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Gym accused of passing ex-members’ ‘debts’ to collections agency after contract cancellation

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jun 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 17:56:13-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Family Fitness, a local gym chain, is accused of leaving former members with unexpected debt by sending their information to a collections agency after the customers canceled their contracts.

Several frustrated people have reached out to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers about the issue.

"It's four years. Never heard a thing," Scott Rypma, a former member, said. He said he joined the Family Fitness on Plainfield in 2013 but quit after having issues about having 24-hour access as advertised.

Rypma said he talked to a manager and "explained to him what was going on, and that I wanted out. It's supposed to be 24/7. So I'm going to go to a different gym that's actually 24/7. He said, 'Yeah, we're going through some lawsuits, so I understand your frustration, and I'll take care of it.'"

Rypma said he thought everything was fine after he canceled his contract and withdrawals from his checking account ceased. But in April this year he got a letter in the mail that Swift Funds Financial Services, a collections agency, claimed he owed $250, he said.

"I have the same phone number, same email that I put on my contract since I've had it since 2005," Rypma added, "and I had never got a call or an email."

When he called Family Fitness, Rypma said the manager told him "it's out of our hands."

Crystal Patterson, another customer, said her supposed debt is nearly 10 times that amount. She said she was dissatisfied with the Sparta location and decided to end her membership in late 2016. She thought she was in the clear until the gym contacted her anbd said she owed $450. She said she started making payments, but then she got a surprise call from the collections agency.

"It was $2,077," she said.

Patterson said she got no calls or letters notifying her of a problem.

"I told them I'm going to contact Problem Solvers," she said. "I know I'm not the only one that this has happened to."

We found Family Fitness currently has a 'C' rating with the Better Business Bureau, along with 98 complaints.

FOX 17 tried reached out by phone and email to the Family Fitness corporate office, but we have not received a response. The collections agency hung up on us.

Consumer advocates recommend gym memberships that allow you to pay monthly or quarterly with no contract. They also suggest you avoid multi-year contracts. If there is a contract, some gyms require that you send a certified letter to cancel. Document that, and maintain any and all communications. Of course, always read the fine print.