I’ll be up front about this – for (I think) the second time ever, I’m posting a blog post here purely because a company have well and truly screwed me around, and I want to get just a little bit of my own back. This, if you like, is a revenge post, and I can see myself reposting it a few times until as many people as possible have got the message. LA Fitness – when it comes to contracts – well and truly mess you around. Your first question might be ‘if you’re in the right, why don’t you fight them?’. All will be explained below…
I joined LA Fitness in the UK in around October of last year. When I joined, I specifically told the membership guy that it was extremely likely that I wouldn’t be living in the UK for the duration of the contract. He assured me that was fine, providing I offered proof of address when I moved away the contract would be cancelled. There was no mention of anything apart from the proof of address. Come early January, I decided to move back to Ireland.
On arriving in Ireland, I immedaitely sent a letter to LA Fitness together with my new address, a full explanation and my membership card to the gym I had been attending. LA Fitness now acknowledge receipt of this letter, and so also acknowledge that I was unable to use their service from January onwards, as they had the membership card. Come February, when I’d just started a new job and was living on an incredibly minimal amount of money, I found the direct debit had been taken again. So I wrote again with all the necessary info. Stupidly, I allowed this to continue for two more months before writing to the bank and cancelling the direct debit payment through them. At this point I was at least £90 out of pocket, possibly £120 (depending on the exact date on which the first cancellation letter was received, Ill give them the benefit my extreme doubt on that one).
On the cancellation of my direct debit, LA Fitness did respond, and in less than a week. Funny how their customer service department suddenly jumps to life when there’s money to be made. They informed me that I still had around six months left on my contract, and was required to pay that amount in full, plus a cancellation fee of over £100 (what, the contract AND a cancellation fee? How does that work?), and asked for a total of £280 to be transferred to them.
You’ll not be surprised to learn that I refused. I wrote to the address given, detailing my history of payments for non use of the gym, and refusing to pay the remaining money. In the process I was informed of two ludicrous rules that had apparently prevented my contract from being cancelled. Note that at no time during my previous attempt to cancel my contract did LA Fitness ever attempt to contact me and inform me of these, they simply waited until they were no longer being paid:
1. in the small print of the contract, there is a requirement that I send cancellations to another address. They acknowledged receipt of two of my letters, including the one with the card, but ‘couldn’t act on it’ as I had sent to letter to the gym not the contract department. Not that they told me this. Funnily enough, I didnt take my gym contract with me to Ireland.
2. you can’t cancel a contract with them unless you pay a cancellation fee. Their salesman, knowing I would very likely cancel within the year, chose not to tell me that.
They didn’t, however, answer any of my questions about customer service. Once again, I wrote to LA Fitness and objected. Given that I had been ‘mis-sold’ the contract under the promise that I could cancel without any problems and that I no longer lived in the country, there was absolutely no chance I was going to pay them for a full year’s gym membership AND a cancellation fee. I wrote with a list of objections ranging from their customer service to mis-selling, and an ongoing letter exchange eventually led to them dropping all demands apart from another three months payment. Why another three months payment? Because that’s the time that had expired while we had been arguing by post over the payment demanded. From this point onwards, they refused to budge, despite my sending them ample proof that it was LA that had been wasting my time and money, and not vice versa.
LA Fitness got ARC, a debt collection agency, involved. When I say they got ARC involved, I mean they got ARC to call me and any other person who happened to have a firm contact with me (every few hours at times) for around two months. The gym membership – which with half decent service and honest salesmanship should have been a complete non-issue – was now not only effecting me every time I answered by mobile, but also affecting a lot of people around me. I could still see no reason to pay, so briefly continued my argument with both LA Fitness and ARC, before eventually paying up an extra £90 that they claim I owed. To date, that puts me either £180 or £210 (depending on how you look at things) out of pocket, plus numerous wastes of time, letters etc over the course of a few months. They also involved a solicitors, who threatened to take me to court (a right I’ve made a point of maintaining to LA Fitness, despite paying up, as if they bother me any more over this I will come back and fight them), a clear bullying tactic considering they know the issues this will cause me in terms fo travel, and basically acknowledge from the start that their poor customer service is at fault (they’ve refused to answer any questions, or explain how a letter to the local gym which they acknowlege they received is not an acceptable way of contacting them to cancel). I really can’t see any court finding in their favor.
So why did I write this all? Simple, I want anyone who reads this to be aware of this companies appalling attitude towards customers and their standard practices. It might seem a bit much to describe this as ‘standard practice’, but a quick internet search will tell you I’m not exaggerating. Check other problems with LA Fitness and ARC, here:
The right thing to do, of course, would be to fight this tooth and nail through the courts as a matter of principle. As LA Fitness acknowledged receipt of my very first letter and never responded to that or any other, despite my address, phone number and email being clearly given at the top, I’m confident I would be found in the right. The expense of traveling back to the UK and time off work for fighting the matter back in the UK would, however, come to far more than I’d get back from LA Fitness. As I don’t want my credit record destroyed, and had already paid half of what they consider to be owed on a long-since cancelled contract, I ended up paying in full. Without costing myself a whole load more money in transport and unneccessary time off, this was the best response I can offer, after arguing with them for ages. Well, that and this warning: DON’T JOIN! THEY CARE ABOUT NOTHING BUT YOUR MONEY! If you found this useful or interesting, please repost so others can be warned of the risks of joining up with this sham of a gym,
Update: I’ve been told that by contacting the head office through their direct email addresses, you actually get some level of customer service. While you could argue that I shouldn’t publish the email addresses online, as this is the only way I’ve come across to fairly cancel the contracts, I’m going to do so anyway. Here are four addresses for the head office management staff. If I hear the system has been fixed I will happily remove them: