Does anyone really take the time to read the World Health membership agreement? Do you really know what you’re signing up for? There are a lot of small words and a lot of information in an agreement so we thought we’d actually take the time, in simple words to explain what’s on that damn thing and maybe a little bit about why it’s all there in the first place.

Your agreement:

The Front

The Front of the agreement includes all your personal information we need to set your account up and ultimately to ensure that you are really you. It also includes all the information about the type of membership you’ve purchased and what the financial terms of that membership are. NOTE: if you have a bi-weekly dues membership make sure you notice that your membership continues automatically after whatever term you’ve committed to at whatever rate is specified in the contract. This is important as it will require you to cancel the membership at a later date vs. it automatically ending.

You’ll also notice there are a number of signature and initial boxes on the front. Each of these has its own purpose which is to actually get you to review and sign off on what you are signing yourself up for. Most importantly, notice the bottom of the agreement where is specifically says in bold highlighted wording:

I/We have carefully read the Membership Agreement. I/We understand and agree to the terms and conditions on the reverse, the above terms and agree to both. Dated at __________, Alberta the date first written above.

This is kind of important because it also says you have read all the terms and conditions on the back. So let’s look at the back.

The Back

The Back of the agreement is what contains most of the good stuff – so let’s go through it:

Clause 1 and 2 – Simple agreement stuff defining you as the member and World Health as the provider, as well as what the agreement essentially allows you to do. Nothing crazy here.

Clause 3 – Basically says that you agree to pay the fees on the front of the agreement regardless of whether you use the membership or not. This protects WH from a member who wants to come back and pro-actively prorate their past fees based on their usage – essentially removing any ambiguity. It seems cold but it’s actually a fairly uniform statement that almost every single service agreement in the world contains.

This clause also obligates you as a member to the club rules and regulations (as posted in the club). This is how we hold our members accountable to demonstrating courteous behaviour on the gym floor and prevents things like dropping weights, using chalk or even running around naked!!!

The last part of this clause reminds you that it’s also your job to inform us of any address, email address or billing information changes. This just allows us to do a better job of servicing your account and making sure you don’t get awkwardly stopped at the front to update your account.

Clause 4 – Change in membership Dues. This is a good one to be aware of. Once your contract is outside of the committed term and in a month to month situation, it allows WH to raise your dues by an additional 10% per year. So why would we put this in there? Well, the reality of the situation is that to continue to service our members our costs continue to go up. We have two types of cost escalation:
1. Regular Cost Escalation – Things like raises to minimum wage, property and corporate taxes, costs of supplies and utilities.
2. Incremental Cost Additions – Sometimes we make a decision on behalf of all our members to add additional services or products that are included in everyone’s membership. Several years ago we decided to start stocking our change rooms with a full set of amenities. While this benefits only members that choose to use them – we chose to collectively work the cost of these into everyone’s membership as it is difficult to control who does and doesn’t use these.
At the end of the day, we are striving to provide the best experience we can for our members while still allowing WH to be a healthy profitable business for shareholders and staff.

Clause 5 – Nothing much here – it just talks about the check-in procedure and the need for your membership card to be present along with what happens if you lose it.

Clause 6 – Identifies we normally charge guests $20 for a visit. However, there are lots of ways to get your friends and family involved for free. Simply signing them up on the VIP passes you get when you join or talking to your club manager about arranging a trial visit is the best way for someone to trial our facilities and programs without having to pay this fee.

Clause 7 – Again nothing special here – simply a clause about our rules and regulations and the importance of following them for everyone’s mutual safety and enjoyment of the club.

Clause 8 – This is our liability waiver – which is very important to us as a business. It essentially says that there are some risks in coming to the gym (just like there are with everything else in life), that you understand those risks and that you assume the responsibility for anything that could possibly happen inside our four walls.

Clause 9 – Talks about the use rights of the facilities. It allows WH to actually close a location for up to a month (which sometimes happens with club improvements and accidents like fires or floods). It allows us to temporarily service your membership out of one of our 8 other clubs in Edmonton during that time.

Clause 10 – YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ THIS ONE!!!! We’ve talked in other blogs about the importance of understanding how to cancel your agreement. This clause has three important points:
1. If your membership has an obligated term of one or two years, you must fulfil those obligations.
2. Outside of obligation, you need to give 30 days’ notice to cancel – this is pretty standard but the process of stopping your billing and processing your cancellation takes time and effort by our staff – and we simply need enough notice time to do this job properly.
3. While in some crazy situations we may actually accept other forms of cancellation, we can only guarantee proper form of cancellations from two different methods:
a. Coming into one of our locations to fill out a cancellation form
b. Submitting written notice by registered mail.
This does two things – it is the best way to ensure we received this notice and most importantly – it allows you to receive a receipt that we got your cancellation notice. This is important as sometimes things do get lost – in the event that you say you cancelled and we can’t find the notice, retaining your copy is the ONLY way you can prove you actually provided the right notice!
There is also a section of this clause that talks about paid in full memberships being final. While WH does have a cooling off period that supersedes this clause, we typically do this because after a certain point in time WH has paid its representatives commission or other forms of compensation on properly registering your membership (thus we have incurred costs that we can not get back).

Clause 11 – Simply put – this is our protection from any members who may cause disturbances within our clubs. Essentially, it allows us to terminate your membership if you disturbing others, breaking rules or endangering other members or staff.

Clause 12 – Allows us to charge a service charge if your payments start to bounce. The $15 fee today is only charged on EFT charges that come back NSF. We do this because our processor actually charges us a fee when your bank draft rejects and we also have costs associated with having to pay staff to chase you down for payment. Credit Card Payments are not charged today but we do reserve the right to do this. The reality is, we don’t want to charge these fees – but we incur real costs having to chase members for these payments – we’re simply trying to cover these costs.

Clause 13 – I wouldn’t worry about this clause – it simply protects us for the 1 in 100,000 cases that we have to go to court with someone to collect funds. We can’t even remember the last time this was even needed.

Clause 14 – Allows us to transfer the agreement to a third party collection agency if you cannot come to a settlement with our internal collections department. Rest assured we will exhaust every effort to take care of this ourselves first. This clause also says you can’t assign this agreement to anyone else.

Clause 15 – Basically says the contract is governed by the laws of Alberta.

Clause 16 – Says we’ll keep all your information private. In fact, we are held to PCI compliance law and we work both in our clubs and with our systems to ensure information on our members is held in a secure and safe manner.

Clause 17 – Talks about a Statement Fee for members who choose to a) not pay in full or b) in the event they are a monthly member, not provide banking information. In both these scenarios, WH has to chase members monthly for payment and this takes time and resources. For that reason and to cover the costs associated with this we charge a small fee of $8 bi-weekly.

Clause 18 – Talks about the relation of this agreement to any additional service agreements that you also might have with World Health. Nothing special here again just saying that in the case of an ambiguity the terms of this agreement hold true.

And that’s it! When you actually look at it, there is not much there to be worried about. At the end of the day, you need to know that World Health is committed to your success. In the event that things go awry, the agreement exists to protect both the member and the club. However, it’s worth noting that we’ll do whatever it takes to make you successful. While these policies and rules are in place – your member service rep has the ability to look at different situations and make sure that we are acting in a fair and compassionate manner.