BBB offers tips to lose weight, not money

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges consumers to understand everything in a gym contract before signing it. The new year is peak season for new gym memberships.

“After eating rich foods during the holiday season, getting into shape is often one of the top resolutions,” said BBB spokesman Howard Schwartz. “Problems related to a health club memberships can often be the result of not carefully reading the contract.”

According to preliminary statistics from 2015, the number of complaints related to health clubs nationwide was 5,500. Complaints involved difficulty canceling a contract, billing and collections.

The average cost of a health club membership can run into hundreds of dollars a year, and that can be wasted money if the membership isn’t used.

Some gym plans involve an initiation fee and then subsequent monthly payments.

Options include paying for one year in advance. Other options do not require signing up for an entire year, and if the contract says so, one may be able to pay on a month-to-month basis.

As with any contract, instead of signing on the spot, take it home and understand it thoroughly.  If something isn’t clear, ask questions, such as:

  • What are the terms of any introductory offers? Understand the terms and what the price will be once an introductory period is over.

  • Are there any discounts? Examples including paying for a year in advance may cost less in the long run, but that discount won’t mean much unless the membership is used.

  • What happens if the gym closes?

  • What happens if I move? Gyms have any number of different policies when it comes to how moving will affect a membership. It might depend on how far away the move is and if there are other locations nearby.

Questions to ask oneself:

  • Is there pressure to join? Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics that encourage people to join right away. A reputable gym will give enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities and offer a few trial passes to evaluate the condition of the equipment and what sort of crowds to expect at peak hours.

  • Is this affordable every month? Monthly gym fees add up, and after any introductory period is over, the price could jump higher than one’s budget can handle.  Do the math before joining.

  • Is it all in writing? Make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing. What matters is what is contained in the document signed, and that means any verbal promises must also be in writing.

  • Is this location convenient? If the gym is across town, one is less likely to work out. Choose a fitness club that is close to work or home so the location is not a deterrent to getting exercise.

Check on a gym or health club’s marketplace satisfaction or complaints, or select from the BBB-accredited businesses on the website,