Can I just stop paying membership fees?
February 1, 2006 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Can't we just tell the gym we're cancelling the membership and tell MasterCard to stop paying them?

My woman's quitting her gym ( She called them and was told she'd need to personally visit the gym, fill out a form, mail it back to them via certified mail (!), and then in 30 days (!!) her membership would be cancelled. Really, it's pretty absurd.

I suggested she just tell the gym she's quitting and then tell her credit card company to not pay them any more. (You can do that, right?)

How unwise would this be?
posted by skryche to Work & Money (27 answers total)
Are you under contract with the gym? If not, sounds fine.
posted by exogenous at 8:46 AM on February 1, 2006

Absurd, perhaps, but if those are the conditions she agreed to on her contract, then that's what she'll have to do.

I doubt she could dispute the charge on her CC since the vendor didn't do anything wrong.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2006

I wouldn't trust the credit card company to just stop paying them. Even if you cancel the card, they switch carges to the new card. Credit card companies are seldom on your side in these situations.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2006

Every gym on the planet is run by opportunistic, lying scumbags. If you dispute the charges you will see a huge number on your credit report in a couple of months. Jump through their bullshit hoops and be sure to tell your friends to avoid that place forever.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:51 AM on February 1, 2006

Yeah, if you don't do it their way they're likely to send it to collections, which trust me you don't want. I'm still being pursued by Bally's from 1995. Seriously.
posted by miss tea at 9:03 AM on February 1, 2006

I suggested she just tell the gym she's quitting and then tell her credit card company to not pay them any more. (You can do that, right?)

Speaking from personal experince, I tried this. I even went to the extent of canceling the card. I now get monthly bills from them for my ever-increasing "debt" to them (for a service I don't use) along with a "declined credit card service fee" (I think the total due is something like $200 at this point on a $10/month gym membership) and they're threating to send me to collection at the end of February.

It boggles my mind that its easier to have my electricty or phone shut off than it is to end this bloody gym membership.
posted by anastasiav at 9:14 AM on February 1, 2006

I suggested she just tell the gym she's quitting and then tell her credit card company to not pay them any more. (You can do that, right?)

My experience (in the UK) is that you can't. A valid credit card agreement apparently guarantees that the credit card company will pay out, and then stick it on your bill of course. I found this out when the online DVD rental service I signed up with sold out to another company and then both decided to bill me for the next 6 months despite repeated letters and requests for refunds. The CC company had to investigate and satisfy itself that the claims weren't legit before a refund. Given that the claims by the gym are legit you may be on dodgy ground if the situation is the same where you are. The CC company will just keep paying until advised by the gym or you can prove the payments should have stopped.
posted by biffa at 9:16 AM on February 1, 2006

(You can do that, right?)

No. That's why they make you sign a contract.

How unwise would this be?


Does your gym let you find someone else to take over your membership? I know mine does (NYSC). That might be a good solution, if they allow it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

It would be very unwise, and this is a fairly standard cancellation policy.

Other than having to troop to the post office, though, I'm not sure why you think it's *such* a hardship that you'd prefer to cancel your credit card? Just go to the gym and get the process started; the sooner you do, the sooner the 30 days will have passed and you can stop paying.
posted by occhiblu at 9:24 AM on February 1, 2006

As many others have said, if your contract says you have to do it, you have to do it. As a practical matter, yeah, you can refuse payment and your CC company may or may not back you up. If they do, the gym will still rack up charges for you and still try to get you to pay. Eventually they'll send it to a debt collector (and trust me, they have one on speed dial) and you could then get into a big pissing match with them using the Art of Credit website instructions and you might or might not eventually prevail.

Or you can go pick up the form and mail it.

Look at your contract, it might simply require written notification. No doubt they would prefer a form (well, what they'd really prefer is you think it's too big a bother and just keep paying them) but you might not be obligated to use it.
posted by phearlez at 9:44 AM on February 1, 2006

Considering that many gyms won't let you cancel a membership without paying the oustanding balance, I don't see how one trip to the gym and one trip to the post office is that big of a deal.

Yes they are making it harder than they have to, but they are a business. It would be unwise for them to make it easy for you to take your money away.
posted by oddman at 9:44 AM on February 1, 2006

I had already moved away from one gym before I remembered to cancel. I had no contract with them, was month to month, and they still insisted that I had to come in and fill out paperwork. I told them I was far away and they allowed me to fax or mail paperwork with my signature instead.

Ask them to mail or fax the form for you to mail back?
posted by birdie birdington at 9:53 AM on February 1, 2006

This is how I assume most gyms make money.

All you january yahoos sign up, pack the gym for about two or three weeks, and then stop going, but you're usually locked in for a year. This is why if you've never been a gym member (and thus, don't know if you're going to use your membership) you should always sign up for a month-to-month contract. YMCA usually offers these, and smaller, more "club" type gyms (ones with racquetball and the like) also usually offer these. The downside is that they often cost more than the $20-30 a month people are usually willing to pay.

You will have to cancel according to their policy. They make it somewhat difficult so 1) they can squeeze an extra 30 days of dues from you, and 2) so some people will just say "screw it" and continue paying dues until the contract is up.

It really isn't that terrible. I had to do this with Bally's -- you fill out some forms at the gym, mail it to them (with proof of a new residence that's more than 50 miles from any existing gym, if you're cancelling early) and 30 days or so later they'll send you a cancellation notice. It sucks, but it could be a lot worse (ie, they could just say "sorry, you've got a three year contract and the cancellation fee is the balance).
posted by fishfucker at 9:57 AM on February 1, 2006

I think you should go their route. I recently cancelled my membership at my YMCA and I had to do essentially the same thing, except for the certified mail part. I don't think her gym is doing anything unusual, as evidenced by the other answers here.

I've also had experience trying to get a credit card company to not pay someone, and that turned out to be a huge hassle. I suppose this would depend on the situation and the credit card company, but I think it's easier for you to do what the gym is asking you.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2006

From a bank operations standpoint: If you are under contract, you cannot ask your credit card to stop allowing charges. You must deal directly with the gym and whatever it takes for them to stop charging is the only way to make them stop.

If you are NOT under contract you can contact the credit card company and state that you want to dispute the charges. You will then be required to mail in a signed form stating again that you want to have the charges disputed. The credit card company will place a hold on those particular charges until either the merchant does not follow up within a given period of time or the merchant responds contrary to what you stated. At which point you'd need to write another letter. And there are times in between where you are also liable for making payments on said charges in order to keep your account current.
posted by Makebusy7 at 10:25 AM on February 1, 2006

24 Hour Fitness simply asked that I come in and sign a cancellation form. Took me about 5 minutes and they never bothered me again.

the gym you're dealing with does seem to have a silly policy, but it's a lot less hassle than what could happen. Creditors suck, and they're bottom feeding scumbags that are too damn easy to get.
posted by drstein at 10:55 AM on February 1, 2006

you should always sign up for a month-to-month contract

Yep. Or even just find a gym with day passes if you're an infrequent visitor.
posted by gimonca at 11:29 AM on February 1, 2006

Ending gym memberships has caused me nothing but headaches every times it's happened -- this is exactly what their MO is, and because it's all in a contract (though of course in damn fine print), you don't really have a leg to stand on. Go through the hoops, accept the fact that you're going to lose a little money on the deal, and then join the YMCA on a month-to-month basis.
posted by scody at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2006

I'm not sure why you think it's *such* a hardship that you'd prefer to cancel your credit card?

In my case, the gym where I had the membership closed, and transfered my membership to another branch of their chain (the "next closest") which is some 78 miles from my home.

I've offered to fax them something, but they won't accept a fax. Only coming in in-person during "regular business hours" (not going to happen) or spending $10 to send them something registered mail.

Its a matter of principle for me, at this point.
posted by anastasiav at 12:00 PM on February 1, 2006

This is why no one is allowed to recurrently debit my account or bill my credit card, ever. Bozoes like this ruin it for everyone.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:04 PM on February 1, 2006

I want to quit the gym.

The situation is apparently absurd enough to make it into a sitcom. Now, if only Seinfeld had sent it up.
posted by namespan at 12:05 PM on February 1, 2006

When Momma Tacos died it took several years to get her gym to stop chasing down the money. I'd hate to see what they do for the living.

Save your credit record, and pay the jerks.
posted by I Love Tacos at 1:24 PM on February 1, 2006

In my case, the gym where I had the membership closed, and transfered my membership to another branch of their chain (the "next closest") which is some 78 miles from my home.

Read your contract. Most gyms will let you out of your contract if you move 50+ miles away. Perhaps the same is true if they close up shop and you're expected to travel 50+ miles to get there.

Absurd is putting it mildly. Do they really expect you to travel that far to work out? If the location where you signed up to work out closed, I'd think they'd gladly offer the members of that location an easy out... but that's the optomist in me speaking.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 2:19 PM on February 1, 2006

My wife and I had a similar situation, and we asked to see a copy of the contract. Turns out, their bookkeeping sucked and they never were able to find it. When we raised a stink, they agreed pretty quickly to let us cancel. Don't know whether this type of shoddy bookkeeping is typical or not...might be worth a try, though.
posted by richmondparker at 2:33 PM on February 1, 2006

Certified mail, according to the USPS website, is $2.40. Registered mail (which does seem complete overkill) is $7.90. This is still much less expensive than an extra month's charge for your gym membership.

Obviously the whole rigamarole is a pain in the ass, but I don't understand why you'd cost yourself months and months and months of fees, plus potential damage to your credit report, over less than $10.

It doesn't sound like anyone's forcing you to pay the remainder of a contract after moving hundreds of miles away, or to do anything you didn't agree to when you signed the contract. You agreed to this cancellation policy. So, if you want to cancel, follow the policy you agreed to.
posted by occhiblu at 3:48 PM on February 1, 2006

When we moved from Austin to Houston a year ago (job relocation), I had to take in a copy of my relocation paperwork before the gym my wife attended would let us off the hook financially.

They didn't give us a hard time, just wanted proof that we really were moving and weren't just trying to get out of the contract.
posted by mrbill at 4:33 PM on February 1, 2006

I tried to do this with an ACH, an automatic bank draft, set up to pay for a monthly YMCA membership. I even went down to the bank and chatted with several employees, and I was told it was "impossible" to stop it from their end. While I doubt this is true, it really doesn't need to be, since they simply refused to stop the draft.

Jump through the hoops.
posted by odinsdream at 7:11 PM on February 1, 2006

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