Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anyone who knows me understands that steady exercise is the one thing that could keep me semi-sane. So here's why I'm starting to go nuts:

With my time off and weather getting too hot some days, I've substituted my compulsive running with more frequent visits to the gym. Pumping iron, getting buff like Hugh Jackman or Daniel Craig or Jason Statham minus the weird accent. I went Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and on the days in between, sweated out a few miles of running at the beach. I mention this not to boast about discipline, but to point out that I'm not one of those join-a-gym-and-never-go types. I need to go. But, needless to say, I needed a break.

So, finally well-rested, I returned on Tuesday. As I walked up to the door, some dude was standing in front. "Can I help you?" I figured he was another vendor, trying to sell the fitness-minded on some new energy drink, fat-content testing or Tae Kwan Kickboxing Kendo Karate Krav Maga Pilates Yoga Boot Camp. I shifted into New York flippancy mode, muttered a no-thanks and started to go inside.

The place was empty. Gutted. No equipment. No personnel. Even the "please re-rack your weights" signs were gone. There were a few scattered mats and a tumbleweed blew by.

I found out from the dude in front that the gym closed surreptitiously some time over the weekend. The owners couldn't make their rent. Perhaps it's not surprising. My gym is in West LA, housed in the same area as pricey law firms and businesses, as well as the expensive El Moro restaurant. Even in this economy, I'm sure it's prime real estate.

But the closure came with no warning to customers. The guy said that even the employees -- the personal trainers, the people working the front desk, the towel guy -- no one knew this was coming.

So who was this dude with all the info? A representative of the gym telling us members what our options were? No, he worked for the Bodies in Motion down the street. And he'd grandfather all us Powerhouse Gym members in with a great deal -- $49 a month for a year sign-up. Gee, thanks, pal. I already have 9 months prepaid at Powerhouse. So I give you $600 on top of that? Back to the NY flippancy and muttering no-thanks, which beats what I really wanted to tell this huckster.

I made a bunch of calls to try and track down the Powerhouse people who basically stole membership dues and ran off. I was told by other branches that every Powerhouse Gym is franchised -- each is responsible for their own establishment. Yeah, fine, but someone is giving me my money back, dammit. Took me a while to realize/remember that although the sign in front of the place still says Powerhouse, they sold it last year to some other company called Synergy or Sweat or something stupid-sounding. I would've left the Powerhouse sign up, too.

I should point out that Powerhouse pulled this shit on me years ago. I first joined the branch that was in Venice, near my apartment. I could go for a nice workout and then run on the beach or stroll along Main Street, maybe go to eat at Schotzi's, Arnold Schwarzenegger's old restaurant. Of course, Schotzi's is closed. And so did Powerhouse. But they did so overnight. Same deal -- no warning, no explanation. There one day, gone the next. Fortunately, they honored my membership at the West LA location. It wasn't Venice, but it had the benefit of being between work and home, so I got used to it. Until they did it again.

Also, while it's clearly time to find a new place to work out, I have to say, I liked this gym. It was no frills, which also meant it wasn't populated by posers. Just regular joes there to work out who were considerate of everyone else. There were no muscleheads hogging the equipment or loitering wannabes there to get noticed. Like every other gym in LA.

Now I'm arguing with this SynerSweatSchmucks for my money or a transfer of membership to a corresponding gym. I've already contacted Better Business Bureau, but more action may be needed soon. And as you can imagine, cutting through this bureaucracy is as exhausting as a set on the incline bench press. So much for the gym relieving stress.


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