BBB provides tips on joining a new gym

It’s not uncommon for many consumers to resolve to join a gym or fitness center and kick off the New Year with a healthier lifestyle. In fact, the month of January typically sees an increase of 50 percent regarding gym activity from the prior month of December. On a national basis last year, your Better Business Bureau processed approximately 6,900 complaints against health clubs and fitness centers. Many of these complaints pertained to billing and contract issues, making it important for consumers to do their research before committing to a new gym membership.
 
“A gym membership can be a costly commitment, so people should treat this decision like any other major purchase to ensure they are joining a reputable gym or fitness center that meets their needs,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “In the state of Pennsylvania, consumers are provided certain protections under the Health Club Act and registration should be verified with the Bureau of Consumer Protection for gyms and health clubs that provide membership contracts of more than three months.”
 
To get the most from your gym membership, consider the following tips from BBB:
 
•    Set fitness goals. Determining your goals in advance will help you select a facility that is most appropriate for you. It’s also a good idea to check with your physician before embarking on a new fitness regiment, especially if you have a medical condition.
 
•    Determine priorities. What is most important to you? Will a convenient location and extended hours help you stick to your fitness plan? Will a variety of equipment or classes keep you motivated? Do you work out while traveling and prefer a chain with numerous outlets? Determine your top priorities before you start shopping around.
 
•    Check with BBB. BBB provides Business Profiles on more than 15,000 health clubs, fitness centers and gyms. Read what previous customers have to say, and see how the businesses respond to complaints. This information may help you narrow down the list of gyms you want to tour in person.
 
•    Take a tour. Make sure the gym has the equipment, classes and trainers you need or expect. Is at least one person who is trained in CPR on the premises during business hours? Pay attention to things that are important to you, whether it’s the cleanliness of the showers or the availability of Wi-Fi. Ask questions and make sure you understand all of the rules. Ask about busy times, wait times for equipment, whether classes require pre-registration, availability and cost of trainers, etc.
 
•    Inquire about free trials. Gyms often give a one-week free pass for potential members; this is a great way to see if the gym is a good fit for you. Try the gym at different times to see how crowded it is and whether there is a wait for certain equipment. Check out classes if they are offered.
 
•    Never feel pressured into signing on the spot. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join immediately. A reputable gym will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities, do some research, and make an informed decision.
 
•    Calculate the actual costs. Gyms often use special introductory offers to encourage new members, but the price could go up more than you budgeted once the initial period is over. Make sure you understand what the regular monthly fees will be and what they include.
 
•    Understand the terms. Read the contract carefully before signing. Make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing. What happens if you move or the gym goes out of business? Will your membership renew automatically at the end of the term? Can you get out of the contract altogether and under what circumstances?
 
•    Recognize your rights. Consumers have the right to cancel health club contracts within three business days of signing the contract and at any time for the following reasons:
o    If the club closes for more than 30 days and there is no alternate facility within 10 miles.
o    If you move more than 25 miles from the health club and there is no comparable club available within five miles of your new home.
o    If you suffer an injury, verified by a doctor, which prevents you from using one-third or more of the club’s equipment for six months or longer.    
 
For more helpful advice on joining a gym or evaluating weight-loss product options, visit the BBB Weight Loss Resource Center at bbb.org. Report scams you encounter to BBB Scam Tracker or contact your BBB at 877.267.5222 for further assistance.


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