So you’ve decided it is time to join a health spa, fitness center, gym or sports club to help you improve your physical condition. Nearly 33 million people find that joining some type of gym is a great place to get in shape.
However, there are a couple things you need to know and decide before you join. Your effort to avoid various problems, such as high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations of facilities and services, broken cancellation and refund clauses, and lost membership fees as a result of spas going out of business, requires you to look closely at the spa’s fees, contractual requirements and gym facilities FIRST.
Check out the gyms you are considering during the hours you would normally use them with your eyes on overcrowding. Also, make note of whether the facility is clean and that the equipment is well-maintained.
Ask gym management and members about:
- Free trial periods to give you time to sample the services and equipment.
- Inquire as to whether they set a membership limit. May not be crowded when you visit, could end up being packed during peak hours or after a membership drive.
- Hours of operation and any use restrictions. Some spas restrict men’s use to certain days and women’s to others. Others may limit lower-cost memberships to certain hours.
- Fin out about the instructors and trainers. Some spas hire trainers and instructors who have special qualifications, and their longevity.
Always Read the Entire Contract Before Signing
Some spas ask you to join and pay on your first time visit, and may offer incentives like special rates to entice you to sign on the spot. Resist, never a good idea with any contractual relationship. Take the contract home and read it carefully. Best practice is to wait a few days before deciding.
Before you sign, ask yourself:
- Is everything that the salesperson promised written in the contract? If a problem arises after you join, the contract probably will govern the dispute. And if something is not written in the contract, it’s going to be difficult to prove your case.
- Is there a “cooling-off” period? Some spas give customers several days to reconsider after they’ve signed the contract.
- Could you get a refund for the unused portion of your membership if you had to cancel? What if you simply stopped using the spa? Will the spa refund your money? Knowing the spa’s cancellation policies is especially important if you choose a long-term membership.
- Can you join for a short time only? It may be to your advantage to join on a trial basis, say, for a few months, even if it costs a little more each month. If you’re not enjoying the membership or using it as much as you had planned, you won’t be committed to years of payments.
- Can you afford the payments? Consider the finance charges and annual percentage rates when you calculate the total cost of your membership. Break down the cost to weekly and even daily figures to get a better idea of what it really will cost to use the facility.
Finally, check into the gym’s history before you join. A couple of ways to do this is by contacting your local consumer protection office, state Attorney General or Better Business Bureau to find out whether they have received any complaints.
Nothing wrong with becoming a “gym rat”, so long as you end up in better shape.