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January 2003
Beware of January Fitness Center Problems and Weight-Reduction Scams

January is when the largest numbers of consumers sign up for fitness centers and explore how to lose weight. December’s holiday parties drive our urge, of course. But don’t fall victim to fitness-center and diet-plan misrepresentations, because they will not only cost you money, but they also will likely rob you of your interest in getting and staying in shape.

Fitness Centers

Each year, Consumer Protection officials receive numerous complaints about fitness centers—charging more than was represented, having smaller or less available facilities than represented, or attempting to lock consumers into contracts for more than two years. Furthermore, several large fitness centers unexpectedly closed during the past few years in southeast and northeast Wisconsin after consumers had paid their fees.
What should you do to make the right fitness center choice? First, don’t get swept up into the center’s atmosphere and the idea of a “new you” when making this decision. Some consumers enthusiastically sign up for long-term contracts and then find they rarely visit the center after the first few times because they lose interest or the center is too difficult to visit due to its location or hours of operation. Therefore, check out several fitness centers at different hours of the day. Are the center and your desired exercise machines crowded? Will the center work within your, or your family’s, routine? Are there any equipment or time restrictions on your membership? Would a monthly contract work better than a two-year contract because you haven’t stuck with your new exercise routine in the past?
Next, find out what services and equipment are included in your monthly contract price. What is the expertise and training of personal trainers? Is the center clean? What is the cancellation policy? And find out whether complaints about the center have been filed with Consumer Protection (1-888-422-7128).

Weight-Reduction Plans

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on fraudulent weight-reduction plans we Americans spend many millions—if not billions—of dollars on each year. A recent FTC study determined 55 percent of the ads made at least one representation “that is almost certainly false.” You know the ads: they say they are based on a “breakthrough” or “revolutionary new formula,” allow you to “continue eating what you want to eat,” do not require exercise, and are “guaranteed to work or your money back.” If you see or hear these items in the advertising, watch out! As noted by U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, “there is no such thing as a miracle pill for weight loss.” The only thing you will lose is your money.

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