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SMH slams Fitness First
Reporting on the NSW Supreme Court ruling that a former Fitness First member could not be refunded a membership cancellation fee, the Sydney Morning Herald has encouraged discontented former Fitness First members to list their grievances about the company.
Beyond reporting of the case and Associate Justice Joanne Harrison's findings, the respected Sydney newspaper asked readers to share their "experience of Fitness First?" by SMS, telephone and Email.
As a result, the newspaper's website (smh.com.au) reported that it had "been inundated with emails from readers complaining about their experiences with Fitness First"
The story went on to report "about 70% were from Fitness First customers who had difficulties cancelling their memberships, or those of a loved one.
"The readers often cited injuries, health concerns, or death as the reason for cancelling, but often found their accounts continued to be debited by Fitness First.
"About 20% complained about the pushiness of staff when they inquired about joining the gym and the harsh terms and conditions of the contracts.
"The remaining customers complained about a range of other issues, including the cost of memberships and the facilities." Referring to several examples from discontented former Fitness First members, the report also interviewed Christopher Zinn, from consumer group Choice, who stated "gym memberships had a reputation for being unfair but that it was a difficult case for consumers to argue after they had signed the contract."
Readers angered by their treatment also directed smh.com.au to a group on Facebook called Fitness First Hate Group. The group, which has over 1,600 members, is promoted with the following message, "They manipulate and turn an innocent person trying to be motivated in exercise into a money machine as they get locked into a contract that is way too long. It's mean, just mean."
smh.com.au reported that "the group contains a number of discussion topics where members vent their spleen about their attempts to cancel their gym memberships."
Commenting on the story, Australasian Leisure Management Publisher Nigel Benton stated, "to those in media, a story such as this is known as 'beat em up', and it is the type of media coverage that all organisations and businesses fear. In fitness and in leisure we all too frequently seem to be on the receiving end of beat 'em ups and it does make many in the industry wary of dealings with the media."
To view the original Sydney Morning Herald report, go to www.smh.com.au/news/national/fitness-first-sick-win/2008/08/07/1217702208957.html
30th July 2008 - DE LEEDE STEPS ASIDE AT FITNESS FIRST
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