Gym members don’t pull any punches

Fagri Miller and Sharon Pereth, members of the Plattekloof branch of Planet Fitness, had a problem they couldn’t resolve.

Mr Miller, of Thornton, joined the gym in 2010 and because he “enjoyed it so much” he bought two membership vouchers when the sales team assured him they didn’t have an expiry date.

In 2011, Mr Miller redeemed one of the vouchers.

“When I wanted to redeem the second voucher, I approached Planet Fitness in mid-August 2016 (five years later) planning to sign up for September. After the sales woman discussed it with her manager, Warren McNichol, she was only prepared to sign me up for August. I was not happy with this as we were already two weeks into August.

“I returned to the gym on October 1 where Warren refused to sign me up. But he was going to ask head office what to do. He didn’t make contact with me and I had to call him numerous times in October for feedback. I expressed my disgust that a whole month had gone by and nothing had been resolved. Finally, on November 2, Warren stated in an email that they can’t redeem my voucher as three years have gone by and it had expired,” said Mr Miller, who claimed there was no expiry date on the voucher and that Planet Fitness did not tell him they would expire after three years.

“I paid for these vouchers and would like Planet Fitness to honour them,” Mr Miller said.

Ms Pereth said she had had a lifetime membership at the health centre. However, in May 2016, Planet Fitness had stopped it, telling her it was only valid for three years.

“I took my contract with me to prove to them that it was a lifetime membership, and, since then, I have been struggling to get any sort of resolution. I’ve phoned often and been to the gym at least 10 times but to no avail,” said Ms Pereth, of Monte Vista.

“I am at my wits’ end. Yolande, from HQ, said she would look into it and get back to me. She didn’t. I dealt with Marie at Plattekloof, and she told me she would sort it out. I even went to see her, and she promised me that Neil Brits would contact me. When I went in the next day, I heard that Marie had resigned and Neil wasn’t at the gym. Warren (McNicol) has on a number of occasions told me he would get back to me; he also said he would get Mr Brits to contact me. But they didn’t, and I have had no response to any of my emails,” Ms Pereth said.

“Whenever I go to the gym the managers are in meetings or they are not there. I want this resolved as I have proof that I have a lifetime membership.”

Mr Miller said that after Off My Trolley had contacted Planet Fitness, their credit manager, Yolande Crowley, asked him for copies of the vouchers.

She offered to redeem the voucher for only six months, and he would have to pay for the remainder, but he refused. Later that day she offered to redeem the voucher for the full 12 months.

“Mr McNicol, the sales manager at Plattekloof, set up a meeting to do the paperwork, and I was helped by his replacement sales manager, Neil Brits, who speedily helped me through the application process, and I signed up. Thank you for your intervention and I admire you for being available to us little folk in times of need,” Mr Miller said.

Carmen Spence, marketing manager at Planet Fitness, said Mr Miller had bought two vouchers and used one.

“Now he would like to use the other, five years after purchase date. According to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the vouchers are valid for three years if there is no expiry date stipulated. However, we are giving Mr Miller his 12-month voucher to use as he pleases. And he was happy with the outcome,” she said.

“Unfortunately we don’t have a lifetime membership offering. This was fraudulently offered to Ms Pereth. We cannot do anything about that as her contract and ours are different. We can give her two more years; that means she has five years and she can go on the visit benefit as our contract states, which means she would have to buy her first set of visits in bundles of 50 per year. Or, we can refund her R3 900, which means she would have received three years free. We don’t have a lifetime membership offering in our business but we are prepared to honour one of the options which we feel is fair,” Ms Spence said.

Ms Pereth, however, is not that happy.

“I told Mr Brits that I would be taking the matter further as I am not happy with only five years when I have a written contract stating that I have a lifetime membership which was signed almost four years ago.

“Someone added a clause to their contract: it is in different handwriting and it appears to have been added at a later date. I think I have a very good case. Why should they get away with it so easily,” Ms Pereth said.