If you are considering joining a health club, the following guidelines can help you select the club that's best for you.
1. Shop around. Ask friends, coworkers, and your doctor for recommendations. Call several clubs to find ones that match your interests and budget. Check with the Better Business Bureau for reliability reports on the clubs you are considering.
2. Visit the club at the time of day you will use it. Talk to members and staff and determine the following:
- Are the hours and location convenient?
- Does the club have facilities and services that suit your needs?
- Are the equipment, exercise areas, and locker rooms clean and well-maintained? Does new equipment come in regularly?
- Is the facility overcrowded? Are there long lines at the equipment? Does the club limit new membership to prevent future crowding?
- Is the atmosphere friendly?
- Evaluate the locker rooms (are they clean, do they have showers that work, are towels provided), check if there's parking and other services such as babysitting.
- What are the qualifications of the staff? Fitness counsellors should be knowledgeable, motivated and willing to please. The best are certified and have backgrounds in exercise physiology, kinesiology or physical education.
- Ask about a fitness evaluation - testing strength, endurance and flexibility. Quality clubs stress putting members on programs and follow-up with individual goals and progress.
3. Carefully consider the contract. Take a copy home to read thoroughly before signing. Stay away from clubs that pressure you to sign on the spot.
- Does the contract list all services and facilities? All verbal promises should be written down.
- What is total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges? Do some services cost extra?
- How long is a membership term? A short-term membership is usually best in case you find yourself unmotivated or the club closes.
- Does the contract allow for a trial period?
- Make sure the club has met local licensing requirements.
4. Under the Business Practices & Consumer Protection Act, you have 10 days, from date of signing, to cancel the contract in writing by registered service. A buyer may cancel a contract for future services where there has been a material change in the circumstances of the buyer by giving notice of cancellation to the seller, including the buyer's death, permanent physical, medical or mental disability of the buyer, or permanent relocation of the buyer so that the buyer and the seller are located more than 30 kilometers further distant from each other than they were when the executory contract was entered into, if the seller does not provide reasonably comparable alternative facilities for the use of the buyer not more than 30 kilometers from the buyer's new location. If a fitness club is not in compliance with the Business Practices & Consumer Protection Act, you should complain to Consumer Protection BC at 1-888-564-9963 or www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.
5. Under B.C. Law, there is no such thing as a lifetime contract. The maximum is 2 years.
6. Never sign up with a club that has not yet opened despite any special discounts. And beware if the club asks for your credit card number or bank account numbers before you have read the contract.