Joining a gym is like getting a new color printer for $20 only to pay $40 per cartridge every few months. With increased competition gyms are putting a very attractive front offer price only to nickel-dime you in other ways.
There’s a host of fees to look out for from the initial enrollment, daycare, classes, lockers, shakes, drinks, energy bars and a variety of nutritional supplements, and maintenance fees. National chains with multiple locations may offer a low monthly rate with no commitment for one location. If you live a nomadic lifestyle this is something you’ll want to verify.
Don’t take any fee or contract at face value. Negotiate and if necessary take it up the ladder. There are many strings you can attach to tweak the membership to meet your needs. If you want a locker, classes, tanning, add those types of strings to your negotiation. If you join a gym and soon after discover they are running a promotion that could have saved you some money, ask them to retroactively honor it.
If there are terms or language you don’t agree with, cross them out or reword them before signing and work through the differences. In the end, make sure to get a copy of anything signed. Any verbal commitments from the gym should be written within the contract.
The reoccurring monthly fees are most commonly advertised such as $10/mo or $25/mo for unlimited access to the gym and perhaps any location nationwide.
There isn’t a simple right or wrong solution for everyone. It depends on the features that interest you. Take the time to read the fine print and understand the total reoccurring cost and other periodic and one-time fees.
Be mindful of an introductory rate that increases after a period of time and moreoever if it increases automatically to a much higher rate.
Most gyms will offer a trial period or a couple free visits…you may need to ask.
This up front enrollment is designed to avoid high turnover rates and keep you with the gym for an extended period of time. Gym owners know that most people won’t quit soon after paying an enrollment fee usually of a hundred or more dollars.
They know that most people will stick around to spread that cost over several months to feel like you’re getting something out of it. And over those next several months, they’ll capitalize on monthly reoccurring fees, maintenance fees, drinks, classes, etc.
Maintenance Fees may be charge to your account at a lower frequency such as quarterly, bi-annually, or annually. Makes you wonder what does the monthly membership fee covers anymore.
The fee is claimed to cover facility maintenance. But all these fees goes into one pile of income and the gym owners make up creative names for them to ultimately allow them to advertise a lower monthly membership rate which is the public’s top perceived criteria when making a decision on a joining a gym.
This fee comes on other names such as an “Facility Improvement Fee” or “Enhancement Fees”. It doesn’t matter what it’s called just factor into your total cost-benefit analysis.
If specialty classes are your interest you’ll need to see if any are included in the existing fees already discussed. Furthermore, if they are available within your schedule.
A group of sessions usually exceeds the costs of a monthly gym rate. Obviously if your classes are cancelled you may be entitled to a refund of fees. Ask about this policy before signing the agreement.
Other Gym Fees
A gym may partner with a tanning salon, massage or spa service, or other complimentary businesses. If you join a gym you’re probably paying some form of a fee (while it may not be prominently told to you) for these businesses to be a part of your package. When these are a part of the membership program and the gym later dissolves a partnership, you should get some money back going forward. You paid for it and they took it away while you’re under contract. Ask about any partnerships and ask to opt out if you’re not interested for a reduced rate.
Locker Fees are another “convenience” fee but some memberships come with various levels. Check to see if any of the levels include your own locker if this is important to you.
If you’re a fan of shakes, supplements, or food from the gym, ask if they have a reward program. First of all, these items can be costly but you may get a discount after purchasing a certain number of items.
Cancelling a contract is likely not to cost anything but you will probably not be entitled to a pro-rated refund of any fees that were paid. Prior to joining look into the cancellation policy to avoid unwanted surprises later. There can be some sneaky language in the terms such as the need to send a certified letter or other criteria which more or less create resistance to cancel or buy more time for the gym to collect more fees.
Can you cancel if you have to take an extended period of time off from the gym? Such events like a long vacation, medical procedure, illness, injury, or family care, some gyms offer an option to stall your contract. In other words, you can talk to them in advance, explain your case, and they may put your reoccurring payments on hold or postpone them.
Filing a Complaint against a Gym
Some states have specific rules to protect consumers more than others. If you feel like a victim of high-pressure sales tactics, broken policies, misrepresentations, or other lost fees the first path is to file a complaint with the gym and if it exist, ratchet it up to the corporate office. The Better Business Bureau is almost a viable option for any complaint to get taken more seriously. The Federal Trade Commission has an excellent landing page to file a variety of complaints including those against gyms and health clubs.
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