leisure 06.8.09

Bally Total Fitness

It was 1992 when we first wrote about Bally Total Fitness.

We had placed a call on behalf of someone who had moved out of the country, canceling his contract with the Jack La Lanne Fitness Center, as it was then called. Bally demanded a $50 cancellation fee, a fee not provided for in the contract. "It doesn't matter," their rep said, "it's in our contract. You owe us $50."

Misleading sales practices, high pressure to sign a contract, illegal debt collection tactics, failure to provide refunds, failure to provide services, and contracts with serious 'gotchas' seemed more the company's stock-in-trade than providing fitness facilities. In 1994, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and there was a settlement requiring Bally to refund thousands in membership fees and pay civil penalties for violating fair debt collection practices. And it has filed for bankruptcy twice – in 2007 and 2008.

Still we keep hearing complaints, like a horror movie where nothing will stop the monster. But karma may have finally reached even Bally – the company has begun closing individual clubs and may not survive much longer.

If you choose to sign up at Bally, be sure you read and understand the contract thoroughly and what your financial obligations will be for the duration of the contract.

Better advice: find a different gym.


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