Amid the annual wave of New Year's fitness resolutions, Better Business Bureau Pacific Southwest has alerted consumers in California and Arizona what to look for in a gym membership. BBB director of public relations Linda Karimi told San Diego's KUSI News that consumers report high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations about facilities and services, broken cancellation policies and lost membership fees when gyms go out of business.
The bureau offers guidance to help would-be gym members avoid so-called fitness scams. Gym owners everywhere might be wise to see how their own advice — and day-to-day policies and practices — measure up to the following consumer tips:
- Determine fitness goals. Making goals in advance can help a person select an appropriate facility. It’s also a good idea to check with a physician before embarking on a new fitness regimen, especially if medical conditions are present.
- What is most important? Will a convenient location and extended hours be beneficial in reaching a fitness goal? Will a variety of equipment or classes keep people motivated? Work out while traveling and prefer a chain with numerous locations? Identify top priorities before shopping around.
- Check bbb.org. BBB has business profiles on more than 15,000 health clubs, fitness centers and gyms nationwide and 231 are located in the Pacific Southwest region. Read what current and/or previous customers have to say and see how the business responds to complaints. This information may help narrow down the list of gyms selected to visit.
- Take a tour. Does the gym have the equipment, classes and trainers needed, clean showers and available Wi-Fi? Ask questions and make sure to understand all the rules. What are the busy times, wait times for equipment, class registration requirements, availability and find out if there is an additional cost for personal training.
- Ask about free trials. Fitness centers often offer a 2, 3 of even 6 free pass for potential members providing customers a great way to see if the gym is a good fit.
Do not feel coerced. Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics and join right away. A reputable gym will give consumers time to read the contract, tour the facility and help them make an informed decision.
- Calculate the true costs. Gyms often use special introductory offers to encourage new members, but the price could go up once the initial period is over. Know and understand what the regular monthly fees will be and what they include.
- Understand all terms. Read the contract carefully before signing. Make sure all verbal promises are in writing. The document one signs is what matters, so don’t take a salesperson’s word for it. What happens if a member moves or the gym goes out of business? Will the membership renew automatically? Can one cancel the contract and, if so, under what circumstances?
- Certified trainers. Research certifications any personal trainer claims to have. When paying more on top of the gym membership, make sure the trainer is qualified with appropriate certification.
- Never use a debit card. Be aware when using a debit card, this give the fitness center direct access to ones bank account and money. Instead use a credit card. Credit cards serve as a barrier between your money and the people who want it and some offer benefits for purchases and even fraud protection. As a whole, credit cards offer more protection than debit cards do.
- Get a receipt. Those who don’t like credit cards, often prefer to pay for things in cash. This includes gym memberships. There is nothing wrong with cash, but always make sure to get proof of payment – ask for a receipt.
Gym owners, what do you think of the BBB's tips? Let us know in the comments.