Each year, thousands of consumers across B.C. follow through with their New Year’s resolution to get fit by joining a fitness or health club.
Most people who join health clubs are pleased with their choices, but others are not. They have problems with high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations of facilities and services, broken cancellation and refund clauses and lost membership fees as a result of spas or clubs going out of business.
In 2010, the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland B.C. received over 5,100 inquiries about health clubs and fitness centres: a 15 per cent increase since 2008.
Recently, Kitsilano Workout closed its doors, leaving many of its members out of pocket for their pre-paid memberships. And some locations of Gold's Gym and FitCity For Women have received an “F” rating from BBB.
The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to consider the following tips before joining a fitness club:
Shop around. Compare clubs to find one that matches your interests and your budget. Check the company’s reliability report with the BBB before making a long-term commitment by visiting www.mbc.bbb.org or calling 604-682-2711 (1-888-803-1222 in the Interior).
Take your time. Give yourself time to make your final decision, and don’t cave in to high-pressure sales. A hasty commitment to take advantage of a limited time offer may cost you more in the long run. Ask about free trials, and see if you can sample the services and equipment before you buy.
Read the contract carefully. Get any verbal promises in writing. Determine if you can afford the payments and total cost. Make sure you’re satisfied with the cooling off period and cancellation rights. What happens if you move, lose your job, become sick, or the club relocates or closes? In the event of the latter, you may be able to use your membership card at another facility (if the club belongs to a chain or association allowing you to use another gym’s membership, for example). However, keep in mind your original purchasing decision was not based on a fitness club you’ve never been to at an inconvenient location.
Find out if the club is suitable for you. Make sure the hours and location are convenient, and that you’re satisfied that the staff is qualified and helpful. Find out what sorts of programs and fitness classes are offered to match your lifestyle, and if those programs are included in your membership fees or cost extra.
Know yourself and plan a routine. Assess how often you’re going to use the club and compare the costs of long- and short-term memberships with drop-in visits.
BBB suggests paying by credit card in case the club suddenly closes, but don’t part with any funds before signing a contract. Finally, never sign up with a club that hasn’t yet opened.