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The beginning of a new year is often associated with increased interest in gym memberships, at-home workout equipment and programs designed around living a healthier lifestyle. As consumers recover from holiday celebrations, including holiday dinners typically more robust than the standard fare, the new year offers plenty of opportunities to help shed those extra servings of stuffing. However, it is important to remain mindful of con artists who take advantage of shopper trends for their own gain and to keep realistic fitness goals that can be carried throughout the year.
Online searches for ‘workout equipment’ typically peak in late December or early January as consumers outfit their homes to pursue their fitness goals. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of the increased interest in these products, shifting their tactics from fraudulent holiday gifts to exercise equipment. Better Business Bureau also receives reports of ‘miracle products,’ often provided in a pill or powder, that guarantee the user will lose a certain amount of weight in a certain timeframe. Advertisements for these products often claim the user will not have to alter their diet or exercise routine, appealing to a wide range of consumers, but come with a monthly charge that is difficult to remove or a high initial price.
Earlier in 2022, a Texas resident found an online website selling branded gym equipment for extremely low prices with free shipping. After making their purchase, the consumer reported the, “order did not show any sales tax calculated. After I placed the order, the email receipt from PayPal showed a very different business name in a foreign language. When I called to cancel the order, the phone number was non-existent, and all my emails to their support email went unanswered.”
Better Business Bureau provides the following tips to get the most out of your new year fitness goals and avoid scams:
Ask questions about limited free trials. Gyms often give a one-week free pass for potential members, and at-home programs provide a trial period to allow consumers to determine if it is the right fit for their fitness goals. If interested in a gym membership, spend the time to realistically determine what time of the day you would be available to dedicate toward exercise and visit the gym during these times to see how crowded it is or if there is a wait for equipment you would typically use in your workout routine. Check to see if limited trials are offered for any classes or specialized programs.
Don’t feel coerced. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join a workout program immediately or make a purchase online without first researching the seller or business. A reputable gym or program will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities and make an informed decision. Be especially wary of claims that seem too good to be true, such as a guarantee of losing a large amount of weight extremely quickly.
Calculate the trust costs. Gyms and at-home workout or dietary programs often use introductory offers to encourage new members, especially in the new year. However, the price could go up more than you budgeted once the initial period is over. Make sure to read the contract and expenses carefully and understand the regular monthly fees and what they include.
Understand the terms. Read the contract carefully before signing and ensure that all verbal promises a salesperson makes are in writing. Pay close attention to the cancellation and renewal policies. Some programs may charge a cancellation fee or will automatically renew your contract at the end of its term.
Be wary of too-good-to-be-true products and deals. Branded workout gear at prices significantly less than what can be found at an authorized retailer is a red flag of a potential scam. While buying into dietary programs or nutritional supplements that promise amazing results may be appealing, exercise caution and trust your gut. Losing 20 pounds in two weeks may sound great, but is hardly ever a realistic goal, and may put more stress on your body than is healthy.
Use a credit card when shopping online. BBB strongly recommends using a credit card for all online purchases rather than a debit card, wire transfer or mobile banking app transaction. In case of a fraudulent seller or business purchase, credit cards offer additional protection and the ability to cancel charges more than other forms of payment.
Visit BBB.org for more tips on how to have a fraud-free new year.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.