|Brands doing good? More like brands that treat people like crap|
In this space, I've been documenting the many cases of brands doing good during the pandemic — from Google donating ad space to small businesses to KFC and Chipotle passing out free food to healthcare workers. There seems to be no shortage of companies that have put lending a hand during the crisis ahead of financial gain.
And then there's Town Sports International.
Unlike fitness chains such as Equinox and Planet Fitness, Town Sports has continued to charge members of its gyms — including New York Sports Club and Boston Sports Club — monthly dues despite being shut because of coronavirus. The situation has understandably caused an uproar among members, who say their complaints to the club have fallen on deaf ears.
And now the attorneys general of three states and D.C. are getting involved.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said she considers the club's actions criminal and threatened its owners in a letter also signed by the AGs of Pennsylvania and D.C., where the company also operates. Meanwhile, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey said her office had received dozens of complaints and tweeted that Town Sports' actions were "completely unacceptable." She noted that perhaps members have had trouble getting responses from the clubs since they "fired all their employees." Ouch.
Town Sports — what you might call the Jack in the Box of health clubs — is notorious for its subpar facilities and service, and in particular for screwing over its members. Legion are the complaints online about how difficult the company makes it for members to close their accounts, even when there isn't a pandemic going on.
It's a situation that has been going on literally for decades, ever since the nearly half-a-century-old New York Sports, the first of the chain's outposts, started rapidly expanding in the 80s and 90s. How do I know? Because I was a member myself for many years and can attest to the company's general shittiness.
As anyone who's visited one of its locations can attest, Town Sports clearly doesn't put its profits back into its facilities. In a highly competitive industry where clubs like Equinox offer members bottled water and spa treatments, this club boasts locations that look like something out of the movie Saw, with broken exercise equipment, out-of-order showers and saunas, worn and molded shower curtains, and badly trained employees.
It's one thing for a company to put greed before its customers, inviting bad PR and the wrath of attorneys general in the process — quite another to fuck people over in the middle of a global catastrophe in which folks are literally dying. Especially if you're a company ostensibly in the health and wellness business.
Brands doing good? More like brands that make us sick.