I used to belong to the BodyCo Fitness Club in Yaletown. It was a bit pricey but had excellent service and the higher cost also meant that it was well kept and, well, frankly catered to a certain clientele -- or rather did not cater to a certain clientele. They also offered something that is not all that common in fitness clubs these days: you paid month-by-month and could cancel anytime with a 30-day notice.
In January of this year they sold their operation to WorstGym err WorldGym... urgh. Immediately I associated their name with a mindless iron-pumping sweatshop outfit. Not entirely fair as I did not even know them really. So I figured I should really give them a try. I asked what changes they are planning and they said: "Only improvements! First of all your membership fee will be lower, and we are getting new and better equipment." OK, cool! So what about the service aspect like towel service, opening hours, convenient payment and cancellation structure, etc? "Oh no! That will all stay the same as you have always had it. Well, except for the water bottle service, that is kind of gross and we'll stop that." OK, super cool! I always have my water bottle with me anyway and never really got the 'convenience' of leaving it there anyway.
So then a few weeks later I came in after work for my work-out -- a little late and rushed as always and the new ditz behind the counter -- aptly named Celine! -- told me that my BodyCo key tag is no good anymore to sign in. We all need to sign over to WorldGym now -- and yes of course we'll be getting WorldGym key tags now. Well... soon anyway... any day now really. But back to the contract... Now I am thinking "Fuck me! Can I please just work out? I am late already..." However, nice guy that I am am, I am smiling sweetly and saying "Alright, so what is the deal?"
Ditz-Celine: "Your membership fee is only $45 (or thereabouts) per month now. Isn't that awesome?"
Klaus: "Yea, great. What about cancellation? Has that changed from the BodyCo structure of cancelling anytime?"
Ditz-Celine: "Oh you can still cancel anytime but now you pay less. And we are getting new equipment in. And blah blah blah "
Klaus: "OK, lets get this over with where do I sign? "
Ditz-Celine: "Right here -- and I need a cancelled cheque for the pre-authorized payment."
Klaus: "I don't have one with me. You can use my Visa card as BodyCo did. You will have that number on file."
Ditz-Celine: "We are not yet set up for credit cards but you can bring a cheque next time you come in."
Klaus: "OK, good."
Yea, yea, yea... I know what you are going to say. I am an idiot for signing something without reading the details. In fact, we sign shit all the time without reading the fine print. Live just happens to get in the way sometimes.
So anyway. Time moves on and service at WorstGym starts fading... First there was a noticeable influx of wannabe muscle builder and other mind-numbing nitwits. Then one day they tell me that they stopped the towel service. Just like that... no notice or anything. And of course they tell me after my sweaty workout -- in the evening in the middle of winter and a 1o-minute walk away from my car!! Have you lost your fucking minds people???
The spray to wipe down the machines started disappearing too. The 'cool WorldGym' key-tags never did arrive, instead I had to carry some stupid paper card in my wallet. The more subtle equipment like tubing started to disappear almost completely too. At one point I noticed an sign advertising new opening hours -- shorter ones of course. At this time I already did not care anymore really as I had pretty much made up my mind to leave them as soon as I have the time so find a new gym.
By now I was also working out once a week with my running coach and personal trainer Lara Penno at Momentum Fitness (now THAT is an awesome facility!!) and only went to the gym one additional time per week.
Somewhat recently our strata council decided that it is time to upgrade the fitness room in our building. And they have done a really nice job. (I am giving myself a little bit credit here now as I am on the council right now.) So really there is not that much reason for me to belong to a shitty gym and this is much more convenient. And Lara tailors my workout program to the equipment that I do have available.
So now I decided to cancel my membership and called them to ask where and to whom to address my cancellation. I was told to call Alfonso so I did. He told me "No problem! Just send a letter to the WorldGym on Homer or simply drop it off." And so I did. On Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at around noon I dropped the cancellation letter of at the front desk at the gym on Homer and the lady behind the counter told me she'd make sure that Alfonso gets it. Of course the cancellation was not for June 1, but for July 1 in accordance with the 30-day cancellation policy of the agreement that I had with BodyCo.
Somehow I knew that WorstGym would not cancel it as requested and hence was not surprised to see the charge on July 4 on my bank statement. I tried to reach Alfonso to discuss this. After finally making contact with him and explaining the situation he told me that he would look into it right away and get back to me. He told me that this was probably just a clerical error and that it can and will be resolved right away.
Dealing with this Alfonso guy is kind of like dealing with an ultra-slimy used car salesman who is incredibly full of himself. So no surprise that "getting back to me" took quite a while and then he still hadn't had time to look into it, but it was "on top of his priority list"... After yet some more time we finally did connect and he then acted really baffled. "Explain to me again what the problem is. 'Cause I don't see a problem here..." What he referred to was the contract that I signed back then with Ditz-Celine and he is now holding me to it. When I asked him about all the promises that nothing material in the membership format should change from the BodyCo times, he replied that "this is why we sign contracts and write things down".
Well yes, contract as fine and dandy and very useful I agree. But the is also something like sticking to your word and promises, and not deliberately misleading people. Anyway, for me this is not about money at all. The whole contract value is just a tad over C$300 - so nothing to get all worked up over. But boy-oh-boy, shit like this with people like this Alfonso character really do piss me off.
In the end I told Alfonso that he should please send me a written confirmation that my membership is officially cancelled as of February 1, 2007. He had the fucking nerve to tell me that this was not necessary as he already has the cancellation in front of him and we have discussed it now over the phone. Is he completely brain-dead?? I reminded him of the fact that just minutes ago he told me that if it is not in writing it does not count. He then mumbled that this was somehow different (or so, he was not very intelligible). I told him that this is not different at all and would he please send me a written confirmation of the cancellation. He promised that he would do that. Of course I have not received it after two weeks and so I went to my bank to initiate a PAP retraction. And I will initiate another retraction if they make a withdrawal again on August 1 -- until that nitwit sends confirmation letter.