Navigating Health Club Memberships During the Coronavirus Shutdown

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is encouraging people to contact their club directly to see what options are available

Row of treadmills in gym
Getty Images, File

Among the non-essential businesses that are closed right now are health clubs and gyms.

Healthworks locations may be closed, but exercise continues online. The company is offering its clients remote training and interactive workout experiences at home.

Mark Harrington Jr., the president of Healthworks Group, says they are working with their clients to make adjustments to their memberships.

“Anyone who reaches out to us, we’re happy to downgrade their memberships to be virtual which basically gives them pre-recorded group fitness classes and live fitness classes,” Harrington said.

For clients who can’t pay right now, Harrington said they are happy to zero out their payments until they reopen.   

But he said the vast majority of their members have continued to pay in full and he is grateful for their loyalty during these difficult times. 

“Like any other small business, we have obligations,” said Harrington. “And we have team members that work really hard that we are trying to support throughout and the revenue coming in is allowing us to do that.”

But some members of another gym, Boston Sports Clubs, say they are having a hard time getting answers regarding their memberships.

The facilities closed on March 16 and the company’s Facebook page shows dozens of inquiries from members asking how to cancel or freeze their memberships.

Company Facebook posts direct members to an email address which generates an automated response from BSC’s parent company, Town Sports International.

The message reads in part, “once we’re up and functionally running, our clubs we will handle all of your concerns, including credits to your memberships.”

NBC10 Boston reached out to the company twice and only received the automated response.

On Tuesday, Town Sports International notified members via email that they are now offering a free exercise streaming service and reiterated that will address billing and membership concerns once they reopen. They are also offering membership upgrades to customers.

The Better Business Bureau said it is fielding a lot of questions from people who are still being charged by clubs that are closed.  

“We’re trying to encourage people to work directly with gyms, the manager at the gyms, to see if they can come to an appropriate resolution prior to contact the BBB,” Paula Fleming said.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is also encouraging people to contact their club directly to see what options are available.

The office has posted guidance on its website saying Massachusetts law gives you the right to cancel any contract you may have with a health club if the club “substantially changes the operation of the health club or location.”

It says if your club has closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is the view of the office that this counts as a substantial change to the operation of the club and you are entitled to cancel your contract if you wish to do so.

If you can’t get in touch with your club and you’re still being charged, you may want to dispute the charges with your credit card company or call your bank directly.

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