Looking for a way to get in shape? You may be considering joining a
health spa, a place where members work to improve their physical
condition through exercise, weight control, and other treatments.
While many people regularly use and enjoy health spas, others have
written the Federal Trade Commission with complaints. The most
frequent complaints concern high pressure sales tactics,
misrepresentations about facilities and services, spas that go out of
business, and failure to honor cancellation and refund clauses. You
may avoid disappointment, however, if you find out about the spa's
fees, contractual requirements, and facilities before you join. Here
are some suggestions for comparison shopping for a health spa.
Inspect the Spa
Visit during the hours you would normally use the spa to see if it is
overcrowded during that period. Notice whether the facilities are
clean and well-maintained and note the condition of the equipment.
You also may want to ask questions like these.
* "Is there a trial period during which I can sample services free
* "How many members do you have? Is there a limit to the number of
people who can join?" Many spas set no membership limit. So while the
spa may not be crowded during your visit, this condition may change -
- especially if the spa is new.
* "What hours will I be able to use the spa?" A spa may be open all
week, but may be limited to men on some days and women on others.
* "What qualifications or special training do your instructors
Consider Contracts Carefully
Some spas ask you to join right away. You might be offered special
time-limited rates as an incentive. But if you wait a few days, you
may make a better decision. Take the contract home and read it
carefully. Before you sign it, see if you can answer these questions:
* Is everything the salesperson promised written in the contract? If
a problem arises after you join, the contract will probably govern
the dispute. If something is not written in the contract, do not
count on it being resolved.
* Is there a "cooling-off" period? Some spas give you several days
to reconsider your decision to join after you have signed the
* Can you get a refund if you need to cancel? If you move, become
disabled, or just want to stop using the spa, can you get a refund or
get out of your contract. This is especially important if you choose
a long-term membership.
* Can you join for a short time only? It may be to your advantage to
pay a little more money and join for only a few "trial" months. That
way, if you are not enjoying the membership or using it as much as
you planned, you will not be committed to many years of payments.
* Can you afford the payments? Take into consideration the finance
charges and annual percentage rates when you figure the total cost of
your membership. Figure this cost per week and per day to give you a
better idea of what it will cost to use the spa.
For More Information
Before you join a spa, you may want to contact your local consumer
protection office, state Attorney General, or Better Business Bureau
to find out if they have received any complaints about the spa or if
there are state laws regulating health spa sales. If problems arise
after you join, you also can contact these offices for assistance.
Although the FTC cannot intervene in individual cases, the staff
monitors health spa practices and would like to receive a copy of any
consumer complaints. Write to:
Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C.
Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission
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