Ten X Club's Sudden Dedham Move Surprises Members
Club claims move is only a five- to eight-minute drive, but new location is off of public transportation grid; Club says it will work with members to resolve contract disputes.
Eileen Wyner joined Ten X Club, a women's health and fitness club that moved from West Roxbury to Dedham this month, in July of 2010. The gym was in walking distance, and for someone who doesn't drive, that made her preferred regimen of three weekly trips easily accomplishable.
So when the gym announced to members in mid-January that in just a few short weeks it would be moving 2.4 miles down the street, but across town lines into Dedham, Wyner quickly got to work on cancelling her membership, asking for a pro-rated refund in return. The new location was not only no longer in walking distance, but it wasn't located on the MBTA.
"I signed my contract," she said. "I kept up my end, and I'd like them to keep up their end of it."
Wyner, though, has struggled to get through to the club to discuss the issue. She has spoken to its attorney, Douglas Noble, who told her in an email that "the club's legal position is that relocating its club five minutes away on the same road is not a 'substantial change in location' as defined by Mass. law and therefore does not give members the right to cancel their contract." Wyner said she has been offered a 50 percent pro-rated bonus, but said that number is unacceptable.
Club owner Cory Nappa is sympathetic to the position of Wyner and members like her who do not drive, though he said most members had a very positive reaction to the move. "We're reviewing our situations with different people," he said. "Members without cars, obviously, we can't help them."
Nappa said he hopes to eventually reach resolution with all members looking to get out of their contracts, but is asking members to be patient. "With any inquiries, we've asked if we could communicate with members in March," he said. "We've asked for a little time on the administrative side."
The Massachusetts Department of Consumer Affairs agrees with Wyner's take that the move does constitute a substantial change in location. The department's undersecretary, Barbara Anthony, said that for members who do have to walk, the new location isn't just an inconvenience -- it's a safety issue. "It's a parkway," she said. "I don't think it's a reasonable requirement...to ask members to risk their lives to get there." The office also calculated that such a walk may take up to 45 minutes. "The club has substantially changed the contract," she said.
Anthony said by her office's interpretation, members who do not wish to use the new facility should be entitled to a full pro-rated refund of their contracts.
Heather MacFarlane is a gym member who has decided to give the club's new location a chance. She's grown to appreciate the club's community atmosphere, and the short notice of the move would have made it difficult to find a new club. "It's worth giving it a shot," she said.
MacFarlane, however, did wish the club would have given members a bit more notice about the move. "For a gym that said it valued members' opinions, I thought it may be nice of them to ask," she said. MacFarlane said something like a survey to ask members where they would have liked the gym to relocate may have helped.
Nappa said he "absolutely" wishes the club could have given members more notice or asked for their input. "It's a big move no matter what," he said. "The more communication we could have had, the better." He explained, though, that the gym's negotiations for its West Roxbury location with its landlord broke down after a lengthy process, prompting a quick move. The Dedham location was available at terms the gym deemed acceptable for Feb. 1, he said, and he and his partners jumped at the opportunity.
Nappa said the move has been well-received by most members and staff, and it has been smooth for the most part. He said converting the location to match the aesthetic and atmosphere of the old facility is an ongoing process -- MacFarlane said it has improved since opening in early February -- and that effort is why the gym is asking upset members to wait to resolve their contractual issues. "We have their information on file," he said, "and we've assured them we would get back to them."
Wyner has reached out to the Attorney General's office for assistance, an action that Anthony, the Consumer Affairs undersecretary, encouraged. "That might push the owners to be more reasonable," she said.