Memberships, once the exclusive domain of warehouse clubs like Costco and BJ’s, are officially hot right now. From Amazon Prime and Walmart ShippingPass to subscription boxes (like Birchbox) and membership programs from retailers including Bed Bath & Beyond and Restoration Hardware, companies aren’t content until they’ve turned occasional shoppers into loyal members. But should you join? Will it be worth the money? How will you know if a membership program is right for you? We break it down. [More]
You may remember DirectBuy, a store selling furniture and other items to spiff up your home that promises deep discounts to people who sign up for a pricey membership. This business model is apparently not working out for them, since the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. [More]
Consumers really love Amazon Prime, a subscription service that now includes a variety of other perks, but began as a humble program that got subscribers free 2-day shipping. Now other retailers have started to wonder whether they can get customers to pay up for free shipping programs with additional perks. The latest retailer to try this is Lands’ End, which has introduced their program along with a more expensive and more stylish collection of clothing. [More]
Sandra was trapped. She was trapped in the enchanted prison of the Disney Movie Club. She didn’t need someone to cast a spell and set her free, though: what she really needed was to pay off her entire account balance. The problem is that the enchantment robs the Movie Club of the ability to read checks, so they dragged out her departure by logging her $35 check as a $25 one.
Claudia is a Costco member, but when Sam’s Club advertised a one-day shopping pass in her local paper, she went to see what Sam’s had to offer. What the ad didn’t mention was that a photo ID would be needed to get the pass from the store’s customer service desk. Which is interesting, since you can actually print a pass from the Sam’s Club web site, presumably without holding your driver’s license up to the screen.
Last year, we reported on the trouble that members of the Entertainment Consumers Association had with canceling their memberships, as well as other complaints about the group. Now, one reader reports that he was charged for the membership that he canceled earlier this year.
Reader Stacy writes in to let us know that DirectBuy refused to let her tour their showroom without her husband.
Megan tried to quit her membership with Massage Envy, a national chain, in person, but was told she’d need to provide a request in writing. After she jumped through that silly hoop she was stuck with a charge of $10 more than she anticipated. Then a company rep told she would still be billed automatically for the membership she canceled.
Gyms are notorious for being difficult to cancel your membership at, so at first Heather thought hers was different. They even backdated the cancellation date so she wouldn’t pay for the full month. So nice! A month later, collections called her.
One bungled customer service experience can change your whole outlook of a company. Joseph proves this as he talks about how LA Fitness — a gym he once adored — bought itself two membership cancellations instead of one by screwing up his attempts to cancel his partner’s contract.
Yesterday, ECA President Hal Halpin emailed Consumerist and other blogs a formal statement addressing the charges that the ECA is deliberately making it hard for members to break free. I’m printing the letter below, along with a summary of the key points Halpin makes and the issues that remain unanswered.
Some members of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) are pretty upset that the consumer advocacy group for gamers removed the ability to turn off auto-renewal on member accounts. They’ve also removed the phone number you used to be able to call to cancel. In fact, the only way to cancel your ECA membership now is to mail them a letter–and if your request isn’t processed at least 30 days before your membership is due to renew, you can expect to be charged again. Update: The ECA has responded, but their formal statement leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Gregory Rowell has been dead for nearly two years, but no one knew that he’d set up an auto debit with Planet Fitness on a second checking account. The gym continued to debit his account each month until a bank employee notified the victim’s mother, Patricia Rowell. When she provided the death certificate and asked them to refund the money, they not only refused, but said it was her fault and offered her a six month membership instead. That’s when Rowell took her story to the local newspaper.
The gym chain made famous on NBC’s “Biggest Loser” is being sued for continuing to debit the bank accounts of customers who have canceled their memberships. The US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, has given the green light to a class action lawsuit that says the chain is violating both the RICO Act and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act by keeping these zombie memberships active.
Cache asked about the $10 “Super Power Pass” add-on at his local XSport Fitness club today—the sign in the window says “work out where you want, when you want with a Super Power Pass for just $10 more*,” and lists “Chicago – New York – Washington” across the top. We don’t know what’s linked via that asterisk, because the fine print on the ad is so small that it’s unreadable in the photo Cache took, but as you might expect there’s no such thing as a $10 add-on that lets you use any XSport Fitness.
The sales team at the LA Fitness in
Floral Park New Hyde Park, Long Island, were so pushy to a prospective customer that they basically forced her to take her business elsewhere. Apparently if they actually let a customer redeem one of their free passes, the gym will be sucked into a vortex of non-commission, so they have to deny you access.