LA Fitness UK Sucks

18Sep07

la_fatness.jpg

Update: Once you’re done reading the below, see part two, where the collection agency gets involved…

If you ever are looking at health clubs in the UK, DO NOT JOIN LA FITNESS. I’ve just ended a roller-coaster customer experience with them, and wanted to share my horror story. After originally signing up to a one-year agreement at £34.95/month, mixing in their incompetence and my lack of attention to detail, I ended paying them them £89.95/month for five months, which totalled £275 in extra charges. Now not only have they not refunded me my money, they won’t even pick-up my phone calls or reply to my emails. How can you treat paying customers so poorly? Let me share with everyone my experience, and hopefully help steer people away from experiencing the same hell I’ve gone through.

It all started when I originally joined the club back in January at their Hallam St. branch, and signed up to a one-year agreement. LA Fitness requires a bank direct debit to pay their monthly fees, but on the day of my sign-up, I didn’t bring along my checkbook, so I ended up paying the initial sign-up fee with my credit card and a promise to call in my bank account details later on. I called up from work during the week and gave the person on the other end of the line my main checking account details. On my next trip to the club a couple days later, I was stopped at the entrance and told that I hadn’t given them my bank details and that they would not let me in unless I provided one. As an IT professional, I wasn’t too troubled as their customer system probably hadn’t been fully updated yet, and explained to the desk attendant the situation and she kindly let me through. A week later, the exact same thing happens again. I get stopped and asked for my bank details. Unable to fathom why I don’t go working out with my checkbook in tow, we went through the same scenario once again. The following week, the ‘system’ is still not updated and I get harrassed like some bum that can’t pay his bills. At this point, I’m a bit peeved to say the least.

After I lose count of how many times I’ve been told that they don’t have my bank details, I decide to call it in again. I do this from work as I keep my checkbook locked in my desk as I usually write a check to pay my credit card bills that were addressed to my office. Calling in this second time has no effect. The ‘system’ still has no clue. At this point, I think the breakdown is actually in the front desk person answering the phone calls, and not actually inputting the details into their system. Another two weeks passes by and since I was going to the gym three to four times a week at the time, I was being hassled to the point where I decided to bring my checkbook into the actual branch to finally settle things. This is where I made my fatal flaw (well actually my second, the first being joining LA Fitness to begin with). Since my main checking account checkbook was at work, I brought along my secondary account checkbook and left the branch with a voided check.

Miracurously, I was never stopped at the front desk again. I thought everything was settled at that point. Boy, was I wrong. Because I had so few transactions going to my secondary account, I almost never checked it. And since I didn’t keep a close eye on it, I didn’t notice a charge of £34.95/month on it. This should not have been that troubling since that’s the amount of my monthly fee. What was troubling was that at the same time, I was being billed £55/month on my main account. It took about three months for me to notice the £55 incorrect charge by LA Leisure (the name they bill with). It seems my main account details did finally make it into the system, but as a charge not associated with my gym account. I should have easily spotted that the first month, but I was lazy and it took two extra occurrences for me to notice. I’m paying for it now. I need to stop being so lazy, and getting screwed like this.

On my next visit, I bring this up with the front desk and upon checking, they couldn’t see any irregularities with my account. It was £34.95 on the system, and yes, it was £34.95 from my secondary account. They then pointed me to the headquarters account administrator, David Dibb. After checking multiple times, he couldn’t find the £55 account details at all. It seems that monthly charge, while being taken out of my account, was not anywhere on their system. It took four or five weeks of back and forth emails and bank statements to get David to agree that something was wrong on their end. This isn’t to say David was able to find out what happened, just that my account was being billed twice by LA Fitness. By this time, another monthly charge is hit on my account, and I stupidly did not cancel the direct debit, so there’s another £55.

David finally gets me in touch with Chris Gallard, who is the manager of the Hallam St. club. and is the only one who can sign-off on a refund larger than £100. Chris is single-handedly the worst manager I have ever dealt with in any and all retail sectors during my life so far. I must have called five times initially just to talk to the guy. Messages are never returned, and the front desk’s only reply is that he’s in a meeting. After at least two to three weeks of calling, I finally get the guy on the phone, and he does a good job of talking me through the process of him finding out what happened to my account and refunding me my money. Total and absolute lies. After that phone call, I never hear from him again. No phone call backs. No email replies. Nothing. After five months, I give up, and I called my bank to claim a fraudulent charge on the account. My bank, Natwest, immediately refunds me the money and begins an investigation. A week or so later, I check up on the investigation, and they say that they haven’t been able to get anywhere, and to be honest, they said in most cases with LA Fitness, they will probably not get any answer. The disputed amount, they will keep refunded to me, but the chances are almost nil of getting LA Fitness to own up to anything. It seems LA Fitness has a history. I wonder why NatWest just doesn’t ban transactions with LA Fitness…

At this point, I’m exhausted from this experience of chasing people around, calling, emailing, and doing all this legwork for a club that I continued to pay as a member, until just recently, in the hopes that this simple account issue would get resolved. Little did I think that they would be so incompetent, and so irrevelant at the people that keep them in business. Well, I wanted to get all of this off of my chest and hopefully those potential gym customers who do a little research and a little google’ing will find this post and steer their time, money, and effort towards an outfit that can provide some basic levels of customer experience.

The private equity firm, MidOcean Partners, owns and operates LA Fitness UK.

Even more poor experiences that I found:
http://www.lafitnesssucks.co.uk/
http://www.blagger.com/db4/company_id/2202/companyname/La-Fitness.html
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/153287/scammed_at_la_fitness.html

Alternative Clubs
Virgin Active
– Fitness Exchange
Fitness First

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20 Responses to “LA Fitness UK Sucks”

  1. 1 Myles

    I didn’t read this through to the end, but if they owe you money and are refusing to cough up then you can very easily issue a court summons to them using http://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. You can add the cost of making the claim to your claim. I can almost guarantee they will take notice when the document arrives at their legal dept. becuase if they don’t they get a CCJ, and they would be crazy to let that happen for such a small sum.

  2. 2 North London

    I have had the worst experience with the Highgate, North London LA Fitness Branch and am seriously considering going to every newspaper in the UK to exploit this company. THEY ARE SHOCKING. Anyone who is thinking about joining should avoid them. They are unprofessional, unethical and rude.
    To make things worse, the staff in the Head Office, Doncaster do not know what they are doing nor do they know how to handle complaints! I am owed £33, not a lot, but it is the principle of the matter. I was offered a refund by cash which I refused as I wanted evidence that they cancelled my contract therefore requested my card was credited. The general manager, Chris Holloway refused advising that he was only going to give cash. When I said that doesn’t make sense, I paid by card, you need to credit my card so I have evidence you terminated my contract he refused and threatened to call the police! DO NOT USE THESE GYMS. IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING JOINING, I WOULD READ ALL THE BAD PRESS THEN MAKE YOUR DECISION.

  3. 3 dr1ft3r

    Myles – Thanks for the link. I haven’t gotten to the point of going through that link, as I’ve now got the collection agency to deal with. See my update post here .

    I want to take a closer look and follow-up with my legal council to see if claiming through that site is worthwhile given my circumstance. I will definitely let you know what the lawyers say :).

  4. 4 darkninja

    I have been a member at Isleworth for 3 years, and recently canceled. The gym there has not had any cleaning in 3 years, and the place is now very filthy and is not an uplifting place to work out.

    My wife canceled our joint membership on June 20th, with the aforementioned David Dibb. They sent some renewal offer paperwork to my house (which I did not ask for, did not want, and did not sign) and when I called to confirm that the membership was canceled, David Dibb confirmed, ‘Yes, all canceled as of September 1st’ and quickly hung up. He hung up so quickly that I knew something was wrong: the notice period was 30 days, and so the cancellation was in fact effective August 1st (40 days from June 20th), not September 1st as he stated.

    When I called back to clarify, David Dibb became aggressive. He began interrupting me shouting at me (the customer) “…tell me this — WHY would I have sent paperwork to your house, if you had not agreed to renew???” etc etc. “DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT AGREE TO RENEW…” Of course he had to cancel, since I had no contract, but the procedure made me feel like an interrogated whitness.

    Not trusting him, I asked for email confirmation Surprise, surprise, I never got it.

    I phoned back today, and asked for it to be re-emailed and insisted on waiting on the phone for receipt, despite the operator very much not wanting to wait (DD was mysteriously “away from his desk”). It didn’t work, again –the email address had been typed wrong.

    The customer service was so lousy that I suspect this may not have been an accident, in order to try to charge me for another month and not leave a paper record of cancellation.

    Anyway, LA Fitness –> good riddance. What a bunch of creeps…

  5. 5 dr1ft3r

    Darkninja – Sounds like you’ve had just as crappy an experience with LA Fitness as I had. Thanks for sharing your additional confirmation that they just don’t get the whole concept of customer service, and that anyone contemplating should run, not walk, away as quickly as possible from any gym that is associated with that brand. Also, just to be sure, you may want to tell your back to reject any more direct debit attempts from LA Fitness, and avoid the craziness that I experienced where they overcharged me to no end…

    Good luck!

    James

  6. 6 Heidi

    The joy of being a LA fitness member!
    I have had endless problems with LA fitness, it usually ends with no one calling back or the club tells you to call head office and head office ref you back to your club. I was hounded last christmas to sign up new members and for it I would be rewarded! I was told if I did it I could have a ipod nano, so I got a good friend to join. She is sort of satisfied with the gym, however it is now August and I am still waiting. I spent Jan – June chasing, calling and getting myself quite worked up. The frustration of trying to speak to someone about any of it was pointless. The club told me that head office kept losing the names and addresses of all that had been promised an ipod. Head office told me that they should not of promised this kind of offer? No one wanted to take responsibility. I have now had another call today telling me that the club deputy manager, because they don’t have a manager yet? will get it out of petty cash so I can have it today! Great I thought then just when I thought I could forget about the problems, the deputy manager tells me it’s not a nano, it’s a shuffle that I should have. So after all this time, all this chasing I am going to be presented with a 45 pound Shuffle. Not only are they unprofessional, they are cheap skates. In my work I would of given the top of the range for all the problems that the company had caused and prayed that this customer who has been with us for years would stay. I am now looking for a new club. If anyone out there who reads this and is looking to make any money, just open the best health & fitness club in Brighton and all will come flocking, I guarantee it. I am so positive that I would promote it free of charge, Just to take all away from that useless club and have somewhere great to go.
    😦

  7. 7 Silvi Karlsberg-CaVE

    Let me add this one to the LA Fitness Trackrecord:
    Have sent the below with cc: to Mark Jenkins, Marketing Director
    Have beens sent a letter pointing out the dates I attended but no mention of the rules, as in your membership started on a Thursday theefore your week was Thursday to Thursday, as I presume they never really esplain it to any new member correctly. Have spoken to several new joiners and they were all unaware ot this was of obtaining your £35 back or also were not informed of how the 2x-week rule is to be interpreted.
    ==================== see my email to them this morning =======::::
    TRIED TO SEND THIS EMAIL ON FRI 26 Sep 08 at 10.45UK BUT YOUR SYSTEM DID NOT ACCEPT AND GAVE MESSAGE AS “OUT OF OFFICE”=== W08Following my email to LA Fitness yesterday evening (Thurs 26 Sep08 c. 17.45UK) I had a call from Jo Syrett a few moments ago, to inform me that the actual 2x per week rule was NOT – as stated to me by the staff member on the day I joined – Mon to Sun, but as I had joined on a Thurs, my week was running Thurs to Thurs. Due to this, the printout now showed that I had actually only attended 1x per week on 2 separate occasions. Therefore, I had not kept to the rule and was not entitled to my £35.00 refund.

    I would like to state that this is an outrageous manner of running/dealing with memberships/members. It appears that LA Fitness does not train/induce their stuff sufficiently enough in T&Cs and LA Fitness Club Rules to properly/well inform members of these when joining. Let alone that LA Fitness obviously does not believe in a client retention programme or customer service. Had this been the case, I would not have been misinformed/misled on the 2x per week rule. Therefore, I – the member – am paying the price of LA Fitness cost cuttings.

    Also, as indicated in me email of yesterday, I am 100% convinced that during one particular arrival/swipe, my account was not updated correctly, as the staff member made the comment on looking at the screen it was not my account she was looking at. I have no way of knowing the card was swiped again to actually update my account properly, and this very much increases my doubts of the error-free running of the swiping and other systems at LA Fitness.

    Perhaps you can understand that with all this happenings/issues, I am now not being made to feel like a member of a local club facility with member’s interests at heart. I do not mind paying memberships and any joining fees, but very much object to businesses misleading consumers.

    At the same time, I now feel so badly treated by LA Fitness that it has spoiled and taken out the incentive and fun of wanting to attend LA Fitness.

    I am furthermore very reluctant of any further dealings with LA Fitness.

    LA Fitness is not interested that a member has been misled and therefore is suffering a loss caused by LA Fitness: why then should LA Fitness be interested in anything else to do with my health and well-being?

    Had I now the choice, I would cancel my membership.

    As I do not have a choice, as it was put to me very nicely, due to being locked into a contract with LA Fitness for 12 months, I shall wait out the time and cancel my membership as soon as possible.

    Hence, over £35.00 BUT FOREMOST for the manner and way this member has been dealt with by LA Fitness, any future business/support has been lost at a much higher cost of a longstanding membership relation.

    Many thanks
    Best regards
    Silvi Karlsberg-Cave

    Cc: Mark Jenkins, Marketing Director

  8. 8 dr1ft3r

    Silvi – Your experience is another example of just how poorly LA Fitness thinks of and treats its paying customers. Not even considering the trivial amount of £35, but this simple mis-understanding of their own incentive plan just shows you how underhanded both their business practices are, as well as just how little they regard their own customers. I’m sorry you’re stuck in your 12 months contract, and hope it’s not too long before you’ll be able to turn to another provider for your gym and health needs.

    Good luck!

  9. 9 Silvi Karlsberg-CaVE

    Dear dr1ft3r

    Thanks for your comments on 29 Sep 08
    Absolutely: it is not the £35, but the principle.
    Did get a reply from the Marketing Di rector( Mark Jenkins) that he was looking into it, but then he farmed it out to Mark Stevenson (Member Services Manager). This is the reply to my emails:
    “Firstly let me say I am sorry to hear you feel we haven’t met your expectations at LA Thorpe Bay. Our intention is always to provide the best member experience to all LA Members as the best value for money Health Club provider in the UK. I note that you have concerns about the kick start promotion offered to you upon agreement of your membership with us. I am sorry there appears to have been some confusion about the start up dates in regards to the promotion. However in order to clear up any confusion I have examined your usage records with us and note that irrespective of start date, or promotional start date, your usage numbers do not meet the required criteria of twice a week for the first 8 weeks of the membership. Indeed there are two occasions where the usage for that week does not meet the criteria in place.
    If these criteria had been met, we would have refunded the sign up charge levied upon joining at LA Thorpe Bay. We keep these records to ensure that we can process any promotions automatically but also so that in any situations where an issue may arise we can draw upon exact records to mediate any situation. In this case, as noted above, the usage of the club does not match the requirements in either case. Additionally, when looking through the notation on your account I note that a number of staff members from LA Fitness have worked to resolve this issue with you and have at all times been courteous and informative. In this sense we feel we have met our obligation to provide a quality customer service experience to you, and while I am sympathetic to the situation I feel we have done everything we can to inform you of the decisions we have made and to show the information those decisions have been based upon.

    Should I be able to offer any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me. ”
    Very nicely worded, thank you. The facts still remain the same:
    My dates (as per their own records) are
    Joined 11 June 08 (and used the facilities!!)
    12 June
    16 June
    17 June
    19 June
    24 June
    This is the one missing, as they evening they did not swipe my card correctly(see my email to them)
    30 June
    06 July
    09 July
    11 July
    14 July
    16 July
    22 july
    24 July
    29 July
    03 Aug
    08 Aug
    10 Aug 08
    They told me Sunday to Sunday when I joined on June 11 and that I had to attended 2x per week, and I did this!! Did I not!!??
    But as the Customer Services Manager states they made their “decision”.
    As I had stated to them, I have asked for my membership to be cancelled (on principle) and this is the written confirmation of all:
    “Dear Silvi
    I can accept your cancellation request by email. Your account would if cancelled today run until 10/06/09 with your last payment for membership on 30/04/09
    Mark Stevenson
    Member Services Manager
    LA Fitness Member Services”
    ====
    “Again Thanks Mark,
    To clarify, submitting termination of contract today – still having to pay by direct debit £39.01 per month to last direct debit taken 30 April 2009.
    Can you confirm this entitles me to use LA Fitness (and all its facilities) in Thorpe Bay until end of April 2009.
    Thanks
    Silvi”
    ======
    ” Dear Silvi
    can confirm the below has been actioned for you. Your direct debit will need to remain in place until 30/04/09 but you will have the full agreed access to the club during this period.
    Kind Regards
    Mark Stevenson
    Member Services Manager
    LA Fitness Member Services”

    They have spolied all my fun of wanting to spend any time at all at this gym, but I shall persevere until the last day of my membership with them.
    Just as an example of my loyalty when there is a good service etc.: was with my hair dresser for 22 years before changing! LA Fitness could have also been a very good and very long relationship, had they dealt with all this better.

    Thanks for reading and supporting
    All the best
    Silvi

  10. 10 Nigel

    Don’t get involved with this bunch of lying cowboys at LA Fitness. Branch in Muswell Hill, north London, stitched my up six months of broken promises. They signed my girlfriend and I up on their money back “kick start” scheme and then lied and changed the rules and refused to give me a refund.

    Am writing to their Head Office this week with a notice of intended prosecution at the small claims court. Is going to come down to my word against the managers but I am will take it to court on principle. There could be the posibility of some of you joining in with a joint claim if you are interested. Will be harder for them to prove that it is all of us people who don’t even know each other that are all lying for v little benefit, rather than their practice of habitually mis-selling.

    I will let you know how I get on and if any one interested in joining the action let me know.

    Nigel

  11. 11 Alan

    Similar experience to everyone else.

    Had my shoes stolen from a paid for locker, when I went to the gym the locker was wide open – the comment from the staff was “I wondered what had happened?”

    No-one one would speak to me or contact me, so I cancelled my membership, then they wrote to me telling them I owed £80.

    I have received debt collection letters.

    Then they sent me a letter asking me to ring them!!

    They are terrible – never go near them.

  12. 13 J.M

    When I went to LA Fitness,was nightmare! Membership manager Mr.S B was so rude. Just a bit complain and asked to check tearm and condition (I was very calmly) He suddenly shouting and thretened me. Even, he said call the police! I said didn’t mind call the police cos I didn’t make any wrong..for me was wellcome, police could stop his aggresive attitude. I asked him to please stop shouting, just I wanted check team and condition but he posed like Gangster and shouted I’m came from xxxxx, if I shouted you can’t stand up here! What the custmer servise. Well, LA Fitness hired Gangster guy as Membership manager? I wanming everybody Very dangerous to join LA Fitness South India Quay.

  13. 14 MH

    I had a similar situation to Alan whereby my winter coat was stolen from the ladies changing room. While I would normally lock away my possessions, on this occassion I was unable to due to lack of lockers and only the small ‘reserved’ lockers were available. Upon informing reception staff, they were as incompetent as ever with no one even able to operate the CCTV or offer me any assistance. It was only upon my insistence that they offered to pass on a note from myself to a manager. This manager has not had the courtesy to call me over 3 weeks later.

    This was the final straw. The reception staff are frequently rude and dismissive, staff are not even competent enough to ensure that teachers are scheduled for timetabled classes. ladies changing rooms are dirty as are the studios. All in all an unacceptably bad experience. I emailed the Head Office 4 times to inform them that I would be terminating my contract on the basis of inadequate services and as far as I’m concerned they have not upheld their side of the contract. They have failed to provide a response so far – surprise, surprise. After a second phone call sepaking to an idiot I contacted Consumer Direct who are referring the matter to the OFT. I have aslo made contact with Trading Standards and the local council as well as Watchdog. I suggest that everyone with similar problems also contact Watchdog so that we can prompt a public enquiry and name and shame these idiots watchdog@bbc.co.uk

  14. 15 Sophia

    This is depressing me so much, it seems no one has won, I was highly presurised into signing up with LA fitness, and when i tried to cancel 7 days later it was the age old “the cool off period doesnt count as you signed in the gym” – now it seems Im stuck with a years membership – When I was at the gym i told them I was moving in 2 months and would not want to stay with the gym – I was told I could easily cancel – obviously this is a lie – Im on their student rate, which is 32 a month, but Im unemployed and cant really afford it – still even tho I wont be using their facilities I am now stuck with a years contract – are there any success stories in this!?

    • 16 joanie frip

      You are not stuck with a years membership. Tell them you have just lost your job, in writing and ask your bank to change your account number. Stop going and run in the park. I have just joined but I am unemployed but so if they do this to me, that’s what Ill do. Good Luck

  15. 17 dr1ft3r

    Sophia – I’m not sure what the wording in the contract you signed is, but I would go through it with a fine comb and see if there was anything that supports your viewpoint to potentially use to get out of the contract. Otherwise, it’s time to consider the negatives of just cancelling the direct debit and dealing with the collection agency that will inevitably call you up. Maybe contact the BBC watchdog that MH recommends in the earlier comment?

    Good luck either way and don’t pay these idiots if at all possible!

  16. 18 Fiona

    Hi Everyone

    So relieved to realise that I am not alone. Had a 12 month contract with LA Fitness, it was due for renewal in December. So I duly wrote to them and cancelled my membership and my DD. I heard no more from them and assumed that all was well. However I am now being harrassed by ARC for £110 that I “owe” LA Fitness for membership fees as they “have no record” of my cancellation. Three other people I have spoken to in my social circle are having a similar experience!

    It’s ridiculous. I’m going to speak to Trading Standards about it in the morning, I’ve had enough.

    LA Fitness and ARC = the new axis of evil for 2010!!

  17. 19 Lee

    Howdo folks

    I was a member at the Glasgow Milngavie branch. The place is filthy and has never had a good clean in seven years since it opened. Never been a piece of new equipment in seven years either. The staff are lazy, hang about all day talking and get paid for nothing. All the usual young ones out of uni or college with worthless certificates and think they no what it takes to train. Well they might be able to train you when you start with basic exerices when you know nothing about fitness in the first but you could learn that urself online or buy a book. Personal training is a waste of money here also. Too experienced in the real world.
    Train you to a point then you will become bored with the usual shite.
    Club needs to be shut down for a two months, painted, rebranded, new machines, new faces.
    After a while gets unmotivating, boring and reptitive.
    Showers are shite and changing rooms crap too and filthy. Seen a worm crawling in the shower once, disgusting. No steam room either.
    A few birds worth looking at but heh thats not why we join is it lol


  1. 1 LA Fitness UK, the Crap Saga Continues… « James Shi’s musings about everything and nothing…

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