Monday, December 28, 2015

Apollo Sports Club/Glengarry Glen Ross

This is a post which will be of no interest to most readers; it affects only those who may happen to be in Berlin, and may happen to be looking for a gym.  I'm sorry to bore everyone else, but I feel I must warn anyone who is contemplating a membership with the Apollo Sports Club in Haupstraße, who are proving very bad to deal with.

I've dealt with Apollo Sports club for several years, and in the past have found them exceptionally helpful, friendly, and accommodating. Back in 2009 I had to go to the States at short notice to take care of my mother; I asked Apollo if I could defer the remaining months of my membership until my return and they very kindly agreed.  If anyone had asked me I would have recommended them without hesitation.

Now, I would certainly not have assumed I could do this any time I chose.  My last membership had lapsed when I went to the States in 2012. When I went back to Berlin in February I expected to be there only a few months before spending some months in Vermont, I didn't know how many. I did NOT think I could take out a long-term membership and take sabbaticals any time I liked. The sensible plan seemed to be to take out a membership for a few months and then extend month by month if necessary.

I went in to sort this out, and everybody was just as friendly and welcoming and apparently anxious to help as they had been in the past.  But there was something I hadn't allowed for.

Apollo has made very extensive upgrades to its equipment. This has no doubt cost them a lot of money, and has made them anxious to recoup the investment. 

I asked about the short-term membership I had in mind, explaining the circumstances, and the person I spoke to said he could offer a better deal, I could take out a long-term membership but suspend it if I had to go away. This was what they had let me do in the past, so I saw no reason not to believe him.  I was given a contract under which fees would be deducted from my bank account every two weeks. It did not specify the entitlement to suspend membership during absences, but in the past this had been arranged by verbal agreement rather than incorporated in the contract--and this possibility, which had just been proposed, was the only thing that made a long-term contract a suitable substitute for the short-term membership I had asked for.

I was in Berlin longer than I expected, and finally left for the States in early October. I wrote to
Apollo notifying them of my absence and asked them to suspend the membership until my return. When I got to the States I got an email stating that fees would continue to be deducted from my account for the duration of the membership; if I gave them proof of the length of my absence upon my return, this block of time would be tacked on at the end.

I wrote cancelling my membership, to make sure it did not automatically renew in my absence (I assumed that, even if they insisted on deducting payments while I was away, the membership must end a year from when it began). I got an email saying it was not possible to cancel, I was locked into the contract until January 2017, and they would continue to deduct fees from my account for the whole of that time.

Here's the thing. If they say I signed a contract for a two-year membership I may actually have done so.

I may not have looked at the contract as closely as I should have, influenced both by their helpfulness in the past and the helpful noises of the member of staff to whom I had explained my needs. That's part of it. But I may actually have thought I read the contract with sufficient care. If you've had to look after someone after repeated medical procedures, if you've had to deal with other catastrophes on top of this (such as my long battle with the stalker), if you've  ALSO tried to bolster your professional life with public engagements, and if all of this has gone on over a long period of time, you're exhausted.  Exercise is the last thing you want to do--but if you don't take that first step you end up lying on the bed, staring at the wall, unable to move.

By the time you've dealt with the medical system and the criminal justice system and sundry others who play bait and switch, there's nothing left for dealing with yet another lot of helpers at the Mamet end of the spectrum. 

This is even longer and more boring than I thought it would be, and, as I've said, irrelevant to most readers.  For those in Berlin who might consider this gym, bear in mind that it hasn't always been this way.  You will hear good things about it from people who knew it the way it used to be. So be very, very careful.   Don't believe that anything anyone SAYS they're offering has anything to do with the terms of the contract.  And don't, under ANY circumstances, give them access to your bank account.


Vincent Oostelbos said...

Not living in Berlin, nor particularly interested in a gym membership even if I were, but still an interesting read, for what it's worth. Sorry to hear about the troubles there. Such situations are indeed very frustrating to deal with.

Helen DeWitt said...

Well, I don't like to bore readers, but maybe it will be picked up by search engines - can't fix my problem, might be able to spare a few other people a headache.