The evil empire of LA Fitness: Popular gym’s next move to literally crap on customers? PART 1

Last fall, as my graduate class work was eating up more and more of my free time, I went to the LA Fitness in Downingtown, PA to put a freeze on my personal training account.  They told me for the privilege of paying them another $15 per month, they would freeze my personal training but keep my gym membership going.  This sounded great (with the exception of the $15 fee—but hey, it was better than $160 per month) so we arranged it and I went about my business.

Life went on and so did my classes.  At the end of the semester, based on my slipping GPA, I decided that school had to come first and because my job schedule interfered with my night classes, I gave my notice at work during the holiday break.

On the night of Tue., Jan. 10, I went to work out with my friend Stephanie.  I checked in at the desk at LA Fitness and explained to the guy running the desk that I could no longer afford the luxury of a personal trainer because I was unemployed and needed to see what could be done to cancel my personal trainer membership.  This person told me (and Stephanie can attest to this) that all he would have to do was unfreeze my account in order to submit the cancelation, which he (supposedly) did while we were standing there.  Then he handed me a single sheet of paper and told me that all I had to do was sign at the bottom and mail it in to LA Fitness corporate headquarters in Irvine, CA.  Happy that everything was working out, we went to the treadmills and had a good workout.

Everything was working out?  Not really.  Little did I know that the Evil Empire of LA Fitness would soon invade my peace-loving world.

I mailed the one sheet document on Fri., Jan. 13.  As far as I was concerned, I had fulfilled my end of the cancellation process as laid out by the LA Fitness employee.  On Tue., Jan. 24, I checked the balance in my bank account and saw that $160 had been withdrawn by LA Fitness—precisely the amount of the monthly personal training fee.  I called the gym located at 109 Quarry Road, Downingtown, PA 19335 (the very same gym that I attended regularly and had spoken to the front desk attendant about canceling my personal training contract) and was transferred from the assistant manager to the general manager.

The general manager identified himself as Brian T.  In fact, there is no way to know what his whole name is because even the website identifies him as simply Brian T.  This soon became a common theme among LA Fitness employees, as you shall soon see.

When I told Brian T. of my situation and requested that the billing snafu be rectified, he proceeded to tell me point blank that he had no idea who told me that it was otherwise, but once you are in a personal training contract with LA Fitness there is no way to get out of it with the sole exception of “buying out.”  The way he explained it to me, buying out entailed paying 50% of what was left on the contract—50% of a service that I would never receive—which would come out to $640 for me.  I let Brian T. know the description of the person that gave me the cancelation information and he told me that I was wrong because all of his employees know what the process is.  I then informed Brian T. that maybe he had a training issue with his employees because it seemed to me that his employee, in fact, did NOT know what the process was and that one hand didn’t know what the other was doing over there at the Downingtown LA Fitness.

Brian T. took this opportunity to tell me that he has “fantastic” training for his employees and seemed surprised when I did not agree with him.  To get us out of this conversational rut, I reminded Brian T. that his employee gave me a specific set of instructions to cancel my personal training membership, which I followed explicitly, and when they did not follow through on what I was told was going to happen, I saw that as an egregious error on their behalf and I wanted to know what could be done to fix things.  Brian T. once again told me that company policy was that no one gets out of LA Fitness contracts before the end of the term.

Admittedly, I was getting pretty heated at this point.  First I asked Brian T. if he could print out a copy of this policy, but then I amended my request to emailing it to me.  This made more sense to me because 1) I was too mad to go down there at that moment; I was sure I was going to cause a scene if I did go down there, and 2) LA Fitness emailed me for appointments and specials, so this would be an easy request.  Wrong again, stupid little customer!  Brian T. cut me off midsentence and told me he had no access to my email address.  This didn’t make much sense to me—they obviously had it from previous correspondence, and I reminded him so.  To me, this was just another example of Brian T.’s total commitment to doing absolutely nothing to help me, his customer.

At this point, (no kidding) Brian T. took a tone that is most commonly found among tenth grade athletes inviting me to meet them at the bike rack after school for a fight and he said, “So come on down here and I’ll show you this in writing.”  Got something to prove, do ya, Brian T?  It really came across as challenging and threatening!  I responded by telling Brian T. that I did not appreciate his tone and I felt like he was challenging me.  I think he must have realized his misstep because he backed off slightly, yet still told me that he couldn’t do anything about my personal training membership but could cancel my gym membership.

Really?!  Ok, if you are going to suggest it, then yes, please cancel my gym membership.  Brian T. canceled it during our conversation…do you know how I know?  Because I got an immediate email saying that my gym membership had been canceled.

So, convinced that Brian T.’s lack of customer service abilities could not possibly suck any more than what he had already demonstrated, I asked for his manager’s name.  Brian T. retorted with a snarky, “I am the manager,” to which I responded, “No, everyone answers to someone.  I want to know your boss’s name.”  After about five more minutes of refusing to give me any information regarding his boss, Brian T. finally told me that her name was Brooke C., but “she travels a lot and I’m not giving you her cell phone number.”  Do you mean to tell me that this person who is in charge, supposedly, of several LA Fitness gyms in a market area doesn’t even have a desk phone?  Apparently that is exactly what he was inferring because he NEVER gave me Brooke. C.’s number and finally hung up on me.

The saga doesn’t end here, folks!  Check out “The evil empire of LA Fitness: Part 2” for the rest of the shameful story. 

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