It pays to put financial deals on paper


  • Letters
  • Thursday, 01 Sep 2016

THIS is a note of caution for gym-goers and anyone who think that all fitness centres are run professionally by people of high integrity.

At the start of 2015, my husband underwent major surgery which left him partially disabled. Before the surgery, he notified the fitness centre (a well-known gym) he frequented that he wished to have his membership frozen for a few months while he recovered.

However, post-surgery complications made us decide to cancel our gym membership in October 2015. We were told by the management of the gym to come in personally to cancel our membership and despite my husband’s mobility problems, we did so. We were also told that written instructions were not necessary for the cancellation process as our verbal notification was sufficient.

That was mistake #1. Never take anyone’s word for anything. Always have a written note that you can keep on record. Make sure it has a date and the signature of the person who took your instructions.

Mistake #2 was our implicit faith in the professionalism of the fitness centre. We assumed that being an international franchise, it would cancel the auto debit for our fees immediately upon getting our verbal instructions. Eight months later, we discovered that it had continued to deduct our membership fee from our account by auto debit. I visited the gym in June this year with a letter detailing the process of cancelling our membership and the amount that had been deducted from our auto debit account since then. I was met by a young woman who was the manager, and a young man who was the general manager.

The latter did three very notable things in the course of the conversation. Firstly, he started the discussion by informing me they would not refund the payment as there was no proof of instruction to cancel our membership. He said he would “investigate” the case although he did not think they had made a mistake. It was obvious that there was little will to look into our claim.

Secondly, he said the letter we were submitting “would not stand up in a court of law”. It is indeed a sad reflection on the business when people take cover behind the law rather than ethics and integrity. That statement more than anything else told me our claims would be denied.

Finally, upon noticing that a copy of our letter was being sent to the headquarters of the fitness centre, he informed me the HQ had moved office and asked me to change the number. We found out this was not true when we called the head office and spoke with the personal assistant to the country manager. The latter was sympathetic but unhelpful.

Despite our best efforts, our claim for the refund was refused and we were told the best the gym could do was to cancel our membership from July onwards.

This has been an expensive lesson to learn about the integrity and professionalism of an international company. What was particularly repugnant was the lack of sophistication among its hierarchy to deal with our claims as well as their opportunistic zeal to make a quick buck off a partially disabled person.

A DISTRESSED CONSUMER

Petaling Jaya

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