Here Are Some Things You Should Know if a Gym Membership is Part of Your New Fitness Goals
Before you sign that gym contract, there are a number of factors to take into consideration to make sure you're doing the right thing and not getting burned
Becoming healthier and getting in shape are probably on your mind right now. To reach those goals, a gym membership is probably part of your plan. Did you decide to join a gym to lose weight, get buffed, or to feel better? Unfortunately, many people end up unhappy with both the physical and financial results of that decision. Here are some things you should know before getting that gym membership.
Think Before You Sign Your Fitness Contract
Regardless of your reason for wanting to join a gym, there are a number of factors that you should take into consideration before you make the decision to sign a contract. Remember that once you sign, you're stuck with those terms and can't change your mind unless the contract specifically gives you the option to back out. So it's important to thoroughly read and understand the contract you are signing so there won't be any surprises later. Some gym contracts slip in cancellation provisions that asses you hefty fees if you cancel before the term ends. Some contracts have provisions that you can be charged an annual maintenance or upgrade fee. And still others are very lenient and consumer-friendly. Know your contract.
Things to Consider Before Committing to a Gym Membership
- Compare several facilities. Some have low monthly fees but require very long membership periods without the option to cancel. If you later find a better gym that you want to join, you may not be able to get out of your existing contract.
- Have a clear idea of what you can afford to pay and stick to your budget. If paying $80 per month for a gym membership is out of the question financially, don't sign up for a gym membership that costs $80 per month. It sounds simple, but many people spend more than they can afford on gym memberships with the mistaken belief that the extra money will pay off in better fitness.
- Don't be afraid to bargain. Gym memberships are often marked up like other purchases, and the staff know you probably won't come all the time. There's often a bit of leeway in the cost of the membership, but not always. If the gym has separate facilities, such as a pool, indoor courts, or other amenities, you may be able to negotiate for only access to the main gym floor. Try haggling. If the membership is $50 per month and you want to pay $40, most staff will find a way to get you what you want. If not, they may be able to throw in something extra to make it a better deal.
- Shop around for the best value, which may not always be the least expensive. Saving $20 per month may sound like a better deal, but you'll end up losing money if you have to drive two or three times as far to get there. And remember that it's easier to get motivated to go to the gym when the gym is close as opposed to halfway across town. So a closer gym that costs a little more might be a better deal, especially if it appears that the higher cost is translated into better equipment and amenities
- Know what you're looking for in a gym. Do you want a self-guided experience or do you want a personal trainer? Make sure the gym has exactly what you want before you sign up.
- Take a tour during the hours when you're most likely to exercise and check out the staff. Make sure the equipment you want to use will be available when you'll want. There's no sense paying for a gym membership that's hard to use.
- Try the gym. Most gyms offer free visits so you can see if it's a good fit for you. Working out at the gym before you buy will also give you an opportunity to ask current members about the facility.
- Beware of signing up with a gym that hasn't opened yet. Sometimes gyms are supposed to open, but then don't open on-time or at all. You could find yourself being billed for time that the gym isn't open or trying to get your money back after the company goes belly up. If you are paying for a gym membership, you shouldn't be paying for time when the gym isn't open. While you are in the right, it could take you a lot of time and effort to get your money back.
- Be careful about paying too far in advance. Just like gyms that might not open on-time or at all, you could find that the gym suddenly goes out of business after you've pre-paid for your membership.
- Remember your right to cancel. If the gym requires you to pay money more than 31 days in advance, the contract by law must let you know about your three-day right to cancel. Be sure to read the part that spells out how you must notify the gym if you decide to cancel and follow it to the letter.
- Watch out for automatic renewals. Make sure you know if your contract expires after a certain period of time or if it allows the gym to renew it for any length of time unless you specifically ask them not to. If you unknowingly agree to an automatic renewal, you could be stuck with the gym membership for a lot longer than you had originally planned.
- Read your contract carefully. We know we've already mentioned it, but it deserves to be hammered home. Before you sign the contract, make certain you understand the cancellation policy, the services included, and the total cost of the membership.
- Get all promises in writing. If it's not in writing, it never happened as far as your credit card company and the courts are concerned. And make sure that you have a copy of the final signed contract.
- Consider a short-term contract rather than signing a two- or three-year contract where you can possibly get stuck with a membership that you don't use. Under North Carolina law, the contract cannot be longer than three years.
- Gyms make a lot of money from sales other than the gym membership itself. These things can include accessories and clothing, but most importantly includes supplement sales. You should probably avoid the juice bar and the fancy supplements. Not only can you get them yourself at a significantly lower price, but you probably don't need them anyway. You'll probably want to steer clear of all the diet advice given by the staff and personal trainers since they're almost always not professional dietitians.
If you have a complaint about a gym or your gym shuts down unexpectedly, contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.