JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Little Gym of Jacksonville closed its doors abruptly, many of its 200 members, according to its corporate office, were surprised.
"I have never been contacted by them, a letter, an email nothing," said member Erin Archer.
When Archer went to the center to pay her tuition a week before the Nov. 6 closing, no one said anything, she said. "I paid October 27 for the month of November."
Her 5-year-old, Grace took classes at the center to develop her motor and social skills. "This was for the kids. It is not about the money, but they collected money knowing they were closing," said Archer.
Little Gym is owned by Atlantic Fitness Corp. On the company's Facebook page, one member called the closing "Rude."
A sign on the door blames the economic conditions and said it will be difficult to provide refunds.
Ruc Adams, a senior vice president with the corporate office in Scottsdale, Ariz., has heard the complaints. "It was a surprise to us," he said. "We have a process; it was not followed."
ON YOUR SIDE
Adams verified that the franchise operator was collecting money from members up until Saturday and closed its doors on Sunday.
"I'm just disappointed to tell you the truth," said Archer. She is undecided on her next move. "I just want something for my daughter to do."
Mary Dieken is also a disappointed member of Little Gym. "I was paid through December," she said.
Dieken is taking her business to a competitor that is still in business, My Gym.
Jacqueline Miller, owner of My Gym, agreed with Little Gym's corporate office to provide service to members of its defunct franchise. "I heard from a mom the bad news and my heart went out to them," said Miller, who is waiving registration fees and honoring a portion of their Little Gym contract.
"My business advisors and I decided to honor two months of their Little Gym memberships," said Miller.
Florida's Health Studio Act requires fitness facilities to provide an alternate facility or a refund before it can close.
But Sterling Ivey, spokesperson for the Department of Consumer Services, said Little Gym is exempted because the law does not apply to gym schools, clubs and dance studios.
Efforts to reach Atlantic Fitness Corp. were unsuccessful; according to the sign on its door, the company is in the process of filing for bankruptcy.
"If customers paid with credit cards, perhaps they can go back to their card company for a refund," said Adams.