SCMP Saturday, December 16, 2000


Sickness only way off fee treadmill


A member of the California Fitness Centres complained yesterday that she was only able to temporarily suspend her $699-a-month membership if she produced a medical certificate to prove she was unfit to exercise.
"I joined the gym when it started four years ago and paid about $3,000 for a top membership category," businesswoman C .C. Tam said. "In the beginning, the centre was very helpful, but now they're refusing to let me suspend my membership."
Ms Tam said she had asked for a suspension as she was only using her membership once or twice a month due to her work schedule. "The company said I could only get a suspension on medical grounds and asked me to get a medical certificate."
Asked if the level of customer dissatisfaction over the gym's stand on suspensions would prompt a policy rethink, California Fitness Centres said it had already made provision for periods of non-use in its fee structure.
Chief executive officer Eric Levine said the fee structure benefited all 25,000 members.
"We make it very clear in our terms and conditions that we do not allow for suspensions of membership [on non-medical grounds]," Mr Levine said. "We ask all joining members to initial this section of our policy so it is made very clear."
Ms Tam said she did not want to resign her membership because she enjoyed the centre's facilities.
"But if I don't get a suspension, I would have to renew my membership and pay another big joining fee," she said.
The centre said its termination procedure was straightforward, with members simply having to sign a form and present photographic identification.