Chicago Bally Workout 336

December 31, 2009

It looks like LA Fitness will extend its pre-sale rates through the New Year. 2011, that is. At this point, anyone who signs up at the regular price is a moron. Come to think of it, has any member ever paid the regular price? Would LA Fitness even know how to charge the regular price?

Enjoy your workout.

Chicago Bally Workout 335

December 27, 2009

Now Bally and LA Fitness are facing new competition. The Chicago Park District is letting people work out for free at all park district centers. These places don’t have a wide variety of machines. But they do regularly charge either monthly or daily rates, in the event that you know you’re not going to visit often. Of course, you don’t get to enjoy the exclusive Bally experience of hellish locker rooms and toilet facilities.

Enjoy your workout.

Chicago Bally Workout 334

December 25, 2009

LA Fitness has resumed offering special pre-opening rates, along with handing out 3-day passes. Look for the sale to continue through 2010, as the New Year’s Resolution crowd emerges. However, Bally prices are still significantly cheaper, in the event that your resolutions include saving money – and don’t include avoiding unsanitary locker room and toilet conditions.

Enjoy your workout – and happy holidays.

Chicago Bally Workout 333

December 18, 2009

The Chicago Tribune reported accounting fraud involving Bally Total Fitness. The guilty parties should be forced to become Bally members – and also clean out the toilet stalls.

Enjoy your workout.

Ernst & Young settles charges in Bally Total Fitness fraud
SEC: Partners failed to detect and report accounting issues

By Julie Wernau, Tribune reporter
December 18, 2009

Ernst & Young LLP agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle charges against six current and former partners—five based in Chicago—for failing to detect and report accounting fraud at Chicago-based Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., the Securities and Exchange Commission said Thursday.

The SEC also settled charges Thursday against former Bally Chief Financial Officer John Dwyer and former Controller Theodore Noncek, pending court approval.

Dwyer agreed to pay $250,000 and has been permanently barred from serving as an officer or director at a public company. Noncek consented to similar injunctions for two years.

A Bally representative said the company had no comment on the settlements.

The Ernst & Young partners audited Bally from 2001 to 2003 and failed to find and report fraud despite the fact that Ernst & Young had previously identified Bally as its riskiest account in the Chicago area.

Bally overstated its year-end 2001 stockholders’ equity by $1.8 billion and understated net losses in 2002 by $92.4 million and by $90.8 million in 2003.

In February 2008 the fitness center operator was charged with fraud after the SEC found that from at least 1997 to 2003 the company had recognized revenue it didn’t have from initiation fees, prepaid dues and reactivation fees. Bally emerged from bankruptcy for the second time in two years in August. It wasn’t required to pay a penalty for the fraud.

Three Ernst & Young partners who were charged remain at the firm. They are Randy Fletchall, who was in charge of its national office in New York, and two based in Chicago, Mark Sever, Ernst & Young’s national director of area professional practice, and Kenneth Peterson, the professional practice director.

The other three from the Chicago office are no longer with the firm. They are Thomas Vogelsinger, the area managing partner until October 2003, William Carpenter, engagement partner for the 2003 audit, and John Kiss, the engagement partner for the 2001 and 2002 audits.

The SEC barred Sever and Kiss from practicing before the SEC as accountants for three years and barred Peterson and Carpenter from practicing for two years. For repeated instances of unreasonable conduct Vogelsinger was barred from practicing for nine months, and for a single instance of highly unreasonable conduct Fletchall was censured.

All those charged agreed to settle without admitting or denying charges against them.

Attorneys for the men either declined to comment or referred questions to Ernst & Young.

In a statement the firm said, “These settlements allow us and several of our partners to put this matter behind us and resolve issues that arose more than five years ago.”

Chicago Bally Workout 332

December 8, 2009

Has LA Fitness really ended the special pre-opening rates? There’s no mention of the discounts on the latest coupons being distributed by staffers.

However, now LA Fitness is declaring the club is “Ranked #1 – Best Value In The East Loop.” How can you be ranked first if you’ve only been open for a month? And how can you make a best value claim when your rates are over double what Bally charges? The LA Fitness advertising department must be taking promotion enhancement drugs.

Enjoy your workout.

Chicago Bally Workout 331

December 2, 2009

Well, it’s December and LA Fitness is still hyping pre-opening rates. So much for the limited-time-only Black Friday deal. Look for management to generously extend the offer in honor of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Enjoy your workout.

Chicago Bally Workout 330

December 1, 2009

Bally continues its automated efforts to re-sign ex-members. Ironically, the envelope encourages saving paper – even though Bally constantly sends junk mail that fills up the recycling bin. The latest correspondence includes a coupon to present a membership to a friend or loved one as a seasonal gift. The accompanying letter almost gives the false impression that your cancelled membership and related fees are still in effect. Plus, there’s a handy Fitness Tip of the Month recommending eating at regular intervals during the holidays. The letter ends by inviting you to visit the website for other helpful tips and tools – and to make a payment online. How very thoughtful.

Enjoy your workout.