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News >  Spokane

Fitness clubs receive backlash over billing during closure

UPDATED: Tue., April 14, 2020

Treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals and other cardio machines are mostly empty Monday at the downtown Spokane location of MUV Fitness. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals and other cardio machines are mostly empty Monday at the downtown Spokane location of MUV Fitness. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

After continuing to bill members during its closure, 24 Hour Fitness received backlash, including a lawsuit from a California member. While some local gyms have proactively refunded members or frozen accounts, others had a later freeze, such as MUV Fitness, while others are actively billing, such as Spokane Fitness Center and Post Falls’ Anytime Fitness.

At Spokane Fitness Center, Kristy Canright’s main complaint was the lack of communication. Canright, who uses the Spokane Valley location, emailed the company twice in March to address her billing concerns. She did not hear back until March 31, and her account debits on the first of the month.

“It’s all about communication,” Canright said. “If these gyms will communicate, lots of people will turn around and make their payments, or something. Pay now and have two months free later. If they want to keep running, it’s time for them to step up.”

Spokane Fitness Center did not return a request for comment.

Jordan Borg generally likes Post Falls’ Anytime Fitness, but she is disappointed with how it handled closure billing. Her payments are set to debit on the 18th of every month, and she called on March 16 to stop the payment, but was charged anyway. She received a refund 10 days later, but she’s frustrated that rather than freeze all accounts, the Anytime Fitness location is having members call in monthly to cancel the payment.

The Anytime Fitness voicemail and automated email said, in a message from club owners Megan and Matt Gonzales, that the fitness club would continue to bill members “with the hopes of reopening on April 16” and they “want to work with each member case-by-case to find what works best for them.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” order was extended to May 4, and Idaho’s order by Gov. Brad Little ends April 15, unless extended further.

The Gonzales’ policy is not the case with every Anytime Fitness, because the company operates franchises, and every location has a different owner. For example, Amy Lightbody, who goes to the Five Mile location, said she was very happy with how they handled it and said the gym has a “small-town feel.”

MUV Fitness sent a letter to its members that the gym would freeze all accounts April 8, tack on the missed days to the end of the membership and provide a free three-month membership pass for friends and family once the gym reopens.

Deserae Beard, meanwhile, said she assumed MUV would stop charging her and her husband. Beard joined the gym in January, and she was recently charged her $45 annual fee as well.

“The charge alone is frustrating but being charged our yearly fee on top of that, and I can’t even get that reconciled right now because nobody’s there to answer the phone,” Beard said.

There is no direct refund policy for the closure dates leading up to the freeze date, but spokesman Jamie Izaks said members can reach out to the company at customerservice@muvfitnessclubs.com for the quickest resolution, and she mentioned that the gyms are locally owned.

“The owners live in Spokane,” Izaks said. “Their reputation is equally as important as anyone else in the community. They’re not out to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

Eelisha Koskela had an issue. Her monthly dues normally debit on the 12th of the month, but she said this time it came out on the first. She had originally called MUV on March 15 to suspend her membership, but never heard back. After the charge, Koskela went to her bank to dispute the claim, and her bank told her it would be difficult to stop MUV from taking the payment since it had her banking information. She made the decision to close her checking account and open a new one. She also plans to cancel her MUV membership.

“I don’t want to do business with a company that’s going to do stuff like that,” Koskela said. “Everybody’s having a hard time right now, but that just shows your character.”

MUV reached out to Koskela and Beard on Tuesday and gave them a refund.

Izaks said, “If any member has an issue, reach out to us.”

Brooke Holloman, owner of Chrome Personal Training Centre, said she has her own way of doing things. In this case, that meant canceling everyone’s membership the moment she realized that the two-week closure would be much more than two weeks. No one was billed past March 26.

“Our members have chosen us for a reason, and I want to make sure that I’m treating them with respect,” Holloman said. “They’re the ones that have obviously kept my business running for 11 years.”

Members are also reporting a good experience with the YMCA.

Hadley Morrow has been a YMCA member for about a year and pays $99 per month. She made the decision to keep paying during the closure.

“I didn’t just join the Y for the gym,” Morrow said. “It’s also like a big community institution and my membership helps pay for great programs. … Once I considered all that, I was like, ‘You know what, I can stomach the $99 a month.’ ”

The YMCA was offering the option of freezing membership, and Ashley Whitham, a single mom who took them up on that, said they have a “customer for life.” Not only did the YMCA freeze her membership, they proactively offered her a refund for March.

“Didn’t even ask for it, didn’t mention it, nothing,” Whitham said. “It was just immediately, ‘You know what, we’re going to take care of it, here it is.’ It was really nice and kind of comforting to know that they were right there willing to still take care of their customers, even though they’re suffering, too.”

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