Fitness Partners is looking for energetic and fun aerobics instructors for all positions,
at both locations, and all days. We need
Zumba, Step, Turbo Kick, Body Blast, and group strength training instructors. For our
In this tough market, many health clubs have brought out old marketing strategies. We are going to pull back the curtain and explain how some of these marketing strategies (a.k.a. scams) work, why you should avoid them, and how to select a health club.
You Won A Free Membership!
This one is easy to explain. NO you didn't. Remember what your grandma told you; "Nothing in life is free," "There is no free lunch," and "You get what you pay for." These are all true in this case. This ploy has become so common that the main phone at our health club has been called no less than twice each year to tell us that we had entered a contest and won a free membership at the competing health club down the street. Telemarketing companies are paid for each person that they fool into going to a club to meet with a sales person. They simply buy a list of phone numbers and call everyone on the list.
Here are a few ways this "Win a Free Membership" technique typically works. (1) FREE means that there is no sign up fee, but you still have to pay the full monthly dues; (2) FREE means that your entire second year is free after payment of the full price up front for the first year, or (3) FREE means no monthly membership dues but there is a "minor weekly maintenance fee," typically $6.50 per week. Do the math: 52 weeks at $6.50 = $338 per year. The typical strip mall health club charges $29 per month, which equals $348 per year. That so-called free membership costs only $10 less than the full price. Add to that, with most free memberships there is an additional locker charge of $5 or $10 per month and you begin to get the idea of why free is not free.
The $12, $15, or $19 Per Month Special
Going back to what grandma said above, "you get what you pay for." Based on the always popular "we will make it up on volume" business model, the super low monthly rate has been gaining in popularity across the country. Even some of the larger and more reputable gyms have been trying variations of it lately. In most cases this is used by older, dying gyms as a last ditch effort to get new members, or even by smaller local chains, as a last gasp in their competition against the larger national chains. In either case, it is not a good sign for the clubs offering it, or for the industry that is causing it to happen.
The most popular is the $15 per month but you have to pay two or three years in advance variation. So you basically pay full price for a 12 or 18 month membership in the hope that the club will still be open for three years so you can get your free months. This is popular with clubs that are in financial trouble and not planning on being around in 12 months. There is the always popular $199 sign up fee, plus first and last month’s nonrefundable dues, and minimum 60 days notice to cancel scam. At a minimum they get you for five months at $15 plus the $199 for a total of $274. At that point they don’t care if you stay or go. These clubs are “membership mills” and they make all their money in the first 60 days. There is no incentive for them to run the club well. But my favorite has to be the $19 per month “but you can only use the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays” scam, or its sister scam “you can only use the old equipment on the left side of the gym”. Oh, you want to use the club everyday of the week, or you want to use the new equipment, then that’s an extra $15 per month. You get the idea.
Of course even with all the restrictions, at $15 per month something has got to give. It is usually the air conditioning, the equipment maintenance and then the cleaning. Even a relatively small club of 6,000 - 10,000 square feet can cost $3000 per month to air condition. At $15 per month that is 200 members just to cover air conditioning. If you are considering a gym with ultra low monthly rates make sure you visit it in August when they are not getting new sign up fees and they are surviving on $15 per month from their long term members. Before you join ask to see the thermostat (is it below 70?), the bath room (does it smell like mold?), and look for torn seats and out of order cardio equipment. The monthly overhead for a typical 8,000 sq foot gym with employees and classes is around $15,000. That is 1000 good paying members at $15 per month just to break even. Double that for a profitable gym. How crowded will that club be?
"No Contract" Clubs
This is a favorite scam because it works the opposite way most customers would think. Having no contract only benefits the club owner and not the club members. Let me repeat that, no contract only benefits the club owner and not the club members. A written paper contract is not required in order to create a legally binding agreement. Once you have agreed on a price and given your credit card or bank information to the club you are locked into an agreement with that club. The only question is what are the terms of the agreement and how do you prove it? When you decide to cancel or have a dispute with the club, good luck proving what you agreed to without a written contract. The club can change its policies, prices, and rules at any time and as you continue to use the club you are deemed to have agreed to the new rules by virtue of your continued use.
The funny thing is that most so called no-contract clubs actually have you sign an agreement; it's just that the agreement does not lock you in for a 12-month membership. Because there is not a fixed 12-month term, the average person thinks that they have not signed a contract (wrong). Some clubs will call it a waiver or release. It is still an agreement. Unfortunately, because you are told you can cancel at any time, most members joining a no-contract club pay even less attention to what is written in the paperwork than they would at a traditional club. This can result in the terms in the paperwork you sign at a no-contract club being even more one-sided in favor of the club than a traditional 12-month membership agreement.
Most so called no-contract clubs will front end load their memberships with sign up fees, enrollment fees and access key fees. Because the members can cancel their memberships these clubs may charge slightly higher monthly rates and they may require the first and last month to be paid in advance and 60 days notice to cancel. As a result you typically can’t get out from a no-contract club membership for less than $250, even if you only use it for a couple of months.
By their very nature, no-contract clubs have a much higher turnover than a traditional club with fixed term memberships. As a result you never know who is in the club with you and the management cannot really get to know their members. This can lead to both personal property and personal safety issues. But on a day to day basis it just has an impact on the atmosphere and personality of a gym. Sure, if you join a large 50,000 sq. ft. gym there will be thousands of members and you will just be a number. But when you join a small 5,000 or even a 10,000 sq. ft. gym you expect to get to know the members that use the club the same time you do. You just expect a friendlier atmosphere. Unfortunately the no-contract system can make a small gym have the personality of the much larger gyms simply by the turnover rate.
How To Pick the Right Health Club. (The Dos and Don'ts)
Don't let price be the deciding factor. Every gym and health club is different; with a wide variety of services and equipment, comparing them on price alone is like comparing apples and oranges. First decide what features and services you want and need in a club. Do you need a pool; do you need a tennis court, daycare, etc.? Because it doesn’t matter if you use them or not, if the club has them then their cost is built into your price. With the exception of clubs like American Fitness Partners, which allow you to purchase your services a la carte, the vast majority of clubs roll the cost of all of their facilities and services into their monthly rate charged to all members. So you end up paying for the cost of the pool and the daycare even if you never use them. First, find all the clubs in your area that offer only the services you need and will actually use and then only shop those clubs for the best price. On average a single membership at a full service club with daycare, pools, and courts in Michigan will run $45 per month more than a club without such services. Will you use the pool or tennis court enough to justify the additional $540 per year?
Don't join a gym in January in Michigan. It's simple supply and demand. Prices are higher in January because that is when everyone joins, it is more crowded and customer service is at its weakest. Your experience during your first few weeks in a new gym will determine if you continue to use it. If you feel comfortable and get all your questions answered, then you will be more likely to get the full benefit of the gym and to continue to use it. Because gyms are so crowded in January and February you will be less likely to have an enjoyable experience if you join then.
Do join a gym in July, at least in the northern states. Gyms are desperate for sales in the summer and they run their best sales in June, July and August. The gyms are empty in the summer so the staff will have plenty of time to answer questions. You will never have to wait to get on the equipment, or feel like everyone is watching you while you learn how to use it. By the time January rolls around you will be a seasoned veteran and the winter crowds will not bother you -at least not as much.
Don't join a gym or health club that charges an initiation or enrollment fee. Such fees are just a way for clubs to get more money from you up front, so if you move or try to cancel they will have more of your nonrefundable money. The more a gym charges up front, the less they have to worry about running the club in a way that retains members. Some small franchise clubs have business models that rely almost solely on up-front fees. Up front fees are just another way to hide the actual cost of the membership and to advertise lower monthly rates.
Don't join a gym or health club that does not publish their prices for everyone to see. If the sales person pulls out a piece of paper and starts to write down prices, head for the exit and never go back. You are not buying a used car. The price you pay should not change based on your negotiating skills or how pretty you are. The prices should be printed and available for you without the sales person writing them down. The one exception are employee or health insurance discounts which they typically only show you if you qualify for them. If you call a club and they will not tell you exactly how much it costs, then do not waste your time going in for a tour. The total cost of your membership should not be a mystery that you only discover after they hit you with the high pressure sales pitch. If they will not tell you the price up front on the phone then assume they are hiding something and stay far away.
Don't join a gym if they tell you the price or deal is only good on that day. This is never true and it usually means that they are making up the deals for each customer and they will not remember what they offered you the next time they see you. This sales tactic is also used by clubs that know that their competition has a better deal, a better club, or both.
Do check the internet for coupons and specials before you go to the club. Often the sales person will not know about the online coupons.
Don't join any gym that offers a substantial discount for cash! In today's market using a credit card to pay for an annual membership in full will cost most clubs only $8 or less in processing fees, and accepting a personal check costs them nothing. The only reason for a substantial cash discount is to hide it from Uncle Sam or in a bankruptcy. This usually means the gym will not be around long. If you are paying for a year up front, the price should be the same with cash, check or credit card.
Do take advantage of discounts and free stuff for paying in advance. Advance pay specials are different than cash discounts above. If you pay for 12 months up front you should get at least a 13th month free, but in some clubs like American Fitness Partners, you may have a selection of free items when you pay in advance like tanning, classes, or in some cases an entire second membership.
Do ask the sales person to see if your employer or health insurance company has any discounts with the club. Even if you have never heard of it at work, you will be surprised how many companies qualify for special discounts and just never tell their employees. As an example, Local First has over 600 member businesses in West Michigan and all of them quality for employee discounts at American Fitness Partners simply by being members of Local First.
Most importantly, once you join a new gym try to use it every day the first week to get in the routine. No matter how great of a deal you get on a membership it doesn't do you any good if you do not use it. The people who have the most success with a gym membership do two simple things: they join with a friend, spouse, or other relative, and they bring their workout gear with them on the day they join and start using the club as soon as they sign the membership agreement. These two simple actions of joining with a workout partner and using the gym on the day you join can do more to ensure your success than any equipment or service a club offers.
Contributing Author, Matthew Piwowar is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School with over 21 years of domestic and international mergers and acquisitions experience. In addition to being a health club owner himself, Mr. Piwowar is also an adjunct professor at several colleges and is the principal owner of MVP Global Advising, PLLC.
A little knowledge can go a long way in keeping you from getting sick and saving you money. Before you rush out and buy every "germ killing" product out there, remember these basic facts.
Bacteria vs. Viruses
Bacteria are alive and can be killed; viruses are not alive and cannot be "killed". Viruses are inert and they can either be removed or deactivated, but they cannot be killed since they were never alive. The common cold and flu (including swine flu) are caused by viruses.
Good old fashion hand washing with plan soap and water is still the most effect way to remove viruses from your hands. The mechanical motion of washing your hands with soap and warm water actually removes the virus from skin surfaces, sanitizers and disinfectants try to make them inactive but leave them attached to you. Soap has emulsifiers that break up the grease and oils on your hands and removes them with the trapped germs.
Antibacterial products (including most hand sanitizers) target bacteria only, not fungi and more importantly, NOT viruses, such as those that cause the common cold and flu.
Sanitizer (Including Hand Sanitizers)
Many products use this term incorrectly. By definition, a sanitizer must kill 99.9 percent of certain germs that cause illness. It may or may not also deactivate some types of viruses. Most over-the-counter liquid hand sanitizers and towellets used by health clubs fall into this category. In order to have any effectiveness they must be at least 60% - 95% alcohol and you must continue to rub them into your hands and keep your hands wet for at least 30 seconds (longer than most people wash their hands). Most hand sanitizers evaporate in less than 15 seconds. Over use of these products can cause skin to dry and crack, exposing you to more germs. These products do not have emulsifiers like soap so they do not work if your hands are dirty, grimy, greasy, or sweaty. The recommendation for use of these products by healthcare professionals between hand washing is based on the fact that they wash their hands so frequently that dirt, grime, grease, and sweat are not an issue. Studies have shown hand sanitizers to be no more effective than washing with regular soap and water, and in some cases less effective. Don't be fooled by advertisers and the media. American Fitness Partners recommends always washing your hands after a workout, especially before eating or touching your eyes or mouth.
These products must kill or deactivate 99.99 percent of benchmark bacteria, fungi and viruses. They must also carry a registration number from the EPA on their label. At American Fitness Partners we use a pH Neutral Disinfectant Cleaner, EPA Registration 8155-24-61617, and Viraguard TM, EPA Registration 60142-1, which is an anti-viral hospital disinfectant/cleaner and instrument presoak. As effective as these and other disinfectants are, they only work if you use them, so remember to wipe down the equipment in your health club with a quality disinfectant after each use.
Many cold and flu viruses are airborne and you become ill by breathing them. No hand sanitizer or disinfectant will protect you against airborne viruses. Flu shots are your only protection.
*Source materials: EPA, FDA, CDC, University of Arizona, University of Michigan, University of Atlanta.
Grand Rapids, Mich. American Fitness Partners announced that it is extending the benefits of one of its best employee discount programs to all employees of all businesses with a current Local First membership. There is no cost to the Local First member businesses. Their employees simply show an employee I.D. or paystub to qualify.
Local First member employees participating in the discount program will pay no initiation or sign up fees, and their monthly membership rate will be $29 for a single or $49 for a couple. Their health club membership will include 24 hour access, plus additional discounts and specials on tanning, aerobics, yoga, and Pilates classes. For most health clubs, a business would need to have thousands of employees in order to qualify for rates and benefits like this, but with the buying power of the Local First organization, West Michigan businesses of all sizes will be able to receive the same benefits as their larger national competitors.
"The expansion of the American Fitness Partners' employee discount program to the approximately 600 member businesses of Local First puts us well on our way to meeting our 2011 goal of 800 employee discount, wellness, and health insurance programs by the end of the year," said Matthew Piwowar, owner and operator of the club. "As a small business owner myself, it was important to me to extend this important health benefit to as many West Michigan small businesses and their employees as possible."
"This is just one of many ways we see the members of Local First working together to build a healthier community," said Elissa Hillary, Executive Director of Local First. "Local First encourages such collaboration as a critical part of building a sustainable, local living economy in West Michigan."
American Fitness Partners, located at 5169 Northland Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan is West Michigan's only 18 and older 24-hour health club. Go to www.americanfitnesspartners.com and www.localfirst.com for more details.
Welcome to AFP Health & FitnessTM, the free on-line health and fitness magazine brought to you by American Fitness PartnersTM, Your Local Health & Fitness Partners and West Michigan's Only 18 and Older 24-Hour Health Club. In future postings we will bring you the latest news in health and fitness, including articles and tips on exercise techniques, nutrition, fun ways to exercise, the latest in health club news, and much more. Articles from a variety of health care professionals, industry experts, and fitness enthusiasts will be available to you free 24 hours a day. We hope to cut through all of the myths, false information, and just plain health and fitness hype that we are bombarded with every day. We encourage you to send us your suggestions for topics and questions about past articles at info@AFPHealthandFitness.com
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