Please, be careful!

Bally Total Fitness is a commercial operator of fitness centers in North America. Most of the fitness centers are called Bally Total Fitness, plus 11 upscale centers that are known as Bally Sports Clubs. This is how they present themselves:  

Bally Total Fitness is the largest and only nationwide commercial operator of fitness centers in the United States, with over 4 million members and hundreds of clubs across the United States and Canada

Their ads promote how modern their equipment is, and how low monthly cost you have to pay. Don't be fooled. There are many good reasons to think twice before joining Bally Total Fitness ! 

  • As a member, you apply for a LOAN with 17% a.p.r and CREDIT, and your monthly payments are just you paying off your debt. Do you think you can just "cancel' your mortgage when you move or don't feel like it anymore? Not the Bally Total Fitness loan either... They will send the credit bureau after you and you will get into trouble if you don't pay. 
  • Their contracts are very long-term and there is no early exit. Usually 3 years, but there are examples of lifetime contracts of $19/month, year in year out. 
  • They only way to get out of the contract is not to live within several hours drive from the closest Bally. Even then it is a "draconian cancellation procedure" to get out. 
  • After the 3-year loan is paid, many people have had serious trouble with Bally sending them bills and asking for more money. 
  • Have you seen the ads with $19 to join and then $19 per month ? That contract, which runs over three years, allow you to work out certain times, 3 days a week.  

People, before you join, remember of this one thing:

IT IS A LOAN OF (your monthly fee) X (at least 3 years, maybe life)

Do not for one single second consider this to be any different from any other loan you take! 

Bally Total Fitness has an unbelievable record of complaints in all of the Untied States and Canada, which consumer organisations can verify. http://www.mwns.com/btf/index.htm


Rebuttal: Many health clubs are members of some sort of network with clubs all over the US. My local gym is, and so are several others that I considered. Not that I'm likely to work out when I'm travelling... I guess it's like having a SUV; nothing you ever use, but you like picturing yourself using it. I don't see how anyone can think anything is free on a health club. My club also has a sauna, a swimming pool, basketball court etc etc. Of course they finance this by - GASP - the monthly fees. There is no such thing as a free lunch!
Although I agree that it is an expensive membership fee, I have to chime in here.
I have been a Bally Total Fitness member since 1996, and am glad I joined:
  • there are a lot of clubs around the United States, and it takes no effort to go from one club to another, just show your card.
  • many of these (not all) clubs have, in addition to the weight and exercise equipment (with the standard television sets by the exercise bicycles), some great, free perks:
    • pools, saunas, hot tubs
    • free in-house babysitting (my ex had 3 kids, and it is nice to be able to drop the kids and go soak in the hot tub)
  • during my many workouts (okay, not as many as I need it to be), I have not had any bad experiences with the staff or management. If you have a horror story, then of course you should report it to the Better Business Bureau, the manager of the local club, and (if you don't get satisfaction), to higher authorities within the Bally company. But there are lots of people who regularly workout at Bally's without any negative incidents.

Of course you should read the contract before signing, and notice the "Truth In Lending" statement that shows you how much money you're going to be paying. I paid $35 per month for 3 years for the lifetime membership and now pay $11 per month in dues.

And of course you should go look around the Bally's close to you before you even consider signing the contract. Not to mention deciding whether or not you can actually motivate yourself to go exercise.

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