FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Exercise is an important part of staying healthy. That is why a lot of people join health clubs. As a Wake County woman found out, once you sign up it is difficult to change your mind.
Health club contracts are often ironclad. In order to cancel, there is a very limited window of opportunity and you have to follow very specific rules.
Julie Hinton, a student at North Carolina State University, saw Beyond Fitness's ad for an inexpensive membership. She went to the Maynard Road location in September and met with an employee.
"It was so high pressure," Hinton said.
In order to get the deal, Hinton had to sign a two-year contract for $399. She would pay half up front and half three months later. Hinton says she got caught up in the moment.
"He said, 'Oh yeah, if you sign today you get this and this and this' and 'if you sign now you just need to sign here.' So I felt like, 'OK,I have to sign.'" she said.
Hinton paid with her credit card. Later that day, she had second thoughts.
"I started doing the math and I really didn't have the money. I really couldn't pay off a $400 gym membership that I didn't think I would actually be able to use that much," she said.
According to the contract, Hinton had three days to cancel, so she did. The form she completed says to mail it to an office in Texas, but an employee told her he would send it in and that Hinton would get a credit within a month.
When Hinton did not get credited, she called Beyond Fitness and was told they never got the form. Hinton faxed copies, but was told it was too late. Repeated calls got her nowhere.
"I got so fed up with it," she said before calling Five On Your Side.
Owner Thomas Flynn apologized to Five On Your Side and blamed the problem on the employee who took Hinton's cancellation form instead of having her send it by certified mail.
Flynn immediately sent Hinton a $314 check. Because of a mix-up, Hinton's refund was $85 short. Beyond Fitness is sending another check.
Hinton says she learned an important lesson.
"Don't sign anything. Look over stuff and find out exactly what you're getting into before you sign anything," she warns.
The three-day cancellation clause is required by state law. Many contracts have an automatic renewal clause, so unless you cancel 30 days before the end of the contract, it will automatically renew for another year and you will not be able to cancel.
Beyond Fitness was supposed to open a Fuquay-Varina location in December. When it still was not open in February, people who pre-paid for memberships months earlier were upset. Flynn blamed the delay on construction problems. He says the club opened a few days after WRAL's report aired.