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Fitness club buyout leaves martial arts class in lurch

THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,191,184

Updated: January 3, 2012 9:22AM



Dear Fixer: I am a dedicated hapkido student, formerly studying at Bally Total Fitness in both Villa Park and Glendale Heights.

In November, I persuaded my husband to join. He bought a $45 uniform, and paid $22.99 for his first two weeks, $22.99 for his last two weeks and $29.00 for a card fee on Nov. 17.

He went to what would have been his second class on Nov. 22, only to find out that L.A. Fitness is buying out Bally and had immediately discontinued all martial arts because it does not “fit the image” they want.

The Villa Park Bally’s manager said he had to call the home office to see if anything could be done. He did, and they said they will not refund any of my husband’s money because the “buyer’s remorse” deadline was Nov. 21.

This is not a case of buyer’s remorse. He didn’t want to quit, but Total Martial Arts no longer exists!

The worst part is that about 50 tae kwon do and hapkido masters are now out of a job. Everyone is devastated.

Please help! It’s really not the money. It’s the principle.

Sharon Pirog, Westchester

Dear Sharon: The Fixer barely broke a sweat on this one ­— and we didn’t even have to throw anyone across a mat.

Days before LA Fitness’ takeover of 171 Bally Total Fitness locations became official — Chicago-based Bally will continue to operate 100 clubs under their name — we were able to get your problem into the capable hands of Larry Larsen, VP at Sard Verbinnen & Co. He’s the guy handling Bally’s media relations. Larsen took it to Bally, and they agreed that your husband should get a refund, because of the reasons you cited.

Now let’s hope you and your hubby can find a new place to work on your wristlocks and flying side kicks.

Door opens for happy ending

Back in October, we brought you the sad story of Andy Christmas and Hagen O’Brien, who’d put down $1,551 in June for a security door and wrought-iron gate from Family Security Door & Window. The items never arrived, and worse, when O’Brien or Christmas tried to get in touch with the business, their calls went straight to voice mail. They showed up there during business hours but the building was closed.

Team Fixer tried to help, but all we got was an explanation from owner Robert Starr that he planned to file for bankruptcy and didn’t know whether or when he would be able to pay back his customers.

We suggested O’Brien and Christmas file complaints with the Illinois attorney general and Better Business Bureau to establish a paper trail, and then consider filing a small-claims case (if they were willing to dog Starr for a judgment).

This week, Hagen contacted The Fixer with good news: Armed with the knowledge Fixer intern Michael Sandler dug up about the bankruptcy not having been filed yet, Hagen and Andy contacted their credit card issuer. Since bankruptcy hadn’t taken effect, the credit card company was able to reverse the charges and get their money back.  “Michael’s ability to get that bankruptcy info out of Robert Starr is what solved this problem,” they wrote The Fixer.

Score one for the intern!

Speaking of the intern

Michael has left us to finish his graduate degree, but not before writing some great consumer-help pieces for our website. If you’re buying a used car sometime soon, don’t make a move before reading his story, which could save you thousands of dollars. (Hint: You need to hire an independent mechanic and use what the mechanic finds in your negotiations.)

To find Michael’s stories on used car shopping, loan scams and dating service rip-offs — as well as valuable information on topics like how to file a “pro se” small claim in court, hire a wedding photographer and understand credit card protections — go to suntimes.com/fixer and click below the money tally.

Getting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at suntimes.com/fixer .



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