Copyright 2006 Brad Howard
For many people, the day they join a health club is supposed to be a major positive turning point in their life. After all, the decision to get in shape is never an easy one.
However, many clubs are really taking advantage of the fact that most people dont really read the agreements that they sign.
These health clubs are putting in stealth fees that, while legal, leave many people wondering about the ethics of the clubs that use them.
So, whats the killer fee that most people are completely unaware of?
Its called the facility improvement fee or facility improvement addendum and its lighting up many members around the country.
Here is how it works. When you join a club that has one of these fees, you typically have to initial a spot that states that the club is going to draft a fee of $25 every (pick a month and date) of every year you are a member for facility improvements. In some instances, you dont even have to initial beside it, its just there.
Now, that doesnt seem like such a big deal. After all, the club does need to have new equipment, new paint, and money to get things fixed up.
In actuality, the many clubs never use this money for the improvement of their club at all. In fact, its just another profit center for them and it goes right in the owners pocket. Legally, they can do this due to the way the contract is written. Typically, itll say something like:
to be used for maintenance, upkeep, and any other club expense deemed necessary by management.
To be honest, Ive walked in a few clubs that dont look like theyve been cleaned in ages but they sure do charge the facility improvement fee.
Here are the biggest scams with facility improvement fees
Charge the fee and never fix anything
Only charge the fee to people with monthly memberships
Charge the fee for future club expansion
Charge late and bounce fees when the unplanned for draft attempts to go through
If your club charges a facility improvement fee, find out what they plan to improve this year. Ask to get an itemized list for all of the members. Should your fee be a legitimate fee, management wont have any problems with providing this.
Make sure that your club is accountable to you with the money you pay. Granted, the owners have every right to do whatever they want with any dues based income. However, a fee that has a specific name should be used to that purpose.
If you are looking for clubs and you come across a facility improvement fee, make sure it looks like the health club LOOKS like its been improved or at least kept up. Think about it, if health clubs have an average member base of 2000 members times $25, that $50,000 should go a long way.
And remember, this is $50,000 EACH YEAR in improvements.
In conclusion, make sure to read all of your agreements and question any fees that seem a little questionable. A facility improvement fee can be a good thing if the fee is actually used for what its designed for. However, dont let unscrupulous owners use it as another way to line their pockets.