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COMMON CENTS: BBB Sees Increase in complaint activity with Gyms

Resolve to stress your body, not your budget in 2014.
MIDLAND -- If your New Year’s resolution is to shape up, you’re not alone. According to usa.gov, losing weight is the top New Year’s resolution, beating out volunteering, quitting smoking and saving money. And it’s already a popular habit! According to information from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, there are more than 30,000 health clubs in the U.S. holding more than 50 million gym members.

However, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises consumers research their fitness options carefully before signing up. BBB has seen a steady increase in complaint activity with fitness centers over the past three years.

In 2013, BBB processed more than 3,200 complaints against fitness centers nationwide, more than a 20 percent increase compared to 2012, and nearly a 40 percent increase compared to 2011.

Many of those complaints focused on contract and billing issues. Consumers turned to BBB after having difficulty cancelling memberships due to unforeseen personal circumstances. Other consumers allege they were never advised of certain fees after signing up for a membership, and that charges still occurred even after they cancelled their memberships.

BBB offers the following advice to help consumers select a fitness facility that will help meet their needs without putting a hole in their wallet:

· Visit bbb.org. Before signing a contract, research the gym at bbb.org to see its BBB Business Review, which will show any history of complaints, details about those complaints and any advertising issues.

· Consider your budget. Most facilities charge an upfront membership fee to join and a monthly fee thereafter. In addition, some fitness centers charge an additional fee for certain classes or amenities. It is important to decide beforehand what amount you can comfortably devote to physical fitness.

· Take a tour of the facility. Don’t just sign up for a membership without doing an inspection yourself. Check the cleanliness of the equipment and the locker room area. See if the gym equipment is in good condition and maintained properly. Make sure the facility has the equipment and classes you are interested in using. Also, tour the gym at the time of day you will be using the facility to make sure the number of people there at that time will not limit your activities.



· Ask around. Ask friends and family to recommend facilities and pick a couple that appear to align with your fitness goals and budget. Having others you know at the gym could offer more motivation to go regularly and conquer your goals.

· Do not give in to sales pressure. Walk away from clubs that pressure you to sign a contract on the spot. BBB recommends taking a sample contract home to review before making a decision.

· Review the contract before signing. Make sure the contract lists all services and fees, and any promises made by the salesperson. Find out what is included in the monthly fee and what will cost extra.

· Get membership details. It is vital to understand how long the membership term is, whether it automatically renews and what steps you have to take in order to cancel. Some facilities give customers several days to reconsider after signing the contract.
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