It's the gym cops, man! They're after me!
December 29, 2005 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Help me convince my cow orker that the YMCA isn't going to send us off to the pokey and sue us into oblivion.

For the purpose of trying to prevent the continuing spread of my ass, I am a member of the nearby YMCA. It's a nice and new gym facility and convenient to the office. The only downside is that it's a bit more expensive for an individual - $76 for an individual rather than the $50 the closest Gold's Gym charges.

For a "household" however, it's $96, so my membership has myself and a cow orker on it and she (well, her online payment system) writes me a $50 check every month. Ta-da, $50 membership for her, $46 for me (I proposed an even $48 split, she decided to round up on her own - who am I to argue with a $2 discount?). It's worked well for us for the last year, however for some reason she's developed some sort of issue with the idea and thinks we should get individual memberships - her intention is to tell them we've "split" and she's moved out, making us no longer a household.

It would not be too strong a statement to say that I think she's off her nut to be concerned over this.

Her belief is that everything she ever does 'wrong' she gets caught for and the consequences are not worth the benefit. This recent concern could certainly be prompted by a rather draconian speeding ticket she got last week where the cop wrote her a "reckless driving" cite rather than just speeding - here in VA that's a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. I'm not sure she believes everyone's assurances that nobody cited under those circumstances (30mph over the limit but otherwise driving in a safe fashion) ever goes to the pokey.

Her statement about this YMCA matter is that "well, it's fraud, isn't it?" I'd say "breach of contract" but I'm not interested in an extended argument over that distinction - even the most draconian DA in the universe isn't going to go after someone on criminal charges for something like this so what difference does it make? Ethically I feel no compunctions about it. The "Family II" plan is defined at "Two adult individuals, with or without children 17 and under, or full-time students 22 and under living in the same household" so clearly others paying the same $96 a month plan are having a greater impact on the place for the same costs. I personally believe the Y couldn't give less of a shit if we're really under the same roof - it's only one billing and one point of contact for them and that's what (I contend) they care about.

If you'd like to see the categories for yourself, you can check out the PDF of the program guide here.

So, the actual question(s):

What's the theoretical Worst Case Scenario here? Is she right, is it fraud? Are there any criminal offenses that apply? Civil penalties that are not spelled out in the contract? Am I out of my mind for thinking that nobody ever would care?

Obviously I'm not going to make an issue out of it - if she wants to end the deal I'll grit my teeth and pay the extra $26 every month. I've just got my curiosity up.
posted by phearlez to Law & Government (21 answers total)
My guess is that no one at the YMCA cares. You could keep it up as a "household" or split into 2 individual memberships. I can't imagine that they'd ask any questions.
posted by kdern at 2:17 PM on December 29, 2005

The worst case is that they will terminate your membership and then you HAVE to go to Gold's gym. If $2 is really such a big deal, you might consider discussing it with the YMCA people, they might have an option for low income members.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2005

Well, if the family plan is for "two adults" I can't see how you would be violating the rules.

I couldn't help noticing that you're charging her $50, while you only pay $46. Seems a little unfair :P
posted by delmoi at 2:25 PM on December 29, 2005

I can't help noticing you're not paying attention when you read.

I proposed an even $48 split, she decided to round up on her own - who am I to argue with a $2 discount?
posted by phearlez at 2:27 PM on December 29, 2005

Why don't you see if the YMCA has a corporate discount plan? You'd be surprised at how many places do that sort of thing (hell, even the local car repair shop has one)...
posted by shepd at 2:35 PM on December 29, 2005

If $2 is really such a big deal, you might consider discussing it with the YMCA people, they might have an option for low income members.

I think you misread. It's a $20/mo. discount. The $2 was the difference between $46 and $48.
posted by nobody at 2:40 PM on December 29, 2005

maybe she's using this as an excuse because she doesn't think you'll understand that it's making her feel cheap?

(ymca is a charity that gives people accomodation if they've got no money? and you're in a paying job, going to the gym for vanity, and screwing them out of cash?)

anyway, can't imagine why she would think you're cheap, but i'm throwing it out there just in case...
posted by andrew cooke at 2:40 PM on December 29, 2005

Well, if the family plan is for "two adults" I can't see how you would be violating the rules. - delmoi

It's intended for two adults living in the same household. They don't live in the same household hence breaking the contract.
posted by raedyn at 2:46 PM on December 29, 2005

Cancel the deal like she wants and tell her she's right; she's going to prison for a speeding ticket.
posted by j.p. Hung at 2:54 PM on December 29, 2005

You're right that she's being paranoid .. but ethically she's right. You're in the unenviable position of trying to bolster an argument against her ethically correct position to save a few bucks.

Best solution: go talk to someone at the Y (with her along). Tell them you're not living uder the same roof (add "anymore" if you're paranoid). Ask them if it's OK if you continue as a household membership. If they say yes (which they probably will), you both win. You're vindicated and she's relieved. You both save money. If they say no, well then she was right all along. At this point you have to get separate memberships.
posted by zanni at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2005

*sigh* I am not looking for solutions. I have a solution - effectively the same as what zanni has suggested. If anyone really wants my elaboration on the ethics of this, go start a MetaTalk for it - I'm out for the week.

perhaps bold will help.

So, the actual question(s):

What's the theoretical Worst Case Scenario here? Is she right, is it fraud? Are there any criminal offenses that apply? Civil penalties that are not spelled out in the contract? Am I out of my mind for thinking that nobody ever would care?

posted by phearlez at 3:11 PM on December 29, 2005

Worst case they find out somehow and embarass the heck out of you and cancel your membership, realistically. If you're lucky, this will happen to you and you can take the brunt of it. If not, it will happen to your coworker who is already feeling a little edgy about legalistic thigns lately and she will never let you forget it in a million years. So to restate, as someone who has cut corners like this in the past, the chances of real ramifications beyond embarassment and losing your membership are very very slim. On the other hand, if it's an ethical burden that your coworker no longer wants to carry, there should be some way to gracefully let her out of such an arrangement. Maybe find another Y "housemate"? Or, what zanni said.
posted by jessamyn at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2005

Sounds like you'll just have to move in together. Maybe that is her plan?
posted by Chuckles at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2005

I gotta say currently my feeling is rip off the Y if you can. I used to respect them greatly but about a year ago they refused to renew my financial hardship. They based it simply on my income not on my student loans or anything. Because it was in a high income area of town they offerred me a bare minimum discount...I believe they still wanted $70 a month or some such amount. This after I begged and pleaded my case with them...I ended up going to Golds for $45/month and 24 hours. In the end it worked out for me but it truly lessened by opinion of the Y. They have become a profit center instead of what they were meant to be. I say stick it to them.
posted by UMDirector at 3:15 PM on December 29, 2005

Chuckles - possible, but seems doubtful. I'm sure she's aware my girlfriend would never approve.

Jess - I concur, that's the likely worst case scenario. Happily I am hard to embarass and since it's all under my name I don't think she'd receive any crap. Not that I think for a nanosecond they give a damn. I'm really just wondering what could happen if both the Y management and a local DA were on a wild tear and had nothing bettr to do. It's a legalistic version of "Who would win in a fight - Superman or Captain Marvel?" I don't expect it to ever matter, I am just curious.

Since we're apparently not concerning ourselves with answers to the actual question (based on what Jess hasn't deleted) I'll participate in the derail:

AC - Oh, I am cheap. I make no bones about it. I have pinched a penny so hard that Lincoln didn't just cry, he had a nose piercing when I was done.

I didn't really want to get into the ethics of this - I have considered them myself and don't feel like I need outside input on the matter. However since it seems de rigueur to endlessly delve into the questioner's morality and legality (and this is a question about the legality, so I have nothing to contribute to that issue) I will elaborate.

shep - I have approached the Y about corporate deals, they do have them, but you need six or more members from your organization. There's less than 30 of us in this office and we haven't reached that number of us as members, though I have made sure to make others aware whenever signup fees are waived for a promotion, etc.

AC - I do not go to the gym for vanity - perhaps you are younger than I, but as I approach 40 I am more concerned about my health than appearance, glib comments about the size of my ass aside. My goal is heart-health and staving off the bursitis pain from my dysplasic shoulder joints. I don't currently have a cholesterol problem but regular exercise will assist me in keeping it that way. If I could look good in a speedo that would be super too, but it's not why I go. Not to mention then I might have to buy a speedo.

As far as "screwing" them, I'd contend I'm not - I'm not sure I'd continue with them if there's a cheaper and equally convenient deal nearby, which there is. So this may not be a choice between $96 for two of us or $152 for two, it might be $96 for the two of us or $76 for only my cow orker's membership while I go elsewhere (to a non-charitable institution). I'm not convinced they're concerned with people using this way to save a buck either - they did not make the most marginal effort to verify we're under one roof by looking at driver's licenses or asking to see paystubs or tax returns.

I also think that if you're going to contend that I am screwing them by having a Family II membership for two adults not actually under the same roof, you have to consider whether someone is screwing them when they have the Family II and several kids who use the facility. After all, those people have a greater impact on the upkeep and daily operation of the gym.
posted by phearlez at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2005

If you're looking at worst case scenerio, how about this:

Your membership gets cancelled, and they sue you for the difference between what you paid and the total fees for 2 individuals. You also get a black mark on your permanent record and no one comes to your funeral.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:45 PM on December 29, 2005

Yes, technically this is fraud. And fraud is a crime. No, there are no civil penalties that the YMCA could request you pay for breach of contract (the civil problem you face, in addition to fraud).

As for worst-case scenario - there is ZERO probability that (a) the YMCA would notify the police of the fraud, or (b) that the police would recommend that the case be prosecuted, and/or arrest you, or (c) that the (city or county) prosecutors would take the case and press charges.

The YMCA isn't petty; the police and prosecutors have WAY too much real crime to deal with this situation. So no, you're not out of your mind for thinking that nobody (YMCA, police, prosecutors) would care enough to do anything drastic.

I'd say the worst case scenario would be that the YMCA would send you a letter asking that you pay them the difference between what you did pay and what you should have paid (as a single adult member), and, if you fail to do so, cancelling your membership.

I am not a lawyer (IANAL); I doubt very much a lawyer is going to respond to your questions.

And no, you didn't ask, but I think that it is disrespectful to argue with someone who has decided to do the morally right thing; your interaction seems to be bordering (from what I can gather) on being bullying. Nor do I buy your logic: the chances of getting cited/fined for littering are immensely small if you're on a deserted beach; is that justification for ignoring the law? In short, your co-worker sounds unjustly fearful; why don't you just leave her alone?
posted by WestCoaster at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2005

Jeez, and Matt thinks it's only anonymous posters who get the pileon?

I'm not arguing at all with her; if she wants out I'll happily call them up and cancel my membership. The end impact to me is either I change gyms and pay the same thing or I shell out another $312 a year. I don't care for the idea but I can afford it - I'd just rather spend that money elsewhere.

I really don't know what I wrote that could allow you to gather that I am bullying her in any way and I'm unsure how I can "just leave her alone." Do you think I am stealing her lunch money? I'm not sure how you think I could be forcing her to do anything. Even if I was a dick about it, all she has to do is just stop paying me every month, which she's certainly able to do at any time. We work together and are quite cordial. This entire discussion with her has been mostly an intellectual debate over the possibilities.

I think your analogy about littering is flawed. That's something with a very demonstrable negative impact. I'd say this is closer to if my neighbor and I shared a single cable modem via wireless or by networking the two houses, something that most agreements prohibit. Even that's not a very good one - my cow orker and I pay a fee that is higher in recognition of more than one person using the facility, where sharing bandwidth in the described way wouldn't compensate the company for the presumably higher impact on their resources.

Where's the pileon for the Y here? They have a pricing structure and agreement that penalizes single individuals! Go impugn their motives!
posted by phearlez at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2005

Am I out of my mind for thinking that nobody ever would care?
No, you're within your mind.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:20 PM on December 29, 2005

If she feels her membership fee is somehow related to supporting charity, then I can easily understand how she thinks it's bad karma to screw 'em outta a measly twenty bucks a month.

Is the YMCA some sort of charitable organization? Helps the undertrodden, something like that?

Hell, if she's paid well and lives well, she's probably right about the karma.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:18 PM on December 29, 2005

ymca is a charity that gives people accomodation if they've got no money

Depends on where you are. In my experience, almost all the US-based YMCAs have phased out the single-room-occupancy operation that they were founded for (to keep young salesmen and the like from straying into dens of iniquity). They're basically family-oriented health clubs now. The only major difference is that they're still non-profit companies.

I was, in fact, a temporary between-apartments resident of the Evanston, IL YMCA a year or two before they phased that out. It was a definite stepchild they were happy to be rid of. In a nutshell, the clientele of the two business divisions were not compatible.
posted by dhartung at 11:07 PM on December 29, 2005

« Older Mysterious Bob Dylan musical theory   |   RSS Implementation Help Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.