Gym buyer beware

CREATED Jan 30, 2014 - UPDATED: Jan 30, 2014

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WALES - Joining a gym is always popular this time of year. But what happens when you try to cancel? Sara Sobrofski exercises in her basement in Wales. She dished out the cash for a treadmill after getting what she considered a bad experience from her neighborhood gym in Waukesha.

“I decided to join a gym. So I went to the Xperience Fitness,” said Sobrofski.

She joined the gym in September 2012. She signed a contract for $19.99 a month. The same contract clearly stated she could cancel at any time with a 30 day written notice. Three months after signing up Sobrofski decided she wanted to cancel her membership.

“At that time I sent a letter to Xperience,” said Sobrofski.

She wrote that letter in January 2103 and sent it to Xperience’s P.O. Box in Appleton as required. Members are not required to cancel at the gym.

“I didn't give it another thought,” explained Sobrofski.

But while checking her bank statement six months later she noticed something odd. Despite sending her letter, Xperience Fitness was still taking $19.99 out of her account.

“I immediately called up to the corporate office in Appleton and they never said that they never received my letter,” said Sobrofski.

So in June 2013, she sent Xperience fitness a second cancellation letter.

“I didn't think about it again, I didn't really feel like I was being scammed at that point,” explained Sobrofski.

Six months after that, she realized the payments were still being taken out of her checking account. So that’s when she contacted the I-Team for help.

Under the contract Xperience requires its members to pay using automatic withdrawal. But when Sobrofski tried to stop payments she found it wasn’t so easy.

“Once you sign and offer your check that may be money coming out of your account for a long time,” said Ran Hoth, CEO and President of Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

When the I-Team reached out to the BBB we discovered a pattern with Xperience Fitness.

“In the case of this company we have an F rating. We've had 163 complaints in the last three years,” explained Hoth.

Many of the complaints were from members at nine locations across the state. Members who said they too sent letters to Xperience and had problems ditching their memberships. Like Sobrofski, those complaining were told their cancellation letters were never received.

“This isn't just me. This isn't just the U.S. postal service. That’s part of the reason I called you to bring awareness to people,” said Sobrofski.

When the I-Team first reached out to Xperience the general manager at the Waukesha location told us by phone they were having problems with letters getting to the P.O. Box. She even acknowledged she allowed members to drop off cancellations at the gym and she was driving them to the corporate office.

Xperience had agreed to sit down and talk to the I-Team but canceled the interview. Instead they sent us a letter which read in part: “Our procedures have always been 100 percent compliant with Wisconsin statute and 99 percent of the process works.

XPerience's Response: Part 1 / Part 2

Only after the I-Team got involved did Xperience finally refund Sobrofski her money.

Xperience Fitness kept that “F” rating with the BBB until the I-Team contacted the company this month. It’s now rated as “N-R” or not rated. That means it’s now working on the remaining consumer complaints.

The BBB recommends you read the contract carefully, looking over bank statements to catch any errors and to think twice before you pay for any membership.