About 2 months ago, my husband went to Future Fitness in Mullica Hill to work out as a guest with a friend who is an existing member there. Before they were allowed to enter the gym, the manager insisted on giving them a lengthy tour (which to my understanding took at least 45 minutes). When the tour was complete, the manager asked my husband if he was interested in a membership. My husband politely responded No and explained that he is already a satisfied member at RiverWinds (a fabulous and inexpensive fitness and recreation center that we benefit from by living in West Deptford Township).
Although my husband declined his request, the manager suggested that he fill out his information on a membership application, so that they could notify him of any reduced rates or promotions at the center. The application quoted him a sign up fee of approximately $300 plus $41 a month beginning in November. He was told by the manager that in order to finalize any type of membership, he would have to bring a check back in and fill out additional forms. Sounded harmless enough, right? Knowing my husband, he was probably rather sick of the man's spiel at this point and anxious to begin his work out. To his later detriment, he complied with his request and filled out only his name, address and phone number (no SS#, banking information, or other personal info). My husband and his friend went on to work out and he has never gone back or been in contact with anyone there since
That was until this past weekend, when he received a letter in the mail from Future Fitness stating that he was over 30 days past due and was accruing interest on a $385.20 fee. He could not understand what that was for, since he was told his membership was not finalized at that one and only visit (in addition to the fact that he said very directly that he was not interested in obtaining a membership there). Figuring this must be a mistake, he called the gym to inquire about the notice.
The manager, Dodd, spoke with him on the phone and said that he was past due on paying his membership fee. My husband explained the mistake and what had occurred at his visit there as a GUEST. Dodd's response was not what you would expect from a manager at any type of company (which might be, I apologize for any misunderstanding, let's see what we can do to work this out or I'm sorry that you never received a previous notice of these charges. Would you be interested in this membership if we remove the late fees?). No, Dodd's response was something to the effect of I'm the one who gave you the tour and I would have never said that to you. My husband simply replied, Well, this was clearly a big mistake. I never wanted a membership here, which I made clear to you at that time. Is there any way that we can remove this charge? Dodd said that he could not cancel his membership, but that he could take it up with the accounting department on Monday. My husband said that he did not understand why he couldn't cancel a membership he never wanted and that he refuses to pay the outlandish membership fee. Instead of trying to work things out (as a manager should), Dodd just said That's fine, we'll call our collection agency and you can pay them.
As you can imagine, this stubborn and arrogant attitude was not well received by my husband whatsoever. Furiously, he hung up with the man and explained the situation to me. Reserving judgment, I called back and asked to speak with the manager. When Dodd picked up, I asked him to fax us a copy of the agreement for review. After putting me on hold for a while, to make sure it was on file at their office, he agreed. I tried to explain again that it was all a misunderstanding and he interrupted me by saying How old is your husband? I said, Excuse me? What does that have to do with anything? Dodd said, Well, what would a person over the age of 18 think it was when he was asked to fill out and sign a form? That's right. It didn't matter how calm or reasonable I had been, he took up the same pompous tone with me as he had with my husband. I kept my composure and said, There is no need to be condescending with me, sir. What matters to me is what my husband was led to believe. You told him that he would have to bring back a check and fill out more forms in order to obtain a membership there. Dodd's response was that my husband needed to bring a check back to gain access to the facility.
So, you're telling me that someone can pay a $300 membership fee and still not be authorized to use any equipment until they bring back a check and fill out more forms? That is completely ridiculous. I said to Dodd, My husband is not an idiot. If that was made clear to him, why would he fill out your form? He told you that day he was not interested in a membership there and that he already goes to RiverWinds! I'm sorry, but not even the most psychotic or fitness addicted person would pay to go to RiverWinds (for a mere $17 a month, located less than 5 minutes from their home) plus additional fees of approximately $800 per year (insanely expensive) to go to Future Fitness, which is 15-20 minutes from their house! Dodd added to the end of our conversation that We don't like to gain members by having to twist their arms like this. Really? He sure had me fooled.
Dodd faxed over the agreement which showed that the $300 sign up fee was due today (the document was dated 9/2/08). Okay, if that was there when my husband filled out the form, then he seriously neglected to read the fine print. Even if that was the case, why wasn't he asked for payment at that time? He provided no credit card or banking information before leaving the facility. It also shows on the form that the $41 monthly fees are to be paid by direct withdrawal. Again, why wasn't he asked to set up the payment for those fees at that time? It's like they were misleading him and setting him up for these late fees with interest intentionally. Also, why was the FIRST notice he received that these charges were due sent 2 months later? He never received any phone calls, previous invoices or even so much as a thank you for joining or welcome to Future Fitness before he left the gym that day. This whole situation is beyond conniving and clearly a well thought-out scheme. I can say that, because I've read the 9 other rip-off reports posted here (plus numerous others on the web) describing very similar experiences with the Mullica Hill branch and different Future Fitness locations!
Okay, back to the story. My husband called the accounting department yesterday and explained the situation yet again. They were more sympathetic than the rude manager, but they gave him the run-around and said he would have to call that facility to work out the issue. This led him right back to you guessed it, Dodd. So, my husband called again, more composed this time, and told the manager that, according to the accounting department, he had to work things out with him. Dodd asked my husband to come in to his office at 3pm yesterday to see what they could do.
My husband went in and had pretty much the same conversation with him as the first time. Dodd said the only way he could cancel was to pay the membership fees plus interest and also 90 days out (apparently, their typical cancellation policy). That is not acceptable to us. It's not even just about the money (which would add up to over $500). It's about the principle of the matter. The fact is that this membership was never wanted and that was made very clear from the beginning. My husband was misled about the membership enrollment process and duped into receiving charges for an exorbitant amount of money for a gym membership (when he already has a great one elsewhere)!
My husband told Dodd that he would take things up with their collection agency, report them to the Better Business Bureau, and let all of our friends and family know about the scam they are trying to run (FYI my in-laws own a reputable business in Mullica Hill with over 100 employees all of whom will be hearing about this incident, including one who has already had an altercation with this company). Dodd's response was Don't even think about fighting this in court. We don't care what it costs us; we've defended many cases like this before. So, if you're going to threaten me, then you can get out of my office. I'm not sure how what my husband said could be perceived as a threat. All of the described actions are legal and he merely gave fair warning that we are not going to take this situation lightly. Also, wasn't a similar threat made when Dodd said that he was going to call a collection agency to harass my husband for the money?
We plan to contact every local newspaper and TV station in the area to let them know about this story. Please respond if you are interested in filing any type of formal complaint with a lawyer or joining us in any potential news interviews. We just want to warn others to stay clear of Future Fitness and hopefully teach them that this is the worst possible way to run a reputable business and gain customer loyalty. If you are currently a member at this or any other Future Fitness location, please do whatever you can to cancel your membership and put your hard earned dollars towards a gym that is more affordable, honest and reasonable. Apparently, at Future Fitness, the customer is NEVER right let's try to change that.
Mantua, New Jersey