LA Fitness: Stop misrepresenting facts to sign members onto a contract
At first, I thought LA fitness was the ideal gym until one of their personal trainers came to me and offered me a complimentary training session. He spent an hour with me and at the end told me the benefits of a personal trainer. He tried pressuring me into signing up for one and I explicitly told him that I do not want to sign any contract but am willing to try a personal trainer for 2 sessions and see whether it's worthwhile for me. I also explicitly said I want to be able to walk away with no penalties should I choose not to continue. I was promised that there are no contracts, no hidden fees, and no penalties and I will only be charged for 2 sessions ($45 per session) and a 100 dollar initiation fee. The trainer assured me that no further charges will be made. He asked me to sign on a digital pad confirming that they will be charging my credit card for the 2 sessions and the initiation fee. He asked me to sign 3 times on the pad as it was normal process. I paid the $200 including taxes. I was given a receipt for the $200 charge on the credit card and nothing more. I was told that the 2 personal training session are available in my account and I can now use them.
A week and a half later, I had my first session (with a different trainer who I was told would be just as good).. My session lasted only 25 minutes (instead of the 1 hour i got in the complimentary session). I was not impressed and figured that after my 2 sessions were over, i'd no longer ask for more sessions. About a week after my first session, I noticed my credit card get charged for an additional 100 dollars. (2 more sessions). When I called in to ask why, I was told that I'm now signed onto a one year contract for a total of 52 sessions at a rate of $45 dollars per session. I explicitly said that I do not want a contract, and I want to be able to not sign onto additional sessions should I choose to leave. The technicality I was told was that I wasn't on a contract but there's a buyout fee of 50% should I leave before the 1 year contract. This, I was told, totaled $1200. Turns out, that the 3 signatures I was asked for was for a pre-authorized debit payment from the card every 2 weeks. When I told them that this was not what I signed up for, and one of their trainers misrepresented the facts, I was asked to prove that he said those things. At this point in time, I have only used 1 session, charged for 4, and am going to be charged for another 48 sessions. After 2 days of going back and forth with the manager, and the VP, I'm told that they will let me walk away if I pay a $550 buyout fee in addition to the $300 that I have already been charged for the 1 session i've received and the 3 I have yet to receive (Total of $850 for 4 sessions). I'm told that according to their contract that I had 10 days to back away from the contract with no penalty but there's no way for me to know that I was even IN a contract until 14 days after I signed it when the first payment was taken from my credit card. I've even told them that I'm willing to forfeit the 300 dollars they've charged me so far provided they get rid of this contract and am told that I'm now obligated to pay the $550 breakup fee. I was lied to about what I was signing, never given a contract, and was told that the signature I was signing was only to charge my credit card for the first 2 sessions, and none of the signatures were on paper but on a digital pad. I then put a stop payment on my credit card, filed a dispute with my credit card company. I was then told to contact LA Fitness' head office in California and when I called them and explained the situation, they said they would investigate and get back to me within a day. When I spoke to them again the next day, they said that there's nothing they can do to verify what was said to me as the personal training manager who signed me on was no longer with the company. This, despite the fact, that just the day before, the manager at the location explicitly told me that he spoke to the person who signed me on and this is a case of my word against his. So, somehow the person who signed me on ceased to work at the company within 24 hours of my filing a complaint with the head office. They then went on to say that they have the contract and they're going to go with that and not anything I say.
After googling a bit, I find that this exact scenario has happened to hundreds of LA fitness members across all their locations in both Canada and USA. It's a practice that is extremely common and one that they continually get away with. There have been more than 2300 complaints against them in the better business bureau website with a number of victims reporting the exact same sequence of events that I just described with personal training sessions.