Gym refunds fees after withdrawal dispute

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on November 26, 2011

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In all, Dwyer said more than $300 was withdrawn, and her attempts to get an explanation from the club were stymied.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