Dear Gut, I’m Sorry I Didn’t Listen

I made a big mistake a couple months ago, but it took until now to realize it.

I didn’t listen to my gut.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that my gut is a surprisingly good compass. It computes information that I know before I can actually formulate it into full thoughts and arguments. It’s what helped me kick bad boyfriends to the curb when my heart kept pleading to hold on. It’s what gave me the nerve to tell a builder to get stuffed and then walk away when they tried to make me sign a contract that was heavily lopsided in their favour. It told me to buy stocks, which I didn’t, and then kicked myself heavily for.

Last summer I decided to join a gym with a friend. We used to meet for coffee at Starbucks, and decided to start meeting at the gym instead. She had a membership through work to one of the major fitness chains that my work promoted as well, so I looked into it. Their website was professional, but nowhere did it mention their membership pricing. Red flag one. I hit google to see if I could find their prices, but again, they were no where to be found.

So I went into the gym and asked the girls at the front desk for a price schedule. They said they couldn’t give me one, but that they could book me in with a fitness consultant to discuss the different options available. Red flag two. I wanted to meet my friend at the gym, and the gym closest to our houses seemed questionable, so I booked in with the fitness consultant the next day.

I told the fitness consultant as soon as we were in the office that the lack of transparancy in their pricing was raising some major red flags for me. She said she fully understood my concern, but assured me there was nothing to be worried about. I told her that I did not want to be locked into a fixed term contract, so she pulled out a binder and showed me my options. We decided that a month to month membership with biweekly billing would be my best bet. When I inquired about their cancellation policy, I was told I could cancel at any time, but if I didn’t cancel before their billing cycle cut off that another payment would come out of my account. It seemed fair. She filled out the pricing information on the front of the paperwork: It would be $29 biweekly for the first 12 months, but if I stayed with the gym for longer than a year the price would drop to $24 biweekly. I read over the fine print on the back of the contract, and didn’t see anything that was a cause for alarm. So, I signed.

For the next few months everything was great. It was a nice gym, lots of amenities, newer equipment, and it was never overcrowded. Unfortunately however, with my shift work the way it is, my friend and I were finding it hard to meet up on a regular basis, and I found I wasn’t using the gym enough to make keeping the membership worthwhile. I decided at the end of December that I would cancel my membership before the explosion of New Years resolution members hit the floor.

I went in to the gym in person and let them know I wanted to cancel my membership. I was taken to an office by one of the fitness consultants, and we filled out the paperwork. She then told me that there was a $149 cancellation fee. My blood went cold. I asked her what she was talking about, because there wasn’t supposed to be a fee on my membership because I’m not locked in to a fixed term contract. She pulled up my account and said I had a 1 year membership with biweekly billing. I was also told that until the gym received the fee, they would not process my paperwork. After some back and forth about the matter, she left a note on my cancellation form for the general manager to call me when he was back in the office two days later, as he was on holidays.

I went home and dug up my contract. It was exactly as I remembered it, with the pricing written on the front under the month to month section, and no mention of a cancellation fee in the fine print on the reverse.

I waited all day for a phone call from the manager on the day I was told he’d be back. Nothing. So I went into the gym. The receptionist called his office and let him know I wanted to speak to him, and she was told he was busy. Instead they passed me off to the assistant manager. When the assistant manager proved to be about as useful as the fitness consultant, I insisted on speaking to the manager.

You know sometimes you can tell a sleaze ball by looking at them? I knew the minute I saw him.

I pulled my contract out and showed it to him. He pointed to the what I had been told was the pricing section, and said that I had agreed to pay them for 12 months. I realized the contract was completely ambiguous as to what that section actually meant. He then pulled out a binder and flipped to another page I was never shown, showing an open contract rate that was $5 biweekly higher than the one I had been told was the open one. I had been lied to. We argued in circles over it for a good 5-10 minutes, and during that time I caught them in 3 different lies. When I called him on it, he just said that’s what they did when they had to deal with difficult customers. They also implied that I was trying to lie my way out of a contract that I had knowingly agreed to, and told me they weren’t going to do anything about it. Because the whole process of signing up is based on verbal communication, I couldn’t physically prove anything. He turned the situation into a he says she says argument with such skill that I’m fairly certain it’s been done many times before.

I left the gym in a fit of rage, and cried the whole way home.

That night I filed a detailed complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s response? That I have to pay the cancellation fee, but that they would cancel the autorenew on my contract. How generously useless of them.

Their position? That I’m just another customer trying to get out of a contract without paying what I owe. My position? I’m the victim of a bait and switch, and that their undeclared cancellation fee amounts to no less than extortion; I can either pay them money, or I can continue paying them money. What lovely options.

Their contract is ambiguous, and if I’m not mistakenĀ in contract law interpretation sides with the person who did not write the contract. The fee is also not stipulated in the contract. Legally it’s unenforcable, but until I pay them they won’t stop taking my money. I’d contact my credit card to stop payment, but I’ve read too many instances where gyms sent accounts to collections over exactly that.

The only way to do anything about this would be to take them to small claims court. Over $149. This is why places get away with doing this to people. Do I want to get up in front of a judge and fight their corporate lawyers when I can’t prove one way or another that they’ve lied to me? The whole ordeal has already cost me over a week’s worth of sleep, and my face is breaking out something fierce. I’m ashamed to say it, but I don’t have the nerves required for me to do it. In a country that practices tort law, I’m being part of the problem by not taking this predatory business to task. To my fellow Canadians, I’m sorry.

I’m going to send them their cancellation fee. I’m going to send it through registered mail, so I know when they’ve received it. As soon as they do I’m going to call my credit card company to let them know what day they received it, so that if they try to take payment from my card after the contract termination date I’m in a better position to fight it.

I thought I had done my due diligence when I read through the fine print on the contract, but in the end I should have listened to my gut.

My list of blacklisted companies is short, now sitting at a total of two. The first one was added to the list over a decade ago. World Health Fitness, welcome to the list. You unscrupulous, swindling, money grubbing thieves.

Recommended Reading: Clutter is Procrastination

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27 thoughts on “Dear Gut, I’m Sorry I Didn’t Listen

  1. Aww, man! I wrote a long comment and then lost it on the subway. Wah…

    First, I want to say I’m so sorry this happened to you. We all know how smart you are, when it comes to money, planning out any decision you make, etc. so there is no doubt in my mind that you read through your contract and looked for obvious words like “cancellation” and “fee”.

    Second, this is exactly why I have yet to join a gym in Toronto. Everywhere I go, I find out there are cancellation fees. And the places that don’t admit to them, friends later tell me they have them. So, I refuse. I don’t know who I’ll be, where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, etc. in a year! No one is taking free money from me, even if I do miss working out right now.

    Finally, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’re talking about GoodLife. Just sayin’.

    Chin up, hun. I hope you can find a way not to pay it.

    • Ugh, I hate it when that happens. I’ve actually lost comments for your site as well trying to comment on my phone. I’ve just stopped using my phone for commenting, which is why I don’t do it as much anymore.

      As nice as it is having a gym to go to on crappy days, I’d really encourage you to not join one. A community rec centre or YMCA sure, but the rest of them? Screw it. You’ll be better off financially by running outdoors or using groupons to test out different fitness centres.

      My experience was with World Health Fitness. Avoid them at all costs.

  2. Sometimes there isn’t much recourse in these situations other than to go public, as you have done here. “Name and shame!” I would re-title your post World Health Fitness Rip-Off or something like that so it comes up higher in search results!

  3. Ugh, that sucks! Businesses who pull crap like that deserve to be publicly called out, and I am happy that you did it.

    I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but the best thing I did, fitness-wise, was invest in some home equipment: a (second-hand) cardio machine and some free weights. Granted, I’m not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, and my regular fitness routine is pretty basic. The cardio machine (a recumbent bike) only cost a few hundred dollars, and it’s still going strong years later. Having it all in my house makes working out super convenient – I never have an excuse not to do it.

    Of course, this doesn’t speak to why you joined this gym in the first place, but it’s something to think about if anyone is looking to avoid these gym places and their scammy practices.

    • I know. I’m starting to get really pissed off that businesses think they don’t need to be accountable to anyone anymore.

      I actually do have some equipment at home, which is what I’m using now. I think if I added a couple kettle bells to the mix I’d be happy with the equipment I have, but that will have to happen later in the year. I’ll have to see if I can find some on sale, since the ones I see at Winners are always way too light for me. They’re usually around the 5lb mark, and I’d like to find some 15lb-20lb ones.

  4. I was so nervous that my gym was going to pull this same crap on me when I went in to cancel after hearing all these horror stories, but I’m happy to say that cancelling with the Athletic Club literally took 2 minutes, no issues.

    I’m sorry this happened to you, but now I know never to sign up with them!

    • I’m glad to hear you had a positive experience :) I was honestly expecting the same thing, since that’s what I had been told would happen. It’s been really frustrating that it didn’t happen, but if I can prevent the same thing from happening to others then at least it wasn’t for nothing.

  5. Awww Cassie, I was getting so angry for you while I read your story! Good idea on sending the payment by registered mail so you can track it. Almost every female I know has a horrible gym story to share. This is mine…

    I signed up for an 18 month memebership at SNFW but got a “deal” because I paid them $600 plus tax CASH. They said there would be no cancellation fee IF I finished the 18 months. I had full intention of using my memebership but truthfully I went to the gym probably 20 times in those 18 months.

    Fast forward about 22 months when I had long forgotten about my expired memebership I start getting phone calls from them saying I was 4 months behind on my payments. I was shocked. I told them my membership had long expired but they claimed that unless I sent them written notice 2 months before the expried date, my membership gets auto-renewed for the following year. WTF. I was livid! They continued calling me evey single day, sometimes twice a day for 2 weeks while I ignored their calls but was losing sleep over it. Finally after 2 weeks, I picked up their call, told them calmly it was robbery and that I refused to pay the 4 months auto-renew, they threatened collection, I said go ahead and try since I paid you CASH…and that was the last I heard from them…

    They never did send it to collection because I applied for a personal loan this month and it never showed up on my credit report. Take that evil gym!

    • It’s true. I’m usually pretty good about listening to my gut, but sometimes I don’t and this is what happens. I really need to give my instincts the respect they deserve.

  6. I signed up for a gym membership and had a hard time canceling as well. I think the cancellation fee was $50 or something. I now refuse to sign up anywhere. Instead I use community facilities and get punch cards. Life is too short to deal with unethical companies.

    • A punch card is what I originally wanted, but the gym didn’t offer one. That should have been another flag. Oh well. The price of dropping in at the YMCA or taking a yoga class once a week is cheaper than the gym membership. Now I know better. Sorry to hear you got caught up in the same crap :(

  7. Cassie, this is not a huge amount of money…true. It doesn’t make me any less sick over it, though! I feel like I need a bath after simply reading about the slimeballs you described! Sharing now with my readers so they can be spared the headache you lived.

    • It made me pretty sick too. I actually had a bath with a glass of wine that night, because I was having a hard time settling myself down. Thank you so much for retweeting the link, I hope that none of our readers ever get caught up in this experience!

    • It really is, and what’s worse is that they aren’t being held accountable. If I ever hear about someone starting a class action suit against them, I’ll be joining it.

  8. Oh, Goodness!

    A similar thing happened to us. Our 12 month gym contract renewed for another year because we didn’t read the fine print. I thought I had read the contract but there was some small wording about it. Oh well. I’m sorry that happened to you!

  9. :(

    It kinda sounds like Goodlife Fitness. I’ve heard some of their gyms doing that. I hate how gyms are so pushy like that. I’m sorry this happened to you. :(

    • I’ve heard Goodlife is bad for that. Mine was with World Health Fitness. I should have guessed something was up, they have billboard and radio ads all over the place. The money for that came from somewhere!

  10. I always worry about that with signing up with gyms. I left my really expensive gym (Equinox-in the states) and I was incredibly lucky they were so nice. I still get emails bugging me to come back, but in the end I found I could work out on my own. I know it kills to send that fee to them. It’s such a huge bummer to suck it up. ugh!

  11. Hi Cassie,

    I’ve just been catching up, and I know exactly how you feel. I was caught up in some bamboozle gym scheme a few years ago, as well, and like you, I felt something wasn’t quite right, but I was assured that I’d be able to cancel if I moved further than a certain distance away from the gym. I was in Boston for a 4-month internship and wanted to sign up for the gym next door to my work, but it was a 1-year commitment.

    The fine print said that I can cancel if I moved more than 45 miles away from any location, and since I was moving back to Canada, I was assured that I would be able to cancel when the time comes. Well, the time came, and they tried to tell me that I couldn’t cancel if I KNEW that I’d be able to move away before the contract ends when I signed it. I dragged the Manager who sold me the deal, and also pointed it out that what they are saying wasn’t even on the contract – it strictly said that I just had to move away far enough. In the end, I got to cancel, and wasn’t dinged any fees, but I was close, and after that, gym memberships have always left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I’m glad you got out of your situation and next time, we’ll both listens to our guts (respectively) :)

  12. Oh that makes me so sick! This is the kind of crap that I refuse to let die if I have ANY recourse whatsoever (ie: I blog about it, share the “love”, and dispute the charges with my CC company). But I’ve never had to deal with someone claiming they’d send it to collections and I’m not sure how you debunk those claims in a situation like this, the only thing I can think of at this point is having someone make it bigger for you.

    Do you have any consumer advocates that deal with companies like this? BBB is only one entity, and here, they’re not actually considered any sort of end-all be-all consumer arbiter. I actually don’t even necessarily trust them because (again, here) the system is not watertight or totally transparent.

    Gosh, I can’t remember names but I’m thinking of one of those guys in the media who follows up on specific complaints. Or something like The Consumerist?

    Anyway, I’m sorry that it happened in the first place, that’s lame.

  13. Pingback: Gym Memberships: A Financial Nightmare | Girl Meets Debt

  14. Hi Cassie,

    I’m in the same situation you were months ago. World health is a money maker machine. I’m going to cancel this week, and it seems that I have to pay for it even though I wanted a month by month contract. They put in a 12 month biweekly payment, which is different. Did you find another way to get out of your contract. Thanks!

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