"It was nice," says Irma Bartel about ShapeXpress.
"We really enjoyed it," adds friend Shirley Anderson.
That is how they felt about the gym they signed up for just six weeks ago, but this week when they went for their Monday morning workout they found a note on the door saying the club is closed.
Contact 15 Reporter Natalie Swaby asks, "No one had ever said anything about this?"
"No, no," answers Anderson. "Nobody said anything about anything."
It has created a lot of confusion for members, not only because the gym is dark and the doors are locked, but also they are having no luck with the number posted on the door which is suppose to connect them with a refund.
"It would ring like two normal rings, then you would get a shrill ring," says Bartel as she describes what happened when she called.
According to ShapeXpress's Corporate Office the bad connection has since been corrected. But paying back members may be the bigger problem. A top executive for the fitness franchise explains the owners of the East Madison gym got caught in a bad business deal.
Mark Stephens, Vice President of ShapeXpress Operations says, "the company was trying to increase their membership, and without the approval or direction of ShapeXpress corporate, decided to contact a company."
ShapeXpress says a promotions company out of Pennsylvania stepped in and took over marketing and billing. With the extra help the little gym was expecting to bulk up their revenue by $40,000 to $50,000. The plan was to bring in new members with deals like the one Bartel and Anderson signed up for.
"The contract was for two years, and if we paid up front we got two extra months," explains Bartel.
But corporate says while new members signed up, the owners of the franchise saw less than $3000 in profit, forcing them to close their doors. Now the equipments out, the locks are changed, and members want their money back.
"We want a refund. That is all we want is a refund," says Bartel.
Bartel and Anderson paid $288 for 26 months of membership. 76 other members also pre-paid, and their money was collected by the promotions company out of Pennsylvania. ShapeXpress is trying to work with that company to get a refund for customers. ShapeXpress also advises other members on payment plans to call their bank or credit card company, and ask them to stop all payments.
To contact the owners of the ShapeXpress Franchise in Madison call 608-205-4057. The corporate number for ShapeXpress is 1-866-474-2739.