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May 8, 2008 8:21 PM   Subscribe

The YMCA is charging me for the next month even though I've already canceled my membership and turned in my card. Am I out of line in thinking this is out of line?

I stopped by the YMCA today to cancel my membership, as I will be moving out of the area soon. The woman took my membership card and lock and handed me a form to fill out - standard protocol for membership cancellations the world over. However! To my dismay, the bottom of the form stated that "This serves as a 30-day notice of cancellation. This means that if your next payment date is within 30 days of completing this form, the YMCA reserves the right to charge the credit card on file with your account on this date."

I asked the woman at the front desk if this could possibly be real. She confirmed that indeed it was. I asked if there was any way to contest this charge, since I will obviously no longer be using the facilities, having just turned in my membership card. She gave me a look of feigned sympathy and said no, sorry, your next payment date is on the 14th, so it's already been processed - they just haven't taken the money out yet. (I have no idea what that means - apparently the paleolithic YMCA accounting department lacks the technology to issue credit card refunds?) Like a wuss, I just said, "Okay. Thanks," and stomped out wearing my fiercest passive-aggressive glare.

As the cancellation form kindly reminded me, they have the trump card, because this "30-day notice" business was apparently on the authorization agreement I signed when I joined. I, however, find this ridiculous. Was I was supposed to staple a reminder to my brain that when-random-ever I decided to cancel my membership, I'd have to do it 30 days prior to when I actually wanted my membership cancelled? Was I supposed to remember to review my contract at least thirty days before I wanted my membership cancelled so as to remind myself that I needed to review my contract thirty days before I wanted my membership cancelled so as to remind myself that I needed to cancel thirty days in advance? Is this insane, or is this standard? It's not like I'm renting from them and they need time to find a replacement. Even Comcast doesn't pull this shit, and Comcast has tried to fuck me in ways even Rick Santorum could not conceive of.

I joined the YMCA even though it was twice as expensive as 24-Hour Fitness down the block, because, I mean, it's the YMCA. It exists in service to the community. And now I feel betrayed because not only are they going to charge me for something we both know I'm not using, but they're all like "La la la, we're the YMCA, and if you criticize us you're a dick who doesn't want underprivileged children to have summer camp." But I'm essentially being forced to donate $75 to the YMCA, except it's not even tax deductible. I really and truly cannot afford this. Is there any way to stop them, or am I fucked really and truly? Am I wrong in thinking this is bullshit?
posted by granted to Grab Bag (28 answers total)
 
If it happened to me, I would be sure to read contracts in the future. Gym's would not be able to afford to operate if they gave refunds.

At this point, I would ask for the membership card back, and continue to use the facilities for as long as possible.

Just my opinion...
posted by ydnagaj at 8:38 PM on May 8, 2008


This isn't a question. This is a rant.

It's true that it is ranty, but my question - Is there any way to stop them, or am I fucked really and truly? - is sincere. Pretend the rest is written in a dispassionate and professional tone, if you wish.
posted by granted at 8:46 PM on May 8, 2008


Try calling your credit card company and see if they can help you.
posted by lilacorlavender at 8:48 PM on May 8, 2008


This is standard. And, sorry, but this is why it's important to read contracts when you sign them. Contracts have terms and conditions, unlike a simple bill of sale. (This is why you can't legally sign a contract until you're a legal adult...because you are responsible for whatever you promise.)
posted by desuetude at 8:50 PM on May 8, 2008


If you're really and truly fucked by the loss of $75, you probably should have joined the cheaper gym in the first place. Of course, the cheaper gym probably would still be charging you a year from now, rather than just taking one more payment.

30 days cancellation on a gym membership is actually pretty reasonable terms, entirely within, and even on the customer friendly end of, the normal spectrum. Suck it up and deal.

That said, if you weren't moving out of the area at this point, you'd be within your rights to keep your membership card for those 30 days and keep using the facilities.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:51 PM on May 8, 2008


Call your bank and explain what happened. They may be able to reverse the charges. Interestingly, some years ago when I had to cancel my YMCA membership, the Y continued to charge me for *three months* after the cancellation. Eventually they refunded the money, but in the interim, B of A gave me a temporary charge reversal each time.
posted by chez shoes at 8:58 PM on May 8, 2008


yep. you're dead wrong in thinking this is bullshit. that's why there's all that bothersome text above the place you sign any contract.
posted by jk252b at 8:59 PM on May 8, 2008


Please don't initiate a chargeback for this. This is not a mistake on the part of YMCA, and you don't really have a right to dispute the charges, since you agreed to them in writing.
posted by desuetude at 9:04 PM on May 8, 2008


Just call your credit card company and do a chargeback.
posted by delmoi at 9:07 PM on May 8, 2008


As the cancellation form kindly reminded me, they have the trump card, because this "30-day notice" business was apparently on the authorization agreement I signed when I joined.

That's your answer right there.

You're not 'fucked really and truly', you're obliged to fulfil the terms of the contract you signed.

If you get this un-paid through your CC company, I believe the YMCA would be entirely within their rights to pursue you for the money.
posted by pompomtom at 9:14 PM on May 8, 2008


The gym I work for requires you to cancel in writing at least 30 days before the end of your four month contract or you are automatically renewed for another four months.

I don't know really what you mean by "bullshit", but stuff like this is incredibly standard. It's a shame they didn't verbally spell out their policies when you joined (my co-workers are I are to be extremely clear about the details of the renewal policy), but if it's in the contract you signed then you're out of luck.
posted by ODiV at 9:17 PM on May 8, 2008


Part of why the poster feels so fucked is that the desk person took her card and THEN explained the policy. Which means the poster is paying for time she can't use at all, instead of paying for time that she can only use part of.

So really, go back and demand your card back (sweetly), or a temporary card in its place. Use the gym a whole month's worth in the time you have left. Or see if you can let a friend use it for the remaining time. Or something.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:30 PM on May 8, 2008


If you really need the money to get by, you could go to the manager to beg and plead. Keep talking to someone until they either:

(A) let you talk to their supervisor, or
(B) give you your money back

Go in person, tomorrow (managers may not be there on the weekend). Be to be reasonable the whole time, and never get angry (or even raise your voice), just stay persistently convinced that you need to get to yes even though you repeatedly acknowledge that you know you made a mistake. You can usually get past a "No" by saying "I understand you're just doing your job and I appreciate that. Could I talk to your manager or someone who can override the policy?" Under no circumstances should you "use your passive-aggressive glare."

Note: this would be a really negative thing to do if you didn't really need the money badly.
posted by Pants! at 9:32 PM on May 8, 2008


I worked for a gym franchise. It's standard for gyms nation-wide.

Say you bought a candy bar but only took one bite - you're not returning that sucker for a refund because you're full and can't finish it. Since you pay monthly, if you use any part of that last month, you're obliged to pay for the whole thing.

It's not personal, it's not bullshit, and it's not deceptive or underhanded - it's just good business.

The despicable thing would be filing a dispute with your credit card company.

But yeah, when you were canceling, it would have been nice had the Y employee explained, "OK, you're being billed for this last month whether you like it or not - so hold on to your card until the last possible day." That, my friend, could be construed as bullshit (of the "bad customer service" variety).
posted by Detuned Radio at 9:46 PM on May 8, 2008


I also agree with what Pants! just posted. Business operators are, at times, human.
posted by Detuned Radio at 9:47 PM on May 8, 2008


Not to belabor the point, but not only was it int he contract, it's actually pretty standard for gym memberships that you basically are giving them 30 days' notice when you cancel.

They shoudn't have taken your card, though, because you can still use the gym between now and then.

If your more immediate concern is the $75, perhaps you can try to talk the manager into allowing you to pay those $75 on a payment plan? It's probably out the ordinary to do so, so if you go this route I'd suggest leaving the passive-aggressiveness at home and bringing your most reasonable and understanding attitude instead.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:48 PM on May 8, 2008


Gym's would not be able to afford to operate if they gave refunds.

Technically, it isn't a refund, as they won't be charging my card for another five days.

If you're really and truly fucked by the loss of $75, you probably should have joined the cheaper gym in the first place.

It's true, mistakes were made. Had I a time machine I would right this wrong, but since I don't I'll have to take it as a lesson learned.

Since you pay monthly, if you use any part of that last month, you're obliged to pay for the whole thing.

To clarify: I'm not asking for a refund for last month. What upsets me is that I'm going to be charged for next month.

This is standard. And, sorry, but this is why it's important to read contracts when you sign them. Contracts have terms and conditions, unlike a simple bill of sale.

I really do know what a contract is, and I really did read the contract when I signed it. However, it was a long time ago, and I simply did not remember the 30-day notice business. I had no idea this was standard practice for gyms (it's the first gym I've ever joined), and it seemed reasonable that once I officially opted out of a service I would no longer be charged for that service, so I didn't think to review my contract beforehand.

So, I'll defer to the superior judgment of the AskMe community and suck up the loss. I apologize if my tone seemed abrasive. I was frustrated because I thought I was finally getting on my game financially and this was an unexpected setback. But may I be granted one final moment of righteous indignation: even acknowledging that with regards to the contract I signed I am completely unjustified in doing anything but honoring that contract, and the YMCA is within their rights to charge me - although this may be a standard policy among gyms, it's still super lame. Essentially, if I had cancelled my membership on 4/15, because the next payment date (5/14) would be less than thirty days away, they'd still be within their rights to charge me then. I'd then be paying for 59 days that I'm not using. Yes, okay, other gyms have more draconian policies, but that doesn't mean they're not all assholes. To quote Cameron on last week's House, "I don't sleep with everyone who's better than Hitler."
posted by granted at 10:05 PM on May 8, 2008


Go and get your membership card back, most Ys accept out-of-area members for free for the first month. At least you can use $75 worth of gym access at your new location.
posted by jamaro at 11:00 PM on May 8, 2008


It's 30 days, same as in town. I got bit by that too, but in hindsight, it makes sense. They're the YMCA, not VISA - they have office people who process the cancellations, and it takes a while. Live and learn (and deal).
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:31 AM on May 9, 2008


Just as a warning for the future as well, these sort of terms are standard (certainly in the UK) across a range of different contracts - often covering internet providers, satellite/cable services, phone providers etc.

There generally included for two reasons:

1. To make more money for the company;
2. To allow the company to process payments effectively, as it takes time for many large companies to make the administrative arrangements to remove you from the automatic charging.

I can understand your frustration, but when you move house, or whenever you are thinking about cancelling a contract, you need to look at it in plenty of time.
posted by Mattat at 3:48 AM on May 9, 2008


Was I was supposed to staple a reminder to my brain that when-random-ever I decided to cancel my membership, I'd have to do it 30 days prior to when I actually wanted my membership cancelled?

Yes.
posted by flabdablet at 4:41 AM on May 9, 2008


Are you happy with using your card out of state for one month?

Yes : Just ask for the card back & use it out of state. If they say no, then they are now the ones violating the contract. So you should warn them that you will request a chargeback. If this does not change their mind, then you should ask for a chargeback from you credit card company.

No : You must now argue the chargeback based upon their issuing a deceptive contract. Your bank will still be happily preform the chargeback. But morally I think you should take more steps towards "mediation", i.e. contact the manager. Again, if he still says no, then you should inform him that you'll take the issue to your bank because the contract was deceptive.

If either case leads to a chargeback, then you must explain everything in writing to your bank after you get your credit card bill. Btw, even if they contest the chargeback, they will still suck a $30 chargeback fee.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:58 AM on May 9, 2008


In brief, yes, you signed this 30 day notice thing, but their sales pitch surely didn't mention it. You should always read any contracts you sign, but that doesn't mean people get to trick you into signing harmful stuff. At the same time, you are morally obligated to first attempt to resolve the issue before using a chargeback, and then warn the merchant that you will use one if that fails.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:03 AM on May 9, 2008


I really do know what a contract is, and I really did read the contract when I signed it. However, it was a long time ago, and I simply did not remember the 30-day notice business.

I didn't think to review my contract beforehand.


Unfortunately, forgetting the terms of a contract you signed, much like ignorance of the existence of a law that applies to you is not a defense, is not a valid reason for rescission of a contract (or a defense to a breach).
posted by Pax at 6:12 AM on May 9, 2008


Sorry, that was a bad sentence.
posted by Pax at 7:07 AM on May 9, 2008


You're lucky your Y even took a credit card. My Y made me use direct deduction from my checking account, and then wouldn't stop deducting it for six months because of supposed repeated "errors" in how I filled out the cancellation form. We're talking several hundred dollars. And yes, they took my key and cancelled my card and yet were still charging me. When I would call they would tell me that I wasn't a member, and then have me go through the whole rigamarole again. Given that experience good luck. You can always challenge it with the credit card company, but my advice to everyone reading this is, sign up with Bally.
posted by nax at 8:29 AM on May 9, 2008


i had the same experience as chez shoes when canceling my ymca membership, except i had to do a chargeback through my credit card company because the ymca was dragging its feet on refunding the extra months they had charged me for. i didn't charge back the month you are talking about, though. (and i agree that it stinks, even if it is common practice.)
posted by jimw at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2008


My gym has the same stipulation. It's normal.
posted by konolia at 4:27 PM on May 9, 2008


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