Staying healthy and strong is important to everyone, no matter what stage of life we are in; our doctors often encourage us to make exercise a regular part of our day in order to maintain health and well-being.
But it’s not always easy – making time in already busy days of work and family obligations is difficult. But when you make the decision to make exercise a priority, and you start to look at advertisements for gym memberships, there are no shortages of promises and “special deals” to tempt you into making a decision.
Before you make a decision:
- Visit the facility and make sure it is clean, and check to see if the equipment is in good working order and well-maintained. (If you notice unsanitary conditions, report them to the local health department.)
- Ask about trial periods. Is there a time when you can sample the services for free?
- Ask about the number of members, and when their peak times are. It may not be crowded when you are visiting, but that may not reflect the busiest time. Ask about the wait time for machines when it is busy.
- Ask if your membership level restricts days and times that are available to you.
- Ask if childcare is available if it would be helpful to you.
- Ask about trainers and instructors for classes if special qualifications are important to you.
- Make sure the facility has what is most important to you, the Olympic-size pool may look impressive, but if what you want is a wide selection of classes, that pool shouldn’t make a difference!
- Make sure they are licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection, all golf and tennis clubs, health spas, sports and fitness centers, figure salons, self-defense clubs, squash and racquetball clubs and platform tennis clubs must be licensed.
- Most importantly, ask current members if they are satisfied with the services and member service provided.
Before you sign with a health club or gym, make sure the following is included clearly in the contract:
A right to cancel within three (3) business days of signing. It must also make clear the proper cancellation process.
- A right to cancel the contract if the club moves or closes.
- A list of all contract prices and equipment, this should also be posted clearly in the facility.
Beware of ads that offer lifetime memberships – the maximum length of time a contract may run is two years. There are no lifetime memberships, it is only a scam to get you to sign up.
Know Your Rights:
- You have the right to a pro-rated refund if you move more than 25 miles away from the facility where you signed the contract.
- If you become disabled, you have the right to a pro-rated refund, if you can provide the proper medical documentation.
- You also have the right to a refund if the club you joined moves to a new location.
The Health Club Guaranty Fund
The Department of Consumer Protection sets aside a portion of every health club’s license fee for this fund, which it administers. This pool of money is designed to help consumers who lose money when a club closes without warning.
If your health club shuts down suddenly, contact the Department of Consumer Protection for a complaint form, or print one from our website at ct.gov/dcp. You will also find the application to the Health Club Guaranty Fund on our website.
You may qualify for the fund if the health club does not pay you back for the unused portion
of your club membership. In order to be considered for the Guaranty Fund, you must apply to the Fund within six months of the health club’s closing, and you must provide evidence of your payments and membership.
After the club has been closed for six months, the Department will hold a hearing and the Commissioner of Consumer Protection will issue an order to distribute money from the Guaranty Fund on a pro-rated basis to former club members who qualify for restitution.
But as with all other consumer decisions, the most important thing to do is compare, talk to friends and families, get smart, and pass it on!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.