Studying gym contracts will keep you financially fit

One of the perennial top New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, and while setting a goal to stay fit and healthy for 2016 seems like a no-brainer, be careful how you do it.

In 2014, the Better Business Bureau processed more than 3,300 complaints against fitness centers nationwide.

Read the fine print before you hit the weights. BBB Hawaii‘s Greg Dunn says “make sure it’s reputable. Look for the BBB accreditation and seal. Those gyms have been vetted, which means their tax records, criminal records, have been looked at.”

Dunn gives one local example: “One gym in particular will sell lifetime memberships, be open a certain period of time, close down, then all the people who subscribed to the lifetime membership will find it’s no longer valid or active. Then a couple weeks later, a new gym will open in the same space and, again, offer lifetime memberships.”

The most common complaints the BBB gets every year are contract and billing disputes. Once you sign a contract, you’re obligated to whatever the terms and conditions of that contract are. The majority of billing complaints center on being billed after the member felt their contract expired. Make sure you understand the process of canceling your membership before even signing up.

Many fitness clubs offer introductory specials. Be sure to understand how much you will be responsible for after the special ends.

A trial period will only cover you for one to two visits, then it’s up to you to cancel it, particularly if you sign a contract. Dunn says “that trial period may give you use of the gym for a certain dollar amount, then when it renews, it may be at a higher dollar amount.”

Asking questions like these first will keep you financially fit: What are their fees? Are there early termination fees? How much does it cost if you break your contract? Under what circumstances can you cancel your membership?

The Better Business Bureau also warns never to sign up with a fitness club that hasn’t opened yet, even if they advertise good discounts. Also, beware if a club asks for your credit card number or deposit check before you have read the contract.

If you have a consumer concern, or if you’re interested in becoming an action line volunteer, call 591-0222 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or send an email to

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