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BBB Tips: Find a reliable gym or fitness provider

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo (BBB) -- If you’re determined to take control of your fitness in the new year, Better Business Bureau has advice that can help you evaluate gyms and fitness clubs to find reliable businesses.

Consumers filed more than 4,000 complaints this year against fitness centers and health clubs. Many of the complaints were about centers that refused to provide refunds to consumers who moved or were dissatisfied with the club’s programs or hours.

“Consumers who want to get fit should be commended for their resolve and assisted in their efforts, not fleeced by companies with substandard practices,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president, and CEO. “BBB helps consumers find trustworthy businesses to meet their needs and to resolve complaints against companies.”

Misunderstandings about contract terms are common with fitness and weight loss programs. Consumers need to ask questions and read contracts carefully to be sure they know how to cancel, what kind of notice is required and whether the gym will refund the unused portion of a contract. Some contracts automatically renew unless you cancel.

Before starting any weight-loss program, BBB advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of overall health risks. The doctor may recommend options for losing weight or exercise programs that fit your health status and your ability to stick with a program.

Before you invest in fitness plans or products, BBB offers these tips:

· Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight, and you need to find a program you can stick with, and preferably one that you enjoy. Find a health club or exercise facility that is convenient and that offers times that fit your schedule.

· Visit the facility before joining. Check on cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines, and instructors. Ask if you can try the facility out before you join. If the facility closes, can you transfer your membership to another facility?

· Consider your budget. Ask the health club about “joining” or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs. Does a weight loss plan require you to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs?

· Read the entire contract. Does it list all services, facilities and hours of operation? Is everything the salesperson promised included in the contract? What’s included in the monthly fee and what will cost you extra? What is the total cost, including enrollment fees and finance charges?

· Understand your rights to cancel your contract. Missouri and Illinois laws give consumers the right to cancel a health club contract within three days of signing it. The law says three business days, but if the facility is open on the weekends, those days may count as business days.

· Check with BBB before you sign a contract. Anyone can check a company’s BBB Business Profile on the Better Business Bureau's website or by calling 888-996-3887 during business hours. Reviews include the firm’s complaint history and whether the complaints were resolved.

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Dave Davis

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