Seattle Executive Fitness, and many other gym businesses, have become well known for their various fraudulent business practices. Dozens of members and former members of Seattle Executive Fitness have described their horrific experiences as victims of such practices using reviews on yelp.com. Instead of owning up to the fact that his corrupt business uses illegal, unfair business practices, Seattle Executive Fitness owner Merle Gregg uses his ability to respond to yelp.com reviews by denying the truth and basically calling such reviewers liars. Merle Gregg doesn't seem to ever apologize for the trouble his busieness creates, and instead uses yelp.com to whine at and berate his former customers. He doesn't appear to be self aware enough to realize that almost all of his posts on yelp.com just reaffirm his well deserved reputation as a retaliating bully. Merle Gregg doesn't seem to understand that for every customer he scams, that former customer will tell a dozen of their friends, who will tell a dozen of their friends, none of whom will ever be customers of his business.
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For example, one highly credible former member named Amy described the process she went through trying to end her membership in a review she posted to yelp.com (see screenshot). In her description on yelp.com, she described a couple of the scam techniques that Seattle Executive Fitness staff members have been known to employ on unsuspecting gym members. In Amy's case, she tried to follow the membership cancellation procedure and instructions provided in the membership contract precisely, by going to the facility to cancel her membership in person. The absolutely ridiculous excuses she was given by the staff member at the counter was that they were all out of cancellation forms, and that they needed to print more of them. Then the Seattle Executive Fitness staff person apparently flat out lied to Amy and told her that she could cancel her membership via billing provider ABC Financial over the telephone. That statement was also clearly a lie, in part because it is not provided for in the membership contract. Obviously, this former gym member later discovered too late that nothing she had done had actually canceled her membership and that the scam companies Seattle Executive Fitness and billing provider ABC Financial continued to defraud her debit/credit account after her attempts to end her membership. The only way she could have protected herself was by following the steps outlined in the paragraphs below. The one truthful thing she was told via an electronic mail from SEF staff member Katherine Pfizenmaier, was that nothing Amy had done actually cancelled her membership. Of course Katherine Pfizenmaier also fraudulently claimed that the front desk had cancellation forms on hand. It seems like every current Seattle Executive Fitness member should ask for and obtain a membership cancellation form to keep on hand long before an occasion for membership cancellation arises. It should be interesting to find out what scams and excuses Seattle Executive Fitness staff has for current members who try to ask for a membership cancellation form just to take home for future use. Members should please to try it, and send a confidential electronic mail to this blog about the experience using the email address in the right column of this blog. Every member of every fitness club should be forewarned that these fraudulent tactics are epidemic throughout the entire health club industry. When cancelling a membership it is absolutely essential to get all the paperwork in writing. It is essential not to be hoodwinked by the various illegal tactics health club staff members will use to stall and avoid performing the membership cancellation process.
There are additional steps to take after getting all the membership cancellation paperwork in writing, and signed by gym staff. First, make multiple photocopies of the membership cancellation paperwork. Using U.S. Certified Mail with return receipt requested, send the gym a certified mail letter notifying the gym that you have followed their cancellation procedure, that you are ending your membership and that you have included a photocopy of the completed paperwork as an enclosure with the letter. Send a backup copy of the letter just described to the gym, using a little known device called a Postal Service Certificate of Mailing. A Postal Service Certificate of Mailing provides proof of sending a document, but not of its actual receipt. However, courts of law consider a Postal Service Certificate of Mailing complete proof of communication. This is useful in case the gym refuses acceptance of the certified mail letter as another scam way of thwarting efforts by the customer to comply with gym membership contract procedures, Send a similar letter via certified mail to your financial institution notifying the bank, credit union, or credit card provider, that you have canceled your membership, enclosing a photocopy of the cancellation paperwork, and telling the financial institution that you have revoked authorization for the gym and ABC Financial to take money from your account.
All this paperwork and backup is necessary to create a paper trail of evidence for use in small claims court to sue the gym if they continue to take money from you after you have canceled your membership. Remember that you cannot and should not rely on any verbal promises or assurances you receive from either Seattle Executive Fitness (any other gym) or ABC Financial. The paperwork is essential as evidence. Be sure to make and keep copies of your original gym membership contract and any advertising for special rates and deals to which you may have responded. Winning a lawsuit depends entirely on having evidence to support your claim. Unfortunately for Amy W. she is still discovering that certified mail may seem archaic in the internet age, but a certified mail letter is the only evidence that is likely to be persuasive in small claims court.
If after following all the steps above, you find that Seattle Executive Fitness, or any other gym, unlawfully takes money from your bank account after you have closed your membership, have your bank migrate your account business to a new account number. If your bank charges you fees for this fraud protection service, be sure to keep all the paperwork for the fees. If you take any time off work to deal with these problems, keep a detailed log of the time spent, because that time, and the bank fees, can be added to a claim for monetary damages in court for people in professions where billable hours have been lost dealing with such a problem. All the time you spend updating online accounts whose debit/credit information must be changed, the hours spent doing so may also be part of a damage claim in small claims court. Instructions for filing and litigating a small claims court lawsuit are available here.
Over the course of numerous years, Merle Gregg and Seattle Executive Fitness, and his F Better Business Bureau rated Epicenter Fitness before that, have developed a reputation for the billing and membership cancellation scams described here. However, Seattle Executive Fitness and Merle Gregg aren't the only fitness business that operates this way. The Puget Sound area has suffered through a long history of such unscrupulous businesses, dating back at least to the 1990s when gyms such as Hart's Athletic Club and another called LivingWell Lady were eventually sued by the State Attorney General because of their systematic frauds. The LivingWell Lady chain was even barred entirely from doing business in Washington State.