Are Gym Memberships a Rip Off?

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To the question of whether or not gyms, health clubs, and exercise centers are complete and total rip offs –the answer is yes. Well, most of the time the answer is yes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are a plethora of smaller and independently owned gyms that actually are pretty reputable and actually have their clients and members’ best interest in mind, but the majority of all the other gyms in the world (let’s say around 90%) tend to be total rip offs.

But before all of you gym owners and health club runners start reaching for your pitchforks and light up your torches, the following reasons below are why the consensus agreement leads up all to believe that gym memberships tend to be completely unfair.

Why do we love the idea of gyms and health clubs?

In the beginning, what isn’t to love about joining a gym? New Year, new you right? We’ve all told ourselves the same thing every year just before the end of the holiday season: “This year is the year, I’m actually going to do it –I’m going to join a gym and [insert health goal here]!!”

While we start to get fueled by this decision to suddenly turn our lives around and lose those 15 pounds or just start taking better care of our overall bodies and start exercising regularly, we begin to hunt around for a gym that best meets our chosen criteria.

It is at this point that things start getting interesting: you get to inspect and window shop and even ask around to our friends that we are looking for a gym and if they know of any recommendations. More often than not however, we skip the shopping period and go straight into the shiniest and biggest gym we see, walk straight into the membership office and while we slap down our filled out information card, we shout “Sign me up!”

For the first couple of weeks, things are actually pretty sweet. You made up a schedule of when you would hit the gym and are sticking to it with very minimal deviations or excuses. Maybe you plan to hit the gym after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or you plan to take advantage of their pool on Mondays and Fridays and then take a Yoga class on Wednesdays. You have flexibility in planning your gym days because of all of the shiny amenities that this giant gym has to offer. You signed up and at this point in the game, regret nothing.

And then you hit a wall.

The desire to keep hitting the gym three times a week begins to die down, and you slip down to two days a week, and then to one day a week, and then to just thinking about it once a week as you pull into the Jack-in-the-Box drive through located across the street.

Going over your finances, you just can’t afford to keep making the payments of gym membership anymore, especially one that you aren’t using at all. Your next plan of action –cancel the gym membership. Sounds like a pretty easy move… right?

People hate the contracts.

The gym membership contract is one of the absolute stickiest and most rigid and unfriendly pieces of paper that you ever will sign, so be sure that before you sign onto a membership, you really do think long and hard about what you are placing your name on a list for.

Quitting the contract is next to impossible, at least in terms of getting away in the exact manner that you want. The contract is, well, just that –a contract. An agreement that you promise to stick to even when you want to get out of. This piece of paper that you sign, even though the promise of what you are given may look pretty laid back and genuinely helpful (how harmless could signing up for a Pilates class be, right?), you should still be as alert and cautious as if you are buying a car, or a house, or even a new cell phone.

Read your contracts, and while you are signing up, don’t be afraid to ask the membership officer (or whatever their title reads as) to explain to you what canceling the contract would look like. If things sound pretty easy and simple when it comes to cutting ties and moving on in another direction, ask them to point out to you as to where on the contract it says that. If they can’t, then get it in writing so that if a scenario pops up that you cannot keep using the gym anymore for whatever reason, you can stop paying for a service you no longer use. Not getting the deal in writing can definitely hurt you as the customer in the long run because without proof, who will the lawyers side with? It’s tough to defend a “he said, she said” complaint.

Big chains versus local and smaller gyms.

In the realm of gyms, you have two routes you can take, both with pros and cons. There are big, giant, and massive chain gyms, and then there are smaller and independently owned gyms.

The small gyms tend to be preferred by health club seekers because they usually offer shorter term memberships with a little more flexibility, but at the same time (as a result of the sometimes too flexible contracts) can close at any time and shut their doors for good, sinking with your already paid membership in tow. It’s a risk that comes with smaller gyms, but not the case for every small gym. Just something to consider when picking a path.

The bigger gyms don’t really share that same risk of shutting their doors unexpectedly and without warning. If the one closest to your house closes down, then you could just drive a few blocks over and pump iron in the next one. The big chains however are very difficult to cut ties with in the off chance that you need to stop working out (medical reasons or scheduling with work or other commitments are usually the reasons…next to laziness of course). You need an actual doctor’s note to start the process of ending your membership, and even with one, you are still going to be finding bills in the mailbox for the next couple of months after presenting your doctor’s note.

The big gyms may have more amenities like Jacuzzis and day care for the kids and an attached spa, which are all great, but before you give in to the shininess of the equipment of and the well-toned and beautiful part-time models that serve as the gyms staff, really think about the commitment you are making.

A gym is a business like anywhere else.

What you have to remember that like any other company out there, a gym is a business. It needs stable flows of revenue to keep its multiple doors open, and that sustainable flow of revenue comes from people like you and me who sign up and then start rethinking just how badly we want to regularly go into a gym to work out in a room full of strangers.

Gyms are fantastic places, and when you use it regularly it can truly enhance your life with the health benefits that you can receive. Before you let the sales pitches get to you, spend a good amount of time looking at other gyms’ contracts before you sign one. Shopping around is something that should be done not only to get you the lowest rates and the most amenities, but also to protect you as the customer from getting ripped off –gyms are great, but so is the freedom to choose when you want to spend money and on what.

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