Woman trying to quit club is hurt by reply

When Cyrinda Valentino tried to end a fitness club membership only months after joining, she didn’t receive a formal letter reminding her of a contractual obligation.

Instead, the 23-year-old Litchfield resident was asked: “Have you looked in the mirror lately???”

An e-mail message supposedly sent by the Integrity Health franchise owner might have been an attempt to impart the tough love of a fitness coach. But to Valentino, the approach went over the line.

“I was very taken aback,” Valentino said. “I felt hurt. I didn’t expect that at all. I felt like I was being spoken to like a child.”

Valentino tried to end a one-year contract because the club’s hours didn’t match her work schedule, and she didn’t care for exercising during lunch because she couldn’t shower at the facility.

But, according to a copy of an e-mail message that Valentino said was sent by club owner John Terlizzi, he wrote: “No showers, limited hours, blah blah blah, if you want to do it, you will adjust your schedule to make it happen.”

Terlizzi didn’t return phone calls or an e-mail message seeking comment. He is the franchise owner of the Integrity Health facility at Meetinghouse Plaza in Amherst, according to a press release written by the larger chain.

Valentino said she needed to get in shape, wanting to shed 40 pounds.

“I am definitely overweight,” she said. “I planned to go to the gym to lose weight.”

She joined the club shortly after its spring opening. She liked the proximity of Integrity Health to her employer; both are in Meetinghouse Plaza.

After paying a startup fee, Valentino is obligated to pay $49 a month in return for an individualized exercise and nutrition plan.

But Valentino said she didn’t know the club closed at 8 p.m. weekdays, conflicting with working late. She also said the club doesn’t have showers and that she didn’t like returning sweaty to her job after a lunchtime workout.

“It is my fault for not looking into the hours, but nowadays people have such flexible hours, I figured it would be open longer,” she said.

Valentino wrote Terlizzi an e-mail asking to terminate her contract early, she said.

His response, according to the message provided by Valentino: “The ‘inconvenient truth’ is that you need to do something for your health and our program is perfect for you. We all have a million excuses why we don’t have time to take care of ourselves – but you know what – without our health nothing else matters.

“$49 a month is not going to change my life or yours – but you getting yourself into Integrity and following your program – will change your life (it may even save your life),”

The message then reminded Valentino she had previously reviewed her contract and had not taken her commitment seriously. He added that her familiarity with gym contracts led him to believe she had quit other clubs.

“Well this time I am going to hold you to your commitment – for your own good,” the message said. “You signed a contract that commits you to pay $49 a month for at least a year. Now really make a commitment to YOU and your health and get in here.”

Terlizzi does offer Valentino the chance to buy out her contract for $74 she apparently owed and $392 for the remaining balance.

But in his closing, Terlizzi makes one last attempt at selling Valentino on the club and her need to become fit.

“The strength part of your program is the most important – try doing your strength program here 3 times a week during your break (what does it take 20-30 minutes) then do your cardio exercise at home (walk, jog, or dance you just need to get your heart rate up).

“Of course, none of this will do you much good at all unless you follow your meal plan – nutrition is the most important component – our hours, lack of showers, etc. have nothing to do with what you eat.”

Valentino said she was troubled by one more item in Terlizzi’s message: an attachment that included the same message, except this one began with the salutation: “Have you looked in a mirror lately???”

“At this point, I’m embarrassed,” she said. “I don’t want to go back in there after this letter.”

Valentino said she will try again to cancel her contract. In the meantime, she is exercising at home. Pilates exercises and bike riding have helped her lose 15 pounds, she said.

“It’s a lesson learned the hard way,” she said. “I know I’m wasting my money.”

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com