The fine print of gym contracts

August 5, 2008 6:52:40 PM PDT
Health clubs are a popular way to stay in shape. But there was trouble at a large fitness club in the East Bay.

This was a case where the members were told they either had to transfer to a gym miles away from home, or buy a more expensive membership. You can imagine they got pretty bent out of shape.

24 Hour Fitness has always been a popular place to work out in Moraga. So members got pretty upset when they found out it was shutting down.

"I live on the border of Orinda and Moraga, this is the closest club to me," said Linda Minamoto from Orinda.

A letter went out telling members they were automatically transferred out to Walnut Creek.

"That does not seem fair to me. I don't want to go to Walnut Creek. I work in the opposite direction. And I live farther south," said Dianne Harlow of Moraga.

Many are locked in three-year contracts, but can the company simply transfer them to a different town?

7 On Your Side checked the fine print. It says if a 24 Hour Fitness club closes, the company may transfer memberships to another club if it's located within 10 miles of the old club. Walnut Creek is eight miles away

"There are obviously disadvantages, it will take me more time to get there and it will cost me more money in gas," said Minamoto.

The company just opened another 24 Hour Fitness in Moraga, an upgraded version of the old one. It is called a 24 Hour Fitness "Super Sport" Club. They say it's a completely different deal, but will allow member to join their new club. But it will cost more.

"They're not going to keep the old club open and they're opening a new club and saying if you want to use this club you have to pay more," said Moraga club member Juliet Montagnon.

About $10 per month extra, and members 7 On Your Side spoke with don't think the new club is so super.

"They are putting in new equipment but they are not adding things like a basketball court, swimming pool and sauna," said Minamoto.

They point to a 24 Hour Fitness promotion. It says "Super Sport" Clubs have a basketball court, pool, sauna, tanning and more.

None of those are here.

24 Hour Fitness says "Super Sport" Clubs may have all those amenities, but not always. The company declined to talk to 7 On Your Side on camera, but says the new club is much nicer. It cost $4 million to build, has more space, modern equipment and high-grade wood and tile.

Still, members who joined last year claim the new club was promised as part of the deal.

After 7 On Your Side inquired, 24 Hour Fitness said anyone who joined within the past year will get access to the new club at no extra charge. But those who signed up before August 2007 will have to pay that extra fee.


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