'It's the silence': Members lose money after local fitness centers abruptly close

Posted at 10:46 PM, Jan 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 23:21:47-05

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — Members of AKT fitness in Royal Oak are trying recover hundreds of dollars they lost when the location closed unexpectedly.

It happened just before the new year and many are still waiting on an explanation.

"Thursday morning, I was there for a class and then there was an email," said Shaindle Braunstein, a former member of AKT Royal Oak.

Braunstein says she joined the fitness center during the COVID-19 lockdown. She was attracted to the friendly atmosphere and the dance-based workout routines.

She says an email went out on Dec. 29 informing her and other members that AKT in Royal Oak and Rochester Hills were shutting down for good.

"Friday when I was there, we were all crying. It was like my last class and Saturday, I couldn't be in that class and then they closed," Braunstein said.

The closure of both locations was also announced on Instagram. Both accounts posted the same message, in part, reading:

"We are at the end of this amazing journey. Circumstances outside of my control have forced me to close AKT Royal Oak and Rochester Hills."

The post went onto say, "I have given everything I have to AKT mentally, emotionally, and financially."

At the end of the post was the name Deanna, which customers have identified as the owner. 7 Action News reached out to both of her business and personal accounts for comment but have not heard back.

"Her email was cut off, so I have not been able to connect with her, and I reached out to corporate and really haven't gotten anywhere," Braunstein said.

Now, Braunstein is being hounded by a third-party debt collector. She owes nearly $1,500 for a year-long membership she'll never get to use.

"We got like a Black Friday special, pre-paid 2023 — pay now and get a great discount. I was like oh, my God, of course," said Braunstein, who often attended AKT six days a week.

Aside from the financial blow, Braunstein says the worst part of the whole thing was losing a space to gather with friends.

"Beyond the camaraderie for me is the trainers, the front desk people — like overnight, they are out of work," Braunstein said. "And they are still, we have a whole group chat going."

The group chat led to something bigger: a private class run by former trainers for members who still want to get together and move.

"They are doing this just to maintain our community and so we can dance together and be together and keep that energy going," Braunstein said.

Braunstein has opened a claim with her bank on the basis of her paying for a service she never received. She is still waiting on a refund.

Her ultimate hope was AKT fitness in Royal Oak would open under new ownership.

"I get it, things happen, but it's the silence that I think is the hardest part for everybody," Braunstein said.

We did reach out AKT corporate for comment on the sudden closings and asked whether customers were entitled for a refund. We are still waiting to hear back.