For many people, the process of choosing and joining a gym is overwhelming, scary and intimidating. What does it mean to be locked into a contract? Are you really getting the “best deal ever” as every membership coordinator will tell you, or is that just a line? Part of what makes the process so awful is the gimmicks. And the fear mongering. And the flat-out lies.
This past year, I joined a new gym. It’s the eighth gym I have belonged to in my life, so I am well aware of all the tactics membership specialists use. I am aware of the “best deal ever” and the “this is only good for five minutes” offers. Even so, I was amazed by this sales specialist’s tactics. She called me multiple times a day, every day. She texted me first thing in the morning. She manipulated me with a bait-and-switch “free trial,” where we could only work out if we gave her a credit card.
I am an active person. I work out five days a week, every week (at least). I wanted to join this gym (despite its hefty price tag) because I knew it was the best one for our family. But, I balked. Not because the gym was an issue — but because the bullying was.
I know I am not alone.
Here are five sleazy tactics gyms use to get your business. And each has expert advice on how to bypass them and get the best bang for your buck.
1. Telling you that you are fat
This is the lowest of the low, but I am assured it happens. “A gym employee might ask, ‘Don’t you want to be around to see your kids grow up? Then, you’d better do something about that gut.’ Or, an employee might suggest, ‘I’m sure there are plenty of hot secretaries at your husband’s office. We’ll help you keep his wandering eyes fixed on you,'” says fitness expert Jeanette DePatie, author of The Fat Chick Works Out!.
How to deal: Not buying a gym membership and choosing not to be with your kids are not the same thing, DePatie says. “You can make ?quite a lot of progress just lacing up your sneakers and going outside for a walk.”
2. Telling you this deal only lasts two minutes
It’s a joke so funny they even mock it on Family Guy. And yet it happened to me. “I need to confirm with my manager that this deal is still available,” I was told. Even though it had only been an hour. Highly fishy.
How to deal: Don’t fall for it. Take a deep breath and realize they can keep any deal alive for the right price and reason.
3. Forcing you to sign an expensive contract
I have known people who moved 1,000 miles and still had to pay for their gym membership. If you think you might not be in one place for a year, don’t join a gym with one of these. It’s how they keep getting money.
How to deal: “The new trend with many major gym brands is to not require contracts,” says John Colgan, C.E.O. of CellBreaker, a company that helps people break cell contracts. Consider those gyms first. Or, make sure to ask if there is a month-to-month plan. It might cost more monthly, but save you in the long run.
4. Trying to sell you expensive fitness “packages” on top of your membership
This is classic gym crap. They give you a “free” demo and then spend the rest of your membership making you feel guilty for not training. If you don’t need a trainer, it’s infuriating.
How to deal: “Just say no. Bully them back. Stand your ground ?and be firm,” says Joey Gochnour, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and certified personal trainer. “You want the bare minimum. Ask others who work out there? what deal you can get and/or do your research on the internet prior to even? going there.* Don’t sign anything until you know the whole picture. They? are slippery due to the pressure from the top-down model.”
5. Telling you the “frills” are the best part of the gym
How to deal: “Tell them up front you want no frills, no free personal training sessions, no massage, no classes. Just use the gym,” says Birgitta Lauren, ?president of Expecting Fitness, a fitness site for moms-to-be. Once they hear that, they’ll back down. And if they don’t, move on.
Fight back and maybe these tactics will stop being the norm. All of us need to say, “Enough is enough!”