I was horrified to hear yet another story of corporate bullying by a gym against an innocent person. In this case, the person was somebody I know and in this case the bullying was carried out by the gym’s finance company. Yet it’s part of a pattern I’ve written about over and over on this blog.
My friend had a contract at Gold’s Gym. Her husband recently passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. With everything going on, she was currently out of the state and unable to use the gym. When she called to cancel the memberships of her and her husband, the gym’s financing company–ABC Financing said they would be charging for a final month. When my friend asked if they could waive this final month’s fee as neither of them would be using the gym and she was dealing with significant financial hardship, the guy at ABC Financing LAUGHED AT HER. He laughed, out loud, over the phone to a woman who just lost her husband.
What is wrong with these people?
I would say that part of what is wrong with these people, is that they work in a business based–at least in some cases–on not providing services to half the people who have paid for it. The truth is, over half (67%) of the people who pay for gym memberships never use them. Many gyms depend on this revenue. Perhaps they are afraid that if they make it easy for people to get out of contracts, they will do just that. Perhaps they are afraid that people will one day realize that the glowing promises of glistening six-pack abs and perfectly defined Michelle Obama arms are not going to be fulfilled. Perhaps they are afraid that folks will realize that making ridiculous claims about what fitness products can do, then constantly blaming the exercisers for not achieving those results will ultimately get old. Who knows what it is in their minds?
Not all gyms are bad.
There are any number of good gyms out there who treat their customers well, offer good products and conduct fair business practices. But there are plenty who don’t. So I’d like to offer you a few bits of unsolicited, free advice:
1. Ask to try a gym before you buy. I’d say you need a good week to get to know the instructors, get a feel for the gym’s environment and see if you will be treated well. Please don’t take a 15 minute tour and then succumb to the high pressure tactics in the sales office.
2. Ask to take the contract home so you can read the fine print. Some gym membership contracts are fair. Some are deals crafted by the devil. You will never get to the bottom of it while sitting in the sales office with somebody breathing down your neck.
3. Understand what the written policies are about getting out of your gym contract. It does not matter what the sales person says. It matters what the paper says. There should be some situations and some grounds for you to legally terminate your contract with them.
4. If you feel you are being pushed or coerced, leave. You can always come and sign up another day.
5. Consider a month to month or pay per use gym even if it costs more. If there’s a 67 percent chance you’ll never go to the place, pay as you go may wind up being a lot cheaper, right? Plus I have found that gyms that need to keep earning your loyalty every month tend to do a better job at that. If you find yourself going to the gym regularly, month after month, you could consider signing up for a year-long contract then.
6. Do your homework. Do a google search with the name of your prospective gym and “complaints”. See what’s written there. Is it one or two disgruntled people, or a busload of them? See what the Better Business Bureau and the FTC have to say about them.
Finding the wrong gym can be a real disaster. Finding the right gym can help you build a fantastic fitness routine you can follow for life. Spend the time to do it right. And make sure that the bullies at the gym don’t work there.
Speaking of being bullied, we are only hours away from the Fat Activism Conference. Are you signed up yet? Three days and over 40 awesome speakers for just $39. Or pay what you can. Build your personal and communal anti-bullying toolkit. Sign up today!
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
Gyms are nap much more about selling contracts than fitness. If you try to not pay, your debt will be sold to ever-more extreme bottom-feeders who will track you to the ends of the earth. Don’t join a gym until you’ve already reached a good lever of fitness through walking, small weights, etc. and want to ramp it up.