Monday, January 26, 2009

East Shore Athletic Club (ESAC), Wentworth St. location, is the worst gym EVER.

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.


Hannah Chan said...

Unfortunately this is a pretty common tale for gym memberships. Most gyms have an option of paying a lump sum for a year membership in which you don't sign a contract and once you're done with the year you can renew or not (they don't advertise this because then they can't keep your bank account number on file). I really hope your gym isn't like most gyms where they continue to charge your account even once you have quit the gym. I have read a lot of reviews of different gyms an I have yet to find a contracted gym that doesn't have these problems. Maybe you can find a month to month gym like Peak Fitness? I hope it gets better!!

Sabrina said...

I definitely understand the terrors of being in a contract ANYWHERE, but what was so depressing was the lack of sympathy the employee/manager/whatever had. I'm sure she hears all sorts of stories throughout her days there, but I'm a client who's been there since the gym opened, with no prior issues, and she wouldn't give the tiniest concession. It just sucks that businesses can, by contract, tread their customers so poorly.

I've learned not to sign contracts so easily. I'm going to let my membership run out and then work out at home.

P.S. I miss you!

i'm cathy. said...

suck indeed. I feel your pain... the gym right next to my current place of employment is icky too. I got a coupon for 1 free week, and they didnt even let me have the whole week! But they are still to this day leaving me emails and voicemails about joining the gym. and I'm like, you didn't make a good impression during my "free week" why would you expect me to join your club? Where the class rooms are tiny and they always fill up? I did my free week over 1 year ago! This makes me very nervous as I LOVE fitness, and the main employment source for a beginner in that career is working at a gym. sigh.

Sabrina said... thing you have that it seems like most people who work at gyms don't have is GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS.

If you start working at a gym, your co-workers will be like..."Why does Cathy have so many personal training clients? I wonder if it has anything to do with how nice and respectful she is to everyone?!?"

Jen said...

ESAC is not concerned at all about their members or their employees. Their ONLY concern is taking as much money as they can from anyone and everyone they can. I HAVE NEVER KNOWN A MORE HEARTLESS COMPANY IN MY LIFE!!!


Sabrina said...


Since writing this entry, I've heard stories from all the locations and they all sound the same. Bad customer service, little-to-no communication with clients, and poorly paid employees. It's a shame that such a badly-run gym has so many locations, and that new members sign on without realizing the lack of quality they'll be receiving. I'm glad you agree!

Anonymous said...

fuckin idiot

Wildman said...

You do know that if you go in there and "make a scene" whether it be loud, cursing at other members, being rude to staff. etc.... They have no choice but to terminate your contract. This may just be an out for you. I've actually heard of this working... Don't know how your acting skills are. take care and good luck.

Sabrina said...

Thanks for your wise and thoughtful words, Wildman.

Anonymous said...

I think that you are blowing this out of proportion. The college of charleston gym is currently sadly lacking in materials needed for a decent workout. You should be pleased that so many youth are working out, seeing as since this country is number one for child obesity. I understand and agree that the customer service should be more helpful and attentive, and also what a rip off it is for them to not offer the same incentives to you that they are to new coming members, however, in the case of the students being there you are incorrect. They get a "free" membership, but it is anything but. You don't think those fees are included in the recently increased tuition costs of the students? Sadly, they are. So you are justified in all of your complaints except that one because they have just as much of a right to be there as you and everyone else do.

Anonymous said...

Moving to area soon. So sad to leave my wonderful YMCA system, which has great equip, great classes, great family stuff, supports the community, and is CHEAP! $50 a month for whole family, and NO contracts. ESAC creeps me out-their for-profit status is clearly evident upon walking in the door. yuck. what will i ever do?

Anonymous said...

I just recently learned ESAC has been overcharging me for the past 14 months on a 24 month contract. I have been trying to get the issue resolved for a month now with no luck. Nobody returns calls or emails. They send you to another gym location to talk to someone who is never there. Supposedly they have a new contract I signed but it can never be located. I do have the original contract though! On top of this somehow they mysteriously have my contract extended for 4 months longer than it should be. In total ESAC will have overcharged me $225.00 on a 2 year contract that was only for $600.00. ESAC is a ripoff with bad customer service. Im writing this as I wait for another "manager to return my call".

Anonymous said...

The college students get no "free" membership , you moron, the fees are reflected in tuition. they are paying customers just like you, idiot.

Sabrina said...

No need to get up in arms, Dear Reader.

This critique isn't aimed at the college or at its students; the point of contention was how poorly East Shore handled the influx of students, and the fact that they gave all prior members practically no notice. In addition, they have infamously terrible customer service skills.

I'm sure you'll forgive my error in calling it a free membership, just as I'll forgive your immature, albeit passionate, comment.

Also, an update: For those looking for other gyms, I am really enjoying my membership at Eco Fitness/Blue Turtle yoga. It has only two locations, but I frequent both of them and enjoy the staff and diverse class schedules.

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