Dear ABC News Fixer: Billing Nightmare in Gold's Gym

PHOTO: Golds Gym in Las Vegas.ZUMA Press/Newscom
Gold's Gym in Las Vegas.

Dear ABC News Fixer: My debit card issuer notified me that my card information was potentially compromised, so they issued me a new card immediately. Right around this time, Gold's Gym in Temecula, Calif., proceeded to try to debit my membership fee on this now-cancelled card. Because the charge would not process, they passed on a fee of $25.

I spoke with two women at Gold's. The first informed me that the club had a problem with members' credit or debit cards being charged thousands of dollars erroneously "so you are lucky." She said if I gave her the new card number, she'd reverse the fee. I did.

I received an email later that day stating that my account was still negative. I called again and the second woman informed me that the first woman didn't properly note my call. She had to take my new card number again. She told me to ignore the email.

Twenty days later, I got hit with the $25 fee again. I spoke with a manager, who said she couldn't help.

I have only been to this gym twice. Once to sign up and once within the same week to cancel my membership. That's another problem. Because the attendant did not make proper note of my cancellation, it was not passed on to the billing manager and I was subsequently locked into a one-year contract and have been charged almost $20 a month since then.

- Brandon Partridge, Providence, R.I.

Dear Brandon: The good news is we got this fixed, and it was so easy the ABC News Fixer barely broke a sweat.

But first, we got some info about the credit and debit card problem the gym employee had told you about. Regional manager Aaron Wallo, who works for the franchise that operates the Temecula gym and 15 others, told us that while it's true that they had a problem with a third-party processor at a different location last summer, he said that glitch was unrelated to this one. He said that whoever potentially compromised your card, it wasn't Gold's Gym.

But no matter. Wallo said the miscommunication you encountered should not have happened and they're going to refund your $25.

As for the cancellation, Wallo said your contract includes a $150 early termination penalty if you need to cancel due to a move more than 25 miles away – such as yours, from California to Rhode Island. You've been charged $19.98 a month for the membership, and he said that even though the fees paid so far don't yet total $150, they'll just call it even and let you out right now.

Now a word for the rest of us about health club memberships. Like any contract that includes ongoing monthly charges, gym memberships can be tricky for any consumer. Here are a few tips for anyone who might be considering joining a health club, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau:

Ask about buying a trial membership first. Check out the facility at the time of day you'll normally use it, to make sure it's not overcrowded and has equipment and classes you will use.

Don't give into high-pressure sales tactics. Ask for a sample contract to take home and review.

Make sure the contract includes all services and fees, and get any additional promises by the salesperson in writing. If there was a low introductory rate, how much will that increase later?

Find out whether the membership can be put on hold if you become sick or injured, or canceled or transferred if you move.

Make sure you understand how long the contract runs. Will it automatically renew each year unless you take very specific steps to cancel? Is there a penalty to cancel it early?

- The ABC News Fixer

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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