** Bally Fitness PURPOSELY incorrectly submits automated monthly credit card charges for a pool of customers to get their customers on the phone.
** They do this by submitting the credit card charge without the proper information to cause a soft decline.
** They then leave an automated message from [protected] (headquarters - now shows up as UNKNOWN CALLER) on your phone asking you to call them back to handle a billing issue.
** Once on the phone, they then proceed to offer a 25% discount if customer pays out the remainder of the contract while trying to resolve the automated
** Bally Total Fitness filed for bankruptcy in 2007 and they are resorting to shady marketing techniques to generate revenue in 2008.
Let me preface that Bally Total Fitness filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection during the summer of 2007. They are clearly in financial turmoil and as I see it, have adopted shady practices during the recovery process.
I have been a member of Bally's for over a year now. Everything was fine until 3 months ago when my AUTOMATED monthly billing which I had set up when first signing up for the plan, stopped working. No information had changed, including my credit card info and billing address and my charges on the credit card never get close to the monthly spending limit. I have approximately 10 other merchants who automatically charge my credit card every month and have not had this problem with any of them.
I first found out about the issue from an automated phone call left by Bally's at 8:30am one morning requesting that I call a phone number to resolve an issue. I called the number and spoke with a representative who told me that my account was past due. They proceeded to ask if I'd like to pay over the phone. I mentioned that I was on automatic billing and that the fees should automatically be charged every month. She said the card had been declined. I proceeded to tell her that there is no issue with the card and to reprocess after confirming credit card information. She then said that she would have to charge a late fee. I requested to speak with the manager and eventually (with a lot of effort) had them waive the late fee, but they did not acknowledge the problem was on their end. The manual process of my credit card went through fine.
A month and a half later. I receive the same automated phone call from Bally's. I call back, speak with the representative, who said that they tried to auto charge my card and received a decline message. I asked for the specifics or a transaction #. They had nothing. As I asked to verify my address and credit card # to ensure they had the information correct, the representative proceeded to tell me about a special offer to help me out. THE SCAM UNFOLDS: he told me he can currently offer me 25% off my membership costs translating to $250 in savings if I paid upfront for my membership until the year 2010. Followed by, "Then you won't have to deal with these automatic monthly billing issues". The introduction to the offer was unnatural and came out of the blue... I declined and said I would speak with my bank to confirm the issue was not on my end.
I then called my bank and the credit card company. Both of them confirmed that the credit card was well under the limit and has never been over the limit since I first got it. They then confirmed the attempted charges from Bally's but mentioned that the error codes were odd. It didn't point to any specific error with the credit card request for processing, but the error code did state that they were not passing the correct information. Keep in mind, the credit card didn't change, address didn't change, and auto billing had been working fine for a year.
I called Ballys back and asked a different representative if she was told to state the 25% promotion to customers who are having "billing issues". She confirmed that this was true. I then asked to speak with the manager. The manager refused to believe the issue was on their end even after relaying the info I obtained from speaking with my credit card co and offering to conference call her in with my credit card to prove that they are not posting correctly and that my credit card was over the limit. I then asked her to manually process the credit card. She agreed and it went through without issues. I told her that the issue was clearly on Bally's end. With a bullish response, she told me that she didn't believe that this was true but will confirm next time an auto charge fails.
Anyone else experienced this issue? My guess is they are doing this to a pool of customers to try and build revenue for the year.