Joining Lucille Roberts Gym Is Like Joining The Mafia

Fitness club chain Lucille Roberts is apparently notorious for illegally preventing customers from canceling their memberships. Now a once-scorned former-Brooklyn customer who hasn’t been able to cancel her membership even though she moved to London has started a website in the hopes of exposing the (alleged) scam—

My work out experience was fine, as I didn’t mind the bad smell, chipping paint, or inattentive staff. The problem came when I tried to cancel my membership. I moved to London in April 2007 (less than 2 months after joining), but they refused to cancel my membership and continued to charge my credit card each month. Under my two year contract is a section entitling me to a no fee cancellation if I move outside of the Lucille Roberts catchments area. They demanded proof of my move, which I supplied. Apparently, 3,000 miles away isn’t far enough to be considered outside the catchment area!

On a technicality, they rejected the first set of paperwork: a copy of my London lease and a utility bill (the lease was not admissiable). So I did what they said and sent two utility bills instead. Still I was charged. They didn’t accept one of my utility bills! Apparently “British Gas” is not an acceptable utility company!!!

I have called them several times (long distance, mind you), and mailed them and to absolutely no satisfaction. The staff is unprofessional and rude. I have jumped through every hoop they have set for me and still I am left with a monthly charge.

Sadly I am left to conclude that my little ‘cheap’ gym in Brooklyn was in fact a con. They clearly have no intention of stopping charging me when they satisfy themselves that I have moved to London. Their aim is nothing short than to drag the process out as long as possible and to extort as much money from me as possible.

Yes, sadly I am left to conclude that Lucille Roberts are robbers.

Not allowing members to cancel if they move 25 miles away from the nearest gym or suffer from a physical condition that prevents them from exercising is illegal in New York City. Here’s a NYT article from 1999 in which the chain ran afoul of the law and was facing $150,000 in fines:

Jules Polonetsky, the Consumer Affairs Commissioner, said yesterday that the chain, which has branches throughout the city, would face an administrative law judge on Jan. 28 to answer 19 complaints, half of all the agency’s current complaints against health clubs in New York City.

One member, Melissa Boyle, a 19-year-old dental assistant from Brooklyn, said she mailed 10 letters to Lucille Roberts, asking the gym to cancel her membership and stop billing her credit card a membership fee of $31.49 a month because she suffered from a condition that causes the dislocation of her kneecaps. In addition, two of Ms. Boyle’s doctors sent notes informing the health club that they had advised her to stop exercising. It wasn’t until the Department of Consumer Affairs stepped in that the gym stopped charging her, she said.

Under state law, Mr. Polonetsky said, ”if there is a physical disability that keeps you from using the gym for six months, then you’re entitled to a refund” for that period.

The law also says that members who move 25 miles from the gym’s nearest location are entitled to void the contract. Similarly, members can void the contract if they change their minds about joining within three days of signing the contract.

”Lucille Roberts violated the law in their contracts, which state that the contract can be canceled only if there is a permanent disability,” Mr. Polonetsky said at a news conference in the 92d Street Y. He said complaints were also filed against Lucille Roberts by the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s office.

It’s the time of year when people join gyms, so if you’re considering signing up—be sure to research the gym with the BBB and try to avoid signing a contract if you can.

LucilleRobbers (Thanks, Doree!)
Fines Sought Against Health Club Over Refusals to Cancel [NYT]

RELATED: How To Negotiate Your Gym Membership Like A Diva

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