Dear PoP – More Trouble at Columbia Heights WSC

“Dear PoP,

Last week, on the evening of Wednesday, January 20th, a thief broke into three locked lockers in the men’s locker room at the Columbia Heights Washington Sports Club (WSC) location sometime around 7:30. As you know, it was a PoP reader who alerted us to the same type of theft in July. I had my wallet and suit pants stolen and I no longer assume that anything I leave in a locked locker at that location is safe. It looked like a bolt cutter or crowbar was used to pry my lock off.

To add insult to injury, the entire situation was mishandled by staff from the very beginning. The acting manager on duty that night said he would file a police report on behalf of the victims. That turned out not to be true. Initially my calls were not returned and it was only when I began to complain about how poorly I was being treated as a customer that I had my concerns addressed. I was initially offered three free personal training sessions for my trouble, which I found insulting given that the value of my stolen goods was at least $520, and that I had a lock on my locker. They then offered me one free month of membership and reminded me that they are not liable for damaged or stolen property under any circumstances. Whoops, I guess I should have read the fine print when I signed the membership contract.

Besides informing the gym that I am canceling my membership, there is nothing more I can do in this situation. I did, however, want to mention this incident so all your readers are aware that security is still poor at the WSC Columbia Heights location. I’ve heard from two separate sources that there are 8,000 members at this particular gym. I guess with that much revenue pouring in the loss of one member is just minor collateral damage in the effort to get more and more members without adequately protecting existing members. I’ve gone back a number of times since the theft and see no change in security procedures. For example, many times there is no attendant in the locker room.

It’s disappointing that the management of the club is so poor because the location is convenient, but I cannot in good conscience continue placing my trust in WSC to improve security or cap their membership to better manage their club. I just wish I could have had the chance to stop this criminal like the reader who confronted the thief back in July. From now on, I will go to the gym closer to my workplace and exercise there.”

55 Comment

  • I’m so not surprised by this post. That gym is crowded, smelly, hectic and just not a pleasant place to be. I recently rejoined WSC (from Vida, a beautiful oasis of a gym) and while I love a lot of the classes, I will continue to utlize the WSC closest to work (Silver Spring) and frequent Columbia Heights as little as possible and for sure not lock anything in lockers anymore. Thanks for this story!

  • I dropped my membership several months ago when my contract expired due to the overcrowding and poor customer service. Just trying to find a manager to talk to about ending my contract took 45 minutes of waiting. It’s a shame that a gym in such a prime location with such modern amenities is so poorly run.

    • Keep monitoring your account. I was charged for another 3 months after I quit WSC and I didn’t notice it for a few months. When I complained, I was asked for a copy of my cancellation which I no longer had so they refused to credit my money back.

      Greedy MF’ers…

  • WSC lockers are very easy to break into. Most are made of particle board or something similar, and entry requires just a screwdriver to pry the lock hinge from the inside walls. That’s how my locker was broken into at the K Street WSC. Ever since, I carry my wallet and keys on the gym floor with me. If you can’t afford to lose it, you should not leave something in a WSC locker.

  • DCDave05, thanks for that viewpoint also…Silver Spring, while not as crowded would be an easy theft spot too because it’s so underused and vacant. Guess I will keep my belongings with me, in the classroom, where I can keep an eye on things.

  • Just to pile on, I’ve been a member of WSC since they opened in Columbia Heights, and it has gotten progressively more crowded. They are wildly oversubscribed, and have packed in even more new members during this year’s New Year’s resolution season. They really need some competition in the area. If there was a Vida or Gold’s Gym in the neighborhood, they’d make a fortune as WSC is jammed to the rafters with gymgoers. It’s just not large enough or staffed well enough to deal with the crowding.

    • Last week I came Monday after work — and I know Mondays are always too crowded, at any gym, and certainly in January — but there was A LINE out the door just to scan your WSC card. I turned around and went home. 🙁

  • Does anyone have any good recommendations for other gyms in the area that are better i.e. less crowded and crime-ridden?

  • I’m feeling bettercall the time that I chose Vida over the closer WSC. I had signed up for a trial memership at WSC Columbia Heights, and customer service was so bad just processing it that I cancelled and went elsewhere. So far I’m loving Vida.

  • Agreed – so unfortunate that a great location has such a crappy gym. Classes are terrible, teachers don’t know the first thing about teaching safe and motivating classes, locker rooms dirty (and unsafe) and the staff indifferent/unresponsive.

    I’d LOVE to see Results move up here – or any other gym. Any gym owners reading this blog?

  • Vida is amazing. A beautiful, tranquil, well run, really great gym…a little snooty at times, but they can be because it’s such a great gym. But, if you live in Columbia Heights or north and don’t work downtown – not so convenient. I miss it. Results is also a really fun gym with a great staff & classes. That said, WSC has some really wonderful classes & instructors (Silver Spring especially) with one of the best pilates classes I’ve ever taken. The rest of the WSC gyms seem fine, just not Col. Heights.

  • I go to this gym several times a week in the evening. At no time, have I noticed there to be less than 10 people in the locker room at the same time. How is it possible for some one to break into 3 lockers without anybody noticing??

  • The overcrowding in this place has gotten ridiculous. I am amazed that no other gym has opened in the area, a little competition would go a long way.

  • I’ve been debating joining WSC or Mint. Suffice to say, I’m ruling out WSC. What does the peanut gallery say about Mint? Classes? Equipment? Price of Admission? Thanks!

    • It really sucks to be just another victim of a crime in D.C. and then be treated in the manner the writer to PoP was.

      This member of the peanut gallery would like to thank the writer for the heads up to us on this establishment.

    • Love Mint! Yoga classes are great, never overcrowded. My husband lifts in the mornings and hasn’t had any issues with crowding either. He has complained that there are “only two proper benches” and “not heavy enough free weights”…but he’s found ways to work around those issues. Don’t tell too many people though 🙂

      PS I pay $105/month, joined in their second year of operation. I’m not sure what the going rate is these days, I’m assuming I’ve been grandfathered in since I’ve never had a rate increase. Yeah, it’s more than WSC, but it’s just tranquil, clean, pleasant. Isn’t that what you want in a gym?

  • WSC supposedly got a sweet deal (like other large tenants) when they orignally agreed to lease the space. Now I bet it would be very difficult for a good gym to gain a foothhold and compete with the current cost of space in Columbia heights.

  • I joined MINT when they initially opened and I lived in Adams Morgan. I paid $110/month. The gym is small; 20 cardio equipment at max, and 1 small studio for classes.

    I sympathize for the writer who got his/her stuff stolen at WSC in CH. Since the last incident in July I’ve noticed more staff in the locker rooms. I’m at WSC atleast 4x per week in the evenings. There’s always 1 person folding towels and another cleaning– much more visible staff presence than before. As another person posted, the locker rooms are overcrowded. I’m not sure how someone would get away breaking locks.

    Again, it sucks to get your stuff stolen. But I have seen an increased effort for the staff to keep the locker rooms better staffed and clean. To the person who commented that the classes were bad– you must be doing something wrong. The classes are all taught by well qualified instructors and there’s a wait list for every class.

    • There’s a wait list for classes because the gym is horribly overcrowded.

      I don’t think the instructors are very good, especially compared to places like Results and Vida.

    • If someone in the class is doing something wrong, isn’t it the responsibility of the instructor to offer corrections?

      After all, isn’t that what they are paid to do?

  • This gym’s customer service SUCKS! No doubt about it. The managers are terrible. I have had several run ins with them. What a hopeful place of business — gone so terrible wrong!

  • Shocked to hear about this. I’m a WSC member, but went to the Columbia Heights location for the first time a few days ago (on the day these incidents happened, apparently).

    The Dupont Circle location (north of the circle, near Bucca di Beppo) is my standard WSC location, and I have zero complaints about it. The CH location is absurdly crowded compared to Dupont.

    I’ll probably just throw all my clothes/wallet/phone in my backpack and bring it with me to the gym floor in the future, though.

  • WSC service is terrible. My locker was broken into at their clarendon location a few years ago and they did NOTHING about it. Sue their ass for negligence.

  • In reading this account I was amazed at how uncaring the staff was. That is a theme I hear over and over again in regards to people seeking assistance for anything in DC. Store clerks, cops, etc. People in DC, in general, just don’t seem to give a shit.

    • A lot of that comes down to low pay and poor treatment of low level, frontline, retail/service industry staff by management and the general public in this town though. I’m not making excuses for inaction in situations like this one, but middle and upper class folks in this town often really act like a bunch of entitled d*cks to working class people here.

      • What comes first? The chicken or the egg? I am always nice to folks in the service industry in D.C. They are always a bunch of as$holes to me. Starbucks — no smile. Giant — not even a hello. I don’t even want to open up a race discussion here, but if I’m nice to you, be nice to me. It’s called being professional. I would get fired from my job if I was an as$hole. Why can’t the service industry be held to the same standards. I’ve lived in 5 major US cities — D.C. service industry is by far the rudest. No surprise about the WSC staff…

  • Don’t get me started with the CH WSC. I have been a member of numerous gyms over the years in DC and California and the quality and customer service at this WSC is appalling. I am not impressed by the space and equipment either. The free weights and cardio machines are all crammed into one space.

    After numerous problems with customer service, I finally wrote a comment through their website and heard from the manager within 24 hours. He seemed to take the complaint fairly seriously. That didn’t change anything per se, but was nice to have him call.

    I am concerned about my stuff getting stolen also. Anyone try those little lockers up front for “valuables”?

  • This all makes a lot more sense if you have an understanding of the WSC business model.

    The ACTUAL gym aspect of the business is secondary–primarily it’s a membership operation. The job of the gym and its employees is to sign as many people up for memberships–they don’t actually want people coming there to work out. That causes the equipment and facilities to wear down too quickly. So, you go in as a prospective customer and it all looks good so you sign up and now WSC has access to your bank or credit card account, from which they can hoover the monthly fee in perpetuity.

    THAT is the goal of the business–getting your money.

    Here’s a bit of a rhetorical question–ever tried quitting WSC? That act alone will take you through upwards of 6 months of various runaround, doubletalk, supervising managers “not here” to complete the cancellation, etc. All the while days and weeks pass and then you’re out a few more monthly fees.

    This, in a nutshell, is the WSC business model.

    • I have to give WSC credit where credit is due… My boyfriend and I belonged to WSC for one year; we only went to the gym for about three months, and were very lax on cancelling our membership. When “renewal” time came around, we went to WSC, said we’d like to cancel our membership, and we were in and out with guaranteed cancellation after about 5 minutes. No grief, no hassles, it was much less stressful than any other interaction with that gym.

  • Kustie makes a good point. You have to sign up for a full year. If you cancel the agreement before that they charge you a cancellation fee of $150. If you want to cancel after that you have to send a written notice 30 days in advance by certified mail to their membership services office in PA. It’s all in the crappy contract. I’ve also noticed that at least a number of the clubs, including Columbia Heights, have F ratings from the Better Business Bureau.

  • I joined when they first opened, so I’m only paying $50 a month – otherwise I would go elsewhere. It’s crowded, you can never find a staff person to help you with anything and I had trouble with two different personal trainers.
    One wouldn’t listen to what I wanted and argued with me when I asked her to teach me a few things that I could do on my own. This was after I paid for sessions so she could do exactly that. When she was finally fired – after getting into an argument with a member during my session – I saw someone else.

    He had me do the exact same workout 4 times. And repeatedly canceled and rescheduled sessions.

  • WSC is such a disappointment. I belonged to the same gym in NY (NYSC), and the DC outfit is far less nice, despite being equally as expensive, if not more so. The facilities are often not well maintained, the staff can be indifferent, and the crowding is getting noticeably worse, particularly at the CH gym. I actually try to avoid CH as much as possible and go to other locations, such as Chevy Chase, where things just run better.

    I’ve also seen a homeless guy hanging out in the locker room at the WSC in CH. Apparently he gets in there a lot, as the staff member I found to complain knew who he was. How can he gain access since you need to have a membership card scanned to enter?

    I think this is just what happens when you put a gym in the ghetto and let ghetto people join.

  • Inside job? I hope this guy and others have filed police reports. I would also think WSC has a surveillance system and if MPD isn’t being responsive contact Jim Graham’s office.

  • The pay for WSC front desk and training staff is very low, so it appears that the the staff is supplementint their incomes by cleaning(wink-wink) UP and not cleaning OUT the locker rooms.
    Please keep Jim Graham out of this club, The club has enough B o B action at this club. Is anyone is looking to purchase a LV belt, Lap Top,or a Black Berry they can find some of the local sales guys outside Target selling stuff obtained from the local Gyms or Street Pawn Shops. Jim Graham just picket up a nice LV Glasses,Unisex Messenger Bag, and a Wallet for $15 the guy wanted $50. Not bad days pay for a guy from Harpers Ferry. I love this city.

  • To those who complain- i hope you all cancel your membership this week. And convince 10 of your friends to cancel their memberships too. That would cut down on the overcrowding. I’m guessing the ones who complain the loudest are probably the new years resolutioners and you’re looking for your excuse to quit the gym. Go. Really.

  • I’m a satisfied WSC CH customer / regular gym-goer. Sure I wish there was competition in the area to relieve the overcrowding, but the club’s popularity makes sense given its great location. Things are particularly crowded right now because of the New Years resolution folks, but a lot of them will come less often soon (as they did last year) so I don’t find it too troubling.

    One problem with feedback on blogs and elsewhere is that those who are most dissatisfied are most likely to speak out, which makes it sound like everyone who uses a service.

  • Here’s the low-down about using lockers in ANY gym facility in DC: NOTHING IS SAFE FROM THEFT. When you go the gym, bring as little as possible. I just walk in wearing what I will work out in and keep my iPhone with me at all times. It’s sad that this is the kind of world we live in, but this is what living in the city is like. You can either deal with it or move to the ‘burbs (although this stuff happens in the ‘burbs too).

    • I was a member of Krav Maga DC for about a year and only heard of one locker room theft incident. And that happened when someone used a locker without a lock on it.

      It would be pretty stupid to steal from a bunch of people who are training to cause as much damage as they can with their hands and feet.

  • Yeah – I canceled my membership there. The place is always packed. The staff is prissy and unhelpful. Much of the equipment isn’t kept up properly. And many of the contract provisions are absurd. Even if you sign a year long contract – they still raise your rate after several months. It’s a joke. Stay away from this hole.

  • WSC isn’t the best, but not the worst. Classes aren’t great – that is for sure. But you can’t really complain about the numerous machines, the large selection of free weights, the BBall gym, the two fitness/yoga rooms, the sauna, and – especially – the pool where I swim all the time that is NEVER CROWDED : )

    Would I pay 50$ more for Vida. Hell no.

    Also, can go to the incredible sauna at the WSC on Conn. Ave. Awesome !!

  • Yeah, it’s overcrowded and the group exercise classes are mediocre at best but it’s close and cheap. If another gym moved into the neighborhood – buh bye WSC.

  • Balance Gym in Thomas Circle. Member over 3 years, great staff, renovation almost complete. Not overcrowded and best of all….only $45 or so per month! Not fancy like Vida, but price is right and I always get the class I want…and machine for that matter.

  • Don’t any of you have gyms at your work? I pay $26 a month for a nice gym that is never crowded and it’s downtown. I can go at lunch and not waste my evenings away waiting for the New Year fatties to get off of my equipment. I think some of you are getting ripped off.

  • I had a hanger of dry cleaning stolen from the locker room once (five dress shirts). I take responsibility for leaving the clothes unattended while I worked out, but I was disappointed in the staff’s reaction, which was to do nothing.

  • I am a WSC member but only use the CH location on weekends. I primarily use the location downtown on F Street during the week and the one in Silver Spring on weekends. I can’t justify the staff’s reaction and I feel bad for the individuals who have been victimized but these sound like isolated incidents. One post last July and now another post in January. I don’t see any continuous pattern of theft here.
    For what it’s worth, the crime problem is not limited to the CH location. I was in the locker room of the F Street location one weekday evening last summer around 6:30 when someone discovered that their locker had been broken into and their stuff taken. This was during peek workout times. There are also signs in the Silver Spring location warning of thefts from gym lockers in health clubs.
    Again, I think the staff should have clearly handled it better but I don’t think some isolated incidents of theft are enough to slam the club.

  • Not only is the security in the WSC gym poor but something worse happened: A few weeks ago on a weekend, staff alerted women via a whiteboard sign to use the family locker room because of maintenance in the women’s locker room until 4pm. After 4pm, the women’s locker room would be open. Following the sign, after 4pm I, and many other women, went on into the women’s locker room because the family room was crowded. Nothing blocked off the entrance to the locker room. In it, women were in various states of dress and using the facilities as they normally would. However, there were STILL WORKMEN–MEN–WORKING IN ANOTHER UNBLOCKED OFF PART OF THE LOCKER ROOM! I immediately left and told the front desk. They seemed nonplussed. I explained it twice again, expressing that this is NOT OK. Their response? To change the sign and to go back and tell the women in the locker room. I left, disgusted. I am quitting the gym this week.

    • That’s awful.Poor communication on the part of WSC staff + blatant indifference to member concerns.

      No wonder the WSC has a Better Business Bureau rating of F.

  • Again, surprised that no one was in the locker room when this happened. Don’t worry guys, if I see a thief taking your stuff, I’ll enjoy a good boxing workout. Please do the same for me.

  • I suggest Fitness First off Farragut North (19th & L). It’s no frills, but the staff are responsive, classes are good, the locker rooms are clean, and everyone seems to look out for each other. Not to mention, I signed a 2-year contract and I only pay $29 a month. I’m going on my 2nd year and couldn’t be happier.

  • I cannot believe that you have your dry cleaning stolen. WTF is wrong with people? I wonder if the thief checked the sizes before taking it.

    Sad state of affairs.

  • I feel like people are really harsh on this gym! I really like it and have had zero problems here (knock on wood) + they have babysitting. I left Mint when WSC-CH opened and am paying $60 less a month = that’s a difference of $720 a year (felt like Mint was guilty of theft)!!! I go early in the morning or at lunch time and never have a problem with overcrowding. Plus I love the classes there – maybe I’m just too easy to please! Be realistic here folks – it’s in a convenient location right next to the metro- of course if you head over there at 5:30 it’s going to be crowded. I am really sorry to hear about these thefts and subsequent poor handling by staff though.

  • Visited the CH WSC this weekend for the first time since fall. It has taken a nose dive since I joined when it opened. I frequent other places now and will continue to do so after this weekend. Towels everywhere, showers were worse than my freshman dorm, and the equipment smelled worse than an unopened gym back from last Monday. New competition is needed.

  • I joined the Trinity Center in Brookland. I love it — only had to commit to a 3 month contract for $165 (so…$55 per month). It’s never overcrowded — classes are good, and they have an indoor pool! Doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it definitely is worth the money. It’s on a college campus so security is tight for accessing the facility. I recommend it to anyone looking for a safe alternative that isn’t too far away ( in case you want to look at it online).

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