After yesterday’s excursion, I am adding Gold’s Gym to the long list of companies I will no longer patronize come Hell or high water. As my Dad used to say (he died exactly four years ago today, on my birthday, which I suspect may have been just another in a long line of his black humor pranks), “That and twenty cents will get you a ride on the MTA.”
Gold’s Gym screwed me in one of those little ways that doesn’t matter much in any one case, but that multiplied by thousands probably pays for some nice bonuses. I don’t appreciate this, and there should be a some way to make it stop, or at least hurt the company a little. As with so many other unethical business practices, however, by other companies large and small, there isn’t, which is why those practices persist. And the fact that they are just scrimey, petty, unfair and wrong apparently isn’t that enough to make cause an executive somewhere in the chain of command who was raised right to just say, “Wait—this makes our company look like a used car lot. Where’s our integrity?” I suspect it’s because when such an executive does this, his boss says, “Integrity is nice, Bill, but that little trick pays for your raise.” To which Bill answers, “Oh. Never mind.”
On Christmas last year I gave my son a membership in the Gold’s Gym that is five minutes from our house. It was a month-to-month deal, with an automatic deposit of $35 or being charged to my credit card twelve times a year that I “could cancel ay any time.” My son appeared to like the idea, but he never found the time or inspiration to use the gym—unlike me at his age, he looks slim and fit, and plans on staying that way forever while exerting no effort at all. By mid-year it was clear that this gift was a bust, and by August I got around to calling Gold’s to cancel. No, I was told. You can’t cancel a membership over the phone. You have to cancel in person.
Oh, fine. Except that September is the start of the busy season in continuing legal education, so I never seemed to find the time to get over there, and forgot all about it until yesterday, thus blowing another $105 for nothing at all. I am calendar-challenged in a big way, but I’m always aware of December 1, even more so since it officially became Finding Dad Dead In His Chair Day, so I visited the gym—I’m sure my son would have liked it if he ever set foot in the place-–and filled out the pointless documentation that could have easily been handled by e-mail or over the phone. Then the Gold’s Gym guy says, “There is a 30 day processing period.”
What? WHY is there a…oh, never mind, I know. There is a 30 day processing period so Gold’s can get one more $35 cash transfer out of me, as if the eleven previous cash transfers weren’t enough for providing no actual service whatsoever. Fitness businesses make their money out of the majority of customers who never use their facilities more than a handful of times all year, and the life-challenged muscle-heads who spend the bulk of their bulky time there reap the benefits of a cheap and professional place to work out, meet people, and look great for the rare times they aren’t there. Oh, I’m sure the bit about the 30 days was somewhere buried in the fine print of the four -page contract I signed last year, along with multiple unenforceable provisions like the one about how Gold’s isn’t liable if one of their trainers snaps and rips off my arm in a steroid-fueled rage. (I don’t know if Gold’s currently has such a fine print provision, but I know that Bally’s Fitness Centers used to). That doesn’t make it right; it just makes it enforceable.
So Gold’s Gym just picked my pocket of $35 bucks. Now what? My options appear to be:
- Argue with the company’s rep and waste his time, and mine. He said he had no idea why the company had the policy, and I’m sure he was being truthful. He was even apologetic about it. I can make an argument for why it is just and fair to hold a company’s agents responsible for executing outrageous policies they have no power to eliminate, but this seemed attenuated to me, or maybe I’m just getting old. Or nice. Yelling at this young man over a $35 charge just seemed like a bad idea. Especially since he looked like he could crack my skull like a walnut.
- Write a letter. Yes, Dad, I know. And I don’t want to become one of those coots who takes to the keyboard as the reflex response to every slight, or like the Bronson Pinchot character in “The Langoliers,” who carries a little pad so he can report everyone he fights with to their supervisors. He gets eaten by a parallel dimension Pac-man thing, by the way.
- Bitch obsessively about the company on Facebook, start a “Gold’s Gym Stole My Money” page, and devote every waking hour doing my utmost to spread the word about the company’s perfidy, costing myself business, reputation and social connections, and maybe even drawing a legal threat from the company so I can start a parallel anti-speech intimidation fight, pretty much guaranteeing that I spend my golden years living in a box by the banks of the Potomac. Good plan!
- Write my congressman demanding a law to prevent this sort of thing. And with my congressman, Jim Moran (D-V), he might even work on it: there are few laws burdening businesses or niggling regulations he doesn’t like. I suppose keeping him occupied and out of trouble (he gets in a lot of trouble) is worth something, even though the law wouldn’t be. The problem with such laws is that if a company is run by people who will inflict policies like the 30 day “processing period” on consumers to steal a lousy $35 bucks, no law or crate of laws will stop their infinite ingenuity at being unethical. If “this is wrong” won’t stop them, if they have no functioning business ethics alarms, then the only question is how they will trick, or cheat, or maneuver customers into paying more money that they should have to.
- Never sign up with Gold’s Gym again. Oh, that will really ruin their holiday at Gold’s! Pathetic.
Or I could write a post about it on my ethics blog.