Monday, May 11, 2009
Help Me Howard: Gym Contract
You go there to workout, not to get worked up, but one South Florida woman is sweating this next situation: Her gym closed, sold her existing contract to a new gym, and they won't let her cancel it. Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser gets pumped up for this one.
WSVN -- Nicole Reid is young and healthy and plans to stay that way.
Nicole Reid: "I am totally one of those people that when you workout it just puts me in such a better mood. If I don't get to the gym, I get kind of cranky."
To keep smiling and in shape she joined a gym on Miami Beach. It was a great place to workout. Unfortunately, it didn't work out.
Nicole Reid: "I showed up one day to work out, and the doors were locked, sign on the window just said 'out of business.'"
When Energy Fitness and Spa shut down the Miami Beach location, Nicole pulled out her contract.
Nicole Reid: "It did say something about if the club ceases to operate, they will refund member pro-rate, for any prepaid month's dues."
Since Nicole was paying month-to-month she assumed her gym contract was over.
Nicole Reid: "I waited about a week to see if I heard what happened. I never got anything in the mail or a phone call, so I joined a new gym."
Kept working out at her new gym, then noticed her bank account was being worked out by another gym.
Nicole Reid: "About a week after that, I noticed another charge on my account because I had the monthly dues drafted electronically, but I didn't see Energy Fitness anymore."
It was a bill from another gym not related to Energy Fitness and Spa at all. Nicole called them immediately.
Nicole Reid: "I was told I need to speak to the general manager, and that it would be easier to e-mail him, sent him an e-mail, saying, I had no idea this was going to happen, I've already joined a new gym."
But they countered that they had bought the old Energy memberships, and she was now a member of their gym, so she blocked them from electronically withdrawing from her bank account.
Nicole Reid: "But now I am getting bills and calls for the monthly dues, plus late fees, plus a $49 manual billing fee each month."
Nicole's now a member of two gyms. The one she signed up for and goes to, and the one that signed her up and sends her bills, but can a gym buy your membership and force you to pay for a place you don't want to go. Want to do the legal lifting on this one, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "This case is clear. Nicole's contract specifically says the membership may not be transferred under any circumstance, period. End of story, period."
When we contacted Gold's Gym South Beach, the CEO disagreed with Howard's view of the contract. He says that the transfer clause blocks members from giving the membership to another person and has nothing to do with his company buying the memberships. He believes Nicole is legally bound to pay his gym for the membership. However, he told us he would make an exception for Nicole, cancel her contract, and end her membership. Howard says Nicole's contract saved her, and make sure if you sign a contract, you are protected.
Howard Finkelstein: "Whether you are purchasing a gym membership or any other type of service, if you don't want to be transferred to another company or location make sure they write a clause in your contract that prohibits it, make sure you initial it and they do to."
Nicole now only has one gym contract, and now when she works out, one less thing to worry about.
Nicole Reid: "It is your only alone time, it is the only time I can clear my head and think and not deal with anything else."
Nicole is not alone in complaining. According to the State of Florida, more than 40 people have complained about their gym contracts being sold by Energy to another gym. Like Nicole, they want out of the contract. The state told us they are investigating and believe all the contracts Energy sold were null and void. Of course, to keep it in perspective, Energy sold 600 contracts, so about 560 people have not complained.
Sweating a situation that has left you sore? Need to cancel your concerns? Sign up with us. We'll try to work out a solution.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services