Gym Memberships: Read the Fine Print

Losing weight, not your bank account

This is the time of year that people make promises they probably won't keep, many of them joining a local health club, thinking about turning over a new leaf.

"You get the surge in January, maybe a little less in February," said Sidd Vivek with the Mission Valley YMCA.  "I think there is a gradual dropping off."

People often make New Year's resolutions to lose weight but that commitment can be expensive.

"You are going to pay whether you use the services or not," said Tricia Pummill of the San Diego City Attorney's office. 

Pummill said that it's important to read the contract before agreeing to any long-term gym membership. 

"You want to make sure everything that you were promised in in writing," said Pummill.

Some gyms offer month-to-month deals, but many push for year-long contracts. No matter what the sales staff tells you, what matters is in the contract. The important thing is to take your time. Some gyms will try to pressure you into signing up, but you should ask to take the contract home or at least read it before you sign up.

And what happens if you sign the contract and have second thoughts? California offers certain protections. 

"One of the most interesting ones is that you have a five-day right to rescind the contract," Pummill said.

It's five days if the contract is under $1,500, 20 days if it's up to $2,000, 30 days over that. State law also allows you out of the contract if you move 25 miles from the club or an affiliated club.

More tips: Visit the gym during the times you intend to work out. Check out the gym through the Better Business Bureau and talk to gym members. The key is to lose weight, not your savings account.

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