There have been so many heartening stories coming out of this crisis. Globally, we’ve seen the introduction of the “balcony party”, which I hope will stay “a thing” after the quarantines have passed. Here in Wallingford, people like Kenn Herman are working on 3-D printed face masks for healthcare workers. Parents (and grandparents) are putting teddy bears in windows for kids out for isolated walks to count. Pet owners are rallying around local businesses like Wally Pets to ensure the businesses and their staff remain healthy. And businesses that are not able to operate traditionally, like Commune Yoga, are finding ways to still provide value to their community with online yoga classes.
Unfortunately, not everyone is exercising good judgement. Emerald City Athletics, the gym at the corner of 40th and Stone way, has been telling clients who want to cancel or pause their gym membership that they must come in in person to do so, otherwise the gym will continue to charge their credit card or draw directly from their bank accounts each month for membership. This despite the fact that the gym is closed due to coronavirus, so not only are they unable to deliver the service for which they are charging, but coming in in person to cancel is literally impossible.
One member seeking to cancel forwarded this email to me, confirming ECA’s position:
To make any permanent changes to your membership, including cancelling, we are required by law to have a physical document with a signature from both parties (the member and the club) of the contractual agreement.
This is, of course, nonsense. No such law requiring a “physical document” exists, as the existence of services such as Docusign and Hellosign demonstrate. The law allows for legally binding documents to be signed electronically, and there are dozens of solutions available to do so. Even if that wasn’t the case, every one of us has had dozens of experiences entering legally binding agreements online. ECA knows that they could take cancelations electronically or by email, the same way those of us who have signed up for or canceled electronic services like Netflix without a “physical contract” have done innumerable times.
In their (very limited) defense, they are saying that they will “freeze memberships for one month”, but that to cancel recurring charges without coming in, members have to physically go to the post office and send a certified letter requesting the change.
A primary care worker recently posted to Facebook:
They gave me the option to send a certified letter basically repeating my email (which can be legally binding, come ON!). This 1) put me at risk by leaving my house for a non-essential reason, and 2) put everyone else around me at risk since I work in primary care and have not been able to self-isolate like the rest of y’all.
What followed was a slew of 84 comments and 107 reactions from people echoing similarly bad experiences with the business (“I could go on a rant about them!! But I’m gonna keep my mouth shut and be peaceful:)) If I have to be grateful for something it’s that I will no longer give another dollar to that place!! “, “ECA is the worst! We went for one consultation where they made me choose which woman in a bikini I wanted to look like (Um, what?) and then harassed us for months.”, “My wife and I were in a car accident a couple years ago and couldn’t work out for awhile (we’re fine now) and they made it extremely difficult to cancel our memberships, ended up taking longer and brought us into our next payment, which they refused to refund when we were finally able to cancel. They are not good people.”, “I was with them. They lied to me more than once about policies regarding going on temporary hiatus. I hate them and I hate their company.”)
Obviously, ECA has a history of dragging their feet to prevent people from ending their memberships, but frankly, that seems to be par for the course in the gym business (as one commenter wrote, “What is it about canceling gym memberships?? It’s notoriously difficult. Are they all run by the mob, or what?”). Still, with the governor issuing an executive order that people “shelter in place”, with so many people going to heroic lengths to protect each other by avoiding public activities, for this business to suggest that people must go to the post office to send a certified letter, or else they will continue to charge them is…not in the spirit of the times.
Shame on you, ECA, shame on you!
(I emailed ECA for comment on their policy, but after 24 hours still have not received a reply.)