Complaints Against Health Clubs Remain Steady: The Better Business Bureau Recommends Consumers Exercise Caution

December 23, 2013

CHICAGO, IL- December 23, 2013 –Planning to lose weight is often a part of ringing in the New Year when the holiday season comes to an end. However, consumers who want to diet or shape up should be very cautious when signing up for exercise programs and gym memberships, advises the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB).

In the last 12 months, consumers have filed 7,823 complaints with the BBB about health clubs.Many of these showed that consumers had difficulty cancelling memberships or with billing disputes.

“Joining and obtaining the full benefit from a health club is commitment.  You want to spend your time focused on your weight loss and exercise goals, not complaining,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Before signing up, it is important to make sure the gym is a good fit for you and your budget.”

Before you sign a contract at a health club, the BBB advises you to consider your needs and your budget:

  • Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight, and you need to find a program you can stick with and preferably one that you enjoy. Find a health club or exercise facility that is convenient and that offers times that fit your schedule.

  • Visit the facility before joining. Check on cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines and instructors and any other factors important to you. Ask if you can try the facility out before you join. 

  • Consider your budget. Ask the health club about “joining” or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs. Does a weight loss plan require you to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs? If the facility closes, can you transfer your membership to another facility?

  • Read the entire contract. Does it list all services and facilities and hours of operation? Is everything the salesperson promised included in the contract? What’s included in the monthly fee and what will cost you extra? What is the total cost, including enrollment fees and finance charges?
  • Check with the BBB first. Check a company’s Business Review at

Before beginning an exercise program or diet, the BBB advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of over-all health risks. Get the doctor’s recommendations on weight-loss options and/or exercise regimens that fit your health status and ability to stick with it.

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As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reviews on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.