To Pick The Right Health Spa
for a way to get in shape? Joining a health spa, fitness
center, gym or sports club can be a great way to improve
your physical condition.
Nearly 33 million people
are members of some 17,000 health clubs in the U.S. today,
according to the International Health, Racquet &
Sportsclub Association. And, although many consumers who
join health clubs are pleased with their choices, others
are not. They've complained to the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) about high-pressure sales tactics,
misrepresentations of facilities and services, broken
cancellation and refund clauses, and lost membership fees
as a result of spas going out of business.
To avoid these kinds of
problems, it's best to look closely at the spa's fees,
contractual requirements and facilities before you join.
Here are some suggestions to help you make the right
Visit the spa during the
hours you would normally use it to see if it's
overcrowded. Notice whether the facilities are clean and
well-maintained, and note the condition of the equipment.
periods. Is there sometime when you can sample the
services and equipment for free?
members. Many spas set no membership limits. While the
spa may not be crowded when you visit, it may be
packed during peak hours or after a membership drive.
operation. Some spas restrict men's use to certain
days and women's to others. Some may limit lower-cost
memberships to certain hours.
and trainers. Some spas hire trainers and instructors
who have special qualifications. If you're looking for
professionals to help you, ask about staff
qualifications and longevity.
Some spas ask you to join -
and pay - the first time you visit and offer incentives
like special rates to entice you to sign on the spot.
Resist. Wait a few days before deciding. Take the contract
home and read it carefully. Before you sign, ask yourself:
everything that the salesperson promised written in
the contract? If a problem arises after you join, the
contract probably will govern the dispute. And if
something is not written in the contract, it's going
to be difficult to prove your case.
Is there a
"cooling-off" period? Some spas give
customers several days to reconsider after they've
signed the contract.
get a refund for the unused portion of your membership
if you had to cancel, say, because of a move or an
injury? What if you simply stopped using the spa? Will
the spa refund your money? Knowing the spa's
cancellation policies is especially important if you
choose a long-term membership.
join for a short time only? It may be to your
advantage to join on a trial basis, say, for a few
months, even if it costs a little more each month. If
you're not enjoying the membership or using it as much
as you had planned, you won't be committed to years of
afford the payments? Consider the finance charges and
annual percentage rates when you calculate the total
cost of your membership. Break down the cost to weekly
and even daily figures to get a better idea of what it
really will cost to use the facility.
the Spa's History
Finally, before you join a
health club, contact your local consumer protection
office, state Attorney General or Better Business Bureau
to find out whether they have received any complaints
about the business, or whether there are state laws
regulating health club memberships. If problems arise
after you join, these offices also may be able to help you