7 On Your Side: Tackling a Gym Bill

Seven On Your Side
January 4, 2008 7:11:23 PM PST
For one Brooklyn college student it was a free one day gym pass that cost him nearly four thousand dollars. That's when he called 7 On Your Side for some extra muscle.

Tappy: "What do you think of this whole mess?"
Charles Blake: "I think it's crazy."

Charles Blake is talking about a mammoth bill totaling nearly four thousand dollars -- all for a gym membership he says he never wanted.

Tappy: "What did you think when you got these statements?"
Charles: "I think first, it was a mistake."

Back in May, Charles says a Bally salesman saw him on a sidewalk and offered him a one day pass. Before he got the pass, Charles says he signed some Bally documents.

Charles: "He just put a paper in front of me and gave me a pen and said you could sign this and I said okay."
Tappy: "So you had no idea it was a contract?"
Charles: "No."
Tappy: "And he didn't tell you what this was?"
Charles: "No."

It turns out that Charles signed up for a three year membership to the gym. And now the full-time student is getting hounded by a collection company.

Tappy: "Did you have any idea that you were signing up for a three year contract?"
Charles: "No I had no idea."

He's not alone. In summer of 2006, 7 On Your Side got a dozen similar calls from Bally customers. That time, many said their contracts were forged.

Tappy: "There never was a contract?"
Gabrielle, ex-Bally customer: "exactly."
Tappy: "Did you ever sign a contract?"
Gabrielle: "I never signed a contract."

"It's obviously bogus, it's a fake, it's fraud," said former Bally customer Indira Ceville.

After we called, Bally made each customer whole. And that's what they did with Charles. Even though they said he was not misled, they wiped out his daunting debt.

Tappy: "Is that a relief?"
Charles: "Oh yeah. I just want to thank Channel 7 for their help."

If Charles had read the contract and realized he was signing up for a membership, he could have gotten out of it. Under New York State and New Jersey law, you have three days from signing a contract to cancel it.