement form and filled it in with my parents’ address and my name etc. I sent Bally’s a copy of it along with my cancellation request and I was out of the contract.

    As a side note, Bally’s sucks but.. when I signed up I was only given one page of the contract, apparently there were 4 other pages which essentially took out a FREAKING LOAN I wasn’t told about for $2000 to pay for the membership. I didn’t realize this until over a year later when I was checking my credit and saw this. I was furious, but thankfully the terms were such that if I moved and canceled my membership due to no clubs in my area the loan would be forgiven and no more payments were required. F%@K Bally’s

  12. George4478 says:

    >>he backed down and said not only had he cancelled the account once and for all but also cancelled my balance and past due amounts.

    That was nice of him to SAY. Now, what proof do you have that it actually happened and you won’t have a debt collector knocking on your door next month?

  13. MutantMonkey says:

    If you ever have issues breaking your Planet Fitness account, just go screw around in the 30 minute BS zone. Eventually one of the staffers will come up, ask for your member number and let you know you have been banned.

  14. dush says:

    The biggest thing is who develops and implements their account and tracking software?
    Let’s get a story done on that. These accounts and the mishaps in software take place for a reason and someone is making that software.

  15. highfructosepornsyrup says:

    I know that at our local university, there’s a bigass new gym and anyone can join for a fee. (students automatically pay, and other university-associated folks can get a small discount)

    The gym itself is probably interested in making some money off this, but, being part of a university and not a commercial entity unto itself, it seems to be that this sort of thing is a good bet as a no-BS workout joint.

    I’m sure YMMV depending on the university, but mine has daily, weekly, monthly and yearly fees. As far as I can tell, it’s a full service gym with a range of a la carte services. The eyecandy is very, very good and free…

  16. Mauvaise says:

    Bally’s tried something shady with me after I canceled. About two months later, I received a bill for over $300 for “renewal of membership”.

    When I called, they claimed that since I had used my membership card to access their gym on X-Date, that they renewed me. It was only by chance that I happened to have been out of town that date and had tickets to a tourist attraction with my name on it for the date they said I was at their gym that I won that debate.

    Shady assholes, they are.

  17. kataisa says:

    Bally’s and other fitness centers won’t leave you alone until you file a USPS Prohibitory Form 1500 against them.

    That was the only way I could get Bally’s to stop sending me “invoices”.