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HEALTH CLUBS, FITNESS FACILITIES, RIGHTS & CONTRACTS
Who doesn't want to lose weight and get fit? If your plans include joining a health club, the options may be overwhelming - everything from specialized high-tech weight-training facilities to YMCA all-purpose gyms.

The BBB offers tips to help you select a fitness facility that best meets your needs.

* Determine your fitness goals. What are your fitness goals (build endurance, increase strength, become a better tennis player?) and how will you accomplish them (swimming, weight-training, yoga?). If you have a serious health condition, consult with a medical professional when setting your fitness goals.
* Consider your budget. What monthly amount can you comfortably devote to physical fitness?
* Shop around. Ask friends and coworkers to recommend facilities and pick three that appear to align with your fitness goals and budget.
* Check out the facilities. Visit each club on a day and time that you plan to use it to see how crowded it is. Is it conveniently located? Do you like the equipment, classes, amenities (child care, personal trainers) and hours of operation? Are you comfortable with the atmosphere and clientele? Note the cleanliness and condition of the equipment, work-out area and locker room, as well as staff member availability.
* Talk to members. Are they satisfied? Have they experienced any problems?
* Interview staff. Are staff members friendly and helpful? Ask about their qualifications, certification and education.
* Review the contract. Walk away from clubs that pressure you to sign on the spot. In fact, take a sample contract home to read it thoroughly. Does it list all services and facilities and the hours of operation? Is everything that the salesperson promised in the contract? What is included in the monthly fee and what's extra? What's the total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges?
* Membership details. How long is the membership term? Can you go month-to-month? Some facilities give customers several days to reconsider after signing the contract; if so, get it in writing.
* Cancellation policy. What are your cancellation rights if you move away, you are injured, or the club closes? Will the unused portion of your membership be refunded? Those details should be in the contract.

Finally, find out if the club meets state bonding and licensing requirements. And, always check with BBB for a report on the facility before making a purchasing decision.


CONTRACTS

As with any business transaction, be sure to read all agreements, guarantees, and instructions before signing. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and you understand all terms and conditions. Make sure all oral promises are put in writing. Be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later. Never sign a contract with sections left blank.

In Massachusetts, Health club contracts are one of the few situations where there is a three day right to cancel under state law. You must deliver or send the cancellation notice to the address specified in the contract, and you must also return all contract forms, all membership cards, and any evidence of membership.

Beyond the three business days, you may cancel if you move your residence or place of employment more than twenty-five miles from any health club operated by the seller, or a similar club that will accept your membership. You can also cancel if have a doctor's order that you cannot physically or medically receive the services of the club for three months. You may also be able to cancel your membership if a planned club or location does not open, the club closes, or there is a substantial change in the operation of the health club or location.

For info on Massachusetts law regarding Health Club membership and contracts, please visit the following URL:


http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=ocaterminal&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Consumer&L2=Shopping%2c+Retail+%26+E-Commerce&L3=Health+Clubs&sid=Eoca&b=terminalcontent&f=making_health_clubs_work_out_for_you&csid=Eoca


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