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Club membership worked out

By NANCY PARADIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


I joined Gold's Gym in Palm Harbor about 18 months ago. I selected Gold's because it presented itself as a national organization that would allow me to use Gold's facilities in other locations when I traveled and would transfer my membership if I relocated. In the fall of 2000, I moved to Hickory, N.C. I visited the Hickory Gold's and inquired about a membership transfer. I was told that the "transfer procedure" was to pay the "new" location for membership there and that the "old" gym (Gold's Palm Harbor) would issue a refund for the remaining membership period at its facility.

In late November, both the general manager of Gold's in Hickory and I individually contacted Gold's in Palm Harbor and were each assured that a refund would be issued. In mid December, I followed up with Gold's and was again assured the refund would be sent as soon as I provided proof of my membership in Gold's, Hickory. I immediately sent copies of my membership documents in both the Hickory and the Palm Harbor gyms.

After waiting for four weeks with no refund, I followed up with the Palm Harbor Gold's Gym. I was told then that no refund would be sent, since the gym has no obligation to do so. The membership director, Mr. LaRue, also denied his previous promises. I checked back with the general manager of Gold's in Hickory, and he was adamant that he had been assured of the refund in his telephone discussion with Mr. LaRue in late 2000.

While the refund (about $250) will not change my life, I am dismayed by the lack of customer service being provided and hope that whatever actions can be taken to prevent this from happening to others will be. Robert Douglas

Response: Justin LaRue, membership director of Gold's Gym in Palm Harbor, said that this problem could have been avoided had you let the gym know you were moving. Had you done so, it would have given you the names of all the gyms in area, and not just Gold's Gyms, to which you could have transferred your membership.

Instead, you bought a membership at the Gold's Gym in Hickory, based on its assertion that the policy was for the Gold's in Palm Harbor to give you a refund. This is not so, he said, and the Gold's in Hickory had no business telling you that. He said this is what he told the manager of Gold's Gym in Hickory when he called.

LaRue said that Gold's Gyms are franchises, and there are two kinds, those that offer full and those that offer partial reciprocation. Gyms offering full reciprocation, which LaRue said the Gold's Gyms in the Tampa Bay area do, allow a member to transfer a membership to another Gold's Gym offering full reciprocation.

In the case of partial reciprocation, passes are available so that members who travel can use the facilities of other Gold's Gyms, but not the transfer of memberships. This, he said, is where a lot of confusion arises.

The Gold's Gym in Hickory does not offer full reciprocation, he said, so though you could have used the gym, your membership was not transferable.

However, there is another way that memberships can be transferred from one gym to another, regardless of whether they are both part of the Gold's franchise, and that is when both are dues-paying members of the International Physical Fitness Association. Gold's Gym in Palm Harbor is a member, LaRue said. Only later did he learn that the Gold's Gym in Hickory is also a member, so your membership should have been transferred to it. The gym in Hickory should never have sold you a membership to begin with.

But there's a hitch. We spoke to Seth Robinson, general manger of Gold's Gym in Hickory. He said he spoke to LaRue in October and was told that you would get a refund. At that time, Robinson said, his Gold's Gym was not a member of IPFA. It became a member only this year.

The problems you encountered appear to have been compounded by timing and miscommunication. However, it does point to the advisability of checking with your gym before moving. Make sure you understand exactly how membership transfers work and which gyms are included. As with all contracts, get any promises in writing. Unlike the contract you signed in Hickory, the contract you signed with Gold's in Palm Harbor does not address the issue of moving and transferring memberships. It does state that clients are not to rely on oral representations in entering into the contract.

In any case, you appear to have come out ahead in this situation. As it now stands, the Palm Harbor Gold's Gym has given you a pro-rated refund of your membership and the Hickory Gold's Gym has given you credit for the months remaining on your original contract. Whether you choose to return the refund to the gym in Florida or give it to the gym in North Carolina is up to you.

Replacements arrive

On July 25, I ordered the Easy Crossword Bargain Pack for $15.95 from Harle Publications. My check was cashed on Aug. 3, but I have not received my books. In October I wrote and told the company I was moving from West Virginia to Florida and gave it my new address; I still have not received my books. I would appreciate any help you can give me. Catherine Collins

Response: On Feb. 20, Kappa Bargain Pack customer service in Marion, Ohio, let us know that it was sending you a replacement for the missing bargain pack. You were asked to allow four to six weeks for delivery.

That was a quick wait for the replacement books, since you let us know two weeks later that they had arrived.

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