Anytime Fitness: A Bogus Cancellation Policy
I signed up at the Anytime Fitness (club 1596) in Waukesha, WI (901 Meadowbrook Road) on 4/20/09. The contract stated that I was signing up for 15 months. I paid in full on my credit card: an amount of $486.11. As per the written contract, this membership ended on 7/20/10. I used the fitness center for about 8 months, then I bought some of my own equipment to put in my house and I stopped going to the fitness center sometime around 12/09.
I pretty much forgot about the membership until I got a packet in the mail from ABC Financial Services on 7/6/10. They decided to extend my contract and switch my billing to monthly statements.
I immediately called ABC Financial Services and they told me I needed to call the local club to handle membership cancellations. I called the local club office and spoke to Stephanie Stencil. She, along with the owner, had originally signed me up for the contract back in April. She stated that I had not given 30 days notice of cancellation and that this cancellation should have been in writing. Therefore, she was extending my membership to 8/19/10 and charging me $41.95. I went looking for my contract to find out where this 30 day policy was. I read the contract back and front. No where was a 30 day cancellation policy stated.
I decided to e-mail Deb Kneser at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deb is one of the owners of the club that sends out monthly club newsletters from her RoadRunner account to all club members. I sent her the following message:
You are one of the owners of this establishment, correct?
I would like to discuss where in my contract I have to give 30 days
notice of cancellation or get charged $41.95. I have read the front and
back of my contract and the only terms it deals with is if I move away
or if the Club closes.
I paid a year in full and according to my contract (pink copy), my
contract expires 7/20/10. Why is my contract being extended to 8/20/10?
I have not used the club for the past 7 months. I calculate this $226
for not using any of your services.
Why can't you cancel my contact and we call it even? Even if there was
a cancellation fee, it should be $32.40 since the original term was 15
months @ $486.11.
Please let me know when either you or Kerri are available to discuss
this matter in person. I can come after 5PM Monday through Friday.
That e-mail was sent the night of 7/6/09. I waited the next two days, expecting an apology about the mix-up and cancellation of my membership without the $41.95 charge. I went into the club the night of 7/8/10, not hearing anything from Deb. I spoke to an older gentlemen and asked him when Kerry, the husband of Deb and co-owner of the club, when he would be in. He told me within 1 week, but that I could leave my name and my phone number and that Kerry usually visits the club on a daily basis to check in.
I did not hear from Kerry at all until I got an e-mail on 7/14/10:
I will try to address ALL of your concerns:
First, when you signed up in April we were offering "Three Free Months"
(which you received), that's why the membership was for 15 months;
therefore, your calculation of $32.40 is incorrect.
Second, at the time of signing every member is told about the "Renewal
Program" and the thirty day notice we need in order to cancel. If you
recall, there are three options a person has at their disposal; 1)
cancel w/30 day notice, 2) continue on a month to month basis, or 3)
take advantage of any other specials that we may have at that time. A
thirty day notice is very common in this industry as well as others.
Third, your analogy of potentially losing $226.00 for not using the club
is a choice that you made. We can not force members to workout. The
club was and is available to all of our members 24/7!
Fourth, the cxl clause regarding moving or if the club should close its
doors is correct. You'll also notice that there is an early cxl fee of
$50.00 as well.
Now, this email is not an attempt to discredit you or cause ill feelings
towards one another. It is an attempt to answer your questions from my
point of view as a business owner. I have worked with many members who
have had issues come up in their lives and we do our best to make the
situation a win-win for everyone involved. Therefore, I'm willing to do
a couple of things for you in an attempt to satisfy your situation.
1) If you would like to continue your membership on a month to month
basis I will reduce your monthly dues to $34.95 per month starting in
2) Once we receive your July 20th payment of $41.95 I will personally
cancel your membership. You will still have use of the club until
August 19, 2010.
I've attached the "official" letter from our billing vendor (ABC
Financial) so you have a copy for your records. If you have any
questions please feel free to call, email, or stop in.
I hope this answers your questions. Please let us know what you decide
so we can set the process in motion.
As you can see from this e-mail, there is absolutely no compromise on his part (win-win: where?). He already knew I wanted to cancel, so why he would offer to extend my membership at a reduced rate is behind me. Do I remember what was verbally said 15 months ago? No and neither does he. I sent the following reply to him at both his club and home e-mail addresses:
I will bring $42 in cash tomorrow after 5PM. Since you are in tomorrow,
I would like a letter with your official Anytime Fitness letterhead with
my name, my account number, that I have paid $41.95, that this is my
final payment and that my membership is cancelled. I would like you
then to sign it and staple a receipt to the letter.
You know as a business man that anything said verbally isn't really good
for anything. That's why contracts were made. I made this contract 15
months ago and haven't been to your club for 7 months.
I never said I lost $226, but I have not put wear on your equipment,
used your electric, your water, etc. I'm still trying assess what your
damages are, whether I give you 2 weeks or 4 weeks notice.
I'm sure you've checked my FOB history and seen I haven't stepped foot
on your premises in 2010. However, you insist on extending my
membership 1 extra month knowing I won't use it.
Now I am where you are coming from. Thank you for putting this in
The next morning I decided to call the corporate headquarters of Anytime Fitness to see if they could intercede on my behalf in this situation. I spoke to a Tracy Lefebvre around 8:30AM on 7/15/10. The only thing Tracy could do she stated was call the owner and have the owner call me. I told her I was already going to visit the owner that night and that he was not backing down. She repeated this "solution" over and over, eventually saying that she would request a copy of contract from Kerry. When I asked her what would happen when she wouldn't find the 30 day clause, she said "I can't comment until I see the contract".
I asked her what her direct extension was so I could back to find out what the results of the investigation were, then she asked why I would call her when the club owner would call me. It was clear talking to her that she did not want to get involved past having the club owner call me.
On Thursday, 7/15, I went in at 5:30PM and spoke to Kerry. I asked for my cancellation letter. He claimed that his e-mail account was down on his Anytime Fitness account. He also claimed that he did not get my e-mails from the night before and that email@example.com was not his address, but firstname.lastname@example.org was. Being in IT for 12 years, this sounded like a load of ***, since Roadrunner e-mail can be checked from any Internet browser and his Internet was working at the club and the e-mail was sent to this address and his wife's.
He then asked if I wanted the cancellation letter sent by e-mail and I told him I was staying all night if I had to: I wanted this taken care of tonight and in person. I asked him to craft a letter on his club's letterhead with my cancellation request and receipt of the money. He started typing this letter out. For whatever reason, when he heard I was paying with cash, he aborted his letter and again went back to the ABC "Secondary Status" cancellation letter that he already sent to my e-mail 2 times before with the $41.95 amount.
He seemed to be on his agenda again, never asking which letter I wanted. I'm sure he didn't care. I asked him to sign the bottom of the letter which he did. He wasn't really rude during my interaction with him, but he does give off an "air of arrogance".
On Friday 7/16/10, I contacted ABC Financial to produce a history of my payments and after 8/19/10, a final cancellation letter. According to the representative Shoshanna, Mr. Kneser should not be able to bill me anymore.
Since Tracy would not do anything for me, I thought maybe someone above her might be able to. Through some Internet searching, I happened upon some internal Anytime Fitness PDFs called "Success Packs". These packs were described as a "newsletter for Anytime Fitness franchise owners". I found the e-mail addresses of high level executives such Jeff Klinger and Chuck Runyon. With more digging, I found that Jeff had left the company (probably the best move in his career) and that Chuck had taken over as CEO. His e-mail is email@example.com. The document was 5 years old, but on a whim I e-mailed him with all of the information at hand and scanned copies of my documentation. A week went by and nothing from our friend Chuck. I decided to e-mail him yet again and then I got a call and e-mail from a Janet M. Willett (firstname.lastname@example.org, 651-438-5057). Her title is listed as Customer Solutions Manager. She proceeded to tell me there was nothing she could do: Mr. Kneser is an independent owner of this club and he can do what he wants.
She proceeded to tell me that he faxed a copy of the contract and that there was a cancellation clause on the contract. I asked her if she read the contract herself instead of just listening to Kneser: it was a cancellation policy relating to the club closing or getting a pro-rated refund if I moved away from Anytime Fitness. Neither of these applied in this case. I could hear her getting upset with hems and haws in her voice (did she think she could bluff me?), with her final proclamation: " it's his club and he can do what he wants: that's it".
If you look at their web site, specifically http://www.anytimefitness.com/en-us/corporate/contact, they have this:
I want to report a specific issue with a club.
To report a specific issue with a club (e.g., great service, cleanliness, poor service), or if you can't reach anyone at your home club, please contact:
Anytime Fitness Corporate Offices
"¢ Hours: Monday - Friday | 8:00am - 5:00pm (Central)
"¢ Phone: 800-704-5004 (toll-free) | (651) 438-5000 (direct)
The question is clear: if the local club owner can do anything he wants, why even put that on your corporate web site? Janet must have the best job in the world: blame the local club owner when ever anything comes up. She doesn't have to solve any issue, ever…just blame, blame, blame someone else!
I opened a case with the local BBB in Wisconsin and played ping-pong with Mr. Kneser with pretty much a copy and paste response as he did back in July. Looking at the 30 Anytime Fitness clubs in Wisconsin, only 2 of them are BBB accredited and the ratings for each are either B+ or F, meaning they are OK or just down right horrible. I figure that most people just pay the fee and be on their merry way.
Anytime Fitness has taught me a very valuable lesson: NEVER EVER SIGN UP FOR A GYM MEMBERSHIP, EVER! I even saw a $19.95/month Golds Gym membership signup at work a few days and I just laughed. Take out a loan and get your own equipment or find a gym that takes cash with no contracts (yeah, good luck with that).
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