One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to get in shape. More than 45 million of us have gym memberships, but more than two-thirds of us never use them. It's a waste of billions of dollars every year.
CBS Atlanta News has uncovered a clause buried in the fine print of gym contracts that you probably won't read, which could cost you hundreds of dollars.
"No matter how easy they say it's going to be to cancel, it's all smoke and mirrors," Atlanta resident Ozzie Carnan said.
Carnan made a costly mistake signing up for a $40 a month membership at KnuckleUp Fitness. He quickly realized he wouldn't be able to attend enough classes to make it worth his money so he went to the gym in person to cancel the very next day. Carnan said the front desk told him to email the sales rep.
"Then I found out that they had been taking money out of my account after I already thought it was canceled," Carnan said.
He reached out to management and got this response: "Unfortunately your cancellation request will not be honored because it was not sent to our cancellation department mailing address..." in other words, his email didn't cut it.
"Our statute, which is very explicit, is also more than 20 years old - and that was before email - so there is no provision in Georgia statues to provide notice by email," John Sours with the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection said.
We did our research and similar cancellation policies exist at most major gyms, including LA Fitness, Gold's Gym and Anytime Fitness. You've got seven business days after becoming a member to cancel in writing by sending it certified mail or by hand delivering to the gym during normal business hours.
"Read your contract. You're signing a legal document, so make sure you understand it," KnuckleUp Fitness Owner CJ Wilson said.
Carnan got lucky. Wilson rewarded him for his good faith effort to cancel, letting him out of his contract even though he didn't legally have to.
"Once I had figured out that he had contacted us and was not given good information, we just went ahead and made an executive decision and canceled immediately," Wilson said.
So if you intend to get in shape this year, just make sure your wallet isn't the one getting a work out. Read your contract and ask questions about cancellation policies. Consider a free trial membership for a couple of days to see if the gym is a good fit for you. Another idea is to consider a month-to-month membership. It may cost a little more, but you can get out at the end of the month.
"You would think I would know better," Carnan said.
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