Last February, 2006, I called Extreme Fitness in North York to inquire about joining their gym. I had been referred by my brother and took a look at their website.
When I spoke to the consultant (sales rep Haitham Hassam), I explicitly said I was interested in joining Extreme because of their jacuzzi, steam room and $5/month, Payas you-go, no long-term obligation memberships. In big bold print was written $5 per Month, No Long Term Obligation, No Initiation Fees, No Extra Fees, etc., and in fine print "[This] offer based on two months prepaid membership. First time members only.
Haitham assured me it was Pay-as-you-go and invited me to tour the facilities. Due to other priorities, I twice cancelled my appointment with him and twice he called to reschedule; He was very nice. The day of the tour, I insisted that I wanted to experiment' first to see if I could make coming to the gym a habit since I had tried the Y five years ago and failed at this. Moreover, I was planning to return to Europe for an extended stay either in the spring or summer.
The first thing I noticed was that he charged not two, but three months on my credit card, which should have been my first clue about how this sneaky, dishonest company operates. Their website said their offer was based on two months prepaid membership.
I had gone to the gym only twice in my first month and ended up using only the Jacuzzi and steam room since there was a line up for the machines (I, along with several women had to wait for lockers to be freed). In April, a training rep called to set up a mandatory SmartStart appointment' where they would assess my physical condition, measure my body fat, etc. I realized later that this was a disguised gimmick to exploit consumers for more of their hard-earned money using aggressive marketing techniques. Even though I was taken aback by the sales rep's change in direction, I felt prompted to hire a trainer to get me to exercise regularly. His sales pitch was effective.
I first attempted to cancel my gym membership when my trainer left for a two-week holiday to China at the start of my third session in April. She said I told you I was going to China, right? I'm going to bring you back some little gifts. I was incensed that I had been left hung out to dry since one of my goals was to make exercise a habit, and hiring a coach for $70 per (one-hour) session is great motivation.
I did not go to the gym during my trainer's two-week absence and she did not propose an interim strategy and even neglected to write down the workout program I had requested. While she was away, I decided I did not want to start from scratch so I called Mike, the Training Manager, who told me that I could not cancel training/ nutrition sessions, or my membership for that matter; He offered to reassign me to another trainer and give me the first three sessions for free. While I thought that was fair compensation, I had already concluded that I was not a gym rat and that I preferred to save my money for my upcoming trip to Europe.
Mike informed me that it was impossible for me to cancel my training since I was bound to a contract that forced me to pay for 12 training and three nutrition sessions. I told him that I never signed any contract with him and that his assertion was impossible since I was a pay-as-you-go member. That would be a dumb conflict. He said that I had signed a ten-month membership with Haitham. I explained the Pay-as-you-go ad to him and he said that he was not aware of this promotion. Now that I had discovered Extreme's underhanded, immoral code of conduct, I would not entertain Mike's offer.
To my amazement, I reviewed the Extreme Fitness membership form' and learned that Haitham Hassam had indeed deceived me into signing what was essentially a 10-month contract. 4-C Automatic Monthly Renewal In addition to any applicable discount fees, the Buyer/ Member is obligated to make 10 monthly dues payments this membership does not expire.
There was no clause to rescind the contract, only The Buyer/member may cancel this membership at any time after all obligatory payments have been made The number of harsh, onerous clauses in this totally unfair and unbalanced agreement that totally ignores the consumer while maximizing Extreme's corporate interests is astounding.
Several times in early March, I tried to reach Haitham Hassam who was either busy or away, and he ignored my voicemail messages. No more Mr. Nice guy.
I was totally unaware that I had entered into something as serious as a contract. Why would I even suspect I was entering into a binding contract after I insisted that I was only trying out their gym to see if I could go regularly. Plus, I had just come from France last January, was unemployed and transient in Toronto and the $5/month made it compelling to try their gym as opposed to another one. Is a 12-month contract not contrary to the concepts of pay-as-you-go' and no-long-term obligation'?
Haitham Hassam and Extreme Fitness acted in bad faith; Haitham was well aware that I had no intention of signing a contract, let alone an illegal Standard Consumer Contract Form that conflicts with its advertising. I was under the belief that I was signing a simple membership form that described services and facilities and indicated payment method. He never said anything about a binding agreement that included 10 obligatory payments or made reference to what I suspect are other illegal terms and conditions.
From start to finish, Extreme Fitness is run by a bunch of crooked, shameless scammers. They don't care if their advertisement or staff LIE, they will resort to any means to hook and deceive as many nave consumers as possible because they know most people who change their mind will not want to waste time writing letters and complaining to management in person. And they also know they will be able to mislead and swindle many weak, timid people who believe there really is nothing they can do.
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