By Rachel Newman
The time is nearing. It’s almost summer season and that means the second flock of gym goers are suiting up to shed some pounds for that bathing suit. Thoughts of January’s failed resolutions or last year’s holiday binge have passed, and in their place are new, cheery thoughts of treadmills, free weights and personal trainers.
While most gyms keep our hopes alive, and provide a welcoming atmosphere that makes getting fit and healthy enjoyable and easy, there are always a few businesses that are looking to make a quick dollar off the optimism of their clients.
How do these less than reputable companies accomplish this? It’s all in the art of the contract. Even if you consider yourself a savvy consumer, when it comes to signing up at a gym, most of us just shut our eyes and hope for the best.
Are we distracted by the smell of disinfectant and sweat or are gym contracts written intentionally to entrap health seekers? It’s probably neither, but there is most definitely something troubling in play.
In the last 36 months, the BBB received just below 1200 consumer complaints that were in regard to a health club. That is the sixth highest number of complaints received by type of business. Because of that, we want to share with all of our savvy shoppers some tricks to avoid the gym blues:
· Be ready to commit. Signing up at the gym is serious business. Gyms that offer a day-to-day, cancel any time with no penalty, membership are rare, to say the least. Instead, most require customers to sign a contract. Contracts shouldn’t be feared, but you should be ready to stay with a gym for the long-haul before you lay pen to paper.
· Avoid high-pressure tactics. Just because their smiling doesn’t mean they have absolutely altruistic intentions. Recognize when you are being pushed to sign a contract before you understand all the terms. If you feel pressured, take a step back, and reevaluate if this gym is the right place for you.
· READ THE CONTRACT. The BBB has received hundreds of complaints from consumers citing contract disputes. Read and understand what you are signing. Contracts often have caveats that make it difficult for consumers to cancel or suspend their membership. It’s your job as an informed consumer to be aware of these clauses.
· Follow the contract and leave a paper trail. If the contract requires you to show proof of a move or a doctor’s note, make sure you do exactly that. Keep your own personal record of your interactions with your gym when you are trying to cancel. Don’t pay in cash. Write a check or pay with a credit card so that there is proof of what you have paid to them.
· Check the BBB website before you make a decision. Even if the gym you are looking at seems like a perfect fit, always make sure to check their BBB Business Review before you make a final decision. We are a great resource for finding the most reputable businesses.
For more information about scams and alerts or to learn more about reputable gyms in New Jersey, visit BBB.org or call 609 588-0808.