Gym Woes

The main reason I’ve never joined a gym before, aside from the fact I mostly hate to exercise, is a strong desire to avoid getting entangled in the kind of financial nightmare I’ve seen among people I’ve helped with their finances. Dealing with the gyms is always a nightmare. I’ve often felt that their business plan revolves more around ripping people off than helping people get healthy.

But circumstances evolved to where joining a gym was the most cost effective way to keep doing Zumba–one of the few forms of exercise I truly enjoy. So back in September, I finally joined the Omni Gym, just down the street from where I live. Regular readers may recall my post about how the experience of joining felt a lot like buying a used car from a shady dealer. I read the contract with a magnifying glass to make sure there were no hidden clauses with unexpected fees and superfluous charges.

Earlier this month, the used-car salesmen customer service rep that signed me up emailed me to let me know that everyone who joined last year would be billed $29 for club enhancement. I immediately fired back a response saying in no uncertain terms that this wasn’t going to fly with me. He replied that because of the plan I selected, I wouldn’t have to pay the charge. Yay! I win!

Last week I was balancing my checkbook (yes, I’m one of “them”) when what to my wandering eyes should appear but a $29 payment to Omni.  Can you say FURIOUS? I picked up the phone, dialed the gym, and asked to speak with the manager. The pleasant young lady who answered the phone told me the manager was in a meeting.

Right. Our gym routinely runs this scam where they entice you to come to classes by offering prizes like additional sessions with a personal trainer. My partner received one of these prizes for five sessions with a trainer well over a month ago. He’s asked Curtis how to cash in on the deal several times a week since, and for one reason or another, has always been told he’d have to wait until next week. Well, we’re still waiting…

Having surmised that the manager’s style is to put things off for as long as possible, I not-so-politely informed the pleasant young lady that I would hold until he got out of his “meeting.”  She didn’t expect him to be out for some time (yeah, right), and asked if she could help. Turns out, she’s the person who handles all the billing. So I explained my situation to her, the absence of any clause disclosing the annual club enhancement fee, and my email exchange assuring me I wouldn’t have to pay.

She consulted my record on the computer and said there was nothing she could do. Resolving the issue fell to the manager. So I left a message.

He didn’t call me back that evening. He didn’t call all the next day, either. So I called back around eight and was told he’d just left. I let the girl who answered the phone know I had left a message the night before, that I really didn’t expect him to call, and that I would continue to leave messages for him until he called me back. I’ve left a similar message on five different days this week.

He still hasn’t called. Yesterday when I went to the gym, I stopped at the front desk and again explained my issue. The gentleman said that only the manager could fix the problem, but he was sure we’d get it resolved. He clearly has a great deal more faith than I do. He said he’d ask the manager to call me.

He hasn’t, and he won’t. So I sent him a lovely email letting him know I was very disappointed that he hadn’t returned my calls. I also assured him that I had no intention of letting this go. He hasn’t responded to my email, either.

I’m giving him until Wednesday. If I haven’t heard from him, on Thursday I’m filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs, and the Federal Trade Commission. It’s the principle of the thing. If I let him get by with this random charge, who knows when the next one will come up and how much it will cost.

Except for the good-for-nothing manager, everyone who works at the gym is very nice and always professional. For what I pay every month, I expect nothing less. Before this is over, the manager will likely regret that he provoked the crotchety old man who lives here in…

My Glass House