Who here remembers the film ‘Falling Down’ with Michael Douglas? The hapless anti-hero who finally snaps when life and modern society’s absurdities finally prod him in the ribs too much and he goes on the rampage. I think most people who live outside an ivory tower has had or can imagine having a Falling Down moment…
Having a deep interest in health and fitness, I’ve been a member of a few gyms and sports clubs in my time and one of the more memorable ones (for the wrong reasons) has been the Energie Fitness in Fulham. It was near my home, it served a purpose, and it gave me a place to stretch and lift weights when I wasn’t out running.
Energie Fitness, in my opinion, seem to want to guilt you into visiting them. Whatever you do, don’t give them your mobile number! You’ll get fairly regular texts telling you ”We Miss You! It only takes 3 sessions a week to get healthy” (or yada yada yada, words to that effect). And these might turn up when you’re out for dinner with your missus or having a cheeky pint with a mate. Aaarrgghh!
But woe-be-tide should you want to leave them and do it apparently not in the correct way! So I left work in June and took off for a few months. Cheesed off with the London grind I took 2 months of unpaid leave to forget it all and cancelled my gym membership with a move away from Fulham to the countryside imminent. And I was off on holiday to Califonia! Woo hoo!!
Here’s where it’s time to cut a long story short: I returned from my hols a few weeks later, feeling pretty fine, to a few voice messages from the caring Energie team. No longer was it “We miss you!” it was more “We want your money!”. And subsequent similar red inked letters to that effect, “otherwise it’s the debt collection agency for you my son”. So I sent off my cheque for the month of July, representing a months notice.
But apparently this isn’t good enough: apparently, for some head scratching reason it needs to be ‘in writing‘ (I wasn’t sure if they wanted Quill and Ink, Calligraphy or were happy with crayon?).
By simply cancelling your direct debit and following up with a months cancellation cheque, this isn’t enough of a message that you don’t want to be a member anymore. By the arrival of mid August, a subsequent email turned up confirming that I actually owed up to the end of September. Hmm, that’s 6 weeks into the future, and still more payment was apparently needed. I hadn’t used the gym for 3 months by this stage and they were well aware I lived miles away and would never use it again!
This was a real head scratcher. Somewhere in the very weasel worded small print they tell me they are technically right and I am wrong. And the red letters came and the voice mails threatening the kind services of the debt agencies continued. So I’ve done a bit of research on this and apparently I’m not the only one who has been pursued by them. Check this post out for more examples. The answer to that post is correct, of course: whilst they insist the letter of the law is in their favour, it’s a shame that they care so little about keeping their customers or potential customers happy.
In my mind the health and fitness industry is synonymous with a holistic approach to life and do not make happy bedfellows with an unwavering capitalistic approach. It should be about de-stressing, nurturing, and helping people out. Not all smiling and welcoming and then trying to take you for every penny by letter of the paperwork. It transpires that earlier this year the Office of Fair Trading signalled an enquiry into gym contracts and unfair cancellation policies.
There’s an interesting article here on the BBC. Read it and if you have any comments, then I’d be interested to hear if you’ve been similarly stung under one of these contracts?
Sure, paying my months notice for cancelling my membership I can live with. And for good order I can pay another month to reflect the fact I was away and out of touch. But what really prompts my Falling Down moment is being told to pay from mid August to end of September or “we’re sending the dogs in”. Steady on old chaps.