Murphy, 49, of West Caldwell, is a former bodybuilder and martial arts competitor. In the 1980s, he placed in the top three for contests including Mr. New Jersey, and he retired his martial arts career with a first place win in a 2004 competition.
“I remain active, staying in shape,” he said. “No one gym has it all.”
As such, he belonged to several gyms, including the New York Sports Club (NYSC) in West Caldwell. But in May 2012, he decided to cancel that membership.
Murphy said he called the gym to cancel over the telephone, and he also hand-delivered a letter requesting the cancellation.
“Unknowingly, they kept charging my credit card for over a year,” Murphy said. “This happened because I go to several gyms in the area and my wife did not realize that I canceled, so she kept paying.”
It was July 19, 2013, when Murphy discovered the billing. On that day, he said, he went to NYSC and spoke to an employee at the front desk, who said the gym had no current manager, and that several had been let go since Murphy first joined the gym two years before. The employee gave Murphy a handwritten note with contact information for the corporate office.
Sensing trouble, Murphy went directly to the local police station to make out a report for unauthorized use of a credit card. When he returned home, he called the corporate office, he said, speaking to a woman named Sadia.
Murphy explained the situation and per Sadia’s request, he said, he sent her all the related documentation.
Murphy said he tried to be patient, but when he didn’t hear back, he tried to reach Sadia several times to no avail.
By November 2013, there was still no answer or response from NYSC corporate, so he returned to the gym on Nov. 11 and spoke to a new manager, going through his story again.
“I also explained that even though I spoke to Sadia in July, my credit card was still being charged,” he said.
Murphy said the manager told him that this is a common problem, but most people catch it sooner. Murphy explained why he didn’t see the billing issue sooner, and the manager offered a return of six months of fees, saying Murphy would have to call corporate about the rest. The manager then officially canceled Murphy’s contract in writing.
The manager also said he’d reach out to Sadia in the corporate legal department. Murphy explained Sadia’s lack of response, and the manager asked Murphy to give him a few days.
But by Nov. 25, Murphy didn’t hear from the manager, so he tried to call Sadia in the corporate office.
“At the corporate office I was put on hold, disconnected several times and was even told there is no legal department or an employee named Sadia,” Murphy said.
The same day, Murphy said, he called the local manager again.
“I was put on hold and then was told he was not in,” Murphy said. “I then called back a few minutes later from another number and stated a different name and that I wanted to come in to sign up for a new membership. Magically, the manager was in and took my call.”
Murphy said he asked why no one got back to him, and this time, the manager said he couldn’t contact Sadia or anyone in the corporate office, and that only a regional manager could do that.
Aggravated, Murphy went home and contacted Bamboozled.
“I’m definitely getting lied to and given the runaround,” Murphy said. “I wonder how many people have been cheated by a system designed to take advantage of customers coming to them in good faith.”
It seems there have been many, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Murphy filed a complaint, providing contact information for both the local gym and the corporate office.
He received a response from BBB on Jan. 13, saying the gym did not respond to the BBB inquiry.
The BBB website gives New York Sports Club an “F” rating, citing 235 complaints in the past three years, including 55 that went unanswered by the company.
We reached out to the corporate office and a rep from the parent company — Town Sports International — responded in hours.
“I have requested a refund of $866.70,” rep Tony Fucci said in an email. “This represents all dues paid beginning June 1, 2012.”
Fucci said he reviewed Murphy’s membership in detail to see what contact he’d had with NYSC’s member services department. He didn’t see any, but he confirmed the contract was canceled at the local gym.
Still, he said, the decision to grant the refund came for two reasons.
“First, I did not locate any usage on the membership since Mr. Murphy states he requested his cancellation,” he wrote. “Second, Mr. Murphy’s persistence in contacting the police, BBB and the media shows me that he truly tried to cancel and we did not process it.”
Fucci said this kind of matter is not something the legal department would handle, apologizing that Murphy was misdirected and saying he’d make sure the West Caldwell gym understood that.
Fucci also addressed the Better Business Bureau issue, saying he’s the guy who responds when complaints come in.
“The BBB still does not send all complaints directly to me and continues to send some to mailboxes that are not monitored,” he wrote. “I have tried to remedy this issue by contacting the several regions of BBB that we deal with only to have been met with apathy and a ‘pass the buck’ mentality.”
The very next morning, before 9 a.m., Murphy sent us an email.
“I don’t think the banks are even open yet!” he wrote, sharing a message from his bank that said, “A credit for the amount of $866.70 has been applied to your credit card.”
Murphy said he wants other gym customers to learn from his experience if they ever want to cancel a membership.
“Even if the facility does not require a signed document, I would have a notarized letter made and signed by yourself and see a manager personally to request their signature on it as well,” he said. “No matter who does your bills — accountant, business partner or your wife — make it a point to check or notify them of the cancellation so you can catch the mistakes soon.”
Amen, brother. We couldn’t have said it better.
Thanks to NYSC’s Fucci for being so responsive, and acting in a way that’s the exact opposite of the reputation of so many fitness clubs.
A few more notes:
Fucci said if customers have a billing issue, most can be handled right at the club. If that doesn’t work, customers can call (877) 258-2311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also reached out to the Better Business Bureau to share Fucci’s contact information, hoping more complaints can land on his desk and be resolved for customers. BBB said it would contact him directly to confirm his information.