June 28, 2011 (SAN DIEGO, CA) – Local gym Lava Sport and Fitness permanently shut down all of their locations earlier this month for reasons that are still unknown to their customers, reports the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
In just 3 days, the BBB received 7 consumer complaints against Lava Sport and Fitness. All consumer complaints alleged the same grievance: The sport club discontinued its business operations and disconnected phone lines without giving its customers requisite notice or returning the monies they had paid. In just those 7 complaints, almost $4000 dollars was reported lost by consumers.
According to these customer complaints, all Lava members were notified that the gym would be closed effective immediately, and that no Lava Sport and Fitness locations would remain open. Instead of refunding the hundreds of dollars due to each gym-goer in membership fees, the owners advised their constituents that other arrangements had been made.
“[I] pre-paid for 2 year-long memberships to Lava Sport & Fitness located in Point Loma. The total purchase price was $950.00 for each membership - paid in full [immediately],” commented Kevin Kellar, former Lava Sport and Fitness member. “On May 27, 2011, Steve Wade of Lava Sport & Fitness [distributed] a letter which stated that all memberships would be transferred to Gold's Gym. [I] discussed the matter with a Lava Sport representative and was informed that…no refunds are being offered to customers. This is an unacceptable offer of reconciliation for termination of contract services.”
Gold’s Gym confirmed with a BBB investigator that they did purchase the memberships of hundreds of members of the sport and fitness club. The BBB has received numerous accounts from members who claim that they were given only two options by owners Steve and Robbi Wade: They could either continue their membership at the two remaining locations of the Boxing Club (a parent company to Lava Sport and Fitness), or transfer their memberships to Gold’s Gym.
This is an arrangement with which not all former Lava customers are pleased. Andrea Evans, whose membership with the fitness club was contracted through February 2012, echoed her displeasure to a BBB Dispute and Information Analyst:
“It makes no sense to transfer my $80 membership at a premium gym [Lava Sport and Fitness] to a lower quality gym [Gold’s Gym] with a $20 membership. I would like a refund of my membership so I can choose my own gym.”
Though the darkened windows of Lava Sport and Fitness may shock many of its former members, your BBB reports that this was not the first bump in the road for the health club. In the past 36 months, the BBB received a steady and continuous stream of complaints about the business, totaling 41 closed complaints. Twenty seven of those were in regards to Refund or Billing Issues, and 8 of those 41 were never responded to by a company representative.
“We take each unanswered complaint very seriously,” said Mona Terry, Director of Operations. “One, let alone 8 unanswered complaints is concerning and can be a predictor for a company’s willingness to respond to any disputes brought to their attention by their consumers.”
A recent investigation of the transfer of membership uncovered that the memberships were, in fact, transferred to the possession of Gold’s Gym. However, the gym and Lava’s former members conflict in the requirements to fulfill their remaining contracts. While a Gold’s Gym representative told a BBB investigator that no additional fees would be incurred by the members, several consumer accounts including that of Kevin Kellar, state that an additional year must be purchased with Gold’s Gym for the former Lava members to retain their past memberships.
The BBB made several attempts to contact the business owners of both the Boxing Club and Lava Sport and Fitness, but none could be reached for interview. A representative for Boxing Club claims that the business has no affiliation with Lava Sport and Fitness. When asked why www.lavafitness.com immediately redirects users to the Boxing Club website, the representative said he did not know. The same rep for the Boxing Club, who claimed to be a manager, told a BBB investigator that the Boxing Club has been under new ownership since the first of June.
If you would like more information about the company or advice on any recourse available to consumers, contact your BBB at BBB.org or call 858.637.6199.
The non-profit organization Better Business Bureau of San Diego and Imperial Counties opened in 1921, and is San Diego’s largest county-wide business membership organization with more than 6,300 accredited businesses and charities. The BBB promotes business ethics through voluntary self-regulation, consumer and business education, and helps consumers with free pre-purchase information and consumer protection advice, including business reviews on more than 101,000 local companies. Before buying decisions are made, consumers are encouraged to phone the BBB's free 24 hour Consumer Helpline at (858) 496 2131 or (800) 600 7050, or visit the website at bbb.org, to obtain free pre-purchase information and a list of BBB accredited businesses by type of industry.
Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator
Better Business Bureau, San Diego