Extreme Fitness coupon trapped him into $4,000 deal

Extreme Fitness loves to lure people into its gyms. But the price of admission can be higher than you think, especially if you have purchased a coupon for a two-month trial.

My advice: Don’t go into one of these locations without a friend to record what’s said. The high pressure selling can be unbearable.

Luis is a 22-year-old Brazilian man, with limited English skills, who’s in Canada on a student/work permit. His nightmare began after he bought a $24 voucher from Buytopia, entitling him to a two-month executive membership, including two personal training sessions.

He went for a fitness test at Extreme Fitness on Yonge St., near St. Clair, in Toronto. Then, he was induced to sign a contract for a year-long membership at $869, plus a service agreement for $3,036 worth of personal training (32 sessions) and nutrition training (four sessions).

“He was led to believe that he had to sign up in order to redeem the voucher,” says his partner Norman. “He said he was pressured into signing a contract because he wouldn’t be able to achieve his fitness goals in only two months.

“He was led to believe that this ‘full membership’ would activate only AFTER the two-month trial ended.”

When he realized he couldn’t afford the costly package sold to him, it was too late. He was already locked in.

Norman told Extreme the terms of the contract were not explained clearly and there was no proper disclosure on how to cancel. He got nowhere. The club manager said he was wasting his time and her supervisor was away for two weeks. The manager of health services brushed him off.

“After 13 minutes, he hung up on me and would no longer take my calls. He claimed everything was done fairly and Luis understood what he was signing. He refuses to cancel.”

If you read this blog, you know some fitness chains can’t be trusted. It’s like an 800-pound Sumo wrestler going into a ring with an inexperienced lightweight. The customer doesn’t stand a chance.

These group buying deals are persuasive, bringing people through the doors who might never come otherwise. They think they’re getting a no-strings trial. Boy. are they wrong.

I’m posting a few more coupon complaints below. And I’ll update you on Norman and Luis, since I’ve also asked Extreme to cancel the deal.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

6 thoughts on “Extreme Fitness coupon trapped him into $4,000 deal”

  1. I’m a university student currently in a struggle with Extreme Fitness (Vaughan) over membership cancellation.

    I purchased last year a 2-month membership deal through Teambuy for me and parents.

    On Jan. 14, 2012. I and both my parents visited the Extreme Fitness gym to redeem our 2 month membership voucher. Jimmy, the agent responsible for signing us up, said we could not use our voucher unless we each signed up for a one year membership with a free two month period.

    He assured us we could cancel within 10 days.

    On Jan. 24, at 7 pm, we went to see Jimmy to cancel all three memberships. After speaking with him, he said he had to speak to his manager.

    Then, he came back to say the memberships could not be cancelled and the 10 days had already passed.

    According to him, the 10 days are counted beginning on the day the contracts were signed (Jan. 14. Therefore, the last cancellation date possible was Jan. 23.

    We were a day too late.

    On Jan. 25, I contacted the Ministry of Consumer Services. I was informed that based on my contract date, the last cancellation date possible was Jan. 24.

    Extreme Fitness had lied and tried to mislead me into keeping my contract. I was well within my rights to cancel on the day of the visit.

    The 10-day cooling off period refers to calendar days. If the business is closed on the 10th day because is a holiday (i.e. Sunday), Section 89 of the Legislation Act, 2006, indicates the time limits that would otherwise expire on a holiday are extended to include the next day that is not a holiday.

    Legislation Act, 2006, also provides that where a statute or regulation specifies a number of days between two events, the day upon which the first event occurs is not counted in calculating the date upon which the second event may occur.

    The Ministry representative instructed me to write a letter to Extreme Fitness describing our discussion and reiterating the the request to cancel the three memberships.

    I also forwarded the letter to the credit card companies in order to reject any charges made by Extreme Fitness. The letter is signed by my mother because her credit card was used to sign up.

    A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from D&A collection agency requesting payments for all three memberships.

    I gave the agency all the facts. I got a call a few days later to say that Extreme Fitness had received the cancellation letter on Jan. 25. But we were a day late and were still liable for the account.

    Is there anything that can be done? The three memberships will cost a total of $1,260 for the year. Your help will be greatly appreciated.


    From Paula Dow, manager of member services, Extreme Fitness head office, Nov. 8:

    First of all, we would like to apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail.

    We have reviewed the situation. According to our records and to Jimmy, the request to cancel was on Jan. 26. This was past the 10-day cooling off period.

    We also noted that both you and your mother continued to use the club after the 10 days, even though you state the memberships were cancelled.

    We do not feel there has been any misrepresentation on the part of Extreme Fitness.

    That being said, we have decided in order to settle this matter amicably, and as a goodwill gesture, to close the accounts with D&A Collection Agency and cancel the memberships.

    We will consider this matter resolved to both parties satisfaction.

    If you require further information or assistance, please let me know.

    Raymond Poku

  2. I have never known a fitness club that doesn’t use deceptive tactics to wring as much from your wallet as possible.

    The pre-authorized withdrawal “error”, where they continue to take one or two monthly payments from your account after your membership expires, may as well be in their policy manual for the sheer frequency of its occurrence at ALL clubs.

  3. From Paula Dow, Extreme Fitness, to Luis on Nov. 22:

    Hi Luis,

    In order to have a clear understanding of what transpired, we have discussed your situation with the club staff

    On October 16th, you came to the Delisle club where you completed a profile, had a tour and subsequently signed the membership contract.

    It was clearly explained that the membership was for one year and would end on October 13th, 2013.

    You were given 21 days to try out the club before being fully committed to the membership.

    It was also clearly explained that after the 21 days, which ended on November 6th, you would be obligated to make 10 monthly payments.

    You advised the club you were from Brazil and the club noted that although you had an accent, you were fully fluent in English.

    On the same day, you also dealt with the Health Centre and discussed various options. They have also confirmed you fully understood the contract and were completely aware of the program you chose.

    On November 15th, you spoke to Dan Rao, the Director of Health Club Services, advising him of your travel due to work and saying that you would not have the time to commit to consistent training.

    Dan offered you suggestions in order to work around your availability, as the training seemed to be going well and there had been no mention of any issues.

    The club has been very clear in explaining the contracts that you signed and we therefore do not feel there has been any misrepresentation from the staff.

    If you are unable to use the club due to travel we offer the ability to freeze memberships – please refer to section 9 of the membership terms.

    We would like to see you continue to pursue your fitness goals by making use of the club and committing to your contractual agreement.

    Yours truly,

    Paula Dow

  4. Response from Norman to Paula Dow:

    Hello Paula,

    The fact is, Luis came to the Delisle club on Oct. 16th with a Buytopia two-month membership trial for $24, and left with two contracts totalling nearly $4,000.

    He is here on a temporary student/work permit and is studying English. He has little money and is taking whatever sporadic work he can find. He hopes to make it in the film industry some day.

    Luis also has a diagnosed learning disorder — dyslexia — and I frequently need to repeat times and dates for him. He is unable to do calculations in his head like most people.

    He is a slow reader and needs quiet and time to concentrate.

    When Luis mentioned to me that he was signed up for a membership package, he was certain that he had at least until December — when the billing was to start — in order to cancel.

    He understood that he would first have the two-month trial, which included two personal training sessions. When he was told that he had 21 days to cancel, he understood that this was from the time that his two-month trial expired.

    Luis attended his two personal training sessions with Clayton. The first session put him in so much pain that he was unsure if he could continue.

    After the second session, I had a discussion with Luis about how he could best get back into shape within a reasonable budget, and we decided that we would find a private trainer instead.

    We had a frank discussion about the cost of the gym. I told him that if he was to sign up with Extreme, I would ask for a corporate discount that is offered through my work for employees and their family. Luis agreed that this made sense and decided to cancel the membership.

    When Luis went to speak with Daniel on Nov. 14th, he had no idea that he was already locked into a contract for $3,000 of personal training.

    He never understood at the time that he was signing for two separate agreements. (He said that Daniel had gone over various options for personal training, and that the one that he had chosen to consider was for much less money — not the one they made him sign.)

    He told Daniel that he did not want to continue with his membership and that it did not suit his needs and lifestyle (that is, work and budget). At that point, a distressed Luis called me from the gym and asked me for my assistance.

    I called the gym the next afternoon during my lunch break at work and spoke with Ayla for 25 minutes. She told me that since Luis had signed a contract and had not cancelled within 10 days, there was nothing she could do.

    She further went on to say that I was wasting my time. She said that she did not have the authority to cancel the contract, so I asked who could.

    To complicate matters even further, she said that we would have to deal with two separate managers, one for the gym membership, another for the personal training sessions. I asked for a contact at your head office, and was told that there was none, that everything is handled internally.

    I wrote a letter addressed to Daniel Rao and received a voicemail that evening from Daniel offering to clear up some “misunderstanding”.

    It was not until the following afternoon that I was able to speak to him in person, having waited all morning to have him contact me.

    Daniel refused to help us resolve this matter, and when I asked for a contact to escalate this matter to, he stated that there was no one above him, and soon thereafter rudely hung up on me. I tried to call back, but he would not take my call.

    After doing a Google search of Extreme Fitness — which brings up a link for Extreme Fitness and Rip Off on the first page — it was shocking to see the number of blog entries devoted to people voicing their horrible experiences, with attempts to cancel and being locked into expensive contracts.

    So many people report similar experiences of getting locked into a contract they did not want, and then being brushed aside by uncaring staff.

    It was only after finding Ellen Roseman’s blog and contacting her that we were able to learn that there apparently DOES exist some kind of head office — just that few people know about it, which is no surprise when the staff won’t even tell you.

    I personally work for a large financial corporation in a customer service role. Our clients sign insurance contracts at their local branch, and are given, by law, a 30-day free-look period.

    If they cancel by the 30 days, they get all their money back. If the 30 days has passed and the clients want their money back, we listen to each situation and use our judgement in providing a goodwill gesture refund.

    If the client is not satisfied, they can speak with a manager. If it is still not resolved, it is escalated to our CARES department. Beyond that, they can bring it to the ombudsman.

    There is a clear escalation procedure and it is fully disclosed to the client. We do our best to make sure the customer is happy with the resolution.

    I hoped that when we contacted you that you would actually listen to our account of the situation, communicate with Luis for his side of the story and provide a resolution with a focus on customer satisfaction.

    The fact is, your senior manager, Daniel Rao, lied to me when he said that there was no one I could speak to above him. I asked everyone I spoke to about how to escalate our request — reception, senior client services and managers –and they all said that either they didn’t know, or that there didn’t exist any head office.

    This is deceptive, is it not? And from this same staff, you expect me to accept their word over that of my partner? Would any reasonable person accept this? And after the terrible treatment from the staff, you expect him to feel comfortable to set foot again in that club?

    Putting that aside for the moment, the reality of the situation is that Luis came with a voucher entitling him to two months of membership with two personal training sessions.

    He has made four visits in total to the Delisle club. One to redeem his voucher and undergo a fitness test, two more for personal training, and the last to try to cancel.

    He has made it clear that he did not understand the terms of the contract and he would never have consented to $3,000 of personal training that he could never afford.

    The right thing to do is to release him from the contract, as a goodwill gesture, and offer him alternative and more affordable options to retain his business.

    We wish to put this unpleasant episode behind us as soon as possible.

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