Is there a catch to this Health Club membership?
June 11, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Is there a catch to an athletic club like this?

A company called Blast Fitness bought out a Bally's near our house. They are offering memberships for $10 a month with a $49.99 yearly few. This is a pretty low price (say $170 a year) considering that the next closest place in price would be at least $240 a year. The fee even seems to include things that other places might charge extra for (babysitting for example)

Is there stuff I should watch out for here, or is this a situation where they charge less in hopes most people won't actually come that often?
posted by drezdn to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The worst things I've heard about the cheap gyms is that they sometimes don't maintain the equipment as well or are kind of pains about not cancelling memberships when people request it. But neither of those complaints were about Blast specifically, and I've had friends that found the cheap gyms completely sufficient for what they wanted to do at the gym.
posted by ldthomps at 1:47 PM on June 11, 2012

Do they make you pay the whole thing up front (or a large chunk)? Is the price locked in? Can you cancel easily without a big penalty? My biggest concern with something like that would be that the low fee would be unsustainable, so they'd go out of business, or raise the prices dramatically. Also they might dramatically oversell memberships, making it really hard to get equipment, which is a major annoyance, especially if you have a limited time to work out.
posted by primethyme at 1:48 PM on June 11, 2012

The small print suggests that babysitting is not free ("There is an additional monthly charge for babysitting. There is an annual fee of $12.00 per child that will be billed on June 1st of every year.") Some of the other things (group classes, tanning) are only free on the Platinum plan ($20 per month rather than $10). It also costs $59 to cancel your membership.

All that is pretty normal for a fitness club, IMHO, but best to keep it in mind. Bait-and-switch gimmicks like these are one of the reasons why I prefer local gyms over these big chains.
posted by vorfeed at 1:55 PM on June 11, 2012

Also: IMHO, any gym which will not allow you to try the place on a month-to-month basis should be avoided. It's impossible to know whether you'll stick with a gym until you've stuck with it, and they know this -- they're hoping people will sign up, go for a month, procrastinate about cancelling, and end up paying for six months plus the $59 cancellation charge (and I just noticed that they charge a $49.99 "Annual Membership Rate Guarantee Fee" after the first month, so you'll owe them a total of $120 if you cancel after that "$10" first-month membership.)
posted by vorfeed at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check the fine print, of course. Do you get that fantastic deal for the first year, only with a multi-year agreement? So, after the first year, the fees double and you're locked-in and can't get out?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2012

I don't know Blast Fitness's cancellation policy, but some gym chains make you jump through hoops to cancel, and the crazy multi-year contracts and cancellation fees are how they get you. Bally's is notorious for being nigh-impossible to cancel. Read the fine print very very carefully.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2012

Like other people say, check the fine print and see if you can deal with it.

I signed up for a place that seemed too good to be true - half the price of nearby gyms and with classes (weightlifting, yoga, aerobics, etc.) taught by instructors every day (as opposed to an open "here's the equipment!" place)....

Turns out the trade-off with other gyms was it was not open as often as nearby gyms - this was fine with me. It was also difficult to quit the gym when I moved away.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2012

I belong to a gym with a similar fee structure. They're definitely not as fancy, although the equipment isn't terribly outdated, but they don't have every new machine on the block (an assortment of treadmills, a few bikes, and a few stairclimbers, plus a pretty-well-stocked weight room and a separate weight room for women who feel shy about working in the main gym with all the dudes.)

They used to offer babysitting but don't anymore, and they try to get people to buy personal trainers, which is, I think, where they must make a significant chunk of money. Other than that, I think they just base their cheap fees off the idea that if the amount is cheap enough, people won't bother canceling even if they don't go all that often.
posted by PussKillian at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're wondering if $10 a month plus the annual is too good to be true, it's not. This is the same price point generally as Planet Fitness, and they seem to be doing well and can afford to maintain the place, etc., at least at my location. Here's the deal:

- they book all kinds of members who then never show up. Auto-draft and wishful thinking means that these members will stop coming a LONG time before getting around to quitting. So they're subsidizing you. Not necessarily evil on the part of the gym, as long as they do honor quit requests. Most of them will handle it for you if you fill out their forms and do it right. At worst you may get tagged for one more month after quitting.
- they have the advanced tier membership with extras, and extra services that you may or may not need - personal training, babysitting, food, drink, etc. As long as you're not paying for what you don't need, so what?
- these kind of places typically do not have stuff like pools, a lot of free classes, etc. Again, if you don't want it, you're not paying for it. Old-school fitness facilities and YMCAs that charge $40-50 a month typically do.

Typically these kind of places used to charge more like $20. I wonder if they haven't discovered that the $10 price point makes more people stay signed up longer without bothering to officially drop out.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:01 PM on June 11, 2012

I have also seen gym monthly membership costs go down across the board over the years and I've wondered why that's the case. My theory is that gyms now make a lot of their money on personal training and the membership is low to get you through the door so they can sell you on it. At my latest gym I was pretty shocked on how hard they tried to upsell me on a personal trainer and how many sessions/how much per month they were suggesting was "reasonable".
posted by minorcadence at 3:13 PM on June 11, 2012

Very easy to subsidize a gym like this provided you have the start-up money for the equipment. Note:

- Vast majority of members will never show up. Members who do not show up do not wear down equipment, take up space, they just pay.

- Keep out people more likely to use equipment by making everything machines and implementing rules about "making noise" or water jugs or "banging weights"--this is more likely to drive away the people most likely to go to the gym and thus further lower costs of wear-and-tear

- Minimal supervision needed so low employee costs. People can hurt themselves on machines, but machines require less clean-up (no weights scattered everywhere) and are mostly easy to figure out

Basically these types of gyms implement lots of policies that drive away people most likely to use gyms and bank on attracting the people least likely to use gyms. Planet Fitness did this pretty openly in their commercials that mocked bodybuilders, etc--attract people who don't work out (and statistically working out is not a habit most people form easily) and drive away those who already have established routines.
posted by schroedinger at 3:18 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

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