If 2018 is the year you have decided to take control of your fitness, Better Business Bureau has advice that can help you evaluate health clubs and gyms.
“Consumers who want to get in shape or lose weight should be commended for their resolve and assisted in their efforts, not fleeced by health clubs that provide poor service or refuse to honor contracts,” said Michelle L. Corey, Better Business Bureau St. Louis president and CEO. “(The organization) helps consumers find trustworthy businesses to meet their needs and to resolve complaints against companies that do not.”
In 2017, Better Business Bureau received more than 3100 complaints about health clubs and gyms. Many complaints show that consumers have been confused about how to cancel their memberships. In some complaints, consumers reported that they were told verbally that they could cancel their membership without a penalty, only to find later that was not the case. Consumers say that front desk staff and personal trainers reassured them they could cancel at any time, but in spite of reassurances, the consumers’ requests for cancellation were not processed.
In other complaints, consumers wrote that they expected refunds for unused services. It is highly unusual for a gym to refund membership fees for that reason. Unless the gym’s contract specifically says they issue refunds for unused services, do not expect to receive one.
Finally, before starting a weight-loss program, the bureau advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of overall health risks. The doctor may recommend options for losing weight or exercise programs that fit your health status and your ability to stick with a program.
Before you invest in a health club membership, the bureau offers these tips:
• Read the membership contract carefully before you sign up for a membership. If you’re confused about the contract, ask the health club for clarification, and ask them to show you where in the contract specific provisions are.
• Make sure you know ahead of time how to cancel a membership. Review the club’s written cancellation policy. Additionally, find out what communication you will receive if you do cancel your policy, so you can know if the cancellation has taken place.
• Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight. Find a program you can stick with, preferably one that you enjoy. 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?
• Visit a health club facility before joining. Check on cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines, and instructors. Ask if you can try the facility out before you join. If the facility closes, can you transfer your membership to another facility?
• Consider your budget. Ask the health club about “joining” or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs.
• Read the entire 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?
• Understand your rights to cancel your contract. Missouri laws give consumers the right to cancel a health club contract within three days of signing it. The law says three business days, but if the facility is open on the weekends, those days may count as business days.
• Check with the Better Business Bureau before you buy or sign a contract. Anyone can check a company’s Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887. Profiles include the firm’s complaint history and whether the complaints were resolved. If customers have written reviews, they may appear on a company’s profile.
BBB Scam Tracker is a great place to research and report scams. For more advice on or to find BBB Business Profiles of businesses or charities, call 888-996-3887 or go online to bbb.org.
Michelle L. Corey is CEO of the Better Business Bureau in St. Louis.