Gym refunds fees after withdrawal dispute

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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When Laura Dwyer injured her knee in January, the St. John's student put her gym membership on hold.

But before she could return to the gym, she says, GoodLife Fitness - she's been a member at the Blackmarsh Road location for about five years - resumed withdrawing payments without her knowledge.

"I brought them a doctor's note, and had my account put on hold," she said Thursday. "Then in about May, somebody from GoodLife had called me, and I told her that I wasn't able to return to the gym until I got my MRI back and I knew what was wrong with my knee. I wasn't told that they were going to start taking the payments out again."

Dwyer said she didn't notice right away, because the withdrawals come out of a student line of credit, which she hadn't otherwise touched since the beginning of the semester in January. It wasn't until recently, after she lost her wallet and was reviewing her accounts online, that she discovered that GoodLife resumed withdrawing $22.54 every two weeks in May.

In all, Dwyer said more than $300 was withdrawn, and her attempts to get an explanation from the club were stymied. She said she was told she'd signed an account suspension form that detailed when payments would resume. Dwyer said she doesn't recall signing one, but can't say for sure she didn't - and her attempts to get gym management to produce the form were unsuccessful.

"I asked (the gym employee) her if she had that paper there for me, and she said that she would have to look into my file," but that didn't happen, said Dwyer, adding her requests to make an appointment with the manager were ignored. Dwyer said she was told the money wouldn't be refunded, and the best the company could do for her was provide a free month's membership when she returned to the gym.

The manager of GoodLife's Blackmarsh location declined to comment on the situation, and referred the Telegram to a 1-800 number for members, which redirected the request to the company's head office in London, Ont. Krista Maling, GoodLife's senior public relations adviser, confirmed for the Telegram the company's policy.

"The general policy is that with a medical note, we definitely put memberships on hold for free, no problem," she said, adding that a signature is required from members to suspend the account. "They get a change form, which would tell them when the last payment would come out of their account and the date that it would begin again."

Maling wouldn't comment on Dwyer's specific case, citing privacy concerns, but did say she had been in contact with her since the Telegram started making inquiries, and that she was concerned about the way Dwyer said she'd been treated. "I'm surprised to hear of her situation. That definitely isn't our member care protocol. I'm sad to hear that she feels that someone wasn't of assistance to her."

By late Thursday afternoon, Dwyer confirmed, Maling had contacted her to let her know they'd be refunding the dues taken from her account.

"She told me that they actually do do reimbursements, and the money was going to be reimbursed to my account," she said. "Any of the people I'd spoken to before this have told me that there's no way that they reimburse money, and there's no way the account to be reimbursed."

Dwyer said it was unfortunate that it took so long to get sorted out, but she was happy that her money would be refunded, and added that she will "100 per cent" double-check all agreements in the future, and urged other members of fitness clubs to do the same.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Geographic location: St. John's, Blackmarsh Road, London, Ont.

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Recent comments

  • Jason Taner
    December 04, 2011 - 17:54

    @Velda, @Jason Have you read the article? An honest mistake? It had to go as far as the media for this person to be reimbursed! Frankly, it should have been corrected when the woman brought it to GoodLife's attention. It qualifies as news because it raises awareness about an industry that relies on automatic withdrawals and signed agreements with fine-print to raise revenue. It shows how easily Canadians can unknowingly be spending money for a service they no longer use and believe, they have cancelled. And, in this case, why would one believe otherwise? The company told the woman over the phone it was cancelled. A lot of Canadians, enthusiastically and in good faith, sign gym contracts without envisioning for a second the problems they will be stuck with.

  • Derek N
    December 01, 2011 - 20:43

    What is the point of this? it was published AFTER she got her money back. If they continued to refuse then MAYBE it could be published. Not sure what the point of this article is, but publishing it was a poor editorial choice.

    • Jason Tanner
      December 05, 2011 - 10:06

      I don't know. I sure like to know how easy it is to be spending money for a service I am not using because I believe it is cancelled and how it takes media pressure to resolve a situation. IMHO, good editorial choice.

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    November 29, 2011 - 12:42

    B- How does this qualify as news? Someone has a dispute over gym payments. What next, someone has dispute over their car repairs? If there was some kind of a pattern of this occurring with numerous people then maybe that would be some kind of a news story.

  • B
    November 29, 2011 - 09:39

    Hey Foghorn You are an idiot!!!!! When it doesn't concern you it doesn't matter??????????????? Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Old Salt
    November 27, 2011 - 09:12

    $45 a month from a student line of credit. Sounds like a bit of a "priority" crisis to me. There must be a more economical way for a student to stay in shape. Signing on the dotted line without reading carefully first can be, and often is, disastrous. The money grabbers word those forms in their own favour knowing full well that nobody reads before signing. A good city-street walking program wouldn't have cost you a penny Ms. Dwyer.

  • Jason Tanner
    November 26, 2011 - 18:24

    I am glad this newspaper is highlighting these dubious business practices.

    • Velda
      November 28, 2011 - 11:19

      It could have been an honest mistake, rather than a "dubious business practice." I prefer to think of it as an honest mistake - one that Goodlife rectified.

    • jason tanner
      December 05, 2011 - 10:14

      If it was an honest mistake, it should have been rectified when it was brought to GoodLife's attention instead of giving this person so much runaround that she felt the need to get the media involved. It is also quite revealing that the mistake was then promptly corrected when a journalist started asking questions...

  • Meagan
    November 26, 2011 - 12:47

    It's about time someone went public with this! I had surgery back in October 2010 and at that time I was a member and had a personal trainer. I explained to my trainer about the situation and he was perfectly fine with me taking some time off to get back on the mend. However, I had to go through the Fitness Manager, who at the time wouldn't accept or send my medical note to Head Office until he knew the EXACT details of the procedure! I told him it was personal and anyone who works with Eastern Health would say he was crazy for even inquiring! Anywho, to make matters worst, he switched to another location and now I was stuck with dealing with a new Fitness Manager. He said there would be no problem submitting my doctor's not which simply said I had surgery and would need "x" amount of time to heal and get back in the gym. Sounds good, right? Wrong. He didn't even SUBMIT my medical note and I was left to have $143 bi-weekly deducted from my account, all while I was off from the gym AND my work! Needless to say, I was beyond frustrated and angry. From a company that claims to make customer service a number one priority, it sure wasn't the case! I then took matters into my own hands, and because nothing would get done at this specific St. John's location, I contacted Head Office myself . The head over the personal trainers at Head Office was as equally unhelpful. Basically said he needed to know full details, which I thought was absurd! Anyway, to make a long story short, I gave up on them because they weren't worth the headache or frustration, I wasn't reimbursed, so I ended up selling the remaining balance of sessions to a friend for her to use and so that my trainer wouldn't be short a client. But good for you for fighting this policy!!! :D

  • cher nl
    November 26, 2011 - 09:20

    good for you for fighting most people would of left it alone

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    November 26, 2011 - 09:08

    Man, it must be one slow news day!