Shop for a Gym, Protect Your Wallet

The first month of 2009 is almost over. How are those New Year's resolutions going?

If your goal to lose the gut has gone down in flames (much like that t-bone steak on the grill - whoops), there's still hope. Gyms across the state are competing for your business.

But before you buy - try.

That's the message from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who said the most important thing to remember is that the gyms need you more than you need them.

"We advise consumers that they should avoid long-term contracts," Blumenthal said.  "What it comes down to is that a member may wish to drop out.  We're living in some difficult economic times. People want more flexibility."

Flexibility that, he said, you probably won't get by signing a long-term contract.

In taking a look at some gym contracts throughout Connecticut, we found you can get out - but it will cost you. Sometimes the contract buyout is upwards of $100.

"Before you sign a contract, you need to read the fine print," Blumenthal said.  "Shop around and, most importantly, go to the club first."

Most gyms will give you a free trial to see whether it's right for you.  There are some obvious factors you should look out for, he said.

"If a fitness club seems empty or rundown or poorly located, chances are it isn't doing well. It may not be around all that long," he said.  "People should recognize that fitness clubs are more vulnerable to cutbacks in discretionary spending. People can always use a friend's exercise equipment or find a cheaper way of doing things."

It's that potential instability that Blumenthal said can be a danger to your wallet.

"You need to make sure the club is licensed," he said.  "If it is, and it goes under, there's a fund they pay into to protect you. You deserve money back."

The point? Shop around, shop around, shop around. Bring back the old business of bartering. Follow our advice and you could your wallet heavy and your weight light.

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