On a recent afternoon, I headed toward my gym: A small, second-floor space I’d been a member at for at least five years. It was my second home and I’d spent more time there, contemplating life among weights and cardio machines, than any other place beyond my apartment.
Upon reaching the gym’s double-door entrance, I encountered a bolt lock around the doors’ handles and large, orange signage with the word “seizure” in bold letters covering the windows; My gym was served with an eviction notice — leaving me and at least 500 other members in the cold, without so much as an email to inform us.
Turns out, sudden gym closures are hardly a rare occurrence. But what should you do when it happens to you?
Contact Your Credit Card Company
As the Chicago Tribune recommends, when a vendor hasn’t provided you with their promised services (and say, you’ve paid months in advance), it’s best to contact your credit card company and file a claim to dispute those charges. It isn’t foolproof, especially when a gym has gone under, but it’s worth a shot.
It’s also worth digging around for that contract you initially signed with your gym that could provide some legal protections on your part — look for any lines that refer to interrupted service.
Yes, there’s also the option of taking your former gym to small claims court. But again, it’s impossible if your gym has filed for bankruptcy.
Turn Off Any Automatic Payments
If you have automatic payments set up with your gym through your checking account, be sure to turn those off. They may attempt to charge you even after your membership ends.
It may be tempting to cancel your card when a situation like this arises or when you just want out of a gym. Don’t do it. Your former gym may bring down the hammer and assign your “debt” to a collections agency, with the potential to affect your credit score.
Negotiate a Good Deal with Your New Gym
So you’ve finally made your peace with your old gym, and it’s time to look for greener pastures. You are now a hot commodity to prospective gyms, especially in competitive areas with a number of chains. Each of these chains wants a share of those members from your old gym and are willing to do whatever it takes, including getting flexible on costs.
Use your situation to negotiate a new deal when visiting prospective gyms and don’t be afraid to mention other gyms offering better deals.
Another key tip: Join a new gym towards the end of the month. Typically, membership advisors have quotas, and by the end of a given month, odds are you’ll get a better deal.
And of course, be sure to get everything in writing. If a price seems too good to be true, having it in writing might help you down the line.