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August 5, 2011

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Loss of pool leaves members in a fit

MEMBERS of a popular fitness center are complaining about the sudden closure of a swimming pool and demanding refunds.

About 6,000 members of the TERA Wellness Club's Zhongshan Park outlet will be banned from the swimming pool starting today, due to its conflicts with the property owner, Shanghai Changfeng Real Estate Co Ltd.

But the club didn't notify its members of the closure and yesterday was still trying to sell new memberships, which cost thousands of yuan.

Scores of angry customers rushed to the outlet on Wednesday, seeking refunds. The club relented yesterday and posted a compensation plan on its website. But many customers are not satisfied with the plan.

The fitness club launched the outlet on the 12th floor of the Longemont Hotel Shanghai in 2006 in a partnership with the hotel. The cooperation between the two parties was supposed to last until 2021.

But the hotel's owner sued the fitness center in 2009, seeking to terminate the contract. The hotel accused the club of safety and health problems and failing to maintain a tidy environment, which triggered complaints from hotel customers and threatened to cost the hotel its five star rating.

The hotel also accused the club of delaying payments for rent and power.

After court mediation, the club agreed to return management of the swimming pool and reception area to the hotel. But it failed to act, and the Changning District People's Court said it will carry out a court order of enforcement today on behalf of the plaintiff.

Shanghai Daily visited the club yesterday and found many members had little idea of the court order. Moreover, the club staff worked hard to sell memberships to the reporter without mentioning the closure.

"I didn't know the swimming pool is closing. No one told me," said an expat exerciser who declined to be named. A female club member surnamed Wang said she didn't notice the closure until Wednesday, when lots of members rushed to the center to condemn the club.

The club hid the court notice to close the pool with an advertisement board. Some members found the notice by accident earlier this week and felt cheated by the club and gathered for refunds on Wednesday, which also brought police to the scene.

"The court sentence was issued last year, but the club still promoted the swimming card to me last month," said a club member and microblogger dubbed Yuanxinbaobao. Many people said they had received similar sales pitches.

In response, the club issued a compensation notice on its website, saying customers could have their swimming fees returned or could choose to swim in other outlets.

The club issued two kinds of sports cards: one with swimming privileges and the other without. But the compensation statement brought confusion and failed to satisfy many customers because the cards were purchased at different prices from different salespersons.

"I order refund!" said Yuanxinbaobao. "I bought the card only for swimming. The other outlets are too far away from my home."


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