Gym Membership Scams – How to avoid getting ripped off

Gym Membership Scams

On December 31st the last thing that anyone is thinking about is their training, but the moment that clock hits midnight and the New Year’s Resolutions begin a lot of people who have been putting off getting in shape (for whatever reason) start to mentally plan which gym they are going to join.

The thing is that Gyms are well aware of this and as a result they have for many years had their most seductive offers planned.

The trick is to look for a good deal, and try to avoid the scams.

Calling a lot of these practices scams is a bit harsh. The truth is that if you turn up to a gym 365 days a year then you are getting an amazing amount of value out of even the most expensive gyms. However, there are definitely a lot of tricks that gyms use that you should be aware of before signing up.

In this article we will look at a few of the most common tricks that gyms use, and help you to avoid falling for them.

Tip #1. Avoid the sign up online discount

If there is one thing that you do before signing up for a gym, make sure that you visit it.

You really need to walk around it, preferably at the time that you are most likely to be training in it. Online you will see beautiful photos of the gym when all of the equipment was brand new, and whilst it was completely devoid of people.

But turn up at 7pm on a Monday in January and you will instantly realise that you have messed up, when 400 people are crammed into the world’s smallest weights area, and there are another thousand queuing up to get on a treadmill (which has a 15 minute time-limit on it).

Signing up online does not give you a clear idea of what you are in fact signing up for, and you won’t know whether the gym is right for you until you turn up there and have a look around. This is not a scam but it is a mistake that lots of gym-goers make.

Tip #2. Avoid long-term contracts

A lot of gyms have two prices, the price you get for a monthly membership and the price you get for a yearly contract.

The second one is usually cheaper, and it is the one that most gyms advertise as their “Starting price”.

Unless you have used this gym before, or it is the only one around, do NOT sign up for a 12-18 month contract with your gym.

Thanks to the rise in budget gyms that allow anytime cancellations, you no longer have to put up with this scam.

When you are on a long term contract there is no way to break out of it, until your contract expires. Move house? Too bad. Bad customer service? Doesn’t matter. Stop attending for 6 months in a row? You’ve still got to pay your direct debit until the contract terminates.

There are ways to get out of it but they aren’t easy to manage. If you get injured or ill then you should be able to get out of your contract, but you’ll probably need a doctor’s note.

If you lose your job then you might be able to get out of your contract too, this is known as a change of circumstances.

Read the contract beforehand, or better yet find a gym that has a fixed monthly rate that you can leave whenever you want. The fitness industry is finally adapting to the times, and hopefully soon long-term contracts will be a thing of the past.

Tip #3. Fee Hikes

Now this next tip is a difficult one, because it basically undermines the previous point. The best way to avoid fee hikes is to be in a long term contract. That way they are not able to change your gym fee for the duration of that contract.

If they are able to do so, then you have signed a bad contract without reading through it (some pious people would say that you brought this upon yourself).

If you are on a monthly contract though, and you believe that the new fee is too much then you can of course quit it and sign up somewhere cheaper.

Really analyse this though, do you enjoy the gym? How often do you train there? If it is very often then how much would each trip cost you? If you’re there 5 times per week and are paying less than $20 per month then is a $5 increase really all that bad?

Another thing you should consider is whether the gym has improved since you previously signed up.

If they are hiking up the price but the Smith Machine has been broken for 3 months now and that broken mirror still hasn’t been replaced, then it would be fair for you to get out of there.

Tip #4. The number one gym scam

The number one gym scam is the most common one there is, and this scam is perpetuated by millions of gym goers every year.

Let’s say Clive signs up for a gym membership in January, and attends 3 times a week for the whole month. Then in February he misses a couple sessions, here and there until March hits and he has stopped going all together.

He doesn’t try and get out of his contract though, because Clive believes that he’ll return any day now. Just after he returns from his holiday in August, or maybe he’ll get serious in the run up to Christmas.

Soon it’s New Years eve again and Clive is searching for his gym card and complaining that gym memberships are too expensive.

Yeah, the greatest scam out there is the one that people perform on themselves. Signing themselves up to a gym and then never using that membership after February.

Remember, check out your gym, read the contract, check out the competition, and then USE that membership to its fullest.

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