Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Exercise In Futility

Erin and I have been trying to cut down our spending on a month to month basis.  We throw good money away for things we don't really need or use.  Like most people we got rid of a portion of our Netflix (which became Qwikster or New Coke or whatever).  We looked into dropping some of the premium stations on our television.  We tried to do a better job of spending at the grocery store.  We had identified the quick ways to increase the money we had available each month and allocated it more necessary items.

One those items: gym membership.  I'm not here to promote an unhealthy lifestyle.  If you use your gym membership and are in the best shape of your life because of it, good for you.  Personally I only ever go to the gym to use a treadmill.  Erin hardly used it for much more than that and the pool.  You don't need to take a logic class to know that a moving belt on a piece of electronic equipment isn't necessary to run.  And it certainly isn't necessary to pay out $60+ per month for the privilege to use that equipment.

So it was decided that a gym membership was fat that could be cut (pun certainly intended).

I put the girls down for a nap and had some time on my hands to handle some of this stuff.  I was on and off the phone in less than 5 minutes with DirecTV.  I told them to cancel something.  They did.  They even gave me three free months of HBO.  Thank you very much.  It was about as easy a customer service transaction that a person could do.

I was feeling good as I called our gym, but that didn't last.  The first three times I called all circuits were busy.  Apparently there was a run on cancelling gym memberships.  The fourth time I called I was connected to an automated line which put me on hold for about two minutes.  I was starting to get a little frustrated about it.  This is what we call the tip of the iceberg.

I finally got a live person on the phone.  I gave her my member number and told her that I would like to cancel my membership.  I also told her I'd like my last month's dues to be applied to the current month.  Her response "You can't do that."


Her: "You can't have your last month's dues applied to this month.  You'll be charged this month and your last month that you paid will cover next month."
Me: "I'm telling you that this is my last month ergo this would be paid with my last month's dues."
Her: "That can't be done."
Me: "Do you know why they collect first and last month's dues?  To cover you when someone leaves.  This is me leaving."
Her: "That isn't how it works.  Also you can't cancel over the phone."
Me: "I can't cancel over the phone?  Don't you sign people up over the phone?  What's the difference?"
Her: "That is unrelated.  Your contract states that it must be cancelled in writing."
Me: "Okay.  Can you do me a favor?  Grab a pen and write down the following: Brandon is cancelling his gym membership.  Now it's in writing."
Her: "I can't submit it in writing for you."
Me: "Okay then.  What is your email address, and I'll email it?"
Her: "Email doesn't work either.  It has to have your signature.  You can fax it or bring it in."
Me: "Really?  What is the difference?  You realize that an email is in writing, right?  Anyone can send a fax in to cancel it.  How would you know that is my signature anyways?"
Her: "That's how it needs to be done.  You signed this contract."
Me: "Yes.  I know that almost 5 years ago I signed a contract.  I've been a member of your gym since then with no issue until today.  I know that you only make people jump through these hoops because they are less likely to cancel the more inconvenient it is."
Her: "That's just how your contract works."
Me: "Yes, it is my contract which will be void in 5 minutes.  What is your fax?  I can't wait to send it in."

After trying to fax it four times with a no answer at the fax number she provided, I was done.  I strapped the girls in the stroller and walked to the nearest gym.  I had my letter prepared to turn in.  When the lady at the desk asked if she could help me, I told her that all she needed to do was file my paperwork to cancel my membership, and I walked out.

I've had an easier time quitting a job than this gym.  I've gone through break-ups that were less painful.  The customer is always right until he doesn't want to be a customer anymore.  The good that came out of it: I was motivated to run...away from that gym as fast as I could.

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