When Mark Badeaux of Kennewick lost his security job with the impending closure of the Umatilla Chemical Depot, his family needed to cut expenses.
So he tried to cancel his Gold's Gym contract.
But Badeaux said he was told by a gym employee that the only way to cancel his contract was to find someone else willing to take it over.
But Badeaux soon discovered a state law gave him the right to cancel his contract -- without finding Gold's Gym a new member.
Complaints filed with the state Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau show that Badeaux is not the only consumer to complain about contract issues with the Kennewick Gold's Gym.
Brett Howell, Gold's Gym area manager, said Badeaux's name was in the gym's computer system and showed his membership was canceled with 30 days' notice.
There were no notes about having trouble canceling, although the system showed membership had been deferred for two months after Badeaux lost his job, Howell said.
The gym has plenty of satisfied members, he said.
State law says anyone with a membership longer than one year can cancel for any reason with 30 days of written notice, Howell said. The gym has membership terms like everyone does, and there are some parameters that do not allow customers to cancel memberships, he said.
Janelle Klashke, Tri-City Court Club general manager, said if a contract exceeds a year, such as a two-year contract, the consumer can cancel at any time for any reason with 30 days notice.
With a year contract, like the Tri-City Court Club uses, members can be held to the full 12 months, she said.
But the club, owned by Lynda and Carl Cadwell, will work with its members, Klashke said. The club can put memberships on hold or cancel them if a member is laid off.
Some contracts automatically renew at the end of one year, Klashke said. After the first year, members can cancel the contract with 30 days written notice.
"People need to read their contract, and they need to understand it," she said.
State law also allows consumers to cancel a gym contract within three days of signing it, Klashke said.
When Badeaux, who is still searching for work, told a Gold's Gym employee about the state law, he said he was able to cancel his contract.
The gym opened in the former Hastings bookstore at the corner of Highway 395 and Clearwater Avenue in 2010. It is owned by Utah-based Cascade Fitness, which opened a $7.8 million Gold's Gym at 2909 Duportail St. in Richland last week.
Howell said the gym's membership options allow people to use one facility, or with an upgraded membership, access both clubs.
Some of the 11 complaints filed against the Kennewick Gold's Gym with the Better Business Bureau concern the canceling of contracts, said Elea Katzele, vice president for the BBB serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana.
It's common for national gym franchises to have complaints, mostly about cancellation fees and policies, she said.
The Kennewick Gold's Gym received 10 complaints total in 2010 and 2011 and one complaint so far this year, Katzele said.
A November 2011 complaint about a contract issue and a December 2010 complaint about a sales issue haven't been resolved, which resulted in thegym receiving an F rating, Katzele said. BBB's grades are like school grades, and businesses must have a B or higher to become a BBB accredited business.
The Tri-City Court Club has an A-plus rating from the BBB, with no complaints filed in the past three years, according to the BBB website. Columbia Basin Racquet Club in Richland had an A-minus because of two complaints that were resolved in the past three years.
The state Attorney General's office also has received two complaints about the gym in the past year.
One man who filed a complaint in June tried to cancel his two-year membership, said Dan Sytman, a spokesman for the AG's office. Despite presenting the state law to a gym employee, he claimed he still had not been able to cancel.
The state office sent a letter to the gym about the complaint, and the man was able to cancel his membership, Sytman said.
The second complaint was a customer who tried to quit the contract with the gym by letter informing the gym of the law but still was being billed by Gold's, he said. That complaint, made in November, has yet to be resolved.
Consumers can file complaints with the Attorney General's office online. Sytman said the office doesn't promise to solve the problem, but sometimes a letter informing the business of the complaint can be enough for the business to fix the issue.