OK...I'm not normally one to use my blog as a soapbox for rants and raves, but I have absolutely had it.
I have been a member at East Shore Athletic Club (ESAC), Wentworth St. location, since June 2007, shortly after they opened. Since I joined with two skirt! co-workers, they gave us a group deal...$5 off the monthly fee. Cool!
I loved the gym...I liked the machines and the instructors (it's the smallest of their locations, with the fewest machines and classes). There was an option to become a member at all locations for a larger fee, but Wentworth's location was most convenient since I live and work downtown, so I didn't see any need to join them all. I used my membership off and on for a year. After that year, my two co-workers decided not to renew their memberships (smart ladies). I, however, was not so wise. I had started attending yoga regularly and loved the instructor. Also, I found a workout groove: I could leave work at 5 and do cardio on the treadmills until the 6pm yoga class. They also added lunchtime yoga classes on Thursdays and eventually Fridays. So for a while, things were great. I renewed in June 2008 for another year.
Then, with no warning (actually, I think it was about two days warning--only because our yoga instructor had heard the news and passed it on to us) EASC signed a contract with the College of Charleston to allow all students free membership to all ESAC locations. The Wentworth location borders the CofC campus, and where do you think all the college students (especially those living in dorms, without cars) are going to go to the gym? So, out of nowhere, the EASC location (the smallest one, with the fewest machines) is FLOODED with college kids, and me, a paying member, now has to stand around and wait for a treadmill or elliptical to open up. Most often, no machine would open up in time, so I would just have to stand around till 6 to go into yoga. After a while, I just stopped going to evening classes because it was so irritating. However, I kept going to the lunchtime yoga classes. They were such a great break from the workday. After a few months the instructor told us that Friday classes were cancelled, due to a decision made by someone in charge at ESAC.
Suddenly, all the little irritating things that I had ignored started bothering me...they are really bad at answering phones. They never inform members about changes (i.e., telling them that hundreds more people will now be joining the gym FOR FREE and not offering any other options to paying members). There is no good communication between ESAC employees and non-ESAC instructors (i.e., my yoga instructor) so if you call to ask about a class, no one will know the answer, so they'll pass the phone to three different people and all give you a different answer.
Late last year, the yoga instructor I like informed us that she was going to be going abroad and no longer teaching at ESAC. When she was replaced by another instructor I'd heard horror stories about from when she taught at a different location, I stopped attending all-together.
About a few weeks later, I get a vague email from ESAC (from a Yahoo! address?!) about there being a problem with my account and to please bring a voided check to the front desk. Seeing as how this was right before Christmas and I was out of town, I got sidetracked and forgot about the email. I got a second email with the same message last week. Then, when I picked up mail from my old landlord, I found that apparently the direct withdrawal from my account wasn't going through to ESAC and since this had happened for two months, I had $60 in charges! Despite the fact that they had my home and work numbers on my contract, not a single person called--they just depended on vague, automated emails to do the trick.
I went by the East Shore location today to speak with someone about the situation. I haven't had low funds in the past few months, and even if I did, I have overdraft protection. I assumed there was just an error somewhere.
After talking with a manager(?), it turned out that I hadn't signed up my checking account to remove funds, but that I signed my debit card to it and I had recently gotten a new debit card. Being the airhead that I am, I didn't realize that a debit card's numbers change with each new card. She and I laughed off the mistake, but then she told me I'd still have to pay the extra $60 in charges. I explained to her that I'd been a client since the gym opened and that I'd never had any issues before, so could those charges be removed, just this once? Her response? Nope. Then I asked if those $60 could go to a gym cancellation fee. Her response? No. Why? BECAUSE YOU CAN'T CANCEL YOUR MEMBERSHIP. You aren't allowed. Unless you MOVE OVER 50 MILES AWAY OR DIE, that is. Seeing as how my name is in the masthead of skirt! every month, I doubt I could play the, "Oh, yeah...I AM moving" card. Or, I could "give" the rest of my membership to someone else (though they still have to pay) for a measly $25 fee. Anyone want a membership to the WORST gym on earth? Come on down!
Not only that, but when I asked her what is done for people who are dissatisfied with the service, she acted shocked. I explained the issue with all the students being on the machines when I like to work out, and she informed me that it's very early at 6am. Never mind that I already have a morning routine...I should just adjust my schedule to work around a bunch of kids who get in for free.
So now, after writing them a check for two months of membership plus $60, they get my membership fee every month until the middle of June...a great reward for them and a kick in the head for me.
I assume full responsibility for not updating my address and for not realizing that debit cards' numbers change with each new card. But the fact that they are a customer-based company and they don't provide an OUNCE of customer service is disgusting. Obviously they are hurting for money and that's probably why they took on all the College of Charleston kids. However, it just seems to be the worst way to do business. What happens when the College of Charleston finishes their shiny, new gym and all the students go back? If this is how you treat the people who have been there since the beginning, who are you going to have left then the kids leave?
Hopefully, no one.
East Shore...YOU SUCK.