Elizabeth Kuster wants out of her NYSC membership. No question about it. But the gym won’t let her go, and it won’t stop charging her. But when she files a credit card chargeback, things go from bad to worse. Is there anything we can do to help here?
I read a story on your site about another person, just like me, who you helped get out of her New York Sports Clubs membership.
I am having trouble with NYSC in Park Slope. They keep charging me even though I told the manager I wanted to cancel my contract. I canceled over the phone four months ago. The reason I decided to cancel is that NYSC suddenly increased my monthly fees. They did not give me prior notice. And they admitted this via email. The manager promised me a credit, which of course never appeared. Instead, NYSC just kept charging and charging me.
I want them to refund the 2018 annual fee of $50. And I also want a refund of the four months at the higher rate that I didn’t agree to. Then I want New York Sports Clubs never to call or email me again.
I disputed all the charges on my credit card. In the end, the bank said no fraud occurred. So I lost that case. And now I’m getting collection notices from NYSC.
Can you help me? I just want to get out of my NYSC membership! Why is this so hard? — Elizabeth Kuster, Brooklyn, N.Y.
If you canceled your NYSC membership, then the company should stop charging you. And it goes without saying that it should take your canceled account out of the collections department.
However, there was a significant problem with your case. When I read through your entire paper trail, it didn’t appear that you had ever officially canceled your NYSC membership.
You can’t cancel a New York Sports Club membership over the phone. Nor can you cancel via email. The NYSC website notes that members should consult with their contract for specific cancellation terms. It further goes on to say that if a member is not under a specific term contract, then cancellation can be made:
… in person at any club location or by sending a cancellation request by Certified Mail to the club or the Member Services department.
“I just want to get out of my NYSC membership!”
Unfortunately, you didn’t know what kind of NYSC membership you had. And you weren’t sure if that contract locked you into a specific term or rate. That fact complicated your case a bit. I thought perhaps your contract hadn’t been canceled because you had agreed to a certain length of membership. But with no contract to reference, I could not test my hypothesis.
Your written correspondence with NYSC showed that you first complained about the rate increase and the annual fee charge in early February. And although you told me that you canceled in December over the phone, there is no documentation of that cancellation.
Contracts are legal documents. And these contracts are always written in favor of the company, not the consumer. So if you want to terminate one, it’s critical to follow all of the steps outlined by the company.
And there may have been some mixed messages coming from you regarding your specific intention about your NYSC membership. In February you complained to the manager about the $10 per month rate increase. You explained to him that you hadn’t even been using your membership because you like to run outside.
If my monthly dues are increasing to $31.95/month, I want to cancel my membership completely. I never go; I just keep the membership in case of inclement weather (I prefer to run outside). For $21.95/month it’s worth it but for $31.95 it isn’t.
After this interaction, that manager processed a credit to your account to cover the rate increase for three months. He didn’t process a cancellation, and your email didn’t specifically ask for one.
Filing a credit card chargeback
And then you filed a credit card chargeback for the full monthly payments from November to February and for the annual fee. This chargeback attempt was a mistake.
The Fair Credit Billing Act protects credit card using consumers against billing errors by merchants. It doesn’t allow consumers to break legally binding gym memberships.
Any consumer considering a chargeback should carefully review the specific types of billing errors that are covered by this act before filing a dispute. Otherwise, as we have seen many times previously here, these chargeback cases can just lead to bigger problems.
Ask Christine Edwards how an ill-advised credit card chargeback almost ended in her losing $1,600. Or worse, Philip Paul’s premature credit card chargeback almost cost him $4,000.
The reason that you lost this chargeback is that you still had not officially canceled your NYSC membership. But you were contesting charges from November 2017 onward. And in your own paper trail, in February 2018, you appeared to be waffling on your NYSC membership cancellation.
Your bank informed you that your situation did not qualify for a credit card chargeback.
This credit card chargeback attempt made your situation worse. Now NYSC threatened you with a collection agency. And you couldn’t use your “delinquent” gym membership even if you wanted.
The good news
I contacted New York Sports Club on your behalf, and it has now closed your account. You are no longer in collections, and you are finally free of your NYSC membership. Unfortunately, the monthly dues and the annual fee that you paid before your official cancellation aren’t refundable. At this point, you are just relieved to have this unpleasant situation come to an end.
Happy running (outside)!
2020 Coronavirus closure update:
In April 2020 when the governor of New York State ordered all gyms to close during the coronavirus pandemic, NYSC continued to charge monthly dues for a service it could not provide. The NY attorney general took action and order NYSC to stop charging monthly dues during the closure. If you were charged monthly fees during the coronavirus pandemic you can file a written complaint with your gym and with the attorney general in your state.