Trying to get a refund from a gym juice bar? Get ready for a workout

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Trying to get a refund from a gym juice bar? Get ready for a workout

CREATED Mar. 14, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar. 15, 2013
Reporter: Kevin Keen
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
 
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - When a business goes under, are customers left with gift cards just out of luck? One 9 On Your Side viewer argues they shouldn't be. A store closed and she wanted her gift card refunded. Fed up, she called 9 On Your Side, which found she isn't the only one looking for their money back.
 
“I go to some of the classes. I work out with a trainer,” said viewer Gloria DeLaughter. She works out at the LA Fitness on Ina and Shannon three times a week. She has a ritual there.
 
“After my gym session, I would like to go over to the juice bar -- Aspire Juice Bar -- and get a protein shake,” she said.
 
That juice bar was inside the northwest side LA Fitness. DeLaughter said Aspire made it easy: a customer would buy a pre-paid card -- like a gift card -- and staff kept it on file so the customer wouldn’t have to carry it. She bought one.
 
“Here's my copy of my credit card statement,” she said, holding a piece of paper, “showing that I paid Aspire Juice Bar on November 19th $25.”
 
DeLaughter paid up. But a month later, the juice bar closed up. Permanently. Without notice. Another Aspire Juice Bar -- inside the LA Fitness at 1st and Limberlost -- closed in February.
 
DeLaughter wanted her remaining balance refunded.
 
“They owe me somewhere between $21 and $25,” she said. “It's not a large amount of money for me. But when you take in to consideration all of the clients who were impacted, it would add up.”
 
It does add up. 9 On Your Side obtained a record showing 555 Aspire Juice Bar gift cards in use as of February, totaling $7,633 at both LA Fitness locations.
Other cardholders also wanted to know what's going. On Aspire's Facebook page, a man named Michael wrote: "Are there any still open? I bought my wife a [gift card] for Christmas and don't want it wasted."
 
DeLaughter sprung to action, tracking down the bar's owner and asking for a refund.
 
“His plan was to go to the Ina road location where my card was to scan it and see how much money was let on it and then he would contact me,” she said. “He never has.”
 
The owner is Timothy Relinski, LA Fitness managers told 9 On Your Side.
 
9 On Your Side left multiple messages for Relinski but didn’t hear back.
 
DeLaughter tried another route to get her money back. She went to managers at both LA Fitness locations.
 
“They both said that there's nothing that they can do, that he was an independent contractor,” she said.
 
Managers told 9 On Your Side the same thing: LA Fitness leased the space to Relinski and Relinski would be the person to give any refund.
 
That explanation didn’t satisfy DeLaughter.
 
“Since the juice bars were actually in their facility, I felt like they should go to bat for their clients and, at least, contact the juice bar and put some pressure on him to do the right thing -- to refund all of our money,” she said.
 
Is LA Fitness "going to bat" for customers? 9 On Your Side called company headquarters, left messages, emailed and never heard back.
 
A local manager answered 9 On Your Side’s questions, but would not be part of an interview. He claimed LA Fitness is powerless in this case and refers customers looking for a refund to Relinski.
 
The manager added the company itself is also trying to get money from Relinski because he stopped paying rent.
 
Does LA Fitness have any legal obligations to customers in this situation? Nick LeFleur of the Better Business Bureau of Tucson said that depends on the lease agreement between LA Fitness and Aspire Juice Bar. LeFleur said that agreement would spell out LA Fitness' liability, if it has any. Again, the company won’t respond to calls for comment so 9 On Your Side couldn't ask for details of the lease.
 
LeFleur added LA Fitness could still take steps to help clients as a matter of customer service.
 
9 On Your Side had a final idea for DeLaughter to try to get her money back: call her credit card company and ask to cancel the transaction. She did and it worked. Chase refunded her full $25.
 
What about the remaining 554 customers? A local LA Fitness representative told 9 On Your Side he'd like customers to speak up and let a manager know they would like their money back from Aspire Juice Bar. He said that would give the company a better idea of just how many people are affected.

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