Don't Get Benchpressed By A Gym Contract Scam, A Cautionary Tale

So you go through the process of selecting a gym, asking yourself whether you want one close to your house or to work, choosing between opulent technoplaygrounds and piles of torture devices in an old VFW lodge, and most importantly, determining whether your goal is to actually get fit, or get laid.

Then after working out there for a few months, the whole kit and kaboodle goes bankrupt and sells your contract to some other gym. They’ve got five locations. One is 25 miles away. The other four are women-only. That’s what happened to Daniel, and they won’t let him cancel, but just cuz he’s working on his abs doesn’t mean he’s going to take it lying down…

(Photo: numberstumper)


The following is a merge of information I have already forwarded to the AL and OH attorney general offices as well as the Better Business Bureau of Akron OH.

Date: 6/19/2007
Name: Daniel
Age: 25
Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
City, State, Zip: Birmingham, AL 35215-1010
Home Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Work Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

—Info about complaint—
Firm Name: Fair Finance
Address: 1500 Canton Road
Address2: Suite 208
City, State, Zip: Akron, OH 44312
Phone: 800-877-0457

—Details—
Date of incident: 6/8/2007
Did they sign a contract? Yes
Did they inform firm/person of complaint? Yes

Product/Service involved:
Installment Plan for Gym Membership. This company takes out on your credit as a loan and makes monthly payments to your gym on your behalf.

Amount involved: $522.00

Relevant Documentation:

1. Gym Contract with Steel City Fitness (formerly of Birmingham AL)

2. Transfer Letter from Fair Finance (of Akron OH)

3. Called to cancel payments 6/19/2007

Complaint:

I was until recently a member of Steel City Fitness in Birmingham, AL. I took out an installment contract with them in December of 2006 through Fair Financial for $29.00 per month over 2 years. Steel City Fitness went out of business on June 8, 2007.

I was told by the owner (Linda) of Steel City Fitness and the Fair Finance representative I spoke to at the time that I would be debited one more month (June) and then my contract would end.

Yesterday I received a transfer letter – notifying me that my membership was being transferred to 1 of 5 locations. 4/5 of these locations *only admit women* (Riviera Fitness for Women)- thus I am ineligible. I called Fair Financial in regard to this and was told that “since I have options” they were enforcing the contract and I would be required to continue paying them or that they would ruin my credit.

The only one of the locations that admits men is 25 miles away from my home – and the contract states that anything more than 10 miles away allows me to cancel. The representative kept me on hold for 30 minutes reading my contract and running my address through MapQuest – and then told me that since I had an option that they would still enforce the contract.

I did not sign any contract with Riviera Fitness. I signed a contract with Steel City Fitness – which has no more locations as they went bankrupt. I was told that “None of our people would ever say that” when I informed the representative that I was told my contract was ending. I got angry that I was being insinuated as a liar, and the call did not end well except with the promise that “July 16 your payment is due. If you do not pay us this will reflect on your credit.”

Thank you.

BBB Complaint: AA967-9BB66-A34B3-9A438-FD700-793E3-FF

Resolution requested:

I want the contract declared null and void as a Fair Financial representative told me prior to the dispute that my contract would be canceled as Steel City Fitness went bankrupt and offered no locations to its members per the contract I signed with them. Fair Financial offered 4 women’s gyms as a replacement (I am a male) and told me that since I had options (the single co-ed gym that is 25 miles away from my home – the contract specifies 10 miles) that they were going to continue enforcing the contract that I was under the impression had ended. I have contacted the Ohio and Alabama Attorney General offices and will pursue this matter to its conclusion. I have dealt with Fair Finance for nearly 3 years and this is ridiculous to threaten to ruin someone’s credit if they don’t accept the shady deal that is offered.

Daniel to tips
Jun 19

I have faxed the following in writing to get it on written record with the finance company:

To:

Fair Finance
1500 Canton Road Suite 208
Akron, OH 44312
Fax: 800-230-3006

ATTN: Laura

RE: Account cancellation due to terms of contract.

Account Information:

Name: Daniel [redacted]

Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

City/State/Zip: Birmingham, AL 35215-1010

Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Return Fax: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Account at Gym: xxxxxx (not sure if this is the same account number) – this memo was included in the debit: (800-6509786) and my last 4 digits are xxxx.

As you are aware – Steel City Fitness in Birmingham, AL closed its doors on June 8, 2007. I was told at the time of June 1, 2007 when I reported the closing to your office by a Fair Finance representative who knew the owner (Linda) that my contract would end and my last payment would be June 16, 2007.

Yesterday I received a letter informing me that my membership would be moved to one of 5 locations. 4 of these locations only admit women (I am a male) and the 5th location (Riviera Fitness in Midfield) is 25 miles from my home, and 15 miles from the former location of Steel City Fitness. In either case – more than 10 miles away from the location of my former gym is outside the contract stipulations as I was told them by a CSR earlier today (who also insinuated that I was a liar at least 3 times when I told her what I was told on June 1, 2007 leading that call to not end well).

I can apologize for saying ‘damn’ a couple of times due to that – but I also thought that this contract was complete as I was told on June 1, 2007. I am insulted that I was told “since you have options we are enforcing the contract” when my options consist of ladies-only gyms and I was insulted when I was told that “legally we have to stop debiting your account – but if you don’t pay us on July 16 this will be reflected on your credit.”

I have dealt with your company for 3 years, and up until now they have always been friendly and receptive when I ask questions or for assistance.

Today I was kept on hold for nearly 30 minutes while your CSR ran my address through Mapquest against each of the gym locations and ultimately telling me that “since it is within 10 miles you have an option” although checking for myself against both my own address and Steel City Fitness shows that it was 25 miles/15 miles respectively.

I have already made other gym arrangements because I was told on June 1, 2007 that my last debit would be this month since Steel City Fitness was closing. Further – the “options” offered by your company boil down to a single option that falls outside of the contract stipulations that I agreed to with Steel City Fitness.

I am requesting acknowledgment that the contract has been canceled. I was told that there was a ‘cancellation’ fee although I do not remember agreeing to this in the contract. If there is indeed such a fee – please remit a bill to my home address along with written acknowledgment that our business relationship has ended. I do not appreciate having my credit threatened after being called a liar 3 times.

If for some reason you believe that the contract has not ended please send me written correspondence stating such along with the reason(s) including the specific clause within the contract. Since the only gym available falls outside of the 10 mile limit imposed by the existing contract – and since this gym is also nearly 30 miles from my place of residence – I do hope you can see why I believe the terms of the contract has been met.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Daniel to tips
Jun 20
A few updates:

1.) I raised enough hell yesterday that I was finally told that my contract was being canceled – but I requested a written acknowledgment of such to be delivered to my home address. Until I receive that I am going to assume that this decision might be an ‘oops’ and they debit me next month anyway.
2.) I pulled out a copy of my renewal contract with Steel City Fitness that was executed on 12/16/2006. Under the Membership Cancellation section it states that “You may also cancel if Steel City Fitness of Mt. Brook goes out of business and fails to provide facilities at 201 Office Park Drive, Suite 100, Mt. Brook, AL 35223.” And unlike my initial contract of 2004 does not specify that I have to accept facilities within 10 miles.
3.) I am assuming that I have not heard the end of this and there may be more strong-arm tactics to push me into another facility. The only available co-ed facility is in a high crime neighborhood 25 miles from my home.

Thank you for looking into this.

We wish Daniel luck. If he keeps pressing his case, he should get the contract revoked. He can also try doing a charegback on the account they’re debiting.

Moral of the story: only sign up for gyms with month-to-month contracts. — BEN POPKEN