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LA Fitness Grants National Access, Bally Members Drop Lawsuit Threat

Former lifetime Bally members who felt wronged by an LA Fitness purchase will now be granted nationwide LA Fitness access, say parties involved.

 

It appears that lifetime Bally Total Fitness members, who originally appeared to have been left out in the cold after their clubs were purchased by LA Fitness earlier this month, will have a place to work off the holiday pounds after all.

According to a statement posted on the LA Fitness website late last week and follow-ups from Patch to previously unhappy customers, the company has doubled down on its decision to honor lifetime agreements, now to the satisfaction of almost all those affected.

"LA Fitness has decided to simplify the access rules and give all of the acquired Bally Total Fitness (“BTF”) members access to current LA Fitness clubs as described below," reads the statement, which also bullet points the following guidelines:

  • BTF “Local” Members will have access to LA Fitness clubs and acquired BTF clubs in the state of enrollment*;
  • BTF “National” Members will have access to those clubs in all states*; and
  • Acquired BTF members who only have single club access will continue to have access to that single club (or, if that club has closed, to another BTF or LAF club nearby).
  • *Except for New York clubs (unless you enrolled in NY) and clubs designated now or in the future as Signature and Athletic clubs.

Late November deal leaves customers angry

Word of the acquisition originally reached Patch after customers at the location on Dec. 4. LA Fitness had purchased 171 clubs throughout the country from Bally's, including 13 in the Philadelphia region, and all customer contracts at those locations, with the exception of lifetime memberships.

 This left many customers, some of whom had paid thousands of dollars for their memberships up until federal law made the creation of such contracts illegal in the mid-90's, feeling like they had been kicked to the curb.

“We’ve been members since 1984, ever since my husband and I got engaged,” said Upper Dublin resident Joan Tait, who paid roughly $2,000 for a lifetime membership. “There were years where we wouldn’t go at all, but for the last decade or so we’ve been going several times a week and never had to pay anything.”

Customers began to share similar stories and organize on message boards such as the Patch comment section and Ballyssuit.com, an online forum created by Michigan resident Jeff Levy with the ambitions of forming a class action lawsuit.

LA Fitness announces they will honor lifetime memberships

Levy began speaking with attorneys from the Philadelphia based law firm Berger and Montague, P.C., but before any litigation was filed, Paul Norris, principal for LA Fitness, contacted Patch and others to announce that the lifetime memberships. Norris told Patch this was done not because of a legal obligation, but as a service to customers.

"We don't want to disadvantage our members, especially the people who've been around for 20 years," Norris said. "We're doing it for good will. There's not many [lifetime members], but we don't want anybody to be at a disadvantage."

Over the following weeks, many members began to report that their memberships were now being recognized by the LA Fitness computer systems.

Round two: customers say they should have nationwide access

Still, many Bally's lifetime members were not satisfied and worried that a clause in the new LA Fitness contract allowed the company an “out” to begin raising renewal fees. Many members also took issue with LA Fitness allowing access to only one or several area clubs, as opposed to the nationwide access they had as members of Bally's. 

Patch spoke to a Philadelphia-based attorney about the complaints, who said that the customers had little legal ground to stand on.

"They're completely wrong about LA Fitness having an obligation to give them nationwide access," said the attorney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "That claim would be dismissed. That's not the benefit of their bargain, their bargain is access to Bally's gyms." 

However, according to its most recent statement, LA Fitness has now agreed to allow nationwide access to its members. Levy says the company should be credited.

"LA Fitness has been one hundred percent [helpful], they've gone over and above what they had to legally do," said Levy. "I had an attorney say to me 'no way you are going to get access to all the LA Fitness gyms, you didn't have that access before so you were never wronged.' We should be praising LA Fitness."

Levy says Ballyssuit.com will remain for additional issues

Some members on Ballyssuit.com continue to file complaints against the company, but other members involved in the process say that these are rare "worst case" scenarios. Many involve members whose lifetime memberships were originally purchased at a Bally's location that hadn't been purchased in the deal, but had been regularly using a different Bally's that was shutdown. Levy says he is still working with these cases on an individual basis, and has a direct contact to an LA Fitness representative who is responsive on requests.

"I get the [customer's] info, name, phone number, and can take that right to my [contact] and it goes right to corporate," said Levy. "He comes back and tells me if it's not going to get fixed and why, or he says that it is fixed and they're now in the system."

Levy originally planned to close the Ballyssuit.com site in late December, but says he now plans to leave it up through January in order to continue assisting former Bally's members. He told Patch that any readers who still have questions and complaints should post to the site's message board if they're not receiving satisfactory help from customer service representatives.

 Levy says that he has administered the website out of a desire to help other customers, 

don January 13, 2012 at 08:47 PM
OK I'm one of the unlucky members that enrolled in rockville center ny ballys in 86 lifetime member now I can only go to that club the rest are taken over by la fitness not fair if I had joined at levittown ny I could go to the la fitness club smkes no sense I paid as much as all the other lifetimers in the other ballys/la fitness clubshelp...
joan walker January 16, 2012 at 03:39 PM
check this out http://lafitness.com/pages/announcement.aspx good news!!!!!!!! hrf
Alan Grudy January 20, 2012 at 09:55 AM
Same here Don. LA Fitness did not acquire my Bally's in another state, I live in Southern California now and all the Bally's have been changed to LA fitness except in Northern California. That site Ballyssuit is closed, does anyone know how to get a hold of Jeff Levy? Thank you.
C. Mitchell January 23, 2012 at 09:32 AM
Today is Jan 23, 2012. I've read in this article and elsewhere that LA fitness will honor my Ballys national membership. I have been calling both Bally's and LA Fitness since 1/2/2012, and as of yet, have not spoken to one person, who will tell me how to make that happen. In fact I get the opposite; Ballys said i can sell my membership (since it is of no value to me, as there are no Ballys within 2 hours of me now), and LA fitness (at least the reps I've spoken to) claim no knowledge of the agreement (that's listed on LA Fitness' site) to honor our membership. Will someone PLEASE do a follow up to this to expose what is really going on?
LAMIN William February 05, 2012 at 02:45 AM
I paid to renew my membership to find that that's returned the payment 30 days later saying ballys have been brought it is a lifetime membership What do I do helpless lw90056@yaho.com
Andy March 04, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I was granted entrance to all la fitness thanks to their reevaluation from the beginning of your law suit thanks to all parties involved thank sandy nyc
george prussack April 12, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The LA Fitness at Copiaque , NY has had problems with the steam room for months . Since December when LA took over the steam room has been in usable operation for only a week. 5 months with out an usable operating steam room is outrages. George
Susan Carr May 23, 2012 at 01:52 PM
I sent a letter to LA Fitness HQ in CA explaining that my husband and I have both been Ballys members for over 20 years and that he joined the Rockville gym specifically because they had racquetball courts. When I met him, I lived in Virginia and belonged to Golds, but then joined Ballys ($2K downpayment and lifetime membership). When we married in 2007, I moved to Rockville MD to live with my husband and began going to the Rockville gym regularly. Now that LA Fitness has bought Ballys, the closest gym to our home is your ‘signature’ club which I am unable to go to without an upgrade just because I did not purchase my Ballys membership at the Rockville MD location. We go to the gym together, there is no reason for one of us to be allowed to attend the Rockville location and the other to be restricted to another club that is 8 miles further from our home. Additionally, the LA Fitness ‘signature’ club described as an upgrade to our Ballys gym that closed, but does not offer racquetball which actually is a downgrade. I have not heard back yet. Susan
Robin Richardson June 18, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I purchased a lifetime, nationwide membership in 2004 at the Rockville, MD Bally's location for 4 family members. I dropped the one family member but paid maintenance fees until Jan. 2011 when Capital One purchased Chevy Chase Bank & I got a new bank card. I had spoken with Bally's HQ before about delinquent maint. fees & they said I could freeze an account or just pay the delinquent maint. fees. So, I didn't worry. My daughter separated from my account since she began sessions with a Bally's personal trainer in 2011 and was paying both the maintenance costs and personal trainer costs from her own account. Then she began the Insanity workouts at home so her last viist was December, 2011. When she tried to return in the beginning of April, 2012, she was told her account was revoked. My Bally's lifetime membership is not in the database, hers is showing revoked. My data was lost. Mike at customer service is dodging my calls. I call everyday and I am promised that he will call me back in 10 minutes, at the end of the day, he is in a meeting or on a conference call. I never receive the call back. This is also true of the individual managers at LA Fitness. Runaround. My Bally's lifetime membership has vanished and is nixed because I was not paying maintenance fees. My daughter was nixed because they said she didn't get current by March but we didn't even know Bally's was bought - never received notification.
Lenny August 24, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I had a national Balls membership since 1985. Prior to LAF purchase, I had access to NY Ballys club. I now must pay a daily fee to use Ny clubs, and only the Ballys converted to LAF. I stay in ny a month at a time so $5 a day adds up.
sally ann parker June 06, 2013 at 04:05 PM
I live in Hyattsville, Md and I was using the Bally in Capital Heights. I hadn't use the membership in over 2 years but it's a lifetime membership and it should be valid. Question: why did Bally sent out a notice to it lifetime members? I went to the location the other day and I saw the LA Fitness on the building. I have a lifetime membership from Bally since 1979. So tell me this; will La Fitness honor this membership? I will see about it today June 6, 2013.) sally.

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