CONSUMER ALERT: RESOLVE TO RESEARCH BEFORE JOINING A HEALTH CLUB

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December 26, 2012

LITTLE ROCK - As the calendar turns to another year, many Arkansans will make New Year's resolutions to rid themselves of the extra pounds they may have gained from holiday sweets. Those consumers who have resolved to get fit may be searching for the right fitness club or gym.

Health spas and fitness clubs across the state are vying for consumers' turn-of-the-year business with special deals on gym memberships, and most consumers will be satisfied with their choices. However, other consumers may face high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations about services or other problems that may derail their fitness goals.

So, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this Consumer Alert today to equip Arkansans with suggestions for choosing the right gym.

"Our Consumer Protection Division receives dozens of complaints a year from consumers who are disappointed in the health clubs they have selected," McDaniel said. "We encourage consumers to always read the terms of a fitness club's contract, be comfortable with the fees that will be assessed and take a look at the gym itself before signing up for a membership."

McDaniel warned consumers to be wary of advertisements for "free" club memberships. Sometimes, those "free" memberships mean consumers will be subject to high-pressure sales pitches. At other times, consumers lured by the promise of a free month's membership actually sign costly, long-term contracts.

When joining a gym, consumers should make sure that everything promised by a salesperson is also written in the contract. Consumers may also consider joining a gym for a short time period, even if it costs more than a long-term contract. Even though it may cost a little more each month, it may prove worth the cost if consumers aren't enjoying a membership or using it as planned.

In addition, McDaniel reminded consumers that Arkansas law allows for consumers to cancel health spa contracts in the event the buyer becomes permanently disabled or moves more than 50 miles from any of that same club's locations.

McDaniel offered these additional tips:

*Ask the club whether it offers any free trial period in order to sample the fitness equipment and services provided without an obligation to join.
*Visit the spa or gym during the hours you intend to visit it as a member. See whether it is crowded, pay attention to whether the club is clean and well-maintained, and make sure the fitness equipment is in good condition.
*Ask about the number of members. Many gyms do not set limits on memberships, meaning the gym may be packed during membership drives or during peak hours.
*Make sure the club's hours of operation fit your schedule. Keep in mind that some clubs may restrict use of the club to men or women on certain days, or the clubs may limit lower-cost memberships to certain hours.
*Ask about staff qualifications and longevity with the club.

For more information about gym memberships or other consumer issues, visit the Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the Consumer Protection Division hotline at (800) 482-8982.
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