Gyms are always eager to sign you up to long-term contracts, but often don't go out of their way to explain the terms and conditions or how you can end the deal. Here's how to avoid getting ripped off.
The fitness industry has a reputation for the hard sell, built in large part on its insistence on a contract model rather than a pay-as-you-go approach. This clip from an episode of Friends sums up the problem: signing up is easy, but getting out of a long-term contract is hard:
Australian gyms might not always use such extreme persuasive tactics, but a recent study by Choice suggests that they aren't going out of their way to properly inform consumers either. Many gyms insist on a personal visit to cancel a contract, even though often there's no legislative basis for that; it should be possible to cancel your membership over the phone or in writing once the original contract finishes.
In an anonymous "shadow shop" of nine Sydney gyms, Choice encountered high-pressure sales tactics at several chains, but found the most pushy sales techniques at Fitness First. A big problem at all the gyms was a lack of firm information on costs:
Some had printed prices, others handwritten only, but ultimately all seemed to have flexibility in the discounts and incentives they offered. Costs such as joining and administration fees were magically waived or halved as an incentive for our shadow shoppers to sign up.
Getting a good deal from a gym is no different to most other buying experiences: find out what's on offer, compare prices, and think carefully. Don't succumb to on-the-spot buying tactics. In the current market, the odds that you won't be able to "secure a spot" are non-existent. Make sure you know what arrangements are in place to cancel or suspend membership.
Choice also notes that once a contract period is over, you can cancel any direct debit arrangements without having to inform the gym. However, this tactic shouldn't be used while a membership is still active, as it could be deemed as a breach of contract.
Got your own tactics for not getting conned by the local exercise emporium? Share your wisdom in the comments.
Unfair gym contracts [CHOICE]
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