Fitness centers offer consumers many options. Deciding which service is right for you can be a significant financial decision.
First, consider what your workout goals are – to lose/gain
weight, improve cardio, sport-specific training, or a combination thereof. If
you are unsure of your goals, an all-purpose facility may allow you to
experiment with various classes and types of equipment.
Visit and compare programs
Take the time to visit several centers to compare programs
and facilities. Most facilities have regular drop-in hours when you can meet
with a staff member, find out what types of equipment and programs are
available, and tour the facility.
When choosing a facility, keep the following in mind:
Location and Hours: Is the club located near your home,
office or other daily activities? Is it open at the times you would plan on
exercising? When is it the most crowded? What about availability during
Environment: Will you enjoy spending time in the facility?
Is the equipment in good condition and in working order? Are the floors,
equipment and locker rooms clean? Is there entertainment available, such as
televisions or personal music stations?
Staff: Are the staff friendly? Are they trained to do CPR,
administer first aid, and use an AED? Are personal fitness trainers and/or
nutrition consultants available? What qualifications or certifications do the
staff members have?
Equipment: Do they have the equipment you are interested in
using? Is it in good shape? How often is it updated or replaced?
Amenities: What type of extras does the facility offer:
convenient parking, towels, a steam room and/or saunas, on-site childcare? Is
there an additional cost associated?
Reputation: What do others say about the fitness center? Is
the center in good financial condition? Is it well managed? Check with other
members for their feedback.
Membership: How much does a membership cost? What are the
membership options? Are there student or family rates available? Can you afford
the program you want? Do you have the ability to freeze your account? What are
your cancellation options? What refund rights, if any, do you have if you move
from the area? Are there additional fees for specific amenities? Can you bundle
personal training with membership options? Are there other facilities
available for your use? What are the billing cycles and options? Review your
membership agreement carefully to understand all company policies!
Once you have made your decisions on a fitness center…
What fitness plan fits you?
Do not assume that a large gym with high
membership fees is necessarily better for you than a smaller or more moderately
Most centers have several membership plans. Costs per year
for a new membership vary depending on the type of services desired. Lower cost
introductory specials may be offered for limited periods of time in an effort
to promote enrollments. There may be a trial membership available at no cost.
Do not be persuaded to purchase an expensive long term
program unless you are certain you will stay with it. Consider trying a short
term membership first.
Examine each program by considering the down payment charge,
the monthly fee and the cost of annual membership. These amounts will vary in
different plans, so calculate the total costs and benefits before assuming a
special offer is actually the best buy.
Ask current members about the program.
The pressure is on
Consumers often feel pressured by persuasive sales
techniques of fitness center personnel who sometimes receive commissions for the
memberships they sell. Sales presentations may include emotional appeals and
even scare tactics. Do not be intimidated by such methods. Do not be satisfied
with evasive answers to your questions or verbal promises which do not appear
on a written contract. If a fitness center salesperson tells you something is
part of your membership, they should be willing to write it into your contract.
Before signing a membership contract, review the details
carefully. Make sure you understand your obligations to the facility, including
the length of your agreement, billing procedures and cancellation policies.
Read the terms and conditions if you have a free trial membership. If you are
required to sign a contract to use the trial membership, be sure you have an
option to cancel should you not want to continue the membership.
You are protected
Not all fitness centers are finanically sound. Some
centers close within a short period of time or fail to open at all. If another
company buys the facility you join, the new owner may be under no obligation to
honor your contract. If a center closes and has no money to refund a fitness center service prepayment, then you should contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection. State law requires that fitness center contracts contain a
three-day cancellation right so that new members can think about and cancel the
membership if they wish.
The law requires disclosure in the contract of
the full membership price. All
contracts must also specify every major facility and service available in the
membership and include any conditions or restrictions on their use. This
includes a list of the locations members may use.
If any facility or service becomes unavailable at any time
during the length of the contract, the consumer is entitled to choose an
adjusted refund or a transfer of the unused portion of the membership to
another affiliated center. If you choose a refund, it is the center’s
responsibility to provide you with the adjusted refund.
A club cannot sell a membership longer than two years’
duration. In addition, when the center has
not yet been built, contracts must guarantee that the facility, service, or
location will actually be available for use within six months.
If a center collects more than $100 in advance of providing fitness center
services, it is required to have financial proof of responsibility filed with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer