LANSING, MI - Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued a consumer alert to advise Michigan citizens who have the goal of adopting a healthier lifestyle in 2015 how to make educated choices about health club and fitness center memberships.\r\n\u201cMany Michigan citizens have made resolutions to adopt healthier lifestyles in the New Year,\u201d said Schuette.\u00a0 \u201cSome health clubs may see New Year\u2019s resolutions as an opportunity to take advantage of people who are genuinely trying to make a positive lifestyle change. That\u2019s why I encourage everyone to take their time to carefully review all the information before making the decision to join a health club.\u201d\r\nIn 2014, the Attorney General\u2019s Consumer Protection Division received 61 complaints from Michigan consumers against health clubs and fitness centers.\u00a0 The majority of the complaints involved discrepancies between what consumers say they were told by sales personnel and what the signed contract actually guaranteed.\u00a0 In particular, consumers reported the written cancellation procedure frequently differed from what they were told by the salesperson.\u00a0 Consumers also complained about high-pressure sales tactics and feeling rushed to sign contracts.\r\nIn the consumer alert issued today, Lose Weight, Not Money, Schuette advises consumers to follow these guidelines to make smart choices when joining a health club or fitness center:\r\n\r\n\r\n\tDoctor\u2019s OK.\u00a0 Check with your doctor prior to beginning a fitness program.\r\n\tVisit.\u00a0 Stop by the club during the times you would normally use the facility to determine if it is overcrowded.\u00a0 Examine the facility for cleanliness and the condition of the equipment.\r\n\tBudget. Carefully consider the cost of the membership and whether you can afford to make the necessary payments.\u00a0 If the services of instructors and\/or trainers are provided, inquire about the training qualifications of the staff and whether you will be charged for the service.\u00a0 Do tannings, aerobics, or other classes require additional fees?\r\n\tFree trial period.\u00a0 A long-term contract may not be right for you.\u00a0 Ask whether a month-to-month or other short-term contract or trial membership is available.\u00a0 Regardless of the length of your contract, ask if you can pay monthly.\u00a0 If the club closes you may lose less money.\r\n\tCancellation and Refunds. Make sure you understand the cancellation and refund policies before signing the contract. What happens if your move, are injured, or get a serious illness?\u00a0 Also, what happens if the fitness center goes out of business?\u00a0 A \u201clifetime\u201d membership is really only good for the lifetime of the business, not your lifetime.\r\n\tRead any contract carefully before signing.\u00a0 Don't be rushed prior to signing any contract; take your time and make sure you understand all of the contract terms before signing.\u00a0 Ask for an unsigned contract to take home and review.\u00a0After you sign your contract, make sure you keep a copy.\u00a0 Some companies may ask you to pay additional fees on top of what you have already paid or have agreed to pay for your membership.\u00a0 If you are asked to pay additional fees, make sure that is allowed under your contract.\u00a0 You may be asked to pay fees that are not mandatory for you to keep your membership in good standing.\u00a0 This should be made clear to you by the company; if it is not clear, call the company and ask about the fee before you pay.\r\n\tShop around and background check. Ask friends or relatives for recommendations. Search for reviews online and contact the Consumer Protection Division to find out if complaints have been filed against the health club you are considering.\u00a0 If there are several health clubs with the same name in your area, find out whether all of the locations will honor your membership.\r\n\tExercise caution. If the club is advertising an unrealistically low price, be cautious.\r\n\tClosing or changing ownership. Immediately reference the Attorney General\u2019s Business Sudden Closure consumer alert.\u00a0 If the business changes ownership but remains open, ask the new owner for a contract containing the same terms as the one you have.\u00a0 Unless the new owner is honoring your old contract, you can\u2019t be required to join the new club.\u00a0 If you cannot get written confirmation that your old contract will be honored and the new business refuses to provide a satisfactory resolution, file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.\r\n\tShop Smart!\u00a0 Be an informed consumer to make sure the only weight you lose s not from your wallet.\r\n\r\nTake the time to review all contracts carefully, prior to signing, to confirm that all promises made by the salesperson are written in the contract.\u00a0 Also, make sure you understand your contractual obligations.\u00a0 Many consumers mistakenly believe that if they are no longer using the fitness center, they can discontinue payments on the contract.\r\nUse caution when considering very inexpensive lifetime membership offers or "free" memberships.\u00a0 These offers are often used to raise money quickly and may be a sign of financial instability of the fitness center.\u00a0 That life membership could be cut short by a terminal financial illness at the center.\r\nAttorney General Schuette\u2019s consumer alert, Lose Weight, Not Money, is available online at www.michigan.gov\/ag, and the full text is attached. Attorney General Schuette encourages residents with questions or concerns to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division toll-free by calling 877-765-8388.