Jane Kramer loves going to the gym.
At nearly 74 years old, she says it helps to keep her fit.
She’s been a member of Crunch Fitness in Green Brook since 2019 when her old gym was bought by the company. For the most part, she said, she’s been happy with the gym, where she uses weights, takes classes, and when she has extra money, buys personal training sessions.
Until the coronavirus hit the state.
Kramer said she usually paid for her membership yearly in one payment, but for 2020, her employer — she helps a family with child care, chores and running errands — paid her annual dues. She was also given $1,000 from her employer, on a card, to use for personal training sessions, in December 2019.
She used some of the funds for sessions during the winter of 2020, she said.
Then the gym, like the rest of the state, was shut down because of the coronavirus.
“When Crunch opened this past summer I knew I couldn’t go back yet. I froze my membership since I still had four months on my account,” Kramer said. “I expected to be able to return to the gym in late summer or early fall. I was overly optimistic, I guess. Crunch did have some classes outside in their parking lot. I had to accept the fact that at my age with asthma I couldn’t work out in the hot weather and humidity on blacktop.”
By November, she said, she realized COVID wasn’t going anywhere yet and she wouldn’t be going back to the gym anytime soon.
The loss of being able to use the gym, which she used to go to four or five times a week, was significant to Kramer — another pandemic-related loss. He was furloughed for six months and had trouble getting unemployment and she hasn’t been able to see her grandchildren.
“I have not hugged them, or any loved ones, or anyone, for a year,” she said.
So the financial loss from the gym added to her stress.
She said she talked to a Crunch manager about whether she could do the personal training sessions via Zoom, but she said no one contacted her to set something up.
So in December, because her membership would be ending, she called the gym to ask for a refund of the remaining training session money, which she estimated was about $750.
She never received a response, she said. So she wrote a letter to the gym manager, but no one responded to that, either. She sent a second letter, this time certified, but again, no response.
By February, Kramer turned to Crunch’s corporate offices with a letter, and she got a phone call from a representative in early March.
“She said that since I had started using the training package, they don’t refund,” Kramer said. “I said I believe that the situation with the coronavirus pandemic is exceptional. She said it is a gray area.”
The representative said she would ask the higher-ups and call Kramer back with their answer.
But she never called back, Kramer said.
“I don’t believe it is ethical or fair for Crunch to keep the personal training money that I am unable to use because of the pandemic,” Kramer said. “It is short sighted of Crunch. I would be able to rejoin in a few months, once I am vaccinated. They would be getting back more than the money they refunded between membership and the personal training.”
She asked Bamboozled for help.
We asked Crunch to reconsider the refund and in short order, Kramer received a phone call.
The representative asked what would satisfy Kramer. When Kramer said she wanted a refund, the representative repeated the no-refund policy, but said she would talk to the gym’s owner and call Kramer back.
The second call was good news.
“The owner has agreed to refund $640.85,” Kramer said. “They would refund it to the card used by my employer, but she no longer has that card. It was compromised. Of course, nothing is ever easy.”
So instead, the company will be refunding the money to Kramer’s card, and she said she will use the funds to buy some virtual training.
“Not being able to train at the gym was one of the most difficult losses of the pandemic,” Kramer said. “I still work out at home, but I am alone. Working out with a trainer on Zoom will fill that void. More important to me is is the feeling that, with your help, I was able to regain a measure of agency in a world where much is uncertain, and beyond my control.”
“Most important is fairness,” she said.
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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at [email protected].