Avoiding Health Club Traps

Over the years, health clubs have earned a notorious reputation for their aggressive, and often misleading, tactics to get new people to sign up for memberships.

The Internet is littered with blogs and posts venting anger and frustration from those who feel cheated by fitness clubs. Anyone who has signed up for a membership at a major health club chain knows that the sales people go to extremes to rope you into their offices and hold you captive until you sign a membership contract.

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, more than 41 million people belong to a health club in the U.S.  Despite millions of people flocking to them, fitness clubs, like every other business in America, are feeling the hurt from the economic downturn. Bally Total Fitness, for example, has filed for Chapter 11 protection twice in the past two years. Since many people ultimately cancel their memberships after realizing that they haven’t gone to the gym in years, health clubs are constantly looking for new members to replace the old ones.

Unfortunately, the need for fresh members causes some clubs to engage in less admirable business methods. Many of the major health club chains have earned poor grades from consumer rights’ groups and better business bureaus. According to the Better Business Bureau’s Web site, 24 Hour Fitness, the largest health club chain in the world, received more than 900 complaints involving improper collection practices, a failure to honor advertised prices and contract terms, and lousy customer service. It currently earns an “F” grade from the BBB.

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