Joining a gym is an incredibly easy process. Sometimes it’s a bit, well, too easy. Then life gets in the way, our friends never join us at the gym anymore and we realize that it’s been a month (or more!) since we used that expensive membership. Unfortunately, most gym membership contracts are carved in stone. Typically, you have to break them within the first three days, meet very specific contract stipulations or pay a costly cancellation fee. No matter what, it financially costs you. You’ll also have to visit the gym in person to cancel, which can be anxiety producing at best. Let’s talk about how to have the ol’ “It’s not you, it’s me,” discussion with your fitness club.
First, if you have a change of heart immediately after joining, you’re in luck. Most fitness club contracts carry a rider with them stating that the contract can be cancelled for a full refund any time within the first three days. If you get suckered in by the bright lights, fancy machines and shiny workout clothes, you still have an out. Keep in mind that this is only if you act quickly. Once those three days have passed, you’re officially locked into the full term of the contract, which typically ranges from one to three years.
If you’re moving out of the area, and can prove that the gym doesn’t have a branch where you’ll be living, you can also break your contract. If this is the case, and you have proper documentation, the gym salesperson will likely just help you fill out the cancellation form and send you on your way. There’s no use trying to sell you a product that doesn’t exist, so you may have a relatively easy time cancelling.
The same holds true if you’ve become disabled and can no longer use the gym’s services. You’ll need documentation from your doctor, but this is another situation that usually allows for a no hassle cancellation. Most contracts have a clause stating that if you move away or become disabled, you’re permitted to cancel the contract.
If you’re temporarily unable to use your membership, such as during a pregnancy, most gyms will allow you to put your membership on hold for up to one year. You’re still considered a member and can reactivate at any point, but you’re not billed for the time that you’re not using. If you’re interested in a membership, but cannot use yours due to a current temporary situation, this may be an alternative to cancellation.
If you’re not moving, not disabled, and it’s been more than three days, however, things get interesting. Cancellation is frowned upon, and when you go in to attempt it, the sales people will do everything in their power to make you a happy customer. After all, members bring in money for the gym, and happy members are more likely to refer more members. Chances are, the sales representative will want to know exactly why you’re unhappy, so that he or she can try to remedy the problem.
If you’re serious about your cancellation and simply want to break the contract and leave, keep repeating yourself. Be prepared for the sales pitch, stand strong, and keep repeating yourself. If you’ve held up your end of the contract and simply no longer need the membership, there’s nothing the gym can do. If they keep billing your card, file a dispute with the bank stating that the funds were withdrawn after you terminated your membership, and provide the bank with documentation to prove your situation.
On the other hand, if you haven’t held up your end of the contract, the gym may legally be able to bill you for the entire length or a hefty termination charge. Be sure that you read the fine print before you decide to cancel, to make sure that you’re not hurting your own financial situation. For example, if you’ll still be being billed for the entire membership, you may as well mark the date your contract ends on the calendar and keep using the gym until then, as you’re losing the money either way. If you can pay a smaller amount and break the contract, then a lump payment may be worth considering.
Gyms are notorious for contracts that are difficult to read and understand. Take your time to thoroughly understand anything before you sign, and if possible, choose a fitness club with a month to month or half-year fitness plan. That way, if you don’t enjoy the environment or working out becomes inconvenient, you can cancel more easily.