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

Members of the Willow Grove 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 Upper Dublin Patch Monday afternoon. Please click here for our coverge.***

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 December 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 December 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.

In addition, a commenter of this article suggested those affected by the transfer visit http://ballyssuit.com, where individuals are sharing stories and entertaining the idea of filing a class-action lawsuit.

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.

Marc Lombardi December 05, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I received an email this morning from GlobalFit (through whom I have my Bally's Membership) offering me an annual renewal at Bally's for $189.00. I asked them if this membership renewal would be honored since Bally's was just bought out by LA Fitness. They told me that NO, a new membership through GlobalFit would not be honored and that I'd need to go through LA Fitness directly in order to renew my membership. They did inform me, thankfully, that my current membership will still be honored through the end of January. I'll need to see if they need me to cancel it (or if they're try to pull the old automatic renewal switcheroo) formally in January, as I have no intention of sticking with them under the LA Fitness banner.
tex December 05, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Folks--the best you can do is READ YOUR AGREEMENT. It probably favors Bally's / LA Fitness, but whatever rights you have/don't have may be spelled out in your agreement.
Mark December 05, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Sucks for people who got suckered into paying big bucks for a lifetime membership, but I bet in the agreement that they signed....there's a bunch of clauses that would protect Bally should they go bankrupt, sells out, etc. This is common practice. Class action lawsuits will just buy a round of $100,000 new Porsches for all the attorneys involved (on both sides) while you'll get a few bucks back for your time :-)
Walt December 05, 2011 at 10:07 PM
I just spoke with an attoney that specializes in class action lawsuits. He is filing an action against LA Fitness and/or Ballys. If anyone wants to join the suit email me at lbi0207@aol.com.
Walt December 05, 2011 at 10:10 PM
laurene. I am in contact with an attorney who is filing a class action. contact me at lbi0207@aol.com if you want info on it
Walt December 05, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Andy, I am in contact with an attorney who is filing a class action suit. Contact me at lbi0207@aol com if you are interested
Lynn Jaeger December 05, 2011 at 10:34 PM
It only seems just that the company acquiring Ballys' clubs, which is getting the benefit of their assets, should honor their obligations as well. We've paid renewal fees for our lifetime memberships for decades ... we don't have any reason not to want to use LA Fitness, except that they want us to pay all over again, and apparently want to restrict our membership to the one club, when we have had access to Bally's fitness centers all over the country when traveling.
Jackie December 05, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Sucks for people who got suckered into paying big bucks for a lifetime membership, but I bet in the agreement that they signed....there's a bunch of clauses that would protect Bally should they go bankrupt, sells out, etc. This is common practice. Class action lawsuits will just buy a round of $100,000 new Porsches for all the attorneys involved (on both sides) while you'll get a few bucks back for your time :-) Here is the clause in my 1988 original Jack LaLanne contract that deals with this: I. UNAVAILABILITY OF FACILITIES. In the event a Spa or its facillities shall be rendered unavailable to the member as a result of damage thereto or alteration thereof, or the sale or other disposition thereof, Jack La Lanne shall be obligated only to make available to member a substantially similar Spa in the same county or to extend the term of this agreement for the full period of any temporary unavailability, either, at the option of Jack La Lanne. So basically, LA FITNESS must honor your contract.
Ray Aaron's December 06, 2011 at 03:32 AM
I have been a member since 1976. Those who remember it was originally Holoday. I had a lifetime membership and paid $29.00 per year. In 1986 jack laLane purchased and opened the newer and larger clubs. We were told that as Holiday members we could only use a Holoday club unless we increased our membership. Several of us signed up for the new membership. Six months later they close all the Holiday Spas and allowed the remaining Holiday members to come to Jack LaLane for no extra charge. We complained that we should be retired or money for the membership upgrade. They refused and we took them to Small Claims Ct. They settled with us and agreed to provide us with a continued lifetime membership for an annual fee of $12.00per year. To Make a long story short. LA Fitness Purchased Ballys and thereby has a legal responsibility to onor their contracts. I believe that they will try to bully some members into signing a contract with them but I think that we Ll should stick together and refuse to comply with that. We can always sat a class action lawsuit. I know that is the last thing that why want bent publicized in te newspapers. Let's wait and see what comes of this Ray Aaron's
bessy1314 December 06, 2011 at 10:15 AM
if ballys sold to la fitness then all the people that just joined and paid for one or three years should get there money back. this is bull shit!!! a agreement was sign and it should stay like it is or get our money back
bessy1314 December 06, 2011 at 10:33 AM
thats right. i would of never paid for three years. now when i go to la fitness or ballys my name dnt come out as a member
Mojo December 06, 2011 at 06:12 PM
I just spoke with an attorney (Eric Lechtzin @ 1-800-424-6690) in reference to a class action lawsuit and he seems to be very much familiar with this situation. Please give him a call...the more people call, the better our chances will be for lawsuit.
Richard December 06, 2011 at 07:27 PM
I was told my my former Bally club (Wheaton, MD) that my life-time membership was not valid for LA fitness becuse I pay no annual dues. If I wanted to use the gym I would have to buy a brand new membership.
charles pettaway December 07, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Darlings this is so reminescent of what the Republican Party is doing to the middle class. Most of you won't undersdtand what I've just said, bit keep the hoorays for Mitt and Newt. Chuck
kirk mckoy December 11, 2011 at 04:06 AM
KIrk McKoy I have been a member of Ballys since 1984. I have a Silver membership and I pay $36 a year. I was told by a LA Fitness Rep. That my deal with Bally was $57 a year and that if i wanted to continue or switch to LA Fintess I will have to pay $19.99. A special they are offering Bally members, and I can only attend 1 gym on the area. What a Rip. I smell Class action law suit!
cynthia December 12, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I left LA Fitness in Ft. Washington because they had horrible customer service skills and attitudes. I signed up for a trainer at LA Fitness and they never showed up when it was time for my sessions. I came to Bally's and had an excellent trainer who was very interested in my goals. He would also call me to check in with me. The staff at Bally's were pleasant and made me seem like part of a family. I was notified by email on December 1, 2011 that I am now a member of LA Fitness. Now that LA Fitness is there I see the same impersonal attitudes I saw at the Ft. Washington location. I am glad I put my money on a prepaid card and have them take their dues fdrom me because they aren't getting one thin dime more than I agreed to pay. YMCA here I come!
Larry Lanes December 13, 2011 at 05:23 AM
Is your membership good to use at at the former Bally in Wheaton? Did you mean that you have to buy a new membership to use the LA Fitness in Silver Spring?
larry Weiskopf December 15, 2011 at 04:42 AM
Larry W I have a premier Plus membership with a renewal rate of 32.20 for life. I can use clubs across the country. How will LA Fitness handle this membership? I use my membership in various NY clubs and when I visit my kids in Atlanta, I use my Bally's membership. How will they try to handle this situation? It is going to be interesting to see if they will accommodate my present membership with equal value!
Karen Lee Anthony December 26, 2011 at 04:58 PM
I, too, am a Holiday/Bally's member since 1976, able to access all Bally's clubs nationally. I don't visit my home Chatsworth, CA club too often, but when I go in next week, if LA Fitness doesn't honor and continue my Bally's membership at its current reasonable annual rate, I'll be happy to join a class action suit. You'd think with all the Occupy movements ongoing against corrupt corporate practices, LA Fitness wouldn't try to nullify contracts that they've assumed. Bally's didn't suffer bankruptcy. The contracts were purchased, in place, as has been stated in earlier posts.
Karen Lee Anthony December 26, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Agreed. Nearly the same experience as yours. Member since 1976. Let's do all stick together for fair transfer.
Ray Zecca December 26, 2011 at 07:30 PM
To all, be careful when signing a contract with LA Fitness. LAF will only honor your current Bally rate up to your paid to date with Bally's. Mike Zecca
Haris Khan January 05, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I will be happy to join a class action suit . I am thankful to mojo for providing the lawyer's phone number and I will try to give this number to others. I was member since 1980 and LA fitness cancelled my membership . Let's do all stick together for fair transfer.
vera rahiem January 20, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I have been a member since 1998,and had a univeral membership.I went to the gym on january 2,2012. I was told i was no longer inn the data base and my name couldn't be found. So if i would like to join i wound have to take out a new contract. Which was high than i was allready paying. I think this is not proper business .I was at my lowest rate. I would also like to join in on the class action suit.
Andrea March 08, 2012 at 07:20 PM
This is the most decieving aproch to the people that put so much trust to company to Jack Lallaine as mentoir and its so sad that this is happening when he died !!! i BELIEVE THAT ALL PEOPLE TOGERTHER CAN WIN AND SHOULD WIN AGAINST BALLEY AND LA FITNESS !!!!
AL WILLIAMS July 16, 2012 at 07:40 PM
i BEEN A MEMBER SINCE 1988. GRAND fATHERED MEMBERSHIP. LA FITNESS SAID THEY WOULD HONOR THIS UNTIL 2/13. THEN I CAN SIGN UP AT A DISCOUNT RATE WITH THEM. DEFINITELY NOT THE 37.00 WE PAID BALLY'S! NO LA FITNESS IN VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. CLASS ACTION-YES.
Tim Chism July 21, 2012 at 09:31 AM
I also have been an olympic gold member since 1988. The sad part for me is that someone once offered me $500.00 to buy my memborship and I turned it down. I wanted to keep my lifetime membership. They have a legal and binding obligation to honor our contracts. I feel so violated having paid them so much money and now being kicked to the curb. This is beyond unprofessional. However, they will only respond if we make life difficult for them. I am thinking small claims court or a class action suit. Either way, you can count me in. Thank You Tim PS There is great strength in the unification of all our contracts. Be vigilant
Su4 July 23, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Sue Siesser Count me in as well. I also have a lifetime membership that has been dishonored. I told Bally's to reimburse my lifetime membership fee and they naturally refused. I wasn't informed about the buy-out and they can't do this. I know we all have legal rights. LAFit can't set their own little corporate rules about lifetime members. Bally's is disgusting -
Rosalie January 06, 2013 at 02:42 AM
I have been with ballys since 1984 and la fitness said i am not pd that i defaulted and have to sign with them im so upset i dont kno who to contact tell help us all can anyone guide me in the right direction to take care of this matter
Su4 January 06, 2013 at 06:46 PM
I tried and there is a lawyer in Philadelphia who is on the case. He told me I was excluded because of some technicality.
Deborah January 20, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Sue, please tell me the name of the lawyer. I'd like to see if I can be included. Thanks, Deborah

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