Considering Gym Membership? Read Fine Print Carefully

woman reads a contract at a desk -- gym membershipDecided that 2011 will be the year of the treadmill and spinning class for you? Better read all the fine print before signing an expensive gym contract.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray says checking the cancellation policy is particularly important (not that we're saying you're going to cancel 30 days after you promised you would exercise every single day. But just in case ...)

"The new year provides a popular opportunity to buy a gym membership, but it's also a busy time when consumers are distracted and fail to read contracts carefully," he said.In 2009, the Better Business Bureau received more than 7,700 complaints about gym memberships. That makes gyms one of the top 20 most complained about types of businesses in the country.

Many require year-long contracts, and cancellation is only allowed if you are moving to an area that has no branches. Some gyms allow memberships to be put on hold in case of injury or illness. If it's a local club, make sure to ask what happens if the gym goes out of business.

Cordray says that there are four things to make sure you know before signing on the sweaty line:
  • Total cost of membership, including sales tax or other fees, such as an initiation fee
  • Cancellation policies
  • Length of contract
  • Whether verbal agreements are included in the written contract
Some states, such as Ohio, allow people to cancel contracts within three business days, but you should check with your state attorney general's office for specifics.

Officials say it's important to check out the fine print, and don't be afraid of asking questions.

"Regardless of how eager you are to start losing weight in the New Year, take the time to do your research before joining a gym and don't give into high pressure sales pitches," said Alison Southwick, a BBB spokesperson.

Check out a related story from WalletPop on how to get the best gym membership for your money.
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