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Blog: Damned Either Way on Cancellations

Recently, we posed five real scenarios regarding members who asked for special treatment regarding membership cancellations. What we didn't mention is that in each of those cases, we resolved the issue in the member's favor. What we also didn't mention is how little business value we see in those resolutions because those members had no appreciation for the fact that they were asking us for an exception. They just wanted us to do what they wanted.

Had they appreciated it, and maybe gone out to tell their friends how wonderful we are, or maybe just said "thank you," it might have made us feel better. But the truth is that we simply caved to make the problems go away. The sad truth for us, and we believe for many health club owners and managers, is that we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Or, to use another phrase, no good deed goes unpunished.

Here's a great example of that. This email exchange is with a member (we'll call her Member) who at one point was having financial difficulties. In order for her to keep her membership active, we offered her half off our regular dues for three months. Pretty nice, huh? When her three months of half-off dues was completed, she continued with her membership for another year. Then she called and told us she had cancelled by phone six months ago, but just noticed she was still being charged (how much financial hardship could she have had if she didn't pay attention to her bills?). Even though we only take cancellation requests in writing, which made us dubious of her claim, we cancelled her immediately and gave her six months of credit to use whenever she wanted to start again. VERY nice of us, right?

She rejoined in Feb. 2012…and here's how it ended:

From: Rob Bishop To: MemberSent: Monday, July 30, 2012 10:40 AMSubject: Membership Cancellation

Hi Member,

I saw your cancellation request and we are sorry to be losing you.

Unfortunately, you will be responsible for your August dues. As I'm sure you are aware (since you have been a member for a long time and it is also specified on the form you filled out online) we require 14 days notice for any changes to your account. Your August dues are due on the second of the month. Since your regular account has been closed, please call the club (or stop by) with your new account. If I am not here, any staff person will be able to help you.

Member, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me again.

Rob BishopElevations Health Club570-620-1990

From: Member To: Rob Bishop Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 8:13 PMSubject: Re: Membership Cancellation

Hi Rob,

When I thought I could use my credit of 6 months, I told the receptionist that I would ONLY USE THE CEDIT, I can't afford to continue. Unfortunately I couldn't use ONE day of my credit, check the records, I didn't come ONE day. So I was quite surprised of your email stating I would have to pay for August. I told them from day one it was the credit only! I am sorry I can't afford to come, I can't afford it at this time. Please understand. From: Rob Bishop To: MemberCc: Barry from Elevations Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 12:01 PMSubject: Re: Membership Cancellation

Member,

Now I'm a little confused. I looked up the paperwork you filled out when you came back in February. At that time you signed up for another year in the club--half of it already paid for with your credit. You signed (and initialed) the membership application indicating that billing would start on 8/2/12. You even provided your new billing information. If you would like me to mail you a copy of your paperwork, please let me know where to send it. (I will not hold you responsible for the other 5 payments that you agreed to.)

I'm sorry that you were unable to get here to use your credit. Whether or not a member attends the club and how often, is an individual matter that we obviously have no control over.

Member, as I'm sure you are aware, the club has tried very hard to be accommodating so that you could continue as a member. And we were happy to do that. Our members, and their health, are very important to us. We made it possible for you to pay a reduced dues fee for several months. After that, we made arrangements for the 6 month credit. At this time, I'm afraid it would simply be unfair to our other members to make another exception for your account. You will be responsible for the August dues because your request to cancel did not arrive in time. If you would like to set up a payment plan or arrange to make a payment on a later date, please let me know.

Also, please feel free to contact again with any other questions.

Rob BishopElevations Health Club570-620-1990

From: Member To: Rob Bishop Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 5:05 PMSubject: Re: Membership Cancellation

Rob, I was taking care of my mom, who has since passed away, I didn't realize that billing was still going on. I spoke to you about a refund and you said I could have a credit. When I went in Feb. I told the girl I had a credit and I was only going to use that up. She checked and noted the credit. She had me initial the paper and said I would be billed again in August, but I said I am ONLY using the credit, so that is why I sent a note to make sure I wouldn't be billed. I never used 1 day of my credit.I think the mix up came in Feb, when I told her credit only. I too am sorry I couldn't go to the club but sometimes things happen. Thank you for your time.Sincerely, Member

From: Rob Bishop To: Member Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 5:38 PMSubject: Re: Membership Cancellation

Sorry to hear about your mother. Rob BishopElevations Health Club570-620-1990

From: Member To: Rob Bishop Sent: Monday, August 6, 2012 8:15 PMSubject: Re: Membership Cancellation

I checked today at my bank and the $56 was not put back into my account.From: Rob Bishop To: Member Cc: Barry from Elevations Subject: Re: Membership Cancellation Sent: Tue, Aug 7, 2012 2:06:39 PM

Member,

At this time, I have no reason to refund the August dues charges. I am going to put a copy of the membership application you signed in February (when you returned to the club) in the mail to you today. Please look at it carefully. Then feel free to contact me again.

The application you signed (and initialed twice) indicates that you were joining the club for 12 months, 6 of which were paid for with your credit. You then provided billing information for the remaining 6 months. While I think it is somewhat unfair to our other members, I will cancel the remaining payments that you agreed to. However, with only 3 days notice to stop billing on the August dues, I think it is completely unreasonable to expect the club to make yet another concession on your account.

Member, as I said, please take a look at the contract when it arrives to you, and then feel free to contact me again. I would hate for any member to leave the club under less than ideal terms.

Rob BishopElevations Health Club570-620-1990

And yet the next time something like this happens, we'll cave and try to do the right thing for each member. Sometimes we wonder why we bother.

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