Wednesday, July 24 is Pioneer Day in Utah. Did you know that? Pioneer Day.
Pioneer Day is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the U.S. state of Utah, with some celebrations in regions of surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers. It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, where the Latter-day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States.Did you know that most people get Pioneer Day off work? Well I'm not Mormon nor am I from Utah, so I didn't know that.
Here's the back story. I have a gym membership in Aiken at a place called Achieve Fitness. I signed up for a two-year contract back in 2011 and it just expired in July. I knew it was about to expire and didn't want them to automatically roll me over to a month-to-month situation, so I called and spoke with a young lady. She promised me it wouldn't happen.
Low and behold, like clockwork, I was billed the following month. I marched my patootie into the gym (for the first time in more than a year) and demanded to know what the heck was up. Obviously I was polite - I'm not about to raise hell in a building full of juiced-up muscle maniacs.
The man behind the counter explained what the heck was up and told me the only way to stop getting billed was to mail a cancellation in writing to their national headquarters. He told me I could find their phone number on the back of my membership card.
So on Wednesday, July 24, I called National Fitness' headquarters in Layton, Utah, only to be met with a cheery recording telling me they were closed for Pioneer Day. Considering I was already aggravated and had no idea what Pioneer Day was, I immediately thought this was some sort of conspiracy.
I called back on the 25th and spoke to a guy who may or may not be my new least favorite person on the planet. He told me to mail a request and gave me their address. I asked to speak to a manager, and he said, "no." Literally. What type of person won't let you talk to a manager? He also didn't tell me what to mail other than a letter. SO a letter is what I wrote:
Here is what it said:
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Attn: Billing Department
P.O. Box 497
Layton, UT 84041
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Anna Taylor. This letter serves as formal notice of my intent to cancel my gym membership with your company. The number on my plastic barcode keychain is XXXXXXX. My membership number is XXXXXXXXXX.
My two-year contract with Achieve Fitness in Aiken, South Carolina expired in July of this year. I called the local facility and spoke with an employee in an effort to find out whether or not my contract would automatically renew. I visited the gym no more than 20 times in the past two years, so naturally I did not want to continue paying for a service I do not use. The woman I spoke with assured me it would not automatically renew, but said she was not 100% positive (it sounded like she did not fully understand how to operate her computer system) and she encouraged me to double-check my bank statement the next month just in case. Obviously I hung up the phone feeling confident after our conversation and her very clear understanding of your company’s billing procedure. I should have known better. If anything, gym employees are not around to ensure customer (or ex-customer) satisfaction, but only to guarantee we spend as much money as possible.
My membership automatically renewed itself the following month like I was promised it would not (though I’m sure somewhere buried deep in my contract full of legal jargon, this is what I agreed to), and I was set up with a month-to-month membership, so I visited my gym to ask for a cancellation in person. Naturally it is not that simple, and they needed a presidential order to stop billing me. I was told I should call the national office to have it taken care of, and that I would likely need to submit something in writing for security purposes. This makes sense. I could show up to the gym with my birth certificate, passport, social security card, and 45 other forms of identification, but a letter is much safer. It seems nobody else has access to Microsoft Word or the ability to send certified mail. Also, when I called the gym to verify my membership number, I was only asked for my first and last names. For a company so hell-bent on ensuring privacy/security, that seems strange.
Let’s just be real for a second. The reason you require cancellation in writing is because it makes the process a heck of a lot more complicated. Many letters must get delayed in the mail, allowing you an extra period of time to bill your members. Plus, some people likely get so frustrated with the process, they delay or avoid it altogether. What an excellent business strategy.
I called the national office on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 only to find it closed in the middle of the week for a holiday called Pioneer Day. How fun. I called back on July 25 and spoke with a charming young man who told me my intent to cancel must be submitted in writing. He did not say why, only that this is what I agreed to in my contract (pesky contracts!). I asked to speak with a manager, and he told me that was impossible. Apparently he was the only employee in the building that day and was without any supervision.
This fellow failed to inform me what I needed to include in my official letter of intent to cancel, though I also forgot to ask for explicit instructions so I suppose we are both at fault. If National Fitness ever has a training day for employees (perhaps requiring your offices to be closed for no reason in the middle of the week), I would suggest you implement a refresher course on basic manners. I am sure it is not easy to speak with clients on the phone all day, many of whom are likely disgruntled, but nonetheless, if the man on the other end of the line is representative of your company as a whole, I might re-think your hiring process.
Thank you in advance for processing my membership cancellation in a timely manner. If you need to contact me, I can be reached at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
I know my letter probably won't accomplish anything. Hell, I don't even know if my membership will be cancelled or if I just need to come to terms with paying Achieve Fitness $20 once a month for the rest of my life. But sticking that letter in the mail and giving them a long-distance middle finger felt really good. And just for kittens and giggles, I burned my plastic Achieve Fitness barcode keychain.