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  On Tue., Jan. 24, I checked the balance in my bank account and saw that $160 had been withdrawn by LA Fitness—precisely the amount of the monthly personal training fee.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. 

Advertisements

Why FTD Deserves a Silver Sucky Award

by CosmicTwin3

Today’s Silver Sucky Award Nominee: FTD (www.ftd.com)

Category: Customer Service

The Silver Sucky AwardRecently I was faced with a situation where I couldn’t attend the funeral of a family member. My cousin had passed suddenly and I was unable to get a flight home in time for the service. With no way to be there to pay my respects in person, the only option I had was to send some flowers from our family. When my mother called to tell me the sad news that Saturday morning, she was, understandably, very upset. She’s 90 years old and the sudden passing of a loved one hits her very hard. After learning that visitation would be that evening and the funeral was scheduled for the next day, Sunday, I collected my wits and decided to search online for a florist that could deliver on short notice. Should be simple, right?

I should explain here the critical importance of funeral flowers from my mother’s perspective. Being 90 years old, she’s quite, as you might expect, more than a little “old school” about most things. The size and type of flowers that go to the funeral home is important. It certainly isn’t that the size or expense of the spray of flowers determines social standing or respect in the community, but it’s something like that. It was up to me to ensure that our family would not be embarrassed by our flowers, that they would properly represent us.

My first thought was to search for a florist in the local town where the funeral home is. There were a few listed online, but I wasn’t sure what kind of quality I could expect from an unknown florist. I’ve had some disappointing experiences in the past with ordering from a local flower shop “calling in” the order to a distant one; getting what you pay for can be hit or miss. So, I decided to go with FTD online. They have a standardized catalog to choose from and a reputation to maintain. It would also be the quickest way to order something nice, I reasoned, as the clock was ticking, visitation was scheduled for that evening, and no florist would be open on Sunday to accommodate a last-minute order. And Momma was going to be at visitation, seeing relatives she hadn’t talked to in decades and looking for the flowers I sent.

I went online to www.ftd.com, searched through the “Sympathy” section of the site, and finally settled on something I thought was appropriate and satisfied all requirements. Momma would approve. She would complain a little about the high cost, as she does whenever any amount of money is spent, but she would be delighted with the end result. I placed the order and even added a note in the “special instructions” section that it would not be acceptable to substitute cheap carnations for any of the expensive flowers, should any substitutions be necessary. I also explained that there would be people present who would report to me if anything was amiss with the order. I received an automatically generated confirmation email almost immediately and congratulated myself for taking care of that unpleasant task in a timely manner.

I went out to take care of several errands that afternoon and ended up not getting back home until after supper time. Out of habit I went to the laptop to check incoming emails, expecting to have to delete a handful of junk or spam messages. To my surprise, I found an email from FTD. It was entitled “Second Choice Selection Needed.” It read: “Thank you for your recent order. We regret to inform you that the item you selected is no longer available in the delivery area. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please contact us so that we may assist you in selecting another product. We look forward to hearing from you.”

A second choice? No longer available? I double-checked the order number referenced in the email and, sure enough, it matched the order confirmation I had received earlier. How could this be happening? I had ordered a standard selection from the website, nothing unusual or exotic. Visitation was already well underway. Did my family have nothing at the funeral home?! I berated myself for having entertained the foolish notion that ordering flowers online was a good idea in the first place and decided that since it was too late to make a “second choice,” I would cancel the order. So I clicked the link provided on the email from FTD (http://www.ftd.com/24077/custserv/) and followed the instructions for cancelling. I even gave a detailed explanation of why I was cancelling with appropriate language indicating my extremely high level of dissatisfaction.

While I was fuming at the bad turn of events, trying to figure out what could be done to rectify the situation, composing an apology to my mother in my mind that, at best, could only be woefully inadequate, another email from FTD popped in. This one read: “Thank you for contacting FTD. We received your recent request to cancel your order. Unfortunately, your order was already in the process of being delivered. We are so sorry that we were unable to accommodate your request. This is an automated response. We will not receive replies to this email.”

I was stunned. I read it through, three times, making sure I was really seeing what I thought it said. I went back and re-read the first email. Yes, they had first said they could not fill my original order, then refused to cancel it after I had requested that they do so. What’s going on? How screwed up can the FTD website ordering process be? I called the toll-free phone number provided in the email to get to the bottom of the mess.

The wait to speak to a human being was not long at all. A nice young lady came on the line and asked how she could be of service. I gave her the order number and let her know what the sequence of events had been that led me to making the phone call. I was quite irate by this point, and I made sure she understood that. I also made it a point to let her know that I completely understood it was not personally her fault, and none of my anger was directed in any way at her but at the company she represented. I explained to her why it was such a disaster that the flowers had not been delivered in time for visitation. To her credit, she was very professional and sympathetic to my plight. She had been clacking away on a keyboard while we hashed out the situation and suddenly informed me that they could use an alternate florist in the area (I have no idea who the original florist was in the first place) and get the flowers I ordered to the funeral home before the funeral the next day. My first thought was that if they could do that, why didn’t that happen earlier in the day instead of informing me that the order couldn’t be filled? But there was a glimmer of hope in that solution – at least I could tell Momma that the flowers had been delayed and that’s why she couldn’t find them at visitation.

So I hesitantly considered her offer to “make things right.” No, this doesn’t make it right, I told the young lady. This is still seriously wrong and how can I trust that the order will actually make it to the funeral home in time on the day of the funeral? At that point she offered me a 20% discount. A discount? Momma would be happy with that, I reasoned. I probably should have insisted on a larger discount, but at that point I was actually happy to salvage the situation with a delayed, discounted order. So I thanked her for her time, reminded her that the flowers that went to the funeral home had better meet or exceed all of my expectations or I would make it a point to tell all of my friends never to risk ordering online from FTD.

I stepped away from the laptop exhausted and twitching as the anger started to slowly dissipate. The ordeal was over. Or so I thought…

A few minutes later ANOTHER email from FTD popped up on my laptop. Maybe a coupon good on a future order, I thought, or another apology from an automated system. No. It read thusly: “Thank you for your recent order. After further review there are no florists available to have the arrangement delivered tomorrow to the service. We do sincerely apologize for this inconvenience. We would be more than happy to get this delivered to a family members home with a discount. Please contact us as soon as possible via the phone so that we may discuss this matter. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.”

Huh? WTF!? I had been talking to an actual live person with access to a keyboard who had assured me – more than once – that the flowers would be there before the funeral. As my blood pressure shot up I started feeling like I was trapped in one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where the victim keeps thinking they have escaped a tortuous fate only to realize that they have actually just arrived at the next level of hell. Again. And again.

So I called the customer service number once more. Not really calm and composed. Ready to throttle the FTD online ordering system and anyone associated with it, if I could only get my hands on it.

This time it took a little longer for an actual human to come on the line. When she did, she sounded like a pleasant young lady, but not the same one I had spoken to previously. When she cheerily asked how she could help me, I rattled off the order number and asked if she was looking at a transcript of the sequence of events concerning it. She said she had some notes, but was not intimately familiar with the situation. I said, “Okay, hon, put me on hold and then get up to speed about this. I’m tired of being jerked around and I want you to be properly informed before we get down to brass tacks.” She cheerfully complied. After a couple of minutes on hold, during which time I was attempting to prevent my head from exploding, she came back on the line and was very professional and apologetic. She told me how sorry she was for all the inconvenience I had suffered and offered to have the flowers sent to the deceased’s family’s home on Monday.  

The dam was close to bursting, but I restrained myself and only said, in an irate and rather loud voice, “Are you crazy!? It’s a SPRAY of FUNERAL FLOWERS! That IS NOT APPROPRIATE for sending to anyone’s home!!!” She replied that of course it wasn’t, they would substitute a plant or a gift basket in place of the funeral spray. It wasn’t a lengthy conversation that followed, but I do remember saying something about “the last straw” and “you have no idea how much beyond an inconvenience this is.” The poor girl was close to tears, I’m sure, still trying to maintain a calm, professional demeanor as I told her not to take any of my anger personally, it was all directed at the company she represented. Then I went on to suggest that she needed to inform her upper management, all the way to the president of the freaking company, that I was going to tell everyone I knew and everyone I ever met, including strangers on the street, not to use FTD because they are so fouled up and unreliable. I told her not to bother with any suggestions as to how they could “make it right,” just please cancel the freaking order. I wanted the entire amount refunded and I wanted it done NOW. She explained that she was entering the instructions to refund my money as we spoke, but she couldn’t guarantee when my bank would process it, yada, yada, yada.

I think she was happy to finally be done with my call. It was only a couple of minutes later that the next email from FTD popped in: “At your request, your order has been cancelled and a full refund in the amount of $XXX.XX has been issued to your Credit Card. Please be advised that, although we have processed your refund immediately, some banking institutions may take up to 5 business days to post this credit to your account. We hope you’ll give us the opportunity to assist you in the future. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.”

Finally. It was over. I had narrowly avoided suffering a stroke. I had survived the most absurd customer service SNAFU in history. I had won! Well… not exactly. I still had to explain to Momma why there were no flowers at the funeral and figure out what to do come Monday morning. Then this email from FTD arrived: “On behalf of FTD.COM, please accept our sincere apologies for your recent experience. We always strive to provide our customers with the very finest service and we regret that this was not the case. We assure you that your experience is not typical and that all your future orders will be filled with the special care and attention that they deserve. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.”

Oh no, I thought, I’ll never be going to that website again! And I will tell everyone how FTD.com SUCKS HIND TIT!!

The next morning I was trying to find the right words and rehearse how to break the news to Momma that it wasn’t my fault there were no flowers from us at either visitation or the funeral. Before I could dial her number, I received this email from FTD: “We are pleased to inform you that the delivery of your order to ________ has been completed. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.”

WHAT!?!?! Before I could process what this latest email might actually mean, my phone rang. It was my mother. “We saw the flowers you sent at the funeral home last night. They were beautiful!” she said. “I’m so glad you approve,” I replied. I saw no need to bother her with any details about the transaction.

I have no idea what was going on at FTD.com. They kept telling me that my order would be rescheduled after telling me that it could not be delivered. I was on the phone with their customer service twice. Apparently the flowers had been sent in plenty of time for visitation but FTD.com was convinced that it never happened, and I believed them. I think they are more than deserving of the Silver Sucky Award because they SUCK HIND TIT!