Why does buying a gym membership have to be like buying a car?


High pressure sales tactics to "buy today" must work, or salespeople at auto dealers and vacation timeshares wouldn't be using them.
But at a gym, where an annual membership is much less than buying a new car or timeshare rental?

In an effort to save a few bucks, I took one of the many fliers I get in the mail from a local gym offering a 30-day free trial and went to check it out. I walked in expecting to get hammered by a strong sales pitch, and I was determined to decline and not sign any contracts. My goal was to get the 30 days of free membership, and then if I decided it was a fair deal to continue membership, I'd join.

That's one of the first rules when checking out a gym: get a free trial membership. But right away I could tell that even without the $99 registration fee, $35 processing fee and $10 locker fee, this gym was a little too expensive for me. If I locked in "today," and "today only" for a year's membership, I'd pay $57 a month. That would drop to $49 a month if I signed a three-year contract.

All of the fees, except for $35, would be dropped if I bought today. The $35 would be refunded if I decided not to join within two weeks. I asked if I could think about it for a night. No, the deal was for today only. After that, even within the 30 days of my free trial, I'd still have to pay the other fees, although they'd probably knock off the processing fee, the saleswoman told me.