Now that my carcass is pretty much relocated to Chicago it’s time to join a new gym. This seems like it would be easy – just find something between work and home, closer to home (for weekend workouts), with decent equipment and a monthly fee that won’t bankrupt me.
I tried out the local Ballys, which was characterized by sweaty lowlife who don’t wipe down the equipment or replace the plates on the weight machines. At least it was convenient and cheap(ish), though, so I considered joining. Mrs Bison suggested I look online for a deal. “They always have deals online” she opined, with the sure and certain insight of someone who has never actually joined a gym.
So I looked online and found the $19.99 a month*, $0 enrollment fee* offer. Did you spot the * sign? That means “restrictions apply”. If you click on the restrictions you will find the following text:
One Club Easy Monthly Payment Plan Membership: No Enrollment Fee. First monthly payment of $19.99 to $29.99 (rate varies based on location selected), plus $29 card fee due at time of joining, then $19.99 to $29.99 per month as long as you remain a member. Monthly payments are subject to increase as stated in your Membership Agreement. A prorated usage fee through first scheduled payment date may be added. An annual fee of $19 or $29 may be charged to your provided account in December of each year. Annual fee varies by market. Recurring Credit Card (RCC) transactions only. Sales Tax not included (where applicable.)
I think I may have commented before that gym chains are usually cheating scum who want nothing more than to separate you from your hard-earned with visions of six-pack abs and spotless facilities, so this information hardly comes as a surprise.
First point – you can only pay by Recurring Credit Card transaction. Good luck cancelling that if you want to leave. Think you can contact the card provider? Think again – you signed an agreement with the gym, and they can keep debiting your card until you cancel with THEM. LA Fitness seems to have a particular penchant for “losing” cancellations that haven’t been sent via certified mail, if you look at their reputation on the web.
Note that there’s a $29 card fee at time of joining. So there’s $0 of enrollment fee, but you have to pay a $29 card fee, and you can only pay by card. If that’s not an “enrollment fee” what the fuck is it? Calling it a card fee is simply hiding the charge. Note also that you can be charged the fee every year in December if they feel like it. And that your fees may increase when they feel like it, according to an agreement which is referenced but not included in the small print. You should ALWAYS read the small print in agreement because therein lies the truth about how you’ll get fucked later, and you may as well be prepared.
To be fair to Ballys (though I’m not sure why, since they can’t be bothered to make slimy people carry a towel in their gym) their people did not have the “what can I do to get you in this car today” approach that the wankers at LA Fitness had, but my reaction when I see businesses try and hide charges and “cheat” in a small way is to assume that they would, by extension, be quite happy to cheat you in a big way later, and that hardly makes you want to give them your credit card now, does it?
Still, for anyone naive enough to believe what gyms tell you BEFORE you join, why not check out the satisfied customers with LA Fitness Problems as highlighted by ConsumerAffairs.com. You might end up with six-pack abs, but your wallet will look like a steroid boy’s wedding tackle.