Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Problem With Bally's Business Model

Over the summer, my friend and I decided to purchase a gym membership. Both of us wanted to lose a few pounds, and everyone kept going on about this "exercise" thing that's supposed to be really good for that. We ended up with a coupon for a free month at Bally's, and after much research into local gyms, it looked like Bally's would end up being the least expensive and least annoying way to go. We both knew that we wouldn't be keeping the memberships for more than three months. I was getting married at the end of the summer and she had to go back to school. We went to the gym, presented our coupon, and explained the situation.
The first red flag was that the manager of this gym, despite wearing track pants and a t-shirt to try to sell the image, was clearly not as big a fan of working out as he was of delicious, delicious butter. And, much like the butter he so adored, he was kind of oily, in both a figurative and literal sense. But we explained that we only wanted our memberships for a few months, and we didn't want to sign up if canceling was going to be any kind of an issue. He assured us that it wouldn't be, and he told us he would apply our coupons to the last month of our membership, so we signed up. In retrospect, we should have recorded that conversation, because it was a flat-out lie.
Fast forward a couple of months. We went to the gym a couple of times a week. We did cardio, we sat in the steam room, we swam in the pool, and all was well. We had interesting encounters with a woman who walked around nude in the locker room who was inexplicably there every time we were. And she was always naked or in the process of becoming naked, smiling at us because she knew we knew. And lest anyone get too excited, she was at least in her fifties and her boobs were practically brushing the floor. I was not aware that a women's locker room was the same thing as a European beach. But I digress.
We continued to go to the gym. About a month before I was set to move, I called into the Bally's call system to cancel my membership. I explained that I would be moving to an area with no Bally's, this would be my last month, and I didn't want to get charged for it, per the coupon I presented at the time of sign-up. I was then informed that I needed to write a letter to an address in California to cancel my membership, and that their computer system would not allow them to not charge me for the upcoming month.
There are a couple of things that I find questionable about this.
The first: I have a hard time believing that there is literally no way for anyone in the company to override a computer program.
The second: The Bally's Cancellation service doesn't have an e-mail address or telephone number? They only have a PO box? Unless the Bally's Corporation is being run out of somebody's basement and his mom doesn't want him running up the phone bill, I find that absolutely ridiculous.
So, I did what any American citizen would do when put in that situation. I yelled. Well, that's not entirely true. I started out reasonable. But when the guy I was talking to told me to call the gym to cancel my membership, and the guy at the gym said I needed to call the phone service. So, I called the phone service and tried again. I was again told that I needed to write to this probably fictitious PO box. It was at this point that the yelling began. At the finish, I didn't have to write to the alleged PO box to cancel my membership. They were able to do it from the call center, which is suspicious enough. However, they did still charge me for that last month. And, mysteriously, the next day, there was an unauthorized charge to my credit card. Want to know the only other people who had the information for that card? Bally's.

Here's why I think Bally's is not conducting business the way they should. Had they just cancelled my membership like any normal organization would, it's true, they would have lost the twenty bucks they charged me for that month. However, I would consider going with Bally's the next time I feel the need to join a gym, and they'd make that money back, plus some. As it stands, I am never going back to them, because they only respect you as long as you're paying them to.

1 comment:

  1. You see this same phenomenon at restaurants. The server thinks that Stereotype X doesn't tip well, so he or she gives poor service. Stereotype X receives poor service, so he or she doesn't tip well. If businesses would just give good service and try to be accommodating, they would make more money. That's how a free market economy works.