Monday, June 24, 2024

Man fights cancellation of 24-hour gym membership after staying the night

Must read

How long is too long to spend in a 24-hour gym? Can you do too much squatting?

That’s the question on the mind of Hawke’s Bay man Arthur Eagle after what he claims was his unfair eviction from FlexFitness in Hastings after spending all night there.

Eagle, whose membership has now been cancelled after the March 4 incident, claims a clause stating that ‘all memberships include unrestricted access’ wasn’t followed and he was deliberately discriminated against.

But the gym manager has a different story. He claims Eagle broke several gym rules and was loitering, leaving no choice but to terminate his membership.

It started simply enough.

Hawke’s Bay man Arthur Eagle signed up for a one-month membership at FlexFitness Hastings to increase his fitness before he embarked on a series of hikes around Aotearoa.

Arthur Eagle believes he was unfairly evicted from FlexFitness Hastings for staying too long, but the gym says he broke several rules. Photo / Paul Taylor

But he said it soon became clear he wasn’t welcome after his exercising patterns and actions — often late into the night and in at least two cases, all night — were scrutinised by staff.

He said he was told his presence was “making other members feel uncomfortable”, but he claimed he was minding his own business and not breaking any rules or codes.

“Would they rather have TVs, lights and speakers on for no one all night?”

He claimed the gym’s initiation of what would become a confrontation was a case of “character discrimination” and that other members there virtually all night weren’t reprimanded.

Gym manager Meryn Hemmingsen said staff members had spoken to Eagle several times about what he described as “highly unusual” behaviour within his gym, asking him to stop violating rules.

“Unfortunately, those conversations were not constructive and he did not agree to comply. Therefore, due to violating these rules, we had no other option than to terminate his membership.”

“It sounds like he may have indicated to you that other people were ‘spending all night’ at our Hastings gym as well. That is simply not true,” Hemmingsen told Hawke’s Bay Today.

The two clauses Hemmingsen said Eagle broke were around health and safety and not using membership for the intended purpose.

All-night exercise

Hemmingsen claimed Eagle spent “numerous occasions” all night at the gym in the very early hours of the day, “for instance, arriving just after midnight and leaving around 7am”.

He said on the final night he used the gym, Eagle had spent all night there, left for a short time in the morning, and then returned again within an hour.

“When he did exercise in the gym, it was nowhere near the entire time of his stay, and some early mornings when he spent time in the gym, he did not exercise at all for many hours at a time.

“Our gyms are not a place for loitering; they are a place for exercising.”

But Eagle said he wasn’t loitering or violating any terms or conditions, and was correctly using his membership to its maximum potential.

“Exercising is exactly what I was using the gym for, but they, of all people, should know that muscles need rest and recovery time, especially if you’re a beginner.

“I was trying to maximise my short, one-month period to beef up and get fit for my plans to go hiking around New Zealand.”

He said Hemmingsen’s claim he’d spent the night in the gym on “numerous occasions” was inaccurate.

“It was only twice, from what I recall — the last of which was beyond my control.

“More importantly, the only reason I returned again within an hour was because I thought I’d left my wallet behind.

“But, inconsiderately, they wouldn’t let me off the hook to look for it for several minutes while treating me like some kind of criminal.”

Arthur Eagle said he was only trying to maximise his membership, but the gym said his behaviour was "unusual". Photo / Paul Taylor
Arthur Eagle said he was only trying to maximise his membership, but the gym said his behaviour was “unusual”. Photo / Paul Taylor

Security and safety

Hemmingsen also said Eagle was following people into the gym without using a security tag.

“Our manager discovered on several occasions that he was not using the security key tag to swipe into the gym, but rather following others who swiped ahead of him.

“It’s essential, as a gym, that we have visibility of everyone who is in our facility at all times. Mr Eagle’s violation of this rule potentially put his own safety and that of other members at risk.”

Eagle denied this was the case, saying he asked a few people nicely, and only on two occasions, to use their swipe card to enter the gym.

“I struggle to see why I even have to defend this, though, especially since it wouldn’t have happened at all if they’d provided a simple swipe card that you keep in your wallet rather than having to dig around in your bag.

“Incidentally, that’s what I was doing when a male gym member came along, and he was happy to oblige, especially since I was able to prove to him I was a member by describing a couple of items I’d left in a cubbyhole.”

Differing views

Eagle said he thought the gym was doing a disservice to customers if others had been treated the way he had been.

He said the longer someone was on the premises, the more inclined they were to buy from FlexFitness’s vending machines, and happy customers meant more subscriptions and recommendations.

“People have so little common sense these days that I find myself stating the obvious far too often.

“If I pay extra for an overnight key, I don’t want to hear any complaints. Especially when I wasn’t violating any terms or conditions.”

Can members stay 24 hours a day in a 24-hour gym?

Abby Damen, communications and campaigns adviser at Consumer NZ, said people who sign up to a 24-hour gym should be able to access it 24 hours a day.

However, they will also need to comply with their gym’s terms and rules, she said.

“If they don’t, the gym is likely to have the ability to terminate their membership. We’d encourage people to make sure they read and understand the T&Cs of any contract they enter into.”

Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in January 2023. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community.

Latest article