IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Paying Not to Go to the Gym

  • Stefano DellaVigna
  • Ulrike Malmendier

How do consumers choose from a menu of contracts? We analyze a novel dataset from three U.S. health clubs with information on both the contractual choice and the day-to-day attendance decisions of 7,752 members over three years. The observed consumer behavior is difficult to reconcile with standard preferences and beliefs. First, members who choose a contract with a flat monthly fee of over $70 attend on average 4.3 times per month. They pay a price per expected visit of more than $17, even though they could pay $10 per visit using a 10-visit pass. On average, these users forgo savings of $600 during their membership. Second, consumers who choose a monthly contract are 17 percent more likely to stay enrolled beyond one year than users committing for a year. This is surprising because monthly members pay higher fees for the option to cancel each month. We also document cancellation delays and attendance expectations, among other findings. Leading explanations for our findings are overconfidence about future self-control or about future efficiency. Overconfident agents overestimate attendance as well as the cancellation probability of automatically renewed contracts. Our results suggest that making inferences from observed contract choice under the rational expectation hypothesis can lead to biases in the estimation of consumer preferences. (JEL D00, D12, D91)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 96 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 694-719

in new window

Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:3:p:694-719
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.96.3.694
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Eugenio J. Miravete, 2003. "Choosing the Wrong Calling Plan? Ignorance and Learning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 297-310, March.
  2. Loewenstein, George & O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Projection Bias in Predicting Future Utility," Working Papers 02-11, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  3. Stefano Della Vigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2004. "Contract Design and Self-control: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 353-402, May.
  4. Miravete, Eugenio J & Röller, Lars-Hendrik, 2003. "Competitive Non-Linear Pricing in Duopoly Equilibrium: The Early US Cellular Telephone Industry," CEPR Discussion Papers 4069, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Heidhues, Paul & Köszegi, Botond, 2005. "The Impact of Consumer Loss Aversion on Pricing," CEPR Discussion Papers 4849, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Malmendier, Ulrike M. & Della Vigna, Stefano, 2003. "Overestimating Self-Control: Evidence from the Health Club Industry," Research Papers 1800, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  8. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
  9. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2004. "Contracting with Diversely Naïve Agents," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000530, UCLA Department of Economics.
  10. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Doing It Now or Later," Discussion Papers 1172, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  11. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Choice and Procrastination," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5r26k54p, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  12. Paserman, M. Daniele, 2004. "Job Search and Hyperbolic Discounting: Structural Estimation and Policy Evaluation," IZA Discussion Papers 997, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Igal Hendel & Aviv Nevo, 2004. "Intertemporal Substitution and Storable Products," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 536-547, 04/05.
  14. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2000. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," NBER Working Papers 7682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  16. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
  17. Laibson, David I. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," Scholarly Articles 4554333, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  18. Carroll, Gabriel D. & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David I. & Madrian, Brigitte & Metrick, Andrew, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," Scholarly Articles 4686776, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  19. Drazen Prelec & George Loewenstein, 1998. "The Red and the Black: Mental Accounting of Savings and Debt," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(1), pages 4-28.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Paying Not to Go to the Gym (AER 2006) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:3:p:694-719. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)

or (Michael P. Albert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.