Do I have any recourse to get out of this contract, or am I stuck?

Back in December, I joined a gym. Their website advertises that they have no monthly contracts–everything is month-to-month. I thought I might enjoy doing their structured workout classes (sort of like group personal training) so I signed up for that as well. I made sure to ask when I signed the contract whether it was month-to-month, and they told me yes, though there’d be a 30-day notification period if I wanted to cancel. When I signed, they had me do it on an iPad, and said they’d send me an email copy of the contract.

Fast forward a few months. I tried the classes, but at my fitness level (basically crap), they were too much for me, and my schedule got busier so it was harder to go at the time they were held. So I went in and told them I wanted to drop my membership down to the basic $9.99/month level. They swapped out my keyfob for a new one and sent me on my way.

Next month, I check my credit card and they’re still charging me the old rates. I call, and they tell me the 30 days isn’t up yet, but everything should be fine next month.

This is next month. Checked again. Now they’re charging me $9.99, but also still charging me for the additional training. I called, spoke with the manager, and he said they were a bit behind at corporate but he’d call them and get them on the case.

Half an hour later, I get a call from Corporate. They can’t cancel the training, because it’s on a 12-month contract.


I was NEVER told anything about anything being on a 12-month contract. Believe me, I would have noticed, because I’d expressed concern that I’d be able to keep up with the classes, so I wanted to try them out. “You’ll be fine,” they told me.

So am I stuck paying for the training classes until the end of the 12-month period? Yes, I did sign the contract, so that was me being an idiot by not insisting on reading the fine print first–but once again, they never said anything about it being a contract. In fact, their web site has “NO CONTRACT!” all over it. Or do I have any recourse based on the fact that they gave me deceptive information?

This is pissing me off. Yeah, I was stupid to sign it without reading it through clearly, but they were scum for misleading customers. Apparently, this isn’t an unusual thing–I see lots of comments on Yelp indicating that customers were deceived in various ways.

Not looking for legal advice - just suggestions, anecdotes from others who’ve done this (especially those who got out of it successfully) and generally the chance to vent about it. :mad:

BTW, the gym in question’s name rhymes with “Sh*tness Devolution.”

Pretty basic rule of thumb is that you are bound by contracts you signed. Any contract can be broken, but you have to decide what the potential costs of doing so are. As you observe, many fitness clubs have similarly scummy practices. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much time and effort on your part it is worth to try to get out of this.

My wife and I joined a gym w/in the past year. It was a pain, but we read through every page of the darned document, and crossed out and initialed parts we would not agree to. The fact that you agreed to the classes on an ipad is an interesting wrinkle, but I bet you clicked an icon saying you read and agreed with the terms.

Well you have a copy of the contract right? Have you read through it to find the part about the training being on contract? If there is something there well…my only advice is to be as noisy and persistent as possible. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. I had Hulu try to refuse to refund me for $40 of subscription services after someone gained access to my account and reactivated it with my saved credit card information. Obviously there was no way for them to tell if it really was me or not (it wasn’t) and were going to just have me eat it. I persisted A LOT and was like, is $40 really worth it to you as a company to make my experience with you so bad that I’m having to go through all this to get a resolution? In then end, they gave me the money back but if I had just accepted the first answer of ‘so sad, too bad’ I wouldn’t have.

Yeah, I have a copy of the contract, and it does say the training is for 12 months. Signing up was a long, frustrating experience (they had to keep calling in other people because the one I was talking to at the time didn’t know how to do something, and it dragged out for like an hour, and I think by the time we got to the second contract I just wanted to get the hell out of there. They probably took advantage of that. But I am certain that at no point did they ever tell me the training was on anything but month-to-month, same as the regular gym membership.

If they won’t let me out of this, I plan to voice my displeasure loudly on places like Twitter and Yelp. At least maybe I’ll save someone else from making the same mistake I did. And I’m going to make damn sure that the contract isn’t auto-renewing.

From my own experience working in customer service for large companies, social media definitely is the way to go if you’re not getting the resolution you want. Just be polite, present the facts that you have (such as advertised no contract, the manager at the gym saying it would go away) and be persistent. If you need to, dispute the charges on your credit card and say the automatic debit isn’t authorized. The worst that’ll happen is they’ll deny the dispute.

I know that you are not looking for legal advice, but it’s worth realizing that, while you may have legal defenses to a claim for breach of contract (i.e. fraud in the inducement, or that it was a contract of adhesion- although the latter argument is weak), the practical reality of any legal challenge is how much it would cost to fight it versus how much it would cost to make it go away.

So, you could call up the owner/person in charge, and let them know that you were lied to about the terms of the contract, and you weren’t given a realistic chance to read it, so you are willing to engage a lawyer to get out of it. The other side may cave, just because you aren’t worth the hassle.

But even if they try to hold you to the agreement, they may agree to accept a portion of what the contract says you owe (say, a few months worth), to cancel the rest of the deal. The alternative is to have to hire a lawyer and fight, which takes time, is no guarantee of success, and is going to end up costing more money than its worth.

That, too. The couple of times my wife has been so angry about a business experience that she has complained on Yelp, she has received a call from the owner.

This is extremely common. Their goal is to lock you in for service you dont use. They will even keep billing you long after the contract is over.

You do have some recourse, since they clearly told you there was no contract.

Contact your card company and dispute this. If they wont do anything, stop using that card and cancel it.
Bitch on Facebook, Yelp, etc.

DO mention the name. Hell, mention it here. Post in the PIT with a diatribe.

Don’t do this. Your credit card company is not the arbiter on what you owe or do not owe. All they can do is authorize or not authorize a charge. If they deny the charge, you are still on the hook for payment and can be sent to collections for unpaid debt.

What debt? He was told there was no contract. Everyone knows that company is a scam.

Yeah, I’ve heard they’re very collections-happy. And they do have my signature on the contract, so if I’m going to get out of it, I need to convince them to let me out.

Okay, I managed a gym for a while, and here is what I would do - make an appointment to speak to the manager. The average front desk/sales person can’t help you. Ask the manager if they will let you out of the contract if you pay for the “personal training” sessions you used. Warning, it’s going to be more than you thought. Usually I would get people in after they used all 12 of the sessions and it was around $1200 to pay them off, so they usually just left in a huff. The gym rarely cares, since it’s easily explained by “You signed the contract, it’s not our fault that you chose to not work out and use it…”

If you want to PM me more details, I can offer some more advice.

It doesn’t quite work like that, though: the part in contention is $80 a month for however many group physical training sessions I want to attend. The contract was effective starting January 1, which means I’ve already paid 5 months’ worth, and am in the contract through the end of the year (7 more payments of $80, or $560). I’m not asking them to refund me for what I’ve already paid–I just want out of what I have yet to pay. And above all, I want to make sure that there’s no way they can hook me for an auto-renewal. It would suck to have to pay the $560, but it would really suck if they somehow got me for an auto-renewal.

Then ask what the cancellation fee is, for our gym it was about $100.

Eh, I’d still do it. The downside is presumably that you might get a black mark on your credit report. And, of course, worst case, you’d actually have to pay the contract, which is the only case if you keep letting them at your credit card.

Right now, they have a contract that says you owe them money, but you have the money. Cut off their easy access to your money, and their recourse is the legal system, which is slow and expensive and has many many places for you to challenge their claim. Seriously, they’re going to keep charging you and tell you they’ll fix it until they have all the money they think they’re entitled to, and then your only recourse for getting it back will be the legal system.

The way to fight a bureaucracy is to make it clear that you’re not going to give in and to file as much paperwork as is reasonably possible. At some point, someone on their end may screw up or lose the paperwork, or simply decide it’s no longer worth dealing with you.

“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

What they’ll say in response to this is that the rate you were paying was the annual rate. If you want monthly unlimited training sessions, that’s this other rate, and it turns out that the 5 months of that rate is already as much as the whole annual contract.

He signed a contract. He wasn’t told there was no contract, just that it was month-to-month.

Lesson learned: Read the contract.

If you want to take the time, you could stand outside on the sidewalk with a big picket sign or sandwich board. Or put a big sign on your car like “This gym defrauded me. Ask me about it” and park it on the street in front. One reads anecdotes from time to time of people doing things like this. Allegedly, the local manager will make everything right with you, real fast, to make that go away.

i agree that, if you don’t want to pay the money, the simplest thing is to tell your credit card bank not to accept those charges. I think this may be difficult — you may need to write multiple letters and make multiple phone calls — but once you accomplish it, I doubt if the gym will come after you. It may have a bad effect on your credit standing etc.

I’d also contact a consumer-protection agency (e.g. Better Business Bureau), to have on record how you were wronged. That agency may be able to offer advice, if only to confirm that others have complained.

IANAL, but my guess is that the details in the contract you signed are irrelevant, from a practical standpoint**! Neither your credit-card bank, nor the credit rating agencies will want to waste time reviewing any contract in making their decisions. If the gym gets a collection agency involved, just send them a copy of your correspondence with BBB.

This is horrible advice!
A) The details of a contract ARE relevant - practically and legally. That’s what contacts are, a detailed description of the transaction.
B) The credit card issuer has no bearing on this type issue since the OP is not requesting a refund, only a cessation of the contract. One could block future charges to the card from that gym, but that could open a whole new legal can 'o worms for the OP.
C) Any dispute initiated (which is all after the fact, once the creditor has reported a bad debt/collection) with a credit reporting agency (CRA) will result in the agency requesting proof of debt from the creditor. The creditor will send a copy of the signed contract to the CRA, which will then deny your dispute and leave the derogatory info on the file. The only hope would be that the creditor can’t find the contract(not likely) or fails to respond by the deadline (also a poor bet, but has happened).
D) BBB correspondence? While you’re at it, send your certified SAT scores and a letter of reference from your 1st boss’s ex-wife as well. They all carry the same weight with the debt collector.

Infovore, you’re in a sucky situation but seem to be handling it well. Follow up on Poysyn’s advice, but don’t hold your breath. Many gyms are notorious for making their money this way.

I don’t mean this unpleasantly in any way, but just to suggest an alternative mindset to make this more tolerable. Even if you end up on the hook for $560, you can consider that a relatively inexpensive life lesson. I’m really not kidding. As a result of this, it will be A LOT harder for anyone else to take advantage of you in a transaction.

(I often find it desirable to try to figure out a somewhat positive way to deal with unpleasant experiences. Yes, it sucks, but at least…)

Definitely continue trying to minimize the damage tho. May want to see if you can contact the credit card, write a letter, saying you are contesting this with the vendor, and are NOT renewing, and will contest any payments the CC makes after x date.

Unfortunately, from what I’ve read for several decades, the business model of many gyms is collections on contracts where the client doesn’t use the facilities, moreso than helping people work out.