Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Lifetime spa users
asked to renew

Question: I purchased a lifetime membership in the Spa Fitness Center on Punahou Street in 1982. I've just been told by the center that in order to continue, I would have to pay $399, plus a monthly maintenance fee. Can they do this? There are several other women questioning whether our lifetime memberships are valid.

Q: The Spa Fitness Center on Punahou is breaking its contract with long-time members by requiring them to enroll in a "conversion plan" by putting down a new deposit and signing a contract. The Spa says it can do this because it was sold several years ago. The new owner allowed members to continue their membership without letting us know of this change until July. I wish we could have paid maybe a higher monthly (realizing that the monthly fee is really cheap) or provided other options. Isn't this a breach of contract?

Answer: Owner Gary Groendyke purchased the Spa Fitness Center on Punahou Street in April 2001. There were two other centers of the same name operating on Oahu at the time.

At the request of the previous owner, with whom he had worked since 1974, Groendyke said he agreed to honor existing memberships for two years and, unofficially, to retain the Spa name.

In 2003, he said he agreed to his former boss's request -- "on a handshake" -- to extend the lifetime memberships for another two years.

However, in the face of mounting operational expenses, he said he can no longer accommodate memberships sold years before, some dating back to 1974. The problem is that more than 50 percent of active members are not paying anything to use the facilities at what's now called Punahou Fitness and Spa.

"I wouldn't be able to continue because I couldn't afford to" continue lifetime memberships, he said.

In retrospect, Groendyke says he should have changed the name in 2001, so members would know that there had been a change in ownership.

Before he announced the new membership fees under Punahou Fitness and Spa, he said he contacted several attorneys, "and they all gave me the same responses -- that I had every right" to increase the membership requirements under the new corporation.

Members who joined after April 1, 2001, are not affected, he said. Members who joined prior to that have been offered "quite a substantial discount if they would like to continue," but if not, the old memberships will be honored until the end of this year.

Groendyke said the conversion fee is $399, plus an annual $49 renewal fee.

Beginning August, there is an additional $5 monthly maintenance fee. That fee goes up to $8 in October, $10 in November and $12 in December.

If you believe you have basis for a complaint, call the state Office of Consumer Protection at 587-3222.

"We've received complaints about the change and circumstances and we are examining the matter," said executive director Stephen Levins.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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