From yesterdays SIndo...
Debt collectors 'hunting' gym fees
A TOP Dublin gym is employing debt collectors to chase lapsed members for their monthly fees.
Jackie Skelly Fitness say they have outsourced the work to a debt collection company for "extreme" cases of members who do not pay up after signing a year-long contract with the gym.
The chain has seven gyms across Dublin and a new facility in Drogheda, with a total of 20,000 members.
Mark Tooke, Director of Jackie Skelly, says that members sign a legal contract when they join up in the gym and must honour that.
"If people miss a payment we write to them and ring them. But in extreme cases when a membership hasn't been paid for around four months we outsource the work to a debt collection agency who follow that up."
A recent report found that a massive 80 per cent of people who join gyms as part of their New Year fitness resolution drop out. According to the report from Deloitte just one in five keep up the January spurt of exercise.
Membership at Jackie Skelly costs €66 per month or €75 for premium membership but Mr Tooke insists that they have a retention rate of 60 per cent.
"I have heard those figures before that just 20 per cent continue to use the gym, but in our experience it is more like a retention rate of over 60 per cent. That would include those that come every day and those that might just attend once a month," he said.
Other large gym groups use different types of payments. At Ben Dunne's Carlisle, Northwood and Westpoint centre members pay upfront for a year or 18 months membership.
Gar Holohan, Chairman of the Aura Holohan Leisure Group says he does not agree with legal contracts when it comes to gym membership.
"The prospect of a member of any one of the eight leisure centres that we operate being hunted down by a debt collector will never arise because we are the only chain of leisure centres in the country operating a 'pay-as-you go' system.
"We don't believe in locking people into contracts and then calling in the debt collectors to recover every cent owed to us, simply because those who signed up as members have decided to stop using our facilities," he said.
"The industry standard is that almost half of those who sign up as gym members quit within three months.
"I have heard stories about debt collectors knocking on doors and the existence of contracts that don't offer escape clauses. We don't subscribe to these practices that do nothing for our industry."