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September 24, 2013

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Gym shuts, leaving members in the lurch

A GYMNASIUM in the Pudong New Area shut down yesterday, leaving many of its users, who had paid for the memberships, in the lurch.

The owner is reportedly missing with the cash.

Some angry members who had bought the gym’s prepaid cards and paid for the fitness courses gathered at the Huoli Wuxian Fitness Center on Changli Rd E. yesterday, looking for refunds. The door of the gym was not locked and some of the angry customers walked away with equipment like dumbbells and computer components.

Sun Deling had just paid 4,600 yuan (US$741) to buy two membership cards this month. It was supposed to last for two years.

“I have used the card for less than a month, and now find that the owner has fled,” she said.

Some of the customers said they received frequent calls from staff of the fitness center since July. They were asked either to buy new cards or recharge the existing ones or extend the membership duration before their current cards expired.

Some of them recharged their cards by paying between 1,100 yuan to 10,000 yuan.

A netizen, who went by the name snoopydoggy, said he extended the membership at the club late last year. He wrote that some members got calls from the gym only couple of days ago, asking them to extend their deals as they were offering discounts during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Apparently it was not the first time that the owner had vanished with the money.

The Pudong Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau said it was trying to locate the legal owner of the center. The Zhoujiadu industrial and commercial center also said it had received complaints from customers.

As per regulations, companies that sell prepaid cards must offer refunds to consumers if the cards are still valid. Failing which, companies can face a fine of up to 30,000 yuan.

In the first half of this year, the Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission received about 3,089 complaints regarding prepaid cards. Most of them were in the business of cosmetology, hairdressing and gyms.

Business operators usually lure consumers into buying prepaid cards with so-called low prices, and charge high fees when they seek a refund, or simply reject demands for a refund.

In March, the Tera Wellness Club in Shanghai suddenly shut shop, leaving many of its members struggling to get their refunds back, the Xinmin Evening News reported.



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