I know we all know that corporations will always try to rip us off whenever they can but I still find myself surprised by how bad things are.
Here's the situation - I'm trying to quit the gym. My old gym that I liked was taken over a couple of years ago by Virgin Active and suddenly they have adverts everywhere around the place, mostly featuring semi-naked women with perfect bodies. They show MTV all round the gym - typically videos of women in next to no clothes, and in some cases actually women on leashes and chained up, etc. I go to the gym to feel good about myself so I've complained a few times but nothing has changed.
They also seem to have changed in their attitude to customers. Posters around the gym have sprung up featuring angry-looking men with megaphones and captions like "Don't forget your card - or else!". And suddenly there is an extra fee for everything - borrowing a padlock if I forget mine, forgetting my card. I was even told at one branch I would have to pay to borrow a towel because I wasn't a "corporate" member!
Well I put up with all this for quite a while because I liked the trainers in the martial arts and boxing bit of the gym. Then the guy I was training with got suspended from his job. I assumed they would ring me to let me know what was happening and find me a replacement while the situation was sorted out. No. Nothing.
So I rang up to say I was quitting. They didn't answer my calls or respond to the messages I left for two weeks. Then when I did get through they said "Unfortunately you needed to contact us two weeks ago. There's nothing we can do now."
"...but i did contact you two weeks ago."
"We have no record of that."
"Well keep better records then."
You know if I said I want to give them £50 every single person in the company would be over-qualified to take the money. But somehow only one person out of their hundreds of employees is qualified to "allow" me to stop giving them money. At one point I went in to the actual branch I originally joined (I had been assured that despite the advent of both the telephone and the internet each branch was totally incapable of communicating with each other branch) and asked to quit and the guy said "I'll try and get you a business card for the person you need to speak to". Then he went away and came back and said "Sorry, her drawers are all locked".
Well I've canceled my direct debit to them and I think this means that in a few months they'll be suing me for breach of contract. Eventually I imagine it will get sorted out, already though hours of my time have been wasted chasing up people who don't bother to get back to me. The stupid thing is when I first said I wanted to quit if they'd rung me up and asked what they could do and listened to me I'm sure I would have agreed to stay. But now not only have I left - I recommend to all my readers to do the same! Or indeed not/never to join.