I want to break up with the gym

This is an experience I had trying to quit my gym a few years ago before I had a blog, which meant I  “blogged” by sending my “posts” through e-mail to friends or posted in the Notes Section of Facebook.   I’m sure most people just deleted the e-mails without reading them.  Rather than re-work the piece to change the tense from present to past, I’m going to cut and paste.  Also, My friend David over at The Quinn-tes-sen-tial wrote a good piece about his experience with his gym so be sure to check it out.

Small Gym At The Office

Not the Ray Meyer Gym

I’ve been a member of the Ray Meyer Fitness Center at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus since 2004. It was a great deal at the time: a discounted alumni rate and it was on the way home. All I had to do was pack my workout bag in the morning and after work, get off at Fullerton Brown line stop, go work out, and get back on.

At first I was even able to complete a workout and get back on the EL within the same 2 hour transfer window. But the workouts got longer as I’d include a spin class. That prompted me to switch to a monthly CTA pass.

Over the years, things have changed. I stopped taking the brown line to work  so it’s not as convenient to take it home and stop at the gym — especially when I leave my car at the blue line station in Irving Park. Also, the gym mostly caters to students, not alumni nor other non-student members. This is evident by the elimination many of the late evening spin classes.  Who can get to the gym at 5pm!

So after realizing that I hadn’t been to the gym since February, I called and asked about cancelling my membership. You can’t just do it over the phone, you have to fill out a Membership Cancellation Form (MCF). The lady who took my call offered to fax me the form. About a day or two went by when I realized I didn’t receive the fax. I called back and asked for someone to fax me the MCF. This went on for a couple of months. I’d periodically remember that I wanted to quit the gym and would call and never receive the fax.

I decided to drop in one Sunday afternoon before going to mass since my church, also DePaul, is across the street. Alias, the Membership Relations part of the gym was closed at the time I got there (about 90 minutes too late). No one could find the MCF form although a nice Polish kid did try to help. I started to count this as one of those times when it would be helpful to speak the language of my ancestors, but it turns out it wouldn’t have made a difference because he couldn’t find the form.

I politely suggested that putting the form on the website might be

  1.   Useful,
  2.  so very 21st century and
  3. a FUCKTACULAR idea.

His response indicated that he had drunk a full gallon of the corporate cool-aid when he said “oh the reason we don’t is because we have it right here where you need it when you want it”.

“But you don’t have it here,” I pointed out. he smiles and shrugs his shoulders while checking the same file cabinet for the fourth time to see if the MCF had magically appeared.

small changing room

Flash forward to Monday. I called the gym again for the MCF. This time it actually arrived at my fax machine! I filled out the form and tried to fax it back. I’d hear the busy signal and the report sheet would come back busy/noresponse. The thing about cancellation is that if you don’t do it by the 15th of the current month, you are charged for the next month. I’d be able to use the gym but since I’m not using it now, it’s kinda a moot point. I was determined to get this resolved, so I called and asked if their fax machine was, in fact, working.

The lady who answered — same voice as the one who promised to always send me the fax — said it was working. Let’s call her name is Trudy. I explained my issue and Trudy suggested I try it again, and added, if it doesn’t work I can email it to you. I know what she meant, at least I hope she meant that I could email her a scanned document, because if not, I’m not sure how her emailing me something would help.

After trying to send the fax several times over the next couple of days, I called back and got the same lady and asked if I could indeed  scan the MCF and email it to someone. She said sure and gave me an email address. This is on a Friday afternoon and With the 15th of the month deadline drawing near, I could just see my email sitting in someone’s junk/spam folder.

Finally, at the end of the day, I get an email that say:

I am out of town until Tuesday, I will have Trudy follow up with you regarding your cancellation.

Thanks for letting us know.


Now I’m thinking that the fate of membership, whether or not I will be charged another month’s dues, depends on the skillset of Trudy, the lady who couldn’t or wouldn’t fax me the MCF all these months. The lady who thought the problem with her fax machine could be solved by emailing me. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get charged twice each month from here on in!

While heading home I entertain a wild thought: there’s a scene in the movie Reality Bites where Winona Ryder sets camp at a gas station and offers to pay for everyone’s gas in exchange for cash. I start to figure out if there is a way I can do this with my gym membership. Maybe just send homeless person after homeless person into the gym to use the shower and take advantage of the complimentary towels! Alas, I recall that they check my gym card against a photo they have on file.

The good news is that Monday I did receive an automated email from Campus Recreation: “We received your request for cancellation. Your membership will expire on 7/31/09. ” The bad news is I’ve gained some extra pounds and could really use a gym to work out at right about now.

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small changing room

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