False Claims and Assurances
Doyice J. Cotten
Most fitness centers find it necessary to do some sort of advertising to attract new clients. Whether the advertising consists of television or radio spots, newspaper ads, brochures, websites or other approaches, it is important to make your facility sound as attractive, pleasant and desirable as possible. It is equally important, however, to make certain that no claims or promises are made that you cannot keep, because it is possible that any such claims or documents can be interpreted as part of your contract.
Following are some examples of false claims and assurances that should never appear in your ads, promotions or literature:
1. You will be completely safe in our fitness center and on our equipment.
Reality CheckIt is one thing to state, “We take steps to reduce the likelihood of injury,” and quite another to say, “You will be completely safe in our facility and on our equipment.”You can list steps that you take to reduce the likelihood of injury (e.g., screen and hire qualified personnel, train your employees, inspect the equipment on a regular schedule and instruct clients in the proper use of equipment). On the other hand, you cannot make your facility or equipment completely safe and injury-free.
Likewise, informing clients that injuries are rare (if you have records to support the statement) is more easily defended than saying, “We can assure you that participation in all of our programs is safe.”Also, regardless of what your standards are and how well-trained your staff is, you can never guarantee clients an injury-free experience.
It is important that you not make claims that will come back to bite you when an injury occurs.When promoting your fitness center, avoid the temptation to overstate claims, make promises you cannot keep or make assurances you cannot back up. For example, in a New York case, a client suffered a back injury while under the supervision of a personal trainer. The client sued, alleging, among other claims, that the qualifications of the trainer were not all they had been represented to be at the time the client purchased the fitness center’s specialized training package.
A primary goal of your marketing should be to achieve a balance in providing information 1) about the potential risks and dangers of the program (not minimizing them), and 2) providing details regarding the appealing aspects of your program. It is important that potential clients understand the risks and dangers of the program, as well as their own personal responsibility for their own safety. Disclosing these risks can 1) help to develop rapport with the client by showing concern for their safety, 2) reduce the likelihood of accidents or injuries by making the client aware of the possibility, and 3) reduce lawsuits because a more informed client is more prepared, psychologically, to deal with resulting injuries.
Risk-management guidelinesA well-planned risk-management program should include the following:
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