Consumer page: Know your rights with gyms and spas
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
1/30/13 at 6:09 AM
Health clubs, gyms and health spas are regulated by the Oklahoma Health Spa Act tulsaworld.com/OKHealthSpaAct , which is enforced by the Oklahoma Department of Consumer Credit.
What: The law - Title 59, Sections 2000 through 2012 - defines "Health spa" as "any person, firm, corporation, organization, club or association engaged in a program of physical exercise, which includes the use of a sauna, whirlpool, weight-lifting room, massage, steam room or exercising machine or device or exercise rooms or is engaged in the sale of the right or privilege to use such exercise."
Exemptions: The law specifically exempts bona fide nonprofit organizations including the Young Men's Christian Association, Young Women's Christian Association or similar organizations whose functions as health spas are only incidental to their overall functions and purposes.
It excludes any private club owned and operated by its members; any organization solely operated for the purpose of teaching a particular form of self-defense such as judo or karate; any facility owned or operated by the United States; any facility owned or operated by this state or its political subdivisions; any nonprofit public or private school, college or university; and facilities operated for aerobics or toning.
Pumping without a license: Section 2009 of the Oklahoma Health Spa Act also states that any person who engages in business as a health spa without first being properly registered with ODCC or who violates any provision of the act, on conviction is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000, up to one year in jail or both.
Installments and financing: Health spas are required to notify the department within 30 days of starting business if the spa allows payments on purchases or services to be made in four or more installments, assesses finance charges or late charges on accounts or arranges financing by assignment of sales contracts to financial institutions.
License fee: A $200 one-time investigation fee, a $300 registration fee and a $120 application fee for notification filings.
Bonding required: A bond is required if the business accepts fees of more than $50 or offers contracts for longer than 6 months. With 500 or fewer members it must carry a $30,000 bond and for 2,001 or more members a $70,000 bond.
Licensed spas: See a list of 175 licensed Oklahoma health spas, current with ODCC, at tulsaworld.com/175LicensedHealthSpas This includes 21 Tulsa spas, eight Broken Arrow spas, six Owasso spas, four in Stillwater, two in Jenks, two in Sand Springs and one each in Bixby, Claremore, Coweta, Sapulpa, Skiatook and Wagoner.
Sweat the small things when selecting a new gym
New Year's resolutions for getting healthy and losing weight are admirable goals, says Tulsa Better Business Bureau Chief Operating Officer Rick Brinkley. But he advises consumers to be cautious about believing diet claims and signing health club contracts. Both are ways to lose weight - in coins.
In the last 12-month period consumers filed 7,076 health club complaints nationally, compared to 5,130 for the previous 12 months - a 38 percent increase. There has also been an increase in inquiries for this 12-month period: 242 compared to 219 for the previous 12 months, or an increase of 10 percent. Many consumers had difficulty canceling memberships or with billing disputes.
Eye the club: "Joining a health club is a big decision," Brinkley said. "It's important you visit the club to ensure it's a good fit with your budget and lifestyle. Before signing a health club contract, consider your needs and your budget."
Determine fitness goals: Losing weight is hard work, and you need a program you can stick with - preferably one you enjoy. Find a health club or exercise facility convenient to work and home that offers times fitting your schedule.
Check amenities before joining: Consider the cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines and instructors, and other factors important to you. Ask to try out the facility before joining.
Set a budget: Ask the health club staff about "joining" or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs. Does a weight-loss plan require you to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find the program doesn't meet your needs? If the facility closes, can you transfer your membership to another facility?
Read the contract: Does it list all services and facilities and hours of operation? Is everything the salesperson promised included in the contract? What's included in the monthly fee and what costs extra? What's the total, enrollment and finance fees included?
Check BBB complaints: Check a company's Business Review at tulsaworld.com/BBBFindBusiness before beginning an exercise program or diet. For a list of 20 health clubs rated by the BBB, see tulsaworld.com/BBB15healthclubs
The BBB advises consumers to consult their doctors for an assessment of over-all health risks. Get their recommendations on weight-loss options and/or exercise regimens that fit your health status and ability to stick with it.
Last August, the Federal Trade Commission filed deceptive advertising charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the marketers of the Ab Circle Pro - an abdominal exercise device. Company advertising airing 10,000 times from March 2009 through May 2010 promised consumers exercising on the device for 3 minutes daily would make them lose 10 pounds in two weeks. These defendants agreed to settle providing $25 million: Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International Inc., Michael Casey and David Brodess; Direct Holdings Americas Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc.; infomercial producer Tara Borakos, Tara Productions Inc. and New U Inc.; and Jennifer Nicole Lee, JNL Inc. and JNL Worldwide Inc.
Consumers who bought an Ab Circle Pro are asked to request a refund at tulsaworld.com/FTCAbCircleProRefund
The FTC charged the firms and their owners promised in ads a 3-minute workout on the device - a fiberglass disk with stationary handlebars and two knee rests that roll on the edge of the disk, allowing consumers to kneel and rotate side-to-side - was equivalent to doing 100 sit ups. Pitchwoman Jennifer Nicole Lee compared it to "a gym workout." Consumers paid up to $250 for it.
Original Print Headline: Lose weight, not your wallet
Tulsa World consumer writer Phil Mulkins wants to know which topics interest you. Call 918-699-8888, email your suggestion to email@example.com or mail it to Tulsa World Consumer, PO Box 1770, Tulsa, OK 74102-1770.
Exercising and losing weight are admirable goals for 2013. But consumers should be cautious and check out the fine print when joining a health club, gym or spa. STUART CLARKE / Bloomberg file