31 August, 2005

Let's Hold Each Other to a Higher Standard

Rant Alert!

Last year, I signed up for a year-long membership at St. Louis Workout on Union St. in St. Louis, MO. I paid my $200 and signed a contract. At the end of the year, I didn't go back; I didn't really dislike the gym, but I found another that I liked better. A couple of weeks after the end of the year contract, however, I thought I'd better make sure everything was cleaned up, so I called the gym. "No problem," the lady said, "just come in by the 15th and we'll clear everything up for you." I came in on the 13th and signed some paperwork declaring my intent to leave the gym; part of the paperwork was an "amount due" field, about which the gentleman at the gym said, "just put '$0' since you prepaid your year membership."

Two weeks after that, I got a bill from the company stating that I owed "$23.66 per month" [for two months after the year membership] and late fees totaling $50. I called them to sort it out. My argument was as follows:

  1. They were perfectly within their right to collect on this amount due, since I had signed a contract stating that I would give them advance notice of my termination
  2. I had made my intentions clear by a) pre-purchasing the year membership rather than enrolling in a repeated-billing process and b) not visiting the gym after the membership had ended
  3. Two representatives of the gym had both told me that there would be no problems in closing my account
  4. Therefore, they should work out some deal with me so they come out as the good guys, willing to help out their customers in the case of an unintentional error

The "gentleman" on the phone disagreed, stating that he "had nothing further to say to me." So I wished him a good day and hung up. I will send the check. They will cash it.

But I have learned my lesson: I no longer have any faith in corporations to "provide a service to their customers." From now on I will treat them as an enemy whose only purpose is to take my money. I will not sign devious contracts.

And I will hold myself to a higher standard: read all fine print.

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