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Update: Bally's Customers Angry after Memberships Cancelled in Sale to LA Fitness

Members of one area Bally's Total Fitness say they were left in the dark in national sale to LA Fitness.

***UPDATE: LA Fitness will now be honoring lifetime agreements, according to Paul Norris, Principal at LA Fitness, who called Patch Monday afternoon. Please click here for our updated coverage.***

The in Willow Grove is the target of some local ire this week after it was announced that competitor LA Fitness had purchased the facility. Now, some customers are out of a membership, including “lifetime” agreements that cost thousands of dollars.

“We’ve been members since 1984, ever since my husband and I got engaged,” said Upper Dublin resident Joan Tait, who paid roughly $2,000 for a lifetime membership. “There were years where we wouldn’t go at all, but for the last decade or so we’ve been going several times a week and never had to pay anything.”

Tait says it all changed unexpectedly when she and her husband visited the location last week and employees at the front desk told them they would “get them on the way out,” after scanning their ID cards.

“We thought that was odd, and then we heard something over the loudspeaker about LA fitness,” said Tait.

After approaching employees to ask about what was going on, Tait says they were lead into an upstairs office where they were told about the sale and that their lifetime membership would no longer be honored. She says they were pitched on a new LA Fitness membership at a discount rate, but were wary and declined.

Conflicting Statements on Existing Memberships

According to a ClubIndustry.com article, the Willow Grove location is one of 171 Bally's facilities sold nationwide to LA Fitness for approximately $153 million. The sale included 13 in the Philadelphia region, of which four will close and nine will continue to operate under the LA Fitness banner, including the Willow Grove location. Bally's now operates 100 locations in the U.S., while the addition boosts LA Fitness from 360 to 538 clubs.

Calls to the national offices of LA Fitness in Irvine, California were not immediately returned Sunday. However, the company posted the following release on its website regarding the sale:

Our objective in general is to make this transition as easy as possible for both the members and employees. We will be servicing all of the membership agreements that were acquired from Bally's. The majority of the acquired clubs will remain open, but some will be closing before the end of the year. If we close a facility, we will transfer those members’ agreements to a nearby facility, either an acquired Bally's or an LA Fitness…

The employees at the clubs we acquired will no longer be employed by Bally's, but we hope that they will apply for positions with us. We will do our best to find a spot for every qualified Bally's employee who wants to be part of our team.

Despite the release’s statement that all membership agreements would be honored, an employee who answered the phone at the Bally's/LA Fitness location in Wyncote, Pa., told Patch that the lifetime memberships were instantly nullified.

“For those individuals with lifetime memberships, the changes are effective immediately,” the employee told Patch over the phone, adding that all other memberships would be honored.

In addition, he confirmed that all employees would need to reapply.

“They do have to go through a rehiring process. It’s up to them to stick around or not, and some didn’t want to stay at all,” he said.

Employees at the Bally's in Voorhees, N.J., were not so lucky, as they found themselves out of a job last week, according to an NBC10 article.

After that gym had been temporarily closed for repairs, employees returned to find a note on the door that said the facility would be closing permanently on Dec. 8, the article says.

“So we thought we had jobs,” the article quoted Toni Arlotta, a personal trainer and receptionist at Bally's for 30 years, as saying. “We came in on Thursday and we didn’t have jobs.”

Gym Members: Communication Poor or Nonexistent

Locally, residents were upset about the lack of communication from the gym.

“We should have been notified. They have our e-mail address, but nothing was sent out. There were no flyers or literature explaining the situation,” said Tait.

Upper Dublin Township commissioner Ira Tackel, whose family also benefitted from a lifetime membership that was purchased by his parents in 1973 and transferred to him, said that he had the same experience.

“My wife went to workout on Friday, and was told at the front desk that Bally's had been purchased,” said Tackel. “That was the first we heard of it. I had no indication that there was even a potential sale.”

Tackel says that his family had been paying an annual $12 fee as part of the membership, and that his wife had paid $120 up front in 2009 to lock them into the low rate through 2019. That’s money it appears they will not get back, in addition to the original lifetime sign-up amount.

“I believe I have certain rights that should be honored by LA Fitness. This transaction is very different from a bankruptcy where all bets are off,” Tackel said. “LA Fitness is putting on the full court press to try and convert Bally's lifetime members to LA Fitness lifetime memberships… but I’m not going to be pressured into signing, I think I have rights as a Bally's member.”

An employee of the Willow Grove LA Fitness, who identified himself as a manager in charge of memberships, confirmed that the location would remain open. However, he refused to comment on questions concerning membership, and quickly disconnected the call when pressed for more information.

According to one gym member, a stack of unofficial flyers inside the facility advertised a gathering at the on Dec. 17 to discuss the cancellation of the lifetime memberships. Employees of the inn stated they could not confirm the existence of such an event until Tuesday, but Patch will continue to seek information on any gathering.

UpperMoreland-WillowGrove Editor Gerry Dungan contributed to this article. Additional information and accounts can be e-mailed to editors Kyle Bagenstose at Kyle@Patch.com and Gerry Dungan at GerryDungan@Patch.com.

Brian S. December 06, 2011 at 07:16 AM
Alan completely misses the point. they're *contractually obligated* to honor the lifetime membership. and yes when I signed up back around 1992 with Bally's, my dues on my lifetime membership were $5 a month. that was after a significant down payment and monthly payments to buy the membership, totaling close to $700. that's what they agreed to. all told, it was still over $1000 out of my pocket and I kept it for about 15 years.... for a young kid making between $5-8 an hour at the time about 20 hours a week in the beginning, that's a lot of money and if the member lived up to their end of the bargain, they legally have to as well.
Jackie December 06, 2011 at 01:15 PM
"they should be happy they got this far" are you kidding me? We signed LEGALLY binding contracts, paid at least $1000 up front and paid monthly dues that were CONTRACTED. We were lucky the gym did not go bankrupt. That's the end of the luck. La Fitness bought the memberships only to try and legally get out of them. Which they cannot. Not LUCKY, just trying to keep what we LEGALLY purchased.
RL December 06, 2011 at 04:10 PM
HOw come the US government and BBB allows companies such as Bally's and in general Airlines do this to their customers? mentioned or not in contract. NO company should be allowed to overnight turn their back to customers saying "we cannot help you" " you are not with us", lack of customer support, almost ignoring payments done or preventing using the facilities. Specially those customers who has no LA facilities nearby.
Peter December 06, 2011 at 05:56 PM
I just called and asked local San Diego, LA Fitness about the impact on my account. I was told that I could continue using the acquired Bally's facilities, but had no access (after December) to LA Fitness. I pointed out that I have lost access nationally to over 1/3 of the gyms still under Bally's ownership and said "it sounds like I've been downgraded", after a long pause she said yes it does. Just another example of big business eroding consumers rights to increase their bottom line. Maybe Occupy Wall Street can occupy La Fitness?
rodolfo sosa December 06, 2011 at 10:54 PM
i had just purchased 2 year contract in 11/28/11 for 399 with access to all ballys , n la fitness told me i can only go to one club o to up grade my member ship for 39.99 a month i told the guy really u got to be fkn kidding me ,they were not very profesional to do they job rudy chicago ill
CL December 07, 2011 at 04:04 AM
CL Dec 6 2011, 8:55PM: Spoke to Jake (Assistant Mgr.) at Lacey, WA., LA Fitness, and he said that the corporate office instructed them to not honor the Bally Fitness lifetime memberships. These people are very confused! Please get the word out. How hard can it be............
John Roberts December 07, 2011 at 04:06 AM
I am also dealing with the situation and have spoken to someone that can help clear this situation up. If you want to know more feel free to contact me at johnro85@gmail.com.
John Thomas December 07, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Today I went to Bally's ion Touy, and was told I had to get a new membership card. But they couldn't find me in their system after doing several searches. They asked when, where, and what type of membership I had. When I mentioned I have a life time membership, he said that LA Fitness didn't buy the lifetime members from Bally, and that my membership was void as of today. He said I could work out today, but I can't come back anymore unless I buy an LA Fitness membership at $40/month.
John December 07, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Called Bally's and was told LA bought my contract and they no longer have any information on me. LA tells me they have no record of me since they did not buy my lifetime contract. Anyone out there know the process for a class action suit?
Susan Yeager December 08, 2011 at 04:05 AM
I was told that my lifetime membership bought at Ballys location that closed a long time ago in Seaview Square Mall, Ocean NJ was no longer honored. For 20 years I have been going to East Brunswick Ballys Total Fitness. Today LA Fitness told me that they do not have me in their system, since I did not sign up here - basically SOL.
Phyllis Robinson December 10, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Phyllis Robinson I believe that all of us with lifetime membership contracts that we paid for should talk with an attorney about a class action suit.
Phyllis Robinson December 10, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Phyllis Robinson in Berwyn IL I am not an attorney but anyone interested in starting a class action suit, please e-mail me. Phyllis731@aol.com Is there an attorney on this list?
Katie December 14, 2011 at 07:10 AM
http://www.change.org/petitions/lafitness-honor-reduced-fee-lifetime-contracts-of-bally-members-after-billing-period Let's get started by coming together and signing this petition. Thank you!
Lauren K December 17, 2011 at 07:38 PM
I bought my membership in NYC 20 years ago. I moved the to Willow Grove 16 years ago and have been paying $252 a year. I called Ballys in NY and they said there would be no problem transferring me over. Now just today the people in Willow Grove, PA are telling me that I can go back to NY to work out or pay $30 a month. This is a disgrace and am wondering if there are any class action law suits coming up because I want to be in that club.
Eugene December 21, 2011 at 10:06 PM
I had this problem with Bank of America (actually, North Carolina National Bank, which bought the distressed B of A and, because it had such a bad reputation, changed its name to B of A) when it bought out Fleet Bank. The Bank's position about my Lifetime Free Account (opened as a promotion, and for which I had a written contract) was that Fleet Bank no longer existed, and the Bank of America from before the merger no longer existed, either. Therefore, since there was a new corporate entity, all prior contracts were VOID. For instance, they acknowledged, from their point of view, if I had a business and had borrowed money from Fleet, the new entity could decide that it didn't like the prior contract and, even if all payments had been made on time, could tell the business, "We don't like the terms. We are quadrupling the interest rate and doubling the monthly payment, and if you don't like it, we'll call in the entire loan. We don't care if that would bankrupt your business. You have to accept the changes we want to make unilaterally. You have no choice."
David December 23, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Kyle is wrong, and is not understanding a very simple concept: The Bally Fitness members who had signed up for nationwide access at a club that LA Fitness purchased can no longer go to ANY Bally Fitness and can ONLY go to an LA Fitness club. That doesn't work when your town DOESN'T HAVE AN LA FITNESS CLUB. Do you understand that Kyle Bagenstose? David
David December 23, 2011 at 04:26 AM
It's not about being happy with what you got so far, it's about a corporation buying another corporation and both sweeping contracts under a rug. Perhaps you would understand it if you were one affected, or perhaps you just ignore it when a large corporation is unethical. Either way, I think your opinion is weak.
Doug December 24, 2011 at 08:10 AM
I have an LA fitness membership. Someone is trying to sell me a her lifetime Bally membership. My LA fitness manager tells me that if I buy it LA fitness won't honor it. What's the truth?
timbo January 05, 2012 at 03:42 AM
My wife and I called Bally's on November 30th after finding out that our local Bally's at 1147 Sunrise Highway Copiague, NY was being taken over by La Fittness. We were told that our membership would transfer to La Fitness. My wife's membership transferred over but mine didn't
John January 17, 2012 at 04:34 PM
all i get from this is that Bally sucks big time. L.A. Fitness should do the right thing and honor all lifetime memberships, would be great for public relations
JimmyVee January 18, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Jim I have been a Bally's member since February 1977 (previous club that was purchased). As a "VIP" member, my annual fee was $29.00. Everything was fine until I signed up for two more years ($58.00) "good" until March 2014. I'm out fifty-eight bucks.
Dagmar January 26, 2012 at 06:21 PM
So much for Ballys and their call centers full of rude, obtuse chicanos with a bad attitude! Every call I made to them in the 8 years of my membership was a very unpleasant experience! Red herring is a bad omen for the future! I'm therefore not surprized by this unethical legal loophole they committed, in cahoots with LA Fitness!!!
Dagmar January 26, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Hey, mates: be advised that the "3 year" appeasement membership is merely a distraction to fend away any potential class action suits that may be broiling. The 3 year free membership is being offered to longtime lifetime members who have the option to sue in class action or individual suits. The free or $1- memberships surely contain an agreement stating you nullify the right to sue after enjoying the next 3 free years. For Ballys, and LAFitness, this "appeasement" is a lot cheaper tgan a lawsuit ir settlement!!!
Peter Johnson February 19, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I'm a life member I don't mind paying a little more. They could sent out emails and give us options about this someone should do a 9/11 on their asses. I paid almost 2500 for my life time membership. It's just wrong how America treats its people, I paid for this it's the reason I paid so much. They should honor and will honor our membership.
Tara Harsha March 06, 2012 at 04:26 PM
It seems to me they are picking and choosing what they want to keep and what they don't. I have a friend who bought bally personal training package. She is being told that they will honor that portion of the contract and she is still required to pay that fee for the sessions but that her monthy rate will go up. Both sessions were bought and included in the same contract. So how do you honor part of a contract but not all of it.
Norman April 11, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I have been Bally's member since 1993, and I was going to E.Brunswick, NJ location since 1995, but now F**KS from LA Fitness are telling me, I am not in the system!!!! And, the closes Ballys club is 20 miles away. F*******K you people, I am cancelling my membership and signing with YMCA, at least they APPRECIATE their long term customer. ROT in Hell!!!!!!
Denise Zielinski May 07, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Well LA Fitness actually forged my name on a contract for their club and continue debting my account for $17.50 each mth. I had a deal with Balleys where I had no signed contract and I could cancel anytime. I was blown away when I received a copy of LA Fitness contract and my signature CLEARLY forged.
NunYa Bizinnes June 06, 2012 at 03:21 AM
My lifetime Gold membership with an annual renewal of $5 has become a $28.92 renewal in the hands of LA Fitness. When I called LAF to inform them of the error, the informed me that it up to me to do the leg work to correct the mistake by contacting Bally's to get "proof" of my claim and them submit that proof to LAF. IMHO, the mistake is on the part of Bally's and/or LAF, so the owness to correct it s/b with them as well...not with their clients. In my case, I've been a member since 1988 and paid $5/year since 1989. With the LAF attitude of "our mistake, you fix it", I'll take my business elsewhere.
Nick Langella July 02, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Ive had a Ballys membership since 1979 and use it. I just moved to Missouri and was told that the clubs there are not longer Bally's and that there's no LA fitness club within 70 Miles. What do I do with my lifetime membership? Is anyone in the same boat? Please respond
CHRIS FERRU February 26, 2013 at 08:56 AM
LA FITTNESS ARE A BUNCH OF CROOKS AND LIARS. SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE WHOM HAD A LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP WERE TOLD THEY ARE NOT IN THE SYSTEM. WHAT A SHAME. THEY ARE JUST OUT THERE TO MAKE YOU SIGN ANOTHER CONTRACT. PLEASE DON'T SIGN ANOTHER CONTRACT WITH THESE PEOPLE BECAUSE WHEN IT IS TIME TO GET THE CLASS ACTION SUIT GOING, YOU WON'T HAVE A CHANCE BECAUSE THEY WOULD LOOK AT YOUR SITUATION AND NOTICED THAT YOU SETTLED WITH THEM. IF THEY BOUGH OUT MOST OF THE BALLYS, THEN THEY SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT OUT ESPECIALLY ALL CUSTOMERS WHOM HAD A LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP. OH AND BY THE WAY, LA FITTNESS SAID THEY DON'T HAVE LIFETIME MEMBERSHIPS IF YOU SIGN UP WITH THEM IT'S A LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP TO PAY MINIMUM 19.00 PER MONTH SUCH THIEVES.

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