RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!!
I will never again do business with National Fitness Center or any other company that uses NFC as their billing service. Their long history of reported horrendously deceptive and abrasive business practices and gutter reputation speaks volumes about how little NFC values its customers, who appear to be nothing more than a $. Regardless of any promises or assurances from sales staff about ease of cancellation, once they get their hooks in, they will fight to leech every last penny out for as long as they can maneuver, manipulate, and bully into paying.
In full disclosure, I always thought that the nearly $100 a month, as well as $195 cancellation fee, was over-priced (I cannot even fathom some reviews I have seen with $300-400 monthly bills for personal training). But, my wife wanted the membership and seemed to enjoy the facility for the 2+ years of the 3-yr contract; and, happy wife = happy life. She was a dependable low-maintenance customer throughout, especially since (like most people) her gym usage waxed some and waned a lot. But, a contract is a contract, and we continued dutifully paying the monthly fees even through the many months when the membership was not used once. We never sought to find any loopholes or pestered anyone at NFC for any special consideration to cancel. And, all was good until my wife was offered a job out of state on short-notice.
My wife and I both moved to Knoxville to attend graduate school at the University of Tennessee and only ever intended to be transients in Tennessee. So, when she looked into joining NFC, she made sure to inquire about the cancellation policy and only agreed to the contract after having received assurance of cancellation should we finish school and depart the area prior to completing the initial 3-yr contract. The sales person raved about NFC’s understanding approach to customer service and addressing unforeseen issues that might arise and assured her of the ease of cancellation should we move. My wife finished her program in summer 2017. She then accepted an unexpected job interview and immediate offer in mid-March for a position to begin 1 April 2018. She notified NFC of the need to cancel membership according to their contract cancellation policy, providing them with a copy of her official federal employment contract; and, here is when all the problems needlessly began to arise.
NFC’s cancellation policy states, “You may only cancel your membership when both, your residence and employment permanently move more than 20 miles in distance from our nearest location or affiliate location." Additionally, they require that customers provide “reasonable proof of permanent change of residence and employment.” Makes sense to me. Sounds very reasonable on its face. We cannot expect a business to just take a customer’s word. And, a business definitely cannot allow customers to just cancel a service for simply any old reason, like the customer being dissatisfied with or no longer wanting the service provided. I don’t care how great the product, repeat customers are contractually made not born. Correct? So, requiring customers to jump through a few more hoops, such as ensuring that the “cancellation request and proof must be submitted in writing and be sent Certified Mail with return receipt,” is surely appropriate and actually just part of NFC’s continued commitment to your cardio fitness. One small additional point of attention for some potential customers that may anticipate needing early cancellation from NFC’s long-term contractual commitment to your health and well-being is to ensure that you know exactly how far you currently live from your nearest NFC facility; because, “If however residence or employment were already 20 miles or greater in distance from our nearest location or affiliate location when membership was purchased, you may not cancel this membership.” So, if you started out living 21 miles from the nearest NFC when you signed up, forget about ever using the early cancellation clause, regardless of how far away you might move in the future.
But, for us it was…Conditions met…Check! In the last half of March, my wife had notified NFC by phone and email of her 1 April report date to the new job and permanent duty station in Alabama (a touch too far from Knoxville, TN for commuting). Additionally, she had already forwarded to NFC her official federal employment contract, which detailed her federal hiring agency, report date, duty station, HR contact info, etc. all on signed official U.S. Government letterhead. During those initial communications, she also requested guidance for formatting and content of the cancellation letter (yes, this is necessary), as well as confirmation from NFC as to the total amount of the final bill, stating that we would remit payment in total as soon as they confirmed. NFC provided the guidance for the certified letter but completely ignored the requests to provide a billing total. The requests were still ignored and unanswered when we mailed the certified cancellation letter, with supporting documentation (i.e., employment contract; screen shots of hotel reservation/stay in Alabama during home search), in the beginning of April.
On 4 April, we received an email from NFC confirming that they had received the certified notice. They also stated that they would not accept my wife’s employment contract as proof and would require a new lease agreement and pay stub for cancellation. Throughout my years in the military, I became well acquainted with what is appropriate justification and legally acceptable for breaking a lease or contract. Official documentation of transfer or report to a distant duty station, such is the case with an official federal employment contract, is legitimate "reasonable proof of permanent change of residence and employment" and justification for cancellation all by itself. However, as an immediate extra measure in responding, NFC was informed of 20 April date for when my wife would receive then immediately forward her first pay stub. Additionally, I clarified that, due to the rapid hiring process and immediate report date, we had yet to obtain housing and would be residing in a Mobile area hotel, hence the proof of current stay and continued reservations extending through the end of May that was included in the certified letter. In combination, these are much more than "reasonable proof" of permanent move for employment. Finally, I again requested that NFC provide a final bill for immediate remittance of payment. My wife and I made this request multiple other times during April, to no avail, receiving no response whatsoever from NFC.
On 20 April, we had found our new residence and just signed the lease that morning. So, I emailed the signed lease, my wife’s pay stub, and another request for confirmation of the final billing total, to which NFC notified us of their intention to charge a $35 late fee for the April payment in addition to the $195 cancellation fee and $94.90 for April membership. They also stated that they were considering 20 April to be the date of cancellation notification and, therefore, an additional $94.90 needed to be paid for May as the 30-day notification payment. I declared my opposition to their accounting, detailed my reasoning, and told them we would pay the $289.90 they were owed for March notification with April as 30-day payment. We mailed payment of $289.90 via personal check as final cancellation payment, which was verified as received then returned unaccepted by NFC on 2 May. As a final insult delivered with our returned check, NFC sent a "final notice" demanding: "1. Past due amount of $224.80 and NEW account information Or 2. Payment in full of $1273.80 to cancel before or on May 10, 2018.” The "NEW account information" is NFC code for the process beginning anew, meaning I would need to resubmit the certified letter and documentation as well as restarting a new $94.90 30-day notice payment and the $195.00 cancellation fee, now totaling $514.70.
Finally, on 7 May, I filed a Better Business Bureau complaint, proposing that we be allowed to pay the $289.90 owed as our desired resolution, to which NFC responded by offering grossly inaccurate recollections of what had transpired and continuing to demand payment well above the $289.90. Therefore, I now consider NFC’s refusal of our appropriate payment to them as their desire to forgive the debt, as was declared to them prior to their returning our $289.90 check.
In closing, I do not believe that NFC has any legal ground to dictate where any of their customers choose to reside or if they must maintain a residence in their new community at all, as long as the physical move exceeds their stated 20-mile standard. If we wanted to live in a tent on a beach next to Mobile Bay, it changes nothing about the fact that we are living 500 miles from NFC’s facilities. Furthermore, we had requested NFC's verification of a final billing amount multiple times beginning in March and continuing through 20 April, stating each time that we would immediately remit payment. Had NFC provided a final billing statement when first requested, they would have received the cancellation fee and final 30-day April payment with the certified cancellation letter and prior to the April payment being late. However, NFC repeatedly ignored this request, then tried to penalize us $35 in addition to trying to charge another $94 for another unused extra month of membership.
NFC has proven throughout this process to have no regard for their customers or truly honoring their own contracts and clauses. Their ultimate goal appears to be putting forth any inane excuse to continue sucking every penny they can out of customers with no regard for basic reason, humanity, or customer service. This exact situation is echoed repeatedly across multiple consumer protection and rating sites and accounts for NFC's horrendous reputation. I only wish we had researched this company more thoroughly, because nothing about this gym balances out the headache and stress they needlessly inflict upon even the most dependable long-term customers. This is completely feckless and unacceptable business practice. In my experience, NFC is a chronic bad actor, akin to payday loan and other financial scammers. I believe they deserve to be the recipient of a class action suit, given what I have found and perceived to be vast numbers of misled and financially injured former customers left in NFC's wake.