You should know that I've been brewing about this for over 2 weeks. I have a lot to say on the matter. Grab a cup of coffee or a shot of Buttery Nipple and stay awhile.
Foaming at the Mouth
Dear President/Owner/Head Money-Hungry Whore of Gold's Gym (AKA Urban Active, AKA Everything-That-Is-Wrong-With-America),
Let me first say that this is partially my fault. There is a whole tribe of folk who do not need or want a gym membership. Their cabinets are overflowing with kickboxing, Yoga, and dance DVD's...their Wii-Fit exists in a perpetual state of "ready"...they are not distracted by a sink of dirty dishes and cat puke on the rug. They can exercise at home. Successfully. I am not one of those people. I need the membership card, the perky tween wishing me a very happy workout (which, coincidentally I've never had...except when I fell asleep in Yoga), and the smell of sweat mixed with the smell of chlorine mixed with the smell of naked old lady buttcrack. I need this. We are limited to basically 5 gyms here in Bluegrass Country. I have been fired from 2...so that brings us to 3 (tip of the day: if you spread malicious rumors about the new management while trying to convince the new management that you deserve a pay raise, you will inevitably be fired).
I had all of the flashing red signs I needed when I toured your facility the first time, in 2003...when you were called Gold's Gym. I had just returned to UK to finish my degree in Kinesiology (and yes, you should make all of your staff Google that term before their 1st day on the job. I do not work with dead people....if you knew your Latin, you would see the root word, kinesis which has nothing to do with post mortem). While touring the cardio theater, the sales guy asked me what I was studying at UK. I told him and mentioned that I was hoping to sit for the ACSM exam after graduation...at which point he waved his hand and muttered, "I don't know what all of those letters stand for." I would like Only the Most Recognized Certification for Personal Trainers for $600, please Alex. But hey, I'm sure he was hired because he could sell sand to Saudi Arabia. Fair enough...it's a business. Although knowing the basics would be refreshing. We didn't join the gym specifically because he thought I taught the alphabet to dead people....but that was only after we were locked (yes, friends locked) in his office for over an hour while he did everything short of knocking us unconscious and forging our names on checks made out to Gold's. I should have known. That's a giant clue, isn't it?
Do you know what's an even bigger clue? When the gym changes names. Red flashing sign. With strippers on either side (but not beautiful-look-once-and-then-look-away strippers...these would be Sideshow Bob strippers with 7 fingers and all possible genitalia).
And yet, when BFF Crazy Sue asked me to join with her while Neal was off fighting for our freedom...I said yes. I went into it knowing that Urban Active was formerly Gold's Gym. Except that they had classed up the joint a bit with customized Pilates training and a boutique featuring Ed Hardy-esque wife beaters. Deep inside the memory muscle of my brain, (reserved for fights had with Neal and all of the ways big business has wronged me) I remembered that you were number crunching, customer service munching sons of whores and...I said yes anyway. I blame the war and the ensuing loneliness that comes with working out alone.
Well, Neal came home and proceeded to grumble (although less frequently at first) about the extra 20 minute drive to your nearest location. Your Palomar center is nestled nicely between Panera and my bank so it was never an issue for me. But for Neal, who has a narrow window of time in which to work out, it was a hassle. His answer? Just skip it. My Army Strong husband was softening in all the places he used to ripple and we were now donating to your establishment. Fortunately for us, Snap Fitness is literally 2 miles from our house. No pool, no track, no customized Pilates training...but they do have treadmills, strength training machines, and we could walk to it...in our sleep. Plus, they were waiving enrollment fees at the end of December and the one thing we don't pay is enrollment fees. Ever. Eventually you'll get desperate enough and waive them. We'll wait.
So, we decided to cancel our memberships with your fine (yet fairly dirty) fitness center right after Christmas. We brought in our membership cards and spoke with the well-mannered, customer service-oriented, 20-something* working the front desk. She gave me the appropriate paperwork to fill out, informed us that it would cost us an additional $10 in processing fees to cancel and that we would owe until the first of February (because y'know, there's a 30-day processing period. Kids, I managed a gym. I know that it does not take 30 days to process my cancellation. It's not being shipped to Bombay, it's being walked to the office in the back of the gym. But somehow, over time, this has become an industry standard. I tried to explain it to Neal. All I got were eye rolls and explicatives). Fine.
Although...this was not really fine because when I joined, the sales guy (read: piranha in a golf shirt) convinced me to pay my last month's dues up front. He explained that when I was ready to cancel, I just did so without paying any more money. I had never heard of this tactic. It was like Urban Active was doing me a favor (First name: Easy, Last name: Target). So, I wrote a big fat check with a smile on my face. I was being screwed and I was smiling about it.
We left the gym, went home, and were preparing for our marathon trip to the Windy City when 20-something called my cell phone to say that she actually needed paperwork on both of us. One form = one membership. I listened to the voice mail and made a mental note to stop by when we returned from the North Pole.
At my next opportunity, I headed over to finish the paperwork (did I mention this place is not really convenient?). 20-something remembered me (probably as Neal's nicer half...he gave her a lot of eye rolls, too) and handed me the form. I filled it out, handed it back to her and asked her about the billing for February. And then it all went to Hell. It went a lot like this:
Me: So, our last billing cycle will be in February, correct?
20-s: Let me take a look (clickety-click-click...think of Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents as he's trying to get a flight, any flight, away from Robert De Niro). Oh here it is...your husband's last payment will be February 15th, yours will be March 1st.
Me (the sound of the abacus adding up payments in increments of $50): Wait, what? Why won't mine be February 1st? They were supposed to be canceled at the same time.
20-s: But you just now filled out the paperwork for yours.
Me: Yes...but our intention was to cancel both of our memberships. Both of our names were on the first form.
20-s: You didn't say you wanted to cancel both memberships.
Me: Both of our names were on the form. What else could that possibly mean?? (At this point, I'm dangerously close to losing all of my cool. But I've been the 20-something front desk staff enough to know there's nothing she can do about it). That's fine. Can I speak to your manager?
20-s: Sure. Just a sec.
Manager: Can I help you?
OK...when I say that this 20-something was the front desk staff just last week, I'm not doing so for dramatic effect. She was just last week folding towels and checking people in and cleaning toilets. I am all for the hands-on managerial style...but she was NOT a manager last week.
I explained my dilemma...that, while unfortunate, this was not my error and that I didn't feel it was offering good customer service to make me pay for their mistake.
Manager: Well, she called to tell you that we needed another form, right?
Me: Yes, but we were headed out of town.
Manager: I'm sorry, but we did everything in our power to let you know that you needed to fill out another form. You'll be charged for March.
Me: I don't understand why you can't backdate this form to match the other.
Manager: We just can't.
Me: This is not my fault (now using my outdoor voice because that's what being shafted out of $50 will do to a girl).
Manager: Well, this is not our fault either. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.
Me: No, misunderstanding would imply that you are not intentionally screwing people out of money to pay for this Hell-hole. This is just fraud.
Yeah, you ponder on that one while I plot my revenge and possibly the destruction of every pane of glass in this joint.
Me: Let me speak to whoever is above you.
Manager: There isn't anyone above me.
Me: I think I may have chortled or at least slipped a snort here. YOU'RE it?
Me: Well, that explains a LOT. I think this is disgusting customer service and I'm putting it on my blog, my Facebook page, and my Twitter profile.
Manager: OK! Have a great day.
Not wanting to spend another night in jail, I restrained myself from lunging at her with the sole purpose of wrapping my jagged claws around her esophagus and strangling the life out of this snotty, arrogant, entitled little bitch. But it did cross my mind.
And that is why, Gold's Gym AKA Urban Active AKA Whatever-You-Have-to-Change-Your-Name-to-Next-Because-We-Are-On-To-You-Like-Pantyhose-On-Hoover, you will never see our bank account again. Will this rage-fueled post read by all 30 people make a difference in your bottom line? No. People need a gym membership in January like they need 7 loaves of bread before an ice storm. I know this has David and Goliath written all over it...but you need to know that these are not the principles that a good business are built upon. Screwing the customer will only work so long before Karma raises its ugly, pimply face and bites you on the bottom line. I hope I get to see it.
An opinionated housewife with a big mouth and access to the internet
*My apologies to most other 20-somethings. I know that you are not all worker bees in the hive of the devil.