Exercise your rights
©AMANDA HOROWI TZ MEDIA, LLC
David Horowitz is
a leading consumer
Horowitz is a consumer guide and
Email David and
Amanda at info@
IT’S A NEW YEAR, and that means gyms and
health clubs are brimming with new members setting goals and resolutions. Joining a gym is a financial investment. Whether you’re brand-new to
exercise or a fitness enthusiast, here are some facts
you should know.
Getting the best deal. Gyms offer a variety of promotions throughout the year, so there’s not
necessarily a best time of year to join. It’s not difficult to predict deal trends if you track a gym’s promotion patterns. The gym’s or its parent company’s
anniversary date or the start of fall (typically a gym’s
low season) may be a time when fees are reduced.
The contract. Gym contracts can be long
and full of legalese. Before you sign one, read the
whole thing and make sure you understand every
clause. A contract is a contract, and you will be held
accountable for what you sign. Many contracts are
adhesion contracts, meaning the terms of the contract are “take it or leave it,” so there’s not wiggle
room to omit a clause you don’t agree with. However,
you can circle a particular clause, draw a line
through it, write the word “no” by it in capital letters,
and initial and date the area. Then sign the contract.
Not all gyms will accept this, but it’s worth a try.
Initiation fees. Initiation or enrollment fees
are one way the facility finances its daily maintenance and upkeep expenses. These fees are dependent on the types of amenities the facility offers. The
higher the quality of the amenities, the higher the
fees. Beware of $0 initiation specials. They may
come with a laundry list of obligations and requirements, so make sure you understand them fully.
What to ask. We interviewed the manager of
a nationwide fitness chain who said prospective
members need to ask these questions: “Is the mem-
bership month to month or contracted?” “Will my
monthly rate go up?” “What comes with my mem-
bership?” “What access will I get to other clubs?”
“What is the parking situation?” “What happens if
the gym goes out of business?”
A sales representative of a national chain sug-
gested prospective members ask, “’Why should I
join here?” If the gym advertises “state-of-the-art
equipment,” ask when the equipment was purchased, how it’s maintained and how often it’s
updated. Take stock of the equipment yourself. You
can tell by a machine’s durability and wear and tear
how “state-of-the-art” it is.
Personal training. It can be difficult to
know which personal-training certifications are
credible. Certifications vary; some are weekend-long courses, while others take months of study. It’s
important to know whether a gym has an ongoing
personal trainer institute for its staff, and if trainers
and teachers are required to regularly change fitness
routines for members. It’s imperative that trainers
continue their education and change your routine
so you get the most benefit from your efforts.
Canceling a membership. The requirements of canceling a membership are spelled out in
the gym’s contract. Some memberships require you
to pay first and last month’s dues in advance, so even
if you cancel with generous notice, you’re out the
last month’s dues.
When you join a gym, you are entitled to a
cooling-off period. That means you can cancel and
get a full refund if you notify the gym within three
to five business days from the time you join. The
number of days you have to cancel varies by state.
You can find this information on your state attorney
general’s website (type in “cooling off period,” your
state and “attorney general” into your search engine
to find out more specifics).
If you have to cancel a gym membership for
medical reasons, a work transfer, long-term volunteer trip or military obligation, you can usually
freeze your account for a small monthly fee. This
could save you money if you plan to come back to
the gym. Some gyms require you to pay the initiation fee all over again if you cancel and rejoin.
Always take the extra step to put your decision
in writing. Have the gym personnel who process
account changes sign the document, and keep a
copy for your records.
• Don’t give out your billing information to a
gym you don’t plan to join.
• Get a weeklong pass to a gym you’re interested in joining and go at different times so you can
get the full experience of being a member.
• Before you join, ask existing members at the
gym you’re considering to share their opinions
about the facilities and staff with you.
• Research online consumer reviews and complaints about the gym you’re considering.
• Shop around. Compare facilities, equipment,
staff, location, classes and amenities. C
ABOUT EIGHT years ago I
had laser eye surgery for an
astigmatism, and now I need
glasses for reading. I’m only
39! I’ve heard that doctors
tend to overcorrect astigmatisms, which can cause a
person to need reading
glasses before they would
normally need them. I was
never told this when I got
my surgery; if I had known,
it may have changed my
decision. Please let me know
if there is something I can do
to Fight Back!
cannot predict the outcome
of any surgical procedure
with complete accuracy.
You may want to talk to an
attorney who can advise you
of all of your legal rights and
remedies. Your state bar
association’s website could
be a good resource for
;nding a suitable attorney.
It’s important not to let too
much time pass because
there is a statute of limitations, which may vary from
state to state.
Doctors generally have
a duty to disclose upfront
the risks of a procedure and
generally require patients to
sign an informed-consent
document prior to a procedure. It’s important to read
this thoroughly before you
If you feel that a doctor
has failed to meet his or her
required standard of care,
you can ;le a complaint with
your state medical board. In
the interim, you can discuss
your options with your
attorney, who can refer you
to other eye doctors for a
second or third opinion.
© 2013 AMANDA HORO WITZ MEDIA, LLC ALL RIGH TS RESERVED
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