A Gym Membership, an Auto-Draft, and a Lawsuit

The other week, I was reading an article by DC from Young Adult Money regarding getting the most value out of your gym membership.  I had made a comment on there about my disdain for gym memberships.  My comment was this:

I am not a fan of gym memberships, but that is because Gold’s Gym tried to sue me because they lost my bank account information after 7 months of regular auto-drafts and wouldn’t let me  pay them with a check.  Idiots.

Well, obviously this got a response wondering if I had created a post about it, so here it is.  I hope you enjoy my post about my Gold’s Gym membership gone horribly wrong.

Disclaimer:  This incident happened over 10 years ago, but I still laugh about it today.  All the details may be a little fuzzy.

This whole story started back in high school.  I was a little overweight and didn’t like it anymore, so I decided to change what I was doing. There was a new gym near my parents house, Gold’s Gym, that was just opening.  I decided to drop in after school and see what they were offering.  I went in and liked the selection of free weights and machines.  I wanted to use a nice combination of both in order to get the best all around workout.

I was met with a very enthusiastic individual, which now that I look back was just there to tell me yes to all of my questions.  I was so delusional back then.  What high school kid wasn’t?  I liked what I was being told and then we decided to discuss prices and contract lengths.  I don’t remember what I ended up paying per month, but that doesn’t matter for this story.

In order to get me to sign the dotted line, the salesman gave me a no fee signup, with a free month of membership at the end of my contract term.  I know my contract was only 1 year because I was a senior and would have been leaving the next year for college.  He also told me that they had to do auto-draft from my bank account.  I said sure, and presented him with a blank check.  What was I thinking?  I gladly jotted my John Hancock on the dotted line and we were done.

A few months later….

I went to the gym everyday for 7 months and was losing a good amount of weight, but building some serious muscle.  I was loving how I was feeling.  The people at Gold’s Gym were nice and cordial when I was there, so I had no reason to think anything was wrong.

One day I walked into the gym and swiped my membership card.  The front desk attendant told me that there was an issue with this month’s payment.  I asked them for more details and they just told me that they couldn’t pull the money out of my account for some reason.  I didn’t know what was going on, as I hadn’t changed my bank information, so I told them that I could pay them with a new check or even cash.  They declined and said that they needed to auto-draft it from my account.  OK, whatever……

I talked to the bank the next day to see if anything had changed and they assured me that nothing was different with my account.  I had been a banking customer there since we moved to NC and the banker was the mother of my best friend.  I was sure that there was nothing wrong on the bank’s side, so I went back to Golds to discuss.

I assured Gold’s Gym that there was nothing wrong with my banking info and to have them try to pull the money again.  There was enough money in there, so it wasn’t because I was over-drafting.  I continued to frequent the gym for a another month, each time them telling me that they were having problems.  I continued to offer to pay them in cash or with a check.  They continued to decline my offer.  Idiots!

After the month following the issue, I had heard nothing from Gold’s Gym.  I could tell from my bank statements that they stopped pulling it, but they weren’t stopping me from going into the gym.  They stopped asking me and continued to let me use the equipment.  I didn’t know what to tell them anymore, so of course I used the equipment.

gavelHere comes the Boom!

One night around the 11 month of my gym membership, I received a phone call when I was doing my homework.  I politely answered, even though it was 8PM at night.  On the other line of the phone, was a law firm that represented Gold’s Gym.  They were SUING me!  Those bastards decided that since I wasn’t paying them anymore, they would just sue me for the money I owed them, which was around $150.  On top of that, they were going to sue me for fees for the lawsuit, so I was on the line for around $1,000.  I was a little taken aback to say the least.  I was only 18 years old.  What could I have done to make them sue me.

I went back and forth with the very angry man over the phone about what was going on.  I told him my many attempts to pay off the balance with cash and check, but they declined all of my offers.  I even gave names of the people that I spoke with along with the dates and times that I spoke with them.  Thanks Dad for teaching me that one ;).

The lawyer was an angry person that just wanted to berate me until I just gave in.  I wasn’t as slick as I am now, so I didn’t know what to do.  Luckily, my father is a pretty smart cookie and he heard what was going on.  My Dad jumped on the phone and started getting the down low from the lawyer.  The lawyer was still very upset and that didn’t set well with my Dad.  There was a lot of arguing over the phone until my Dad put the phone down and asked me one simple question.

When did you sign the contract, son?

An interesting question, but an easy one for me to answer.  When I signed the contract, I was 17 years old.  In NC, you cannot form a legal and binding contract when you are not 18 years old.  HAHAHAHA!!!!!  My Dad smiled and told the lawyer that his lawsuit was bulls**t, because I was only 17 at the time and there was no parental signature.  The lawyer was flabbergasted about this and then he pulled up the contract.  The phone call ended abruptly then with the lawyer apologizing and saying the lawsuit was dropped.

Wow, I never expected this post to go this long.  I guess I still have some pent up rage about the whole situation.  The best part is that Gold’s Gym continues to call me to this day asking me to join with a great discount for previous members.  I laugh at them and gladly retell the story.  They usually laugh a little and understand.  Stupid Gold’s Gym, make sure you know how old your clients are when you sign a contract.

Do you have any fun stories like this that ended up well, but was stressful at the time?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    Lucky your dad knows his stuff, that would have been seriously scary having someone threatening to sue you. I’m glad it all worked out for the best in the end.

    1. I am glad he knew that as well. I am sure we would have gotten to that point eventually in the lawsuit, but it was nice to get it done quick.

  2. Wow…sometimes businesses do things that appear absolutely insane, and this was clearly a case. Kudos to you for keeping all your records (including names!), this has helped me out with various problems in the past. It’s hard to believe they tried to sue you when you did everything in your power to pay your monthly dues. Thankfully you had a good ending to the story, but I absolutely understand why you are not a fan of gyms.

    1. I agree with you there DC. They are idiots and I am not sure of any company that wouldn’t accept cash. That is just insane.

  3. Wow, that’s jus absolutely idiotic! Why on earth would they turn down you offering to pay in cash? I think it speaks to their character at how the attorney was basically harassing you into paying the money. This is also not to mention the fact that it was only for $150 (I know they added in the legal fees) which shows me that they really did not value their time that much. Glad to hear your Dad was tough with the guy and able to put him in his place.

    1. Yeah, I thought it was ridiculous that they were suing me for $150 plus fees. I could have paid them right there, but I wasn’t going to pay any fees. The lawyer was a jackass that just felt good about bossing a kid around. I am just glad my Dad heard what was going on and put that jackass in his place.

  4. John @ RLD Investments says:

    What a bunch of idiots. I can understand why you feel the way you do after having to go through that. Think about all the people out there that they had to be willing to try that same move on to make it worthwhile for them to hire the attorney in the first place. I could just imagine them thinking they are getting over on people. Congratulations for standing up fro yourself effectively, and on the weight loss before you did.

    1. I am sure they did this quite often. Their chain is slowly dwindling, so I am sure that people have finally gotten fed up with their practices along with their large monthly fees.

  5. Haha that’s funny! Once you said you were 18 when this happened, the first thing I thought about is f you were 17 when you signed it. Dumb gym!

    1. Yeah, I was 18 when they sued me, but I was 17 when I signed the contract. I guess they didn’t know state laws when they decided to do business here.

  6. Gyms are notorious for doing stupid stuff like this. I’m sorry that you had to deal with it =/

    Our gym contract had some fine print stating that our gym membership would renew for 13 months unless we didn’t cancel in writing 30 days before our contract ended. I didn’t realize that and tried to cancel a few weeks before our contract was over. They were like “Sorry about ya!” and made me pay for another 13 months of gym fees.

    Never again.

    1. Stupid fine print. They know that is the best place to stick crap like that. Sorry you got duped by the gym. This is why I work out at home.

  7. Unbelievable! Good thing your dad was there; bet that lawyer felt pretty dumb after he hung up.

    1. I am sure the lawyer didn’t feel good after he hung up. My Dad, on the other hand, felt great.

  8. What’s crazy about that whole story Grayson, is that they could have at least let you pay with a check till things got cleared up, what a bunch of idiots. It would have avoided the entire situation you ended up in the first place. Luckily your Dad was quick to answer back and save the day.

    I had a similar situation with a company owned by PayPal called Bill Me Later. Somehow I ordered something online and when I paid for it somehow it went through their Bill Me Later service which is nothing more than a virtual credit card.

    When I called them to tell them that I wanted to pay off the debt I told them I would just send them a check but that wasn’t good enough, the only way I was able to was by either linking a checking or savings account and paying through that or linking my Paypal account to them. What a nightmare.

    I finally did get the debt paid off and I closed the account right after that.

    1. I have heard of issues with Bill Me Later. I haven’t used them, but they are everywhere now a days. Sorry you had to deal with that crap, but glad you were able to pay it off and then close your account.

  9. OMG! I think I would have had a heart attack if that was me. Suing you for a $150? Crazy! Whatever happened to first send you a bill? I’m glad your dad was there to handle the situation and resolve it fast. It would leave a bad taste in my mouth about gyms and Golds in particular too.

    1. I might have had a small one when I got the call. I mean, I was only 18 and being sued by a large gym. I guess since they auto-draft, they don’t believe in bills. I don’t like gyms and won’t give them the time of day.

  10. Girl Meets Debt says:

    Your gym story sounds as much fun as my gym story I shared a few weeks ago lol. That’s awesome that your dad is so wise and the lawyer apologized 🙂 stupid stupid stupid gyms. Never again!

    1. Yeah, gyms suck. You won’t see me step foot in one unless they are paying me!

  11. I love this post Grayson and your dad also sounds like a savvy man! When I was in mortgages I was taught to get the name of everyone I spoke to on the phone, not at the end of the call when a problem comes up but at the beginning of the call. It’s funny how much more seriously a person will take your call and also your problem once you have their name!

    1. My father is a very savvy man. I learned the name thing from him, but when I worked in mortgage collections, I learned about the power of names. It is amazing how a conversation can change when you have a name.

  12. Wow, good story Grayson. I can believe it, I’m pleased with my current Gym membership and we are definitely getting our money’s worth. My last gym were a bunch of accounting idiots as well. I won’t say their name but their initials are O 2 (Your probably familiar with them since they are in the area). I cancelled their membership in April of last year. They continued billing my credit card (stupid me didn’t check my statements thoroughly). I finally caught it in November and getting my money back was like pulling teeth.

    1. Oh, O2 Fitness. I know all about them, but never joined them. I actually knew a few people that worked in a few locations around Raleigh. I am sure that getting your money back was no picnic.

  13. Great story Grayson. This is one reason to never give anyone free reign on your checking account. I was also wondering if you were a minor when the lawyer called.

    1. Yeah, that was a lesson learned. I don’t setup auto-pay for anything anymore.

  14. That is a wild story Grayson, can’t believe they wouldn’t take the cash payment! I think they are a racket, my sister got herself into a similar bind, but it was with Bally’s (dont know if they still exist). They gave her the run around too, I’ll stick with working out on the couch!

    1. Couch workouts are the best. I have not stepped foot in a gym since, except for my college gym that was included with tuition.

  15. It doesn’t surprise me that the people working the front desk wouldn’t take your money….In many gyms the people working the front desk are high school or college aged kids that don’t have the training (nor does their system have the capacity) to take a payment. You would think the appropriate department would at least contact you to try to fix whatever was broken. Sounds like just a bad business model all around!

    1. Bad business model indeed. I am sure they were probably college students, but still. I have never been to any business that wouldn’t accept cash.

  16. AverageJoe says:

    Awesome story. Are you sure the dude on the phone was a lawyer? It sounds like he was a collection agency telemarketer. I can’t imagine a lawyer acting all angry over $150. The commissioned telemarketer who is paid to get you to pay up can get furious, though….

    1. Thanks Joe. The man was an actual lawyer because I remember the law firm that he said he was from and how he was representing Golds Gym. This lawyer was just an ass. He probably had been doing it all day to other people.

  17. Best gym story EVER! Thanks for sharing and for the mid-morning laugh. I’m glad it ended the way it did; I remember the feeling of helplessness at that age when something completely beyond your imagination happens. Not fun!

    1. Glad to hear it is the best gym story Kendal. It can be pretty scary, but that is why we have parents that can help us through it.

  18. Bill Myers says:

    Epic story Grayson!!! The tales of adolescence always make the day better. If only we knew then what we knew now.

    1. Thanks Bill. It would always be much easier if we knew then what we know now.

  19. Yikes. Crazy story. Good thing your dad is a smart cookie and helped you out! I honestly have had a few issues with long term contracts like that with us moving around so much. My next goal for my next move is to try to have a no-contract life. If I can get my cell phone and internet on a no contract monthly basis, I will consider that a huge win. 🙂

    1. The no-contract lifestyle is very attractive. I hope that I can get to that point one day, but who knows.

  20. Haha wow glad it all worked out. I signed up for 24 hr fitness and paid the normal $30/month price but I paid for 2 years up front so that I could pay only $99 a year for the rest of my life. Best move I’ve ever made, but now 24 hr is starting to upgrade a lot of their gyms to super sport thus rendering my membership ineffective 🙁 Maybe i should sue them haha.

    1. Do it and see what happens. They should let you keep you membership valid.

  21. Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says:

    Hilarious post about a ridiculous situation!

  22. Reighn Walter says:

    This is so funny indeed, well, you have learned your lesson about gym membership and that gym also got their lesson, right? Haha. Thank so much for sharing this, post some more!!

  23. Jake From State Farm says:

    That’s a interesting story. I too once signed up for Gold Gym and ended up in a bit of a situation myself. See in my case I was 24 years old (at the time) and working a dead-end job. I got fired from my job and could no longer pay the membership yet they still charged me for like 3 months. They would not let me cancel even though they said I could pay 50 dollars to cancel at any time when I signed the contract. I had to cancel my bank account to stop them from charging me. I wanted to continue using the gym but I lost my job and could no longer pay for it. I had to pay 100s of dollars in overdraft fees because of them and I never want to sign another contract for another gym. I rather buy every single weight and piece of equipment and workout from home than go through that again.

    1. What a story Jake (I assume this name is from the State Farm commercial?). I will also never get another gym membership. It is just not worth it to me and I think their contracts are ridiculous.

  24. Priyanka rajbhandari says:

    Very Interesting story. I am from MA and I am also signed up for a year contract which is up in Jan. My sister is the main account holder and there are 5 members on that account including my 2 ex roommates who don’t pay for it anymore but still have the membership. We stopped going there couple months ago but we can’t cancel it because its not a year yet. So when we were still going there my sister’s card was about to expire so she called the gym to update her card. The guy on the pH said she was all set. But 2 days later she got an email that her card had expired and we needed to pay a fee. We went to the gym paid the fee and updated the card again which was already supposed to be updated over the phone. Next thing we know on the 16th of each month since then they were / are taking out extra $25 per month. And our regular $80 on the 2nd of each month. It has been several month, we have been paying extra $25 we don’t know what its for . we tried to talk to the gym , we went there several times, they say they’ll call us back but they don’t. We have always behaved nicely to them whenever we go there. Even when we r furious we don’t know how to yell and stuff so I’m thinking may be they’re trying to take advantage of us. Do u think we can sue them?

    1. It sounds like they are taking advantage of you, but suing them can be expensive. You can probably go into small claims court to reduce the costs depending on how much you want to sue them for.