It wasn't always like this. I begged and pleaded for a gym membership when I was sixteen so that I could swim laps to get ready for lifeguard training the next year during the long winter months. My best friend and I even managed to get up at 4:30 in the morning to drive ten miles to the closest gym, in my rusty 1973 Volkswagen Beetle that more often than not had to be roll started even on not so cold mornings, to work out before school.
I got a membership at 24 hour fitness during college, during one of their twenty something dollar a month promotions, and was spending an insane amount of time working out back when I was playing rugby.
I even got a membership at the Sports Science Institute when I was going to school in Cape Town, South Africa, although it involved walking about six miles to get there, which in itself was a pretty good workout.
Working out at a gym was a big part of my life. So when I met Paul it seemed natural that we would work out together. He'd worked as a personal trainer for a few years and had a membership at a gym in Corte Madera. As a surprise after we'd been dating for a few months he got me a membership too and we started going together most days after work. Then I got a job working at another local gym, and my boss gave Paul a free membership too.
Canceling our membership at our old gym was a relief by that point. It had been a great gym when I'd started going, but midway through new owners had taken over and the gym had been transformed. Originally it had been the type of gym where people went to work out. One day it was reorganized (and sold) and became Five Points Fitness.
Now it looked more like a daycare center, where harried trainers were saddled with groups of ten kids under the age of twelve and instructed to teach them free weights. Watching from an exercise bike on the second floor was almost painful. A free weight hit the floor every fifteen seconds and it usually wasn't an accident. It looked like a painful lawsuit waiting to happen.
We got engaged and moved out of the city. We got married. A year after we got married we found out that we were expecting a baby. Sadie was born and I can honestly say that I hadn't thought of Five Points Fitness in quite some time....
... Until we got a phone call from Paul's mom saying that a collection agency was calling her demanding to speak with him and saying that they were going to destroy his credit and his life.
This was a major concerned. I'm more than a little obsessed with credit. I make budgets. I don't have late payments. And I'd never heard from a collection agency before.
Paul got there number and called back. It turned out that Five Points Fitness had turned our names over them to collect something like fifty dollars. On top of that was the collection agencies fee, which meant we now owed something like two hundred dollars.
I was shocked. I'd stood next to Paul when we'd cancelled our membership. We even knew the guy who'd done the paperwork: Rory. After listening to the threats of the cussing collection agent Paul called Five Points Fitness. We were very naive. We thought that since we really hadn't done anything wrong, we wouldn't have to pay. It was all one big mistake.
After about twenty calls Paul was finally put through to the owner, by an innocent desk person who hadn't yet been told that he absolutely wasn't taking our calls. He and Paul talked. And argued. They demanded that we show the receipt that proved that we'd stopped our membership. The claim was that we'd never cancelled it and so they'd kept trying to bill us. I remembered Rory handing me a receipt... Three years earlier.
Now I don't know about you, but after three years I don't know where most of my receipts are. I keep pay stubs. I keep important warranties. But during a big move it would never have occurred to me that I would ever need the receipt that said I'd cancelled my gym membership, ever again. Paul told the owner that Rory had handled the cancellation. The owner explained that he didn't work there anymore.
Here's the part that really bothers me: after a long argument the owner of Five Points Fitness finally admitted that it was fully possible that they'd made a mistake and that we didn't owe anything at all... he followed that statement by saying that he needed to cover his own costs since it had gone to a collection agency, so that we at least needed to pay. He wouldn't budge.
We ended up paying two hundred dollars to the collection agency after talks between Paul and the less than honest owner broke down.
So that's why when I think of getting back into shape, I'm a bit leery about getting a gym membership. I know there are plenty of gyms out there and not everybody has such horrible business practices (and horrible business ethics) but after this experience signing any sort of agreement would make me feel a little vulnerable. I guess my plan will include lots of walking and chasing Sadie around outside in the garden.
If you've stumbled across this site because you're think about getting a membership at Five Points Fitness in Corte Madera, you're one step ahead of where we were: at least you've been warned. And if you do get a membership you know now to keep your receipts. Forever.
Today's pictures are from those early days when we still had gym memberships :)