“The money's the same, whether you earn it or scam it." – Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, pro wrestling manager
Gym membership fees vary significantly, depending mostly on where we live and what type of facility we want to work out in. Last year, I wrote about the Manhattan-based Madison Square Club, where an annual membership costs a whopping $26,000 – over 50 times higher than the U.S. average of $492. Members at the posh gym have amenities including their own monogrammed towels, access to elite trainers, and use of state-of-the-art fitness equipment. I think it’s safe to say that most gym experiences fall in the “you get what you pay for” category.
There’s no doubt that anyone who signs up for a pricey health club either thinks long and hard about it or has so much money that the price is trivial for him. So, it was quite shocking when a gym customer in a Hong Kong location of the Physical health club chain recently found out that she was charged the equivalent of $4,900 in fees for a 10-year membership against her will. Four employees of the gym were arrested for allegedly violating Unfair Trade Practice law. If convicted, they each face up to five years imprisonment as well as a hefty fine.
The Hong Kong government is currently investigating over 30 complaints of harassment, coercion, or undue influence related to fitness centers selling their services. Half of the complaints made involve Physical.
According to media reports, the client who lodged the complaint against Physical signed a 10-year membership last year. She was recently prodded by a salesperson to purchase yet another 10-year membership. A witness said, “She had repeatedly told the saleswoman that she was not interested, but the saleswoman continued to harass and persuade her.” The salesperson told the client that she would assist her by looking for a discount, but required her ID and credit card to do so. A few minutes later, the salesperson had charged the client’s card the $4,900 payment without her consent.
Five grand for ten years (or 120 months) of gym membership fees isn’t that bad if you think about it: about $40 per month. However, the lack of consent and a commitment length that rivals a mortgage term is extremely unsettling and illegal.
This incident is a stark reminder that there are sharks out there in the fitness community, just like in any other industry. It’s a shame, since most people are extremely supportive of others as they seek to improve themselves through better nutrition, smarter exercise, and solid lifestyle habits.
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Be Flyte Fit,
Co-Founder & CEO
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