Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I'm almost free

In June of 2006 I made a very stupid decision (although not as bad as the one of June 1991, where I got married). I decided to try to get into some healthy habits, so I joined a gym, which was Gold's Gym at the time and later became Urban Active. This, despite having been a member before and not really using it that much. The first time I was a member I paid $24 a month due to a special with my workplace. This was $39, but that didn't seem too onerous, and my first month was free.

So far, so good. But then I made a major blunder. At no point did the length of the contract come up. I assumed I was signing a year contract like I had before. I didn't even know they had other lengths. I did skim through the contract, but my brain--which is not always my friend--did not process that 36 months equals three years.

Yes, I signed a three-year contract. Stupid of me, and my responsibility. But I find it unacceptable that this fact was not disclosed in the initial proposal. I didn't find out about this until I went to cancel my membership after a year, and I was stunned. I went several times back before I started at the store, but working two jobs and doing all the other stuff I do, I don't really have time to go. I can count on one finger the number of times I've gone in a year. Meanwhile, my account's been deducted that $39 like clockwork, and since there have been several times I've forgotten to account for it, caused some distress by causing other things to bounce and having to pay bank fees.

So I go in today (you have to go in in person, no telephone service for you). I read the small print and ask a couple of questions. Then sign it and fill out the nifty why-are-you-leaving-us survey. Unfortunately in order to get the cancellation notice they need your e-mail, so I figure I'll be deluged with 'come back' pleas, but they had it already, so I figured I might as well give it to them.

What I would not give them is my new debit card information. See, it's a 30-day notice to cancel, so they get one more payment out of me. My debit card on file expires tomorrow, so they wanted me to either give them the new information or pay ahead in person. I preferred the latter. I went over to the bank and withdrew the money then went back.

And here is where I get steamed. The two girls operating the front desk did everything they could to ignore me, taking other people ahead of me. Being a passive, polite Southerner, all told I stood there for about five minutes. One at one point said she'd be right with me, then moved to someone else. Another asked if the other was helping me and I said she had said she'd be right with me, so the girl went back to what she was doing, checking in members and flirting with a guy. After the third person (not counting the check-ins, which were brief) had been helped, I told (not asked) the second girl that I would like to go ahead and pay my bill, now. She took care of me. I half expected them to say they couldn't take cash, but everything went through, I made sure I got a receipt, and I left, and plan never to return, even though I just paid for one last month. But the girls weren't overwhelmed with customers or anything--they were working very hard at not seeing me, ignoring me, etc., and I know what this was all about. I was leaving the gym, so they were as passive aggressive with me as they could be. If I weren't already leaving, that would have been the final straw. Unfortunately I'd already turned in that survey. But I'm going to vent here, and if I receive any phone calls or e-mails about why I left, someone's going to get an ear- or eye-full.

I'm sure they work out for many people, but in my opinion, in some ways gyms are rackets. They rely on people like me to pay but not cause wear and tear on their facilities. And it's not just places like this. I checked out the YMCA and they had no contract *but* (it's a big but) if you missed a month and came back you had to pay a more-than-$50 initiation fee again, which equals more than the monthly fees. And depending on how you looked at it, they were more expensive than the gym. I could go to any of the locations of the gym (there are three) for $39 a month. The Y has you as either a member of one or you can pay more and go to all (also three). But the latter costs more than the gym does.

So I think I'm done with gyms for now. I won't swear to never try it again, but I won't so long as my time is so crunched. I won't go back to this one, though. I have an exercise bike and it doesn't cost anything to walk outside or around my workplace, so I think that will be enough for now. (And no, I'm not in to the cheaper option of a church gym, because I don't want to be the subject of their mission.)

Well, it only took $1,404 to learn that lesson, but I think I got it.

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