Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Help Me Howard: Gym
Going to the gym. It's a daily ritual for many in our area, but one woman's attempt to tone up, left her tied up in a contract she says was altered. That's when she signed up for Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- For many people, work involves sitting behind a desk hour after hour, day after day.
Karla Centeno: "I'm always sitting down so I want to have some activity in my daily life."
Karla Centeno decided the best way to keep in shape, join a gym and go after work.
Karla Centeno: "Get leaner and be fit, and have a more active lifestyle."
She found a gym she liked close to her home, but if you have ever watched Help me Howard you have heard of horror stories about gym contracts, but Karla had an idea.
Karla Centeno: "So I went to the gym and I said, I didn't want a contract because I wanted to be able to cancel any time."
Karla Centeno: "The lady said, 'no, don't worry about it, you can cancel any time.'"
In fact, right here where it lists the length of the membership, it's not filled in, it's blank. Karla then signed up.
Karla Centeno: "I'm like, ok, thank you, and then I left."
Well you know where this is going. She later decided to switch to a different gym, but first tried to cancel with the first gym.
Karla Centeno: "I called customer service and they said that I have a contract for three years."
Karla looked at her contract and didn't see that, so the gym gave her their copy of the same contract. Same signatures, but something added: it says she signed up for 36 months.
Karla Centeno: "The original one that I signed has no 36 months on it. I was like, this can't be, this can't be happening."
The gym told her she owed them over $1700 to get out of the contract. Karla then notified a manager about the contract with 36 months filled in by someone after she signed it, and asked her to straighten it out.
Karla Centeno: "She said no, she wasn't going to do it, and she was really rude. I'm showing her the proof that I have, and she didn't want to do anything."
That's when Karla figured she'd call the man who can put some legal muscle behind her problem, Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "She can absolutely get out of this contract, because the contract that both parties signed was not a 36 month contract, it was a month-to-month contract. And any alterations or changes after that without Karla's permission are just not valid."
We contacted the gym, a manager told us they made a mistake, that sometimes in a rush to finish the contract quickly, things are left out and filled in later. And the employee involved in this will be reprimanded. The good news, Karla was quickly released from the rest of the contract. Howard says all of us can learn from this one, if you see a blank in a contract, beware.
Howard Finkelstein: "You do not want to leave any blanks in a contract, especially concerning material issues, like duration of the contract, the price, or services that you will receive. If there are any blanks, you should write in n/a for not applicable before the contract is signed."
Karla is just happy everything worked out, and she is free to exercise her right to go to another gym.
Karla Centeno: "I'd like to go somewhere where I know I'm going to be welcome."
Patrick Fraser: The key for Karla, she had a copy of the contract that proved someone had altered it. Without it she would not be able to prove it was altered, so when you sign a document, make sure you get a copy, and make sure you file it away.
Been pushed till you hurt. Don't get bent out of shape. Contact us, obviously we are not muscle bound, but we'll try to lift the weight off your shoulders.
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