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TL;DR I have a gym membership that allows me to use multiple locations. Another location told me I'm allowed to visit only 10x per month. I pulled out my phone to write down the name of the employee. The manager has now banned me for taking a photo which I didn't do. What recourse do I have?


I have had a gym membership since 2016 with planet fitness. I go to the gym at least 5-6 times a week. I have a black card gym membership which allows me to go to other locations that are not my home gym.

My home gym is in San Diego where I work Thursday - Sunday. On Monday - Thursday, I attend school in Los Angeles (LA) and go to a gym there. I have been going to both places since August 2018.

Today I go to the gym in LA and a worker tells me that I can no longer go to this gym because I reached the 10x per month visitor limit. This caught me off guard because I have been going there for about 8 months.

I ask to speak to a manager and she tells me the manager isn’t in yet, but they will be in at 6 AM (40 minutes away). I tell the employee that I can’t wait and ask for the employee's name. I take out my phone to type in her name in my notes. I have to ask her to spell it for me twice before I get it right. I say “okay thank you” and I leave.

Fast forward to this afternoon around 1 PM I get a call from the assistant manager saying she heard about the incident and that they reviewed the camera footage. The assistant manager is claiming that I took a picture of the worker and that there's a zero tolerance on their policy so I am banned.

I tell her I didn’t take any pictures and that I simply wrote down the worker's name. She continues to say that they have camera footage of me taking the picture so I just say okay and hang up. I've never had a problem like this in the 8 months I’ve been going there AND I just paid my annual fees and month payment. Is there anything I can do legally? I’m being accused of something that I didn’t do and in the end I’m losing money because of it.

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    How did you pay? It won't affect your legal rights, but your useful options are very different for cash vs check vs credit card. – Ben Voigt Mar 23 at 17:17
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You should review the terms of the membership agreement. In theory you could sue them if they've breached it, for example by banning you for doing something you didn't do. (I don't know whether banning you for doing something you didn't do is a breach of the agreement, because I haven't seen the agreement.) If you sue them, then the court might find one way or the other on the question of whether you actually took a picture.

The problem is that this costs way more than any amount of money you've lost. Because of that, you're more likely to get satisfaction by continuing to negotiate (nonconfrontationally is most likely to succeed), or perhaps by speaking to the manager's supervisor. If that doesn't work, you might be well advised to walk away.

As to the underlying issue, the 10-visit-per-month limit, you might do the same: read the agreement and, depending on what it says, negotiate.

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If I understand the "Black card" scheme correctly, annual membership would be $264. Maybe there are extra payments or reductions that aren't on here, but I'll assume its this kind of money.

You should look into using the Small Claims Court, which is designed to be a low-cost low-risk way of getting small amounts of money. In the UK (where I am) a small amount like this would be a £25 court fee and documentation can be served by ordinary post. The California system seems to require a process server, so maybe it will cost more.

In cases like this I've found that a written complaint ending with "Unless I receive payment within 1 month I will take action in court" is generally effective at getting my money back. phoog's point (in the other answer) that going to court will cost more than the amount at issue cuts both ways: the company will be very eager to settle. It's unlikely to get you allowed back into the LA branch, but it should get your money back.

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I think you should focus on the fact that your gym membership now gives you much less benefits for your money than it used to, because of a decision that company made.

So you should contact the company itself, not the gym, and tell them that because of what happened, you can only use the gym on 4 days a week instead of seven. And give them the options to either override the decision of the Los Angeles gym, or to cancel your subscription. You should have the right to cancel immediately, since the company substantially changed its terms.

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The good news is that it is likely that you can take them to small claims court. This is based on what appears to be a sample membership agreement out there on the internet where the dispute resolution clause says

we each agree to resolve such disputes through binding arbitration or small claims court rather than a court of general jurisdiction. For simplicity and fairness, arbitration will be conducted on an individual basis in accordance with the American Arbitration Association’s rules for consumer arbitration

Assuming that this document is essentially the same as the one you signed (find your copy...), then note that

You agree to follow Planet Fitness’ membership policies and club rules. Planet Fitness may, in its sole discretion, modify the policies and any club rule without notice at any time. Club rules vary by location and all signs posted in a club or on the premises and any verbal communication from Planet Fitness shall be considered a part of the club rules. Planet Fitness reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate your membership at any time, effective immediately, for violation of any membership policy or club rule.

It seems that they have found that you violated club rules. "Banning" is not exactly the same as terminating your membership.

That contract does state that "Reciprocal access is limited to 10 visits per month to a visiting location", and "there are additional rules and limitations governing reciprocal access, including the requirement to sign in at any visiting (non-home club) location", and "During the visit at non-home club location, PF Black Card members and their guests are required to follow non-home club policies".

The contract does not directly sanction "banning", i.e. club-specific limitation of your contractual right to access any location. On the other hand, you are required to follow club rules (which they can sets and change as they please), and it would be quite a legal stretch to say that they have no legal recourse if you violate their rules. So your argument in courts would be that they improperly deprived you of a contractual right. You still have a version of the Black Card rights, with the one condition that you can't access a specific facility. So you would need to show that the only reason you paid the extra money for BC membership is that you needed access to a specific facility.

Small claims court cannot order the LA club to let you in nor could they order that PF stop collecting the full membership fee (they don't have that power), but they could in principle order a refund of the extra $11.99 / month that you paid for the upgraded membership. The alternative which overcomes the limitations of small claims court is to submit to binding arbitration; but that probably will not work in your favor unless you first attempt to negotiate a resolution with PF Corporate.

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