Saturday, May 02, 2009

The shameless fraudsters a.k.a 24 Hour Fitness

A couple of months ago, I was forced to join a gym in spite of not liking gyms much because one of the classes at my beloved community recreation center got canceled and I could not find a suitable replacement for it.

In spite of some initial disputes with them(never ignore warning signs), I wound up signing a month-to-month contract at 24 Hour Fitness as it is conveniently located. Now, being the ever vigilant exerciser, I had read plenty of reviews online for 24 hour Fitness. Almost all of them sounded upset about 24 hour Fitness's cancellation policy. Apparently you would invariable be charged for one extra month after cancellation.

I decided to be extra careful and asked about the cancellation policy during sign up and was told that it would be no problem at all, I would simply have to cancel before my credit card got charged and I would have terminated the membership from then on. That sounded reasonable.

While signing up, I was charged the last month's fee too along with the first month's. I made a reminder for myself to call up to cancel my membership in May first week since I did not want to go to the gym from June and since the last month was already paid for, I would not have to pay for May. So far so good.

So today I called up the 24 Hour Fitness people and the operator there coolly informed me that I would be charged for one more month and since I had already paid for the last month, my membership would be active till July! I explained that since I had already paid the last month's dues, there was no reason to charge me for the month of May - they could use for my last month's paid fees for the month of May.

Then this idiot tells me "Oh, we have a 30 day cancellation policy". Well, if that was the case, I did want to cancel in June only but was giving him a 30 day advance notice by informing him in May! But apparently the prepaid last month's dues were some kind of Gandhi-kanakku* which was in some limbo-world where it could not be included as fees for the 30 day notice period.

I asked him why and he said that the payment request would have already been sent to my credit card company though the billing date is 8 days from now. I found this explanation ridiculous as any idiot knows that credit company's will *very* easily stop payment requests even two days before the due date.

So I asked him if it is was okay that I called up my credit card company to stop the payment if they found it so difficult to do it themselves. He said okay. Now this sounded too easy but since I did not have an option, I just got a cancellation confirmation number and hung up.

Then I called up my credit card company and they tell me that they cannot stop a payment request unless it comes from the requester, in this case, 24 Hour Fitness, itself - however I could dispute the charge once it was processed. Okaaaaaaaaaaay.

Since I wasn't sure what would happen in case of a disputed charge, I did a quick google search for other user cancellation experiences with 24-hour Fitness and was stunned by the number of complaint stories which showed up. The crux of the matter was 24 hour Fitness is well known for ripping off cancelling customers and has also been involved in a resultant class action suit which resulted in settlement with the plaintiffs.

Quite a few people had faced the exact same scenario that I have. And here is the rub, if users disputed the charge, in some case, 24 Hour Fitness came after them with collection agencies!!!! WTH!! Obviously, I don't want that to happen and now I am being initmidated into ponying up for a service I am not going to use. Aarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

I am so irritated right now. Their cancellation policy is extortionist in the first place - fine! At least, shouldn't they take the time to explain it to new members especially when they specifically ask for it? Or is this the way that 24 Hour Fitness makes money - by duping people? What kind of horrible corporate ethical business practice standards do they have?

I know one thing for sure, from June, I am never going to go back there again. I am also going to actively persuade people I know to consider other gymming options before they choose this big fraud dump.

Now I am seriously worried since there were quite a few people on the web who had stories where 24 Hour Fitness continued to charge them for months after they had cancelled their membership and had collection agencies come after them when they refused to pay it! I really hope I am not one of them and my relationship with this fraud-house ends permanently in June. Good riddance.

*Gandhi kanakku literally translates to Gandhi's account. Essentially it is equivalent to throwing money down a drain.


Serendipity said...

:( poor archie.Maybe u could cancel your credit card if they continue to charge u?..jesht an option :)

Joy said...

This is ridiculous. How come no action has been taken against them? Thanks for informative/Warning/BeAware post. :)

Divya or RK said...

Can't blame them for the fact that you signed a especially tricky contract. But it is true that they deploy crazy techniques ("All you pay for is the first and last months, everything else works pretty much like month on month", "Cancellation is a snap, you give us a call, and we give you the money"). I was ripped once and I know this from experience.

ACE !! said...

May be in fine print they could have their cancellation policy. Too much pain to get back the few $s.

I had a painful exp. with a taxi junkie who charged me thrice for a ride, had to fight with my cc company to cancel the wrong ones.

Saumya said...

Ugh! That is terrible. I hate it when people don't tell me the whole story WHEN ASKED!

Poor you....btw, you can have a stop payment, if you try calling another rep

Archana said...

Serendipity - soga kadhai - apparently 24 hour fitness *continues* to charge canceled/expired etc. credit cards!

Joy - seriously, be aware of these smooth talking sign up sales people!

Divya - that's exactly my point - it is fraudulent to explain one thing to the customer when something totally different is specified in the contract!

ACE - yup the fine print did have those terms. I refuse to believe that the salesperson who explained the cancellation policy was unaware of the contract terms.

Saumya - :-(! With rep from where? I do not understand :-(.

jana said...

Wow looks like I have a full day ahead of me. I was just trying to locate the contact address/number for cancellation :(

Cindy said...

I had no problem with the cancellation of my membership. They were actually pleasant to deal with. I called and they immediately dealt with my cancellation. It was no fuss and I actually got credited within two weeks of cancellation. When I had 1st signed on with 24 hour fitness I paid my 1st months and last months up front. I had it taken out of my checking account monthly. I actually canceled after my monthly fee and they gave it back. So Kudo’s to 24 hour fitness for such a wonderful turnaround. The reason I canceled anyways was because my work built a gym. It was much more convenient for me. Thanks 24 hour fitness.

Anonymous said...

I had the same issue and was highly annoyed. I called the C.S. # and stated that I understood that it may be in the contract, but that I wanted to speak to a supervisor to have him explain the policy to me in a logical manner....she immediately told me that she would waive all fees and put me on a no contact list...also, giving me a confirmation # so that if need be I could have the conversation pulled up. Bravo! Win one for the little guys