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Nearly 2,000 New York Sports Club (NYSC) members have started to receive restitution checks after the fitness brand’s parent company, Town Sports International, was successfully sued by the office of Attorney General Letitia James for unlawfully charging customers during the COVID-19 gym shutdowns.
Approximately $110 will be refunded to eligible NYSC members who filed a complaint over the club’s illegal practices through the New York Sports Club Restitution program. Qualifying participants will receive emails from the settlement office informing them of their eligibility, with the option to receive refund payments through a MasterCard gift card, bank deposit or mailed check.
“From the beginning of my office’s investigation, I have made clear to New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts that the COVID-19 pandemic would not give them a free pass to violate the law and take advantage of members,” Attorney General James said in March 2021. “A public health crisis did not give these gyms license to lift up their finances through unlawful charges.”
According to the settlement page, only users who filed a formal complaint with the attorney general’s office are eligible for the refund. One Reddit user commented in a discussion, “Unfortunately only 1,900 people get any sort of resolution (the number of people who filed complaints to the AG office). They likely screwed more people than that (myself included) who get nothing.” Added another Reddit user who presumably patronized the Hell’s Kitchen NYSC that is now a TMPL gym: “NYSC is one of the sleaziest operations I’ve come across. I managed to get my accounts canceled only because I had a mutual connection with the owner and got to speak with him on the phone. Even so, after he went and bought TMPL they transferred my membership and started billing me again. Unbelievable. I shut that down with a chargeback that they knew they couldn’t defend.”
At the start of the pandemic, gym goers at the club’s former Hell’s Kitchen location and citywide were angered that NYSC and Lucille Roberts, then operated by Town Sports International, charged customers and refused cancellation requests during the COVID-19 shutdown. “I’ve been emailing and calling them for a month to make sure I wasn’t going to get charged and no one ever picked up or returned an email,” former customer Patrick O’Brien told W42ST at the time. “Aren’t we all supposed to help each other through this tough time and not scam one another?”
After being contacted by unhappy constituents, AG James sent a letter to the brand in April 2020, demanding that it reverse the charges. “Despite overtures that the company would change its practices, it did not,” stated a release from the Attorney General’s office. “As a result, in September 2020, Attorney General James sued TSI, alleging that NYSC and Lucille Roberts clubs violated numerous New York state laws by charging consumers membership dues for services not being offered; failing to issue credits as promised; imposing unlawful fees and advance notice requirements on cancellation requests; misleading consumers about their rights to cancel their memberships; and refusing to honor cancellation requests.”
The Attorney General’s office managed to settle a $250,000 bond for customer refunds, even though Town Sports International filed for bankruptcy in September of 2020 and closed hundreds of its clubs before being repurchased by a new third-party operating brand.
The new leadership at NYSC is working to regain customer trust after the membership meltdown. CEO Roger Harvey, who took over NYSC after it went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, told Club Industry: “I’ve heard it said that trust is gained in droplets and lost in buckets. As circumstances unfolded, we’ve lost some buckets worth of trust and so we can’t attempt to go earn it back a bucket at a time. It has to be in consistency and accepting responsibility for the decisions that have been made in the past and soldiering on through them.”
Speaking to Crains New York Business, he added: “We know we have to fix some things. That’s one of the reasons new ownership is here. We will have a member-first, member-friendly environment. Our intention going forward is that our business practices are what we’d feel comfortable with as customers ourselves. We’ll deal with people honestly, with a lot of integrity.”
W42ST has reached out to NYSC for further comment on the matter and will update if we receive a response.
If you were unlawfully charged by New York Sports Club, you can contact the Settlement Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.