Case in point: The New Jersey man who was told he was signing a 6-month personal training contract at L.A. Fitness. He had agreed with the gym to pay $370 up front, followed by five payments of $320, all of which was to be charged to his American Express card.
But a couple hours after signing the contract, he tells the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column that he noticed there was an error. Rather than five payments of $320, it said $320/month for an entire year.
So he returned to the gym, where the contract was revised and initialed by the salesperson.
You have probably already guessed what happened five months later, when L.A. Fitness continued to charge the customer $320/month.
He immediately contacted American Express to dispute the charge and received a letter about a week later saying his request was in process. A month later, he received an identical letter with no update. Two weeks after that, AmEx finally gave him the bad news — L.A. Fitness claimed the charge was valid and had a signed contract showing 12 months of scheduled payments.
“This was the first time I learned the amended contract was not the only version that existed,” the man tells Bamboozled. “I have no knowledge how that came about. I was annoyed because I had sent AmEx a scanned copy of the amended contract and nowhere in their resolution letter to me did they even acknowledge it.”
With AmEx failing to issue the charge-back, he turned back to L.A. Fitness, where he says he was repeatedly told that a VP was reviewing the case.
Eventually, the man says L.A. Fitness told him it would stop billing him the $320/month if he paid the $960 he had already been over-billed.
The L.A. Fitness rep refused to name the “very busy” VP who had supposedly reviewed his case, saying the company doesn’t hand out personal information. The gym did promise that this anonymous VP would call him. He’s still waiting.
Oddly enough, AmEx ultimately decided to approve the customer’s first charge-back, but not because it believed the company was in the wrong. Rather, it was because the gym didn’t respond to its requests for information.
Which seems to be a problem with the company. Bamboozled made multiple requests to speak to anyone at L.A. Fitness but received no replies. Even a marketing rep reached via social media suggested the writer contact customer service.
Thus, Bamboozled tried AmEx, which responded within hours — but just repeated its previous claims that the customer “did clearly sign a 12 mo. Service Term Agreement… We would respectfully request, at this point, that [the customer] contact LA Fitness directly to further pursue his overcharge claim.”
What about that amended contract the customer had sent to AmEx as proof?
“The Agreement copy from Merchant is unaltered and clearly indicates a 12 month term,” explained the rep. “The copy of Agreement provided by Mr Kuhn has been altered and so there really is no way for American Express to determine if those alterations were made in the presence and authorization of the Merchant.”
So the customer is always right, except when the merchant says he isn’t.
It was back to L.A. Fitness for Bamboozled, which pulled out the Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb in order to get someone, anyone, to reply.
That ultimately resulted in someone from L.A. Fitness HQ asking for details to look into the situation.
Only a few hours later, that same company rep contacted the customer.
“According to [the rep], my account will be cleared of the excessive charges with apologies for my inconvenience,” said the customer. “Incredible. I spent two months on this and you clear it up in a matter of days.”