Many begin the New Year resolving to start anew — to do things better. Finding a way to get back in shape is always among the top New Year’s resolutions. While shaping up is always a goal worth pursuing, Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) says it’s important to start with a physical and to research the backgrounds of health clubs in your area before signing a contract.
“There’s always that desire to get started and dive headfirst into a new fitness regimen,” said Susan Adams Loyd, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “However, a health club membership is a considerable financial commitment. This is a time when people do want to sweat the details.”
Before starting an exercise program, it’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional – especially if you’ve been inactive for a stretch. BBB also recommends visiting gyms or health clubs you’re interested in joining and following these general guidelines:
• Research the fitness club’s background. Visit bbb.org to access free business profiles and customer reviews on any gym or health club you’re considering.
• Be clear on the terms of introductory offers. Gyms and health clubs often use special introductory offers to attract new members, such as free or reduced enrollment fees. Be sure you’re clear on all the terms and what the monthly — or yearly — price will be once the introductory or trial period is over.
• Ask if your membership renews automatically. Many times, people who join a health club fail to realize that their contract will renew automatically and that they have to take specific steps to cancel, such as providing a written cancellation notice anywhere from 30 to 60 days before their current contract expires.
• Read the contract closely. Many contracts may not allow you to cancel before the term ends without an early termination fee. However, health clubs have different policies when it comes to how a move might affect your membership. Whether or not you can be released from your contract usually depends on how far away you’re moving and if the club has other locations in the area of your new home. Ask about early termination fees and clauses or health conditions that might allow you to cancel your membership without incurring charges. Also, find out how much notice you need to give to get out of your contract if you don’t wish to renew your membership. Be aware that often requires submitting a written notice.
• Inquire about what happens if the gym goes out of business. Ask the sales representative to explain what will happen if they suddenly go out of business, or if another fitness company purchases them. It’s also a good idea to read customer reviews, to see what others have to say about the club’s cost, fitness trainers, and the condition of and access to exercise equipment and facilities.
BBB suggests consumers consider these factors as well:
• What are your fitness goals? Determining your fitness goals in advance will help you select the fitness club that best fits your needs. It’s always a good idea to consult with a medical professional before joining a gym, especially if you’ve been inactive for some time or have a health condition. Work with them closely to set realistic goals.
• Location, location, location! If your gym is all the way across town, chances are you’ll be less likely to work out regularly or you’ll find excuses not to make the drive. Choose a club that’s convenient to your work or home so that location is not a hindrance to getting regular exercise.
• Can you afford it? Monthly gym fees can add up, and after any introductory periods are over, the price could jump higher than your budget can handle. Be sure to do the math before you join and make sure you budget for the regular cost of your monthly membership. Ask your health insurer if they offer any incentives or discounts for visiting the gym regularly.
• Be sure it’s a fit for you. Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. A reputable fitness club will give you plenty of time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities, and research other options before making a decision.
• Get everything in writing. Review the contract carefully and make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are included. Always be sure to get everything in writing!
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org at 651-699-1111, or toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.