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Brampton woman stuck with $3,600 bill after joining Life Time Athletic

Click to play video: 'Gym membership trials are not so clear cut' Gym membership trials are not so clear cut
WATCH ABOVE: Gym memberships can take a bite out of your wallet and they can also come with a few headaches. Sean O'Shea reports – Oct 28, 2016

A Brampton woman who signed up to join an upscale North American fitness club on the basis she could change her mind within two weeks says she was enrolled against her wishes and was stuck with a $3,600 bill — until Global News stepped in.

“They took advantage of me,” said Lisa Soodeen, a 31-year-old account executive and former collegiate athlete.

She said she was initially impressed with Life Time Athletics in Vaughan when she was given a tour of the facilities.

“It looked phenomenal: there was an indoor and outdoor pool and lots of children’s activities,” said Soodeen, who justified the $305 monthly cost because of the plethora of services provided for herself and her child.

READ MORE: What you need to know about gym memberships in Ontario

Life Time Athletics, corporately known as Life Time Fitness, offers prospective members the option to cancel their membership for any reason within the first 14 days. Ontario consumer protection law requires that gyms allow customers to get out of a contract within the first 10 days.

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Soodeen says she didn’t want to begin Life Time’s corporate 14-day trial immediately because she was travelling. She says the membership contract was post-dated by her sales representative as an exception to policy, with a manager’s approval. She says under the verbal agreement, she had until Sept. 28 to void the agreement.

Soodeen said when she returned to Canada from a trip it was quickly clear to her — given work and family commitments — that she wouldn’t be able to make use of the club. She never attended it even once, she says.

Soodeen emailed her sales representative on Sept. 27 to terminate her membership. She says she was confident she had until the following day to do so.

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But afterward, the representative wrote back that she was too late. He said her trial period had ended on September 26.

Soodeen objected and raised she concerns to Life Time’s general manager, Austin Curran. He told Global News he couldn’t discuss individual cases, but the club followed policy with all members.

“We’re not in the business of baiting and switching, or lying to people; we provide a written contract to every person who joins–they have to sign that contract,” said Curran, who almost immediately warned Global News about the risk of defaming the company.

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“I’d really hate for our corporate lawyers to get involved,” said Curran. “You can’t go attacking a company based on what one person said. That’s defamation.”

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Soodeen says she relied on Life Time’s managers to honour their word when she signed up.

Life Time has 122 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Founded in 1992 in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Life Time is marketed as a high-end facility with “personal fitness instruction, salons, food courts, large child centres, and indoor/outdoor pools” according to WikiPedia.

After arguing her case, Life Time’s local management eventually agreed that if she signed up for a cancellable month-to-month membership, it would void the annual one, she said.

Faced with no choice, Soodeen said she agreed to pay $305 to the company. Then she called Global News to bring her story to light.

A Life Time corporate executive later contacted Global News and said he had reviewed Soodeen’s file.

READ MORE: 4 things to know before you buy a gym membership

“While it appears to me that all policies and procedures were followed in this case, on the basis of what appears to be a clear misunderstanding with this consumer, as opposed to any wrongdoing on the part of Life Time, we are initiating a full refund of all monies she has paid, ” said Jason Thunstrom, Vice President, Corporate Communications with Life Time.

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Life Time maintains it provided a copy of the written contract to Soodeen but she says that didn’t happen. Ontario law requires consumers be given a copy of a fitness contract at the time of signing.

Soodeen says she is soured on her experience with Life Time but says she is happy to be getting her money back.

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