Saturday, July 2, 2011

How to Cancel a Gym Membership in France

From ages 4 - 18, I spent the bulk of my time...oh, how to say this in a sensitive manner...fat. My grandmother, who is from an impoverished area of Chennai, India, had spent much of the 60s and 70s in America discovering all of the ways we package sugar after she immigrated to the States. She passed this knowledge down to me during my many childhood visits. Unfortunately, without the lesson of moderation, I went from a typical skin and bones Indian girl to a rather round Indian teenager.

After seeing myself a little too jiggly on camera, I decided to make a life change, and have been an avid gym goer since the era of blob-dom. Even though I spent my first few months in France...oh, how to say this in a sensitive manner...poor, I joined a gym in Lyon, and lived off of eggs for three months to cover the cost.

Florian, the guy who signed me up, treated me like a celebrity because he saw I was born near Los Angeles. The rest of the staff, however, failed to acknowledge my existence. Sadly, this is what I prefer. But, the weight room smelled like a dead animal, the rest of the patrons looked at me like vermin because I wore brightly colored shorts on occasion, and the equipment itself was outdated. And even with the student discount, it was overpriced. Still, at the time, this was the best choice for gyms in the city of Lyon, so I stuck with it the entire time I lived there.

Seeing as buying a SIM card in France took more paperwork than opening up a small business in America, I decided to ask about closing my membership a full three weeks before I left the country. This took some dancing (I accidentally ended up in a Jazzercise class), but after four days, I finally found my trusted Florian, and asked him how to close my account. The conversation went like this:

(Translated for your convenience)

Me: Hi Florian! I am leaving France in a few weeks, so I need to close my account here.
Florian: Why are you closing your account?
Me: Uh...I'm leaving the country.
Florian: Why?
Me: What? Because...wait. No, I just...I want to close my account.
Florian: Is there something wrong with the gym?
Me: No! Well, that's not the reason I am closing my account.
Florian: What if you come back to Lyon and want a gym membership?
Me: Yeah, I'll deal with that when it happens.
Florian: Hmm. Okay, well I will need a letter of explanation along with proof you are leaving for good.
Me: Proof I am leaving?
Florian: Yes, like a copy of your plane ticket, or a letter from your employer. Like that.
Me: (In English) Geez. At the last gym I belonged to, I told the guy I wanted to quit the gym because the cardio equipment smelled like potato salad. That was enough.
Florian: What?
Me: Nothing. ::sigh::

A week later, and I hadn't been able to catch Florian to present my "proof." Stupidly, I decided to try my luck with another employee. After she carefully eyed how poorly dressed I was for their gym, and spent a little too long eying my arm fat, she looked at the letter, threw her arms up in the air, and exclaimed how insufficient that was. Apparently, writing down my flight numbers in the letter and showing a copy of my e-ticket wasn't enough proof. "We need to see a copy of your boarding pass," she explained. I tried reminding her that paper boarding passes died at the invention of the internet, but she wouldn't hear it, and told me "try again."

Great. I felt stupid asking my boss for a letter to cancel my gym membership, so I tried handing the same letter to two other employees. One told me that the gym has never had to cancel a membership before, so he wasn't sure whether my letter was good enough. Another one told me she wasn't sure a one way ticket constituted "proof." To this, all I had to say was, "Where the hell is Florian?"

Finally, two days before I was set to leave France, Florian magically appeared at the gym. I hid behind the giant stair climber machine until I was sure he was alone, and carefully approached.

(Also translated for your convenience)

Me: Florian! (I half whispered.)
Florian: Oh, Ms. Los Angeles, hello!
Me: Hey, so I have that letter to close my account.
Florian: (Takes sheet) Hmm...I don't know. We usually need a boarding pass.
Me: ::sigh:: I can't get that until tomorrow! It has to be less than 24 hours before take-off...
Florian: Oh, well I'm sorry, this is not enough proof.

So I paused. I knew I would have to lie. But which one!?

This one:

Me: Oh really? That's too bad...I'm flying to Los Angeles (LIE!) after I get to New York. I was hoping you could come visit me sometime (LIE!)...
Florian: You still live in Los Angeles?
Me: Yes! (LIE!)
Florian: Oh, well you know, I know you, so I will just go ahead and close this account for you.

Florian clicked the mouse like twice, and out spat a membership cancellation confirmation. As he handed it to me, he said:

Florian: So where do you live in Los Angeles?
Me: Oh, um...Hollywood? (LIE!)
Florian: Ah okay! Okay okay, I will come visit you then! I will email you soon, okay?
Me: Okay! I look forward to that! (LIE!)

You would think I darted out of there after that conversation. But no, I stayed to work out. That damn place was so overpriced, I wasn't about to get cheated out of my money!

Oh, and Florian never emailed me. Thank God.


gemma said...

what a twat

Fiorella said...

Hi Mala!! amazing story!!!
a big hug!

Florian said...

You never answered my e-mail !