Business

Get ripped, not ripped off, BBB advises

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to do their research before joining a fitness club. -
The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to do their research before joining a fitness club.
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Each year, thousands of consumers across B.C. follow through with their New Year's resolution to get fit by joining a fitness or health club.

Most people who join health clubs are pleased with their choices, but others are not. They have problems with high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations of facilities and services, broken cancellation and refund clauses and lost membership fees as a result of spas or clubs going out of business.

In 2012, the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland B.C. received more than 15,700 inquiries about health clubs fitness centres and exercise and fitness programs and 235 complaints over a 12-month period.

Last fall, FitCity For Women closed its doors in Richmond and Burnaby, leaving many of its members out of pocket for their pre-paid memberships.

The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to consider the following tips before joining a fitness club:

Shop around. Compare clubs to find one that matches your interests and your budget. Check the company's reliability report with the BBB before making a long-term commitment by visiting www.mbc.bbb.org or calling 604-682-2711.

Take your time. Give yourself time to make your final decision, and don't cave in to high-pressure sales. A hasty commitment to take advantage of a limited time offer may cost you more in the long run. Ask about free trials, and see if you can sample the services and equipment before you buy.

Make sure the hours and location are convenient, and that you're satisfied that the staff is qualified and helpful. Find out what sorts of programs and fitness classes are offered to match your lifestyle, and if those programs are included in your membership fees or cost extra.

Know yourself and plan a routine. Assess how often you're going to use the club and compare the costs of long- and short-term memberships with drop-in visits.

Carefully consider the contract. Take a copy home to read thoroughly before signing. Be sure to find out about your cancellation rights.  Be cautious of clubs that pressure you to sign on the spot. Ask yourself the following questions•

• Does the contract list all services and facilities?

• What is total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges? Do some services cost extra?

• How long is a membership term? A short-term membership may be more suitable for you.  - Does the contract allow for a trial period?

A gym membership is considered a continuing service contract in B.C.  By law, you have 10 days, from date of signing, to cancel the contract in writing.

Many gym contracts are for two years. Consumers should also know that gym contracts can automatically roll over after two years.

However, after two years, the contract must be month to month and the consumer has the right to cancel at that time. Cancellation must be made in writing and given 30 days notice.

A good tip is for a consumer to note when the two year contract expires and if they wish to cancel the contract, they should advice the gym 30 days before the contract ends. Consumer Protection B.C. regulates these types of contracts and consumers have cancellation rights and responsibilities. To find out more, visit www.consumerprotectionbc.ca or call toll free 1-888-564-9963.

BBB suggests paying by credit card in case the club suddenly closes, but don't part with any funds before signing a contract.

Finally, never sign up with a club that hasn't yet opened.

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