Around 3 months ago now I cancelled my Direct Debit to Fitness First – not because I was quitting, but because I was trying to phase out the bank account the debit was taken from. Once that was done, like a good boy, I rung them to let them know I had cancelled it and gave my reasons why, and they were fine with that. Great.
The next month I went in and paid over the counter. All was good.
Until about the 7th of this month, when I received a letter from my bank to inform me of a failed Direct Debit charge to my old account. WTF? I take a look, and the Fitness First DD has reappeared.
A quick call to my bank confirmed that the Direct Debit had been recreated, by none other than Fitness First. This, apparently, is perfectly fine as long as they inform me they’re going to do it. I received no such warning (of course I didn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have let them use an account I knew would be empty, right?)
And so I ring Fitness First in Leeds. They can’t help me, I need to speak to head office. Great. I speak to head office, and I’m told the only people that would set up a direct debit is the club themselves… You can probably imagine how I’m starting to feel by now.
I ring fitness first, and get the same guy, who straight away tells me that the woman I need to speak to is on holiday for a week.
“You have no-one else there that can talk to me about Direct Debits?”, I ask.
“No, only ****** and she’s away till next week”, he replies.
What a way to run a business. Oh, but it gets better.
Next week I ring back, she’s ill. I ring back at the end of the week, she’s still ill. The next week I leave it for fear of being driven to insanity, and when I ring back on the friday, she’s gone for the day. Sigh.
Finally, the next monday I get hold of the elusive ****** – one of the most clueless, unhelpful muppets I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with. I explain whats happened and point out that due to their unlawful attempt to take money from me, I am now a £30 bank charge down. Her instant response?
“Banks can’t charge you”
A few seconds of silence followed while I tried to process this. “What do you mean?”
“Banks can’t charge you, it’s illegal”
Deflection, a great tactic. Take the blame away from yourself and pass it onto someone else. This may have worked, had I been an idiot.
“I think you’ll find” I responded, with possibly a hint of smugness in my voice, “The courts have decided that bank charges should be governed by contractual fairness rules, and now the office of fair trading are deciding whether or not charges are fair or not. Its not illegal, and regardless I don’t think you should be trying to palm the blame off for your mistake”.
(recited from memory so may not be a 100% accurate quote – although ironically, I’d been reading up on the bank charges court case just a couple of nights before )
The next 15 minutes of conversation were a blur. The conversation went back and forth, with me pointing out as a result of her actions Fitness First had broken the law and that I should be compensated for my loss, and her saying she couldn’t “refund” me because they hadn’t actually taken anything. It escaped her (about 10 times) that I wasn’t asking for a refund, I was asking for 1-2 months free membership to cover the cost of the bank charge, the multiple phone calls and the trip to the bank to get it all sorted.
Needless to say, the call ended with her offering me nothing. It did sound hopeful briefly when she went to speak to her manager, but she came back to tell me they weren’t going to give me anything (in as many words).
And so I ended the call. I called the head office back, hoping that someone there would be intelligent enough to realise that they were about to lose a £30 a month paying customer for the sake of their blatent idiocy.
But no, unfortunately the people there were no better. I was offered a Fitness First “freeze” discount – which meant I would get next months membership for £8 – providing I paid up the month I’d missed. But lets be honest, what sort of offer is that?
And now its got to my final effort. I’m trying to arrange to see the manager of the club to see if she has the gall to try and justify Fitness Firsts actions with me face to face. But unfortunately, after leaving several messages with the front desk she still hasn’t called me back.
And so there you have it, Fitness First in Leeds are liars. They commit Direct Debit fraud and refuse to accept responsibility, and when you catch them with their fingers in the cookie jar they’ll try and palm off the blame. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll repeat the same bullshit until you’re too angry to continue the call. And if you do have the patience to continue the call? They bring out the big guns – they basically tell you to f*ck off. A little harsh, but technically true. I’d like to think this was a one-off, but the crap she was feeding me almost seemed a little too scripted.
So if you’re a member of Fitness First and you decide to cancel your Direct Debit, keep a close eye on your bank account. You may end up getting a nasty surprise a few months later.
- The Fitness First debacle part II – apologies and refunds, but they still can’t get it right
- The Fitness First debacle part III – So now you *don’t* want my money?!