I visited a Bally Total Fitness in Philadelphia as a guest of a member, who is a friend of mine, one day in late August of 2002. Previously, I went to another Bally Total Fitness in the Granite Run Mall with the same friend under similar circumstances, but my experience at the Philadelphia location was outrageously different.
Instead of being given a brief tour and a chance to lift weights like at the Granite Run Mall location, the employee had me sit in his office with him while he filled out “paperwork”. He said that he needed to put a membership “on reserve” for me, and asked me if I had a credit card. Thinking that I could just oblige him in order to get my chance to be left alone and work out with the weights, I gave him my checking account debit card.
Then, I began to ask this guy questions about what he was trying to do. I told him that I belonged to Gold’s Gym already, and that I just wanted to try out his gym. (They let me try out their facility for a week before even asking me if I wanted to join.) He tried to assure me that I could easily cancel my Gold’s membership, but his other answers as to what he was trying to do with me made no sense at all.
He then left me in his office and went to the front counter with my debit card. At this point, I felt that I had had enough of his nonsense, so I left his office and went up to the front counter behind him. I saw my debit card lying there and took it back. He started getting frantic. I screamed loudly, “This is wrong! I’m not okay with this! I’m leaving now, with my card!” I ran out of this place, leaving my friend behind. (She had no idea what was happening at this time, but I told her about it later.)
After fleeing the scene, I thought that I was not going to have a problem. I never signed any credit card terminal receipts. I never signed a contract. However, over a month later, in October, I discovered that my checking account was debited by Bally Total Fitness for $63.50. I called their corporate offices, where a representative told me that I was a “member under contract” with them. I told them that I never signed a contract.
He said I would have to submit five samples of my signature to them to prove this. (Does this mean they have handwriting analysis experts working there, like the FBI does?) I was screaming at this guy, even though I was at work when I made this call. That’s how angry I was over this. I called the location in Philadelphia next.
The manager there asked me to come back to meet with him. When I went there the following week for this meeting, this guy at least listened to my story, but didn’t offer me a refund. He even tried to talk me into letting the membership continue. I was adamant however, so the guy said he’d process a “three-day cancellation” for me, but that it would “take time” to do, and that he would have to talk to his supervisor first. In weeks that followed, I spoke to this guy again, as well as other people on the staff, but never got a straight story from anyone.
I was told that the employee I encountered on that fateful day in August was no longer working there at one point, because I said that I wanted to file criminal charges against him with the District Attorney of Philadelphia, and I needed his full name to do that. The only time anybody from this location ever called me was when some girl there tried to solicit me for a membership, unaware of the ongoing situation I had with them.
I gave up calling this place soon afterwards and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I did get two month’s worth of fees back so far, but only because of my bank’s actions with the charge-back. Bally’s debited my account for another month’s membership the day after that.
Recently, I had another debit card issued to me with a different set of numbers, but it remains to be seen whether that will stop Bally’s from taking my money yet. Just today, I got another call from a Bally’s representative, who left a message for me, asking me to call back. After listening to her scripted, and long-winded speech, I could tell that she was just a Bally Total Fitness telemarketer, who wanted me to sign up for their VISA credit card.
I told her to stuff that card where the sun doesn’t shine and hung up on her. I’ve been through so much hassle, merely for just visiting Bally Total Fitness as a guest of friend!