Went overboard on a personal training commitment, help me be firm in renegotiating!
October 26, 2012 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me be firm in renegotiating my personal training contract at the gym!

So a little while ago I decided to get my life in gear fitness-wise after being large and lazy all my life. I lost almost 40 pounds in a few months, and then decided to join a big box gym, something I'd long thought about but never got off my ass to do. So far I am absolutely loving it!

I bought a set of personal training sessions to get me started, and yesterday my third of six sessions ended up being not so much training as a sales pitch for lots more training. Trainer outlined a year's plan that sounds absolutely awesome, and is an affordable although giant cost. It has well over 100 sessions over the next year, and I'm sad to say I signed up and paid a fairly large down payment.

Now as I said this plan sounds awesome, I would love to commit to it, and I do see myself seeing this trainer in a year's time. But I am worried that I totally overextended myself, and that I might not need so many sessions once I'm up and running. To start I am definitely ok with it, I have no idea what I'm doing in the gym and want someone to give me a firm introduction so I don't get off course or get confused and give up.

I do have an out, I have a consumer right to cancel the contract and get a refund on my down payment within 10 days.

What I would like to do is commit to four months, at the frequency of training suggested. This works perfectly for me, gives me a good start, and lines up with the end of my current work contract (My work is great and well paid but unpredictable, I could be right back shortly after it ends, or it might be a few months, or I might have to find another job come Feb/March). So the timing lines up great, it will be a good time to re-evaluate what I can afford and how often I feel I need training.

I have another of my pre-paid sessions tomorrow and another Tuesday. How do I broach this? What are they going to do/say to try and keep me to the contract I signed but can legally get out of? How can I firmly explain what I want and not take anything else? I have all the power right? I mean, if I cancel the contract I have they're not going to refuse to sell me another, shorter one, right? I have very little negotiation experience and sometimes issues with standing up for myself in high pressure situations.
posted by yellowbinder to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
just state what it is that you want as fact "I decided that this contract isn't for me and have decided to cancel it, because it's simply too long for what I can commit to right now. Can I sign a shorter contract?" (regardless of what answer you're given you should cancel the longer contract- if they didn't want the shorter one, they might change their mind after you actually cancel)
posted by saraindc at 6:32 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gyms and training are not there to get you healthy, they are there to get your money.

Be firm and come with a letter, in writing, cancelling the contract.

Here's a script, "You know, you got me very excited about the traning package we discussed, but when I got home I realized that I didn't think very clearly about my situation. Here's a letter officially cancelling the agreement. I would like to continue our training, but because of my work situation, I'd like to do X number of sessions for the next 16 weeks."

If you feel you're being strong-armed by your trainer, "I really like working with you Horst, and you're making good points, but my financial situation doesn't allow me to do anything except X sessions for the next 16 weeks."

Be friendly, but firm. Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings. It's a business.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on October 26, 2012

*after* the next session, so that you don't end up spending time you paid for negotiating for the time you're paying for, like you did last time...

"I like the training, but I realize that I made a mistake in signing up for 10 months. I need to set this up for 4 months." (Not sure if the problem includes the amount of down payment, so that you need some money back, or if the problem is just that you don't want to be committed to payments down the road. If you need some money back, ask for it then, i.e.) "This would change my down payment from $X to $Y, so I'd need $Z back, and then continue with the payments."

And then one of two things happens, maybe 3:

1) "Certainly." (processes your request)

2) [a long psycho-babble spiel about how it's good for you to be committed to the long haul] Interrupt within 5 seconds of that starting, then say "Well, I know that, which is why I don't want to cancel altogether. I'm kind of nervous about this because I have X days to cancel altogether under the right of recission(sp?), so I hope we can work this out. I like the training... [roll right into a repeat of your first request]

3) The blow-off "Hey man/bro/dude/, I've got another client to catch, so can we talk about this later, like after it's too late to do anything about it?"

If you loop through 2 or 3 more than about twice, shake your head sadly and cancel. Personal trainers are on every corner, and in this economy I'd have to believe most of them need clients. On preview - I agree that AFTER you cancel you'll have more leverage if you just want to work with the particular guy.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:38 AM on October 26, 2012

As long as you're correct regarding the cancellation, then yes, you have all the power. Depending on which gym it is though, you may have a tough time getting a shorter training time. Do they have any existing "packages" that fit what you want, or nearly fit it? Can you split up the year of personal training you already signed up for by putting a "hold" on it in four months? Can you transfer the contract to someone else? Putting a hold on it and transferring it may be an option, though possibly a hassle.

Talk about the contract at the end of your training session, otherwise the conversation will cut into your workout time. Be upfront about it. You are enthusiastic about training and are personally prepared to commit, but upon reviewing your work schedule/prospects/whatever, you know (not think, know; you can't use passive words with salespeople) that there will be an upheaval in four months. Now that you've remembered that, you would like to cancel the contract you signed <1>
The key to standing up to salespeople, at least for me, has always been to have a few things in mind at all times, phrased as objectives: What you want in exact terms. How far you're willing to deviate from that and at what cost. How much you're willing to pay. Deal-breakers.

Make a list of the above and keep that in mind. Let the salesman talk your ear off and go ahead and niggle around with details, but don't budge on the basic points no matter how attractive the salesman makes Shiny New Option sound. Bring your list in writing if you need to.

As far as what they might do/say... Be prepared for stories about past customers who cancel/have shorter sessions who lost their motivation and never came back. Also be prepared to be told that you won't get the full effect of the program unless you do the full year. Ignore both of these tales. You are in charge of your motivation, first of all. Secondly, if it's real personal training and not just a scripted program (which you could follow yourself, and which would be an excellent comeback if they mention any program) then the trainer can adjust to your needs and your timeline.
posted by Urban Winter at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2012

What? After they wasted your training session strong-arming you into signing up for more, you want to stick with this gym?

Gyms and personal trainers are a dime a dozen, if I encountered high pressure sales tactics during the time I was paying to be trained, I would immediately be looking for a better one.
posted by zug at 6:47 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

To be clear they are giving me another session as they recognize that yesterday didn't count, so it's not like I'm paying for the sales pitch. I'm not mad at them as I know it's their business, so I think I can handle this without any acrimony. I'm committed to the gym itself for a year minus a few weeks I've already done and I'm really enjoying it so I'm not looking to get out of there.

To answer another point I don't need the down payment back although I might have to take it back if the contract is cancelled. It is actually large enough that the biweekly/monthly cost of training for 4 months would probably be pretty negligible if I can apply it to a new contract.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:58 AM on October 26, 2012

On negotiation:
- Practice with a friend, or
- Practice by yourself, and pretend you're doing it on a friend's behalf. I love this trick. Your friend needs this and is counting on you -- you're not going to let them down, right? Especially not because you're worried about what the gym people think of you.
- Some useful phrases are: "I am looking for...", "I need...", "I am requesting...", "I am not willing to...", "I won't be able to..."

You are right, you have all the power. You have the right to cancel the contract. It's in their interest to give you a shorter one. Go forth with confidence. When you practice beforehand, end by practicing a scenario where it goes smoothly and you get what you want, or imagine yourself all the way through that scenario.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:37 AM on October 26, 2012

Cool, I'm pretty sure I can do this! Should I email the trainer today telling him my intentions and ask him to prepare a 4 month plan so I can settle it up right away either tomorrow or Tuesday? I haven't had a weekend session with him yet but the other ones I have had he's had another client right after, so I want to be sure I make progress towards cancelling and getting set up with a new one quickly.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:44 AM on October 26, 2012

Make sure you are counting the days to cancellation correctly! Can be a little tricky, so it is safest to cancel Asap rather than waiting for what you think is the last day.
posted by yarly at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2012

Also make sure you are cancelling in the manner required. Look at your paperwork - you probably have to do it in writing and send it to corporate headquarters. An email to the trainer might not do it. Be sure you send the letter certified or registered mail.
posted by yarly at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2012

Ok. Plan as it stands is to bring it up with trainer at the end of tomorrow's session. Tell him I am cancelling, and ask him to give me the numbers for 4 months at our next session (Tuesday) at which point I will be prepared to sign a different contract. If he expresses hesitancy beyond an initial pushback I will tell him if he won't do as I request he obviously isn't a trainer who will respect my wishes and I will go with someone else unless he does so.

I am not sure whether I need to cancel in writing to headquarters or if I can do it at the gym, I will look into this when I'm back home with the paperwork. If I can do it at the gym my plan is to do so Monday, basically not leave until it is done.

If I have to send it in, I guess I should wait until I have confirmation that is in cancelled before signing up again?
posted by yellowbinder at 9:47 AM on October 26, 2012

Actually if I have to send it in I'm going to do it before I even speak with him tomorrow, no chance of going back. I'm going to butt out now, if anyone has anything else to add please do, I'll let you know how it goes!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:52 AM on October 26, 2012

Figured I should weigh in. I did send in a letter before going in that day. I've been dealing with a manager for the trainers who is super friendly and customer service oriented, it took a few days but I managed to get the contract cancelled and get my deposit refunded.

Was not the end of my troubles with the trainer though, the day I went in to cancel the contract he had double-booked me, so I didn't get to train with him at all that day. Made the conversation with him easier. Then at our next session he cancelled the one after because he was moving, which is a valid reason to miss work but should be predictable enough that you don't schedule stuff on that day a week beforehand. Add in a few unanswered emails and I had to cut the cord.

The manager is totally cool with a lesser contract and is setting me up with someone else, should be later today. Hopefully it will be awesome and I will feel comfortable in signing another contract. The experience with the first trainer has turned me off a little but the facility is the nicest I've seen so I'm hoping I can rock it with someone who is a little more committed to my needs!
posted by yellowbinder at 7:30 AM on November 7, 2012

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