timberland hoodie fitness centers see more complaints in 2017
TRAVERSE CITY Gym memberships are the crux of many a New Year’s resolution, but you might want to check the fine print first.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is urging caution this month after 2017 brought a rash of new complaints about gyms, health clubs and fitness centers across the state.
Last year, 595 complaints were filed with the state’s Department of Attorney General, compared to just 84 in 2016. The jump spurred the department to create Lose Weight, Not Money, a consumer alert, to spread awareness of predatory practices.
“(When we receive a complaint), we help consumers try to solve a problem as quickly and easily as they can,” said Deputy Press Secretary Megan Hawthorne. “That’s always our goal, to prevent a bad situation.”
About half of 2017’s complaints were lodged against Family Fitness, a western Michigan chain that, since July, has been subject of a class action lawsuit led by Schuette. Complaints against other gyms, the department says, focus on discrepancies between employee promises and membership contracts, aggressive sales tactics and confusing or expensive cancellation processes.
Local gyms say future members should be sure before they commit or start with a month to month contract.
“I think people try to get out of (their contracts) because they change their mind,” said Jenny Olds, a manager at Traverse City’s Battle Fitness. “And it goes both ways some gyms can be shady, too. I’ve seen gyms where you get a great introductory rate, and then it goes up and they charge your card. I can see where consumers are coming from.”
Battle Fitness relies on more straightforward methods to draw customers, Olds said.
“We don’t do any hidden fees being local, our face is here and plastered on our building. We want to keep a good reputation,” she said. “Something I like to do when I’m doing a new membership (is) run over the key points. We rarely get complaints.”
A member’s rate won’t change during the course of a membership, Olds said, and introductory prices last through the full 12 and 24 month membership options.
The only added charge Battle Fitness members see is a one time $15 club enhancement fee, which goes toward new equipment.
“(Members are) able to kind of vote on the new pieces of equipment, too,
” Olds said. “So they get a say.”
Cancelling a membership early comes with a $50 charge.
“And you should have a reason if you’re moving, show proof of an address change; a doctor’s note,”Olds said.
Traverse City’s Anytime Fitness takes a similar approach.
“We have a 12 month contract and an 18 month contract, and we do month to month for those who don’t want a contract,” said manager John Allen.
The gym’s contracts are easy to navigate, he added, and members are made aware of the $50 cancellation fee before signing.
“If they’re in the military or moving, or having financial issues and they come in and talk with us beforehand, we usually will work with them,” Allen said.
The gym hasn’t received any complaints so far this year, he added.
“The reason we do contracts is to give (members) some accountability on their end to stick with it,” Allen said. “I haven’t seen much hesitation.”
Other gyms and health clubs offer a class by class structure which some, like Bodies in Motion owner Cheryl Send, say is easier for consumers and their instructors.
“I have taught before at gyms and they kind of turn me off,” she said. “I wanted to start something a little bit different, as far as working out.”
Send’s studio, at 10660 E. Carter Road, specializes in dance based workouts like Zumba and cardio drumming, and rents its space to different instructors. Each instructor sets their own schedule and class by class rate.
Those who want more of a commitment and to try a few new things have options, too.
“I do offer a coupon book,” Send said. “It’s $50 and you can use those coupons to try any class.”
Trigger Boxing Gym, which offers classes for children and adults, runs its martial arts classes on a session by session basis as well.
“There’s no contracts for what we do,” said owner Bill Bustance. “They sign a release, of course, and we have deals if you buy six sessions at once.”
Under Trigger’s policy, there is no charge for sessions cancelled at least 24 hours in advance. A normal session fee is charged for no shows and sessions cancelled within 24 hours.