New York gyms are making members sweat — over how to get refunded.
Big Apple fitness facilities were mandated to close on March 16 amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the sudden shuttering has left members of big-name gyms like New York Sports Clubs (NYSC) seeing red as fees have continued to be taken from their bank accounts.
Worse yet, with clubs closed, members now have no way to cancel. On Thursday, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Town Sports International, the parent company of NYSC, for “continuing to charge gym membership fees to its approximately 605,000 members.” The complaint says the company is making “it virtually impossible for members to cancel their memberships” and “even refused to honor many members’ cancellation requests,” according to a statement by Wigdor LLP, the firm handling the suit.
As of Thursday, NYSC had not even issued a statement, so angry members looking to be refunded for coronavirus closures have taken to social media in a flurry of complaints.
“What a f - - king scam. Close the clubs, but charge all the members their monthly dues and make it impossible to cancel,” writes Twitter user @hispeed_gordo.
“Absolutely disgusting, @NYSC. You too, @PlanetFitness. If you are not open, you don’t charge people to use your service. Otherwise, taking something that rightfully doesn’t belong to you is called stealing,” adds Twitter user @OGradyKL.
Other gym rats say it’s been a real workout to get in touch with the company.
“@NYSC Hi there I have been [trying] to call your customer service # and no answer. how do we freeze our memberships until gyms reopen? And do we still have to [pay] while the gym is closed?” writes Twitter user @Harlemhonie.
“We call on our public institutions — including the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs — to take formal action against TSI to protect the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers being victimized by this corporate greed,” says David E. Gottlieb, partner at Wigdor LLP, in a statement.
Town Sports International has not returned The Post’s calls or emails, and emails to longtime public relations associates at the company have come back as undeliverable.
Gym rats aren’t the only ones left in the lurch, as many instructors have been laid off indefinitely. Trendy boutique boxing chain Rumble, which operated five NYC locations before the shutdown, laid off 146 employees on March 18, citing “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19.”
Life Time Athletic, a Minnesota-based company, had only one location of its luxury gyms open in Midtown West at the time of the closures, but tells The Post that members’ dues were prorated for the month and the company has stopped charging monthly membership fees until clubs reopen. Employees of the gym, which had planned to open 12 locations in the city before 2022, will be paid through the rest of March, and reps say that “additional plans and communications are forthcoming.”
Crunch Fitness, which operates 17 company-owned locations in the city, has stopped collecting membership fees and will not pursue any past due balances for members until the clubs reopen.
When it comes to employees, reps tell The Post that Crunch is “working to do the right thing by all of our team members and franchisees” and that “Crunch paid employees through the end of March averaging their YTD gross wages.” However, the chain is “waiting on all the details of the federal stimulus package and taking that into consideration with our go-forward plan.”
Equinox sent out an email to members on March 17 confirming that all dues and fees have been frozen. But when contacted by The Post with questions regarding layoffs or employee benefits, the company declined to comment — multiple times.
One Equinox employee who asked to remain anonymous tells The Post that they are being paid until April 3 and that “everyone hasn’t been laid off,” but company decision-makers “have not updated us” on what comes next. The employee assumes everyone will be put on furlough, but “doesn’t think” the company is going to do layoffs.
Some fitness pros are even considering moving on from New York’s saturated fitness scene.
“It’s been emotionally hard,” says Jacob Griffin, a master instructor at Solidcore, which had five locations in the city before the closures. Although he “100%” wants to be rehired when the studios reopen, he can’t help but think beyond fitness to help pay the rent.
“The abrupt halt jarred my sense of identity,” Griffin tells The Post. “I’m taking an online résumé-building class today because I don’t know what’s next.”
Solidcore laid off 98% of its workforce last week due to COVID-19 but is covering health care through the end of April, reps tell The Post. Griffin, who has hereditary chronic high blood pressure, is thrilled, since his medications can run $1,800 a month.
Fitness app ClassPass, which allows its members to take classes at top boutique studios and gyms around the city, stopped charging membership fees in mid-March and has offered to roll over credits when things resume. The company has teamed up with popular studios like the Fhitting Room, ConBody and Switch Playground to provide live online classes during self-isolation. Life Time and Crunch are also offering free online classes.
Meanwhile, NYSC brass and investors must surely be sweating.