Ask a lawyer

Mar 292010
Authors: Forrest Orswe, staff attorney for Student Legal Services

Q: I’m thinking about signing a tanning contract … Is there anything I need to watch out for?


It’s the time of year that many students start thinking about perfecting their tans to look good for the summer. Some may even take the “fake and bake” route to get there. Here are a few things to look out for along the way:

First, don’t fall prey to high-pressure sales techniques. Many of the sales people working at these shops will not be there next month or even next week. They will tell you most anything to make the sale. Don’t believe it. Ask them to put any promises in the contract and make sure you see a full copy ahead of signing it. You must get it in writing.

Second, before you sign that contract, please take a few minutes to read it thoroughly and realize what you’re getting into. A typical tanning contract is for a period of two years at a cost of approximately $50 per month. This equals out to $1200 over the course of the contract. This is a big commitment and should not be taken lightly.

Also, these contracts are very difficult to break. One local company will not allow you out of the contract unless you have moved 25 miles from any affiliated tanning store in the country, have contracted advanced melanoma or agree to buy out the contract for 50 percent of the remaining costs.

Third, if you default on the contract your credit rating can be at risk. Many of these companies are set up to aggressively collect on these contracts. If you default, they will come after you. This can damage your credit rating and make it difficult to rent an apartment, get a credit card or buy a home in the future.

The bottom line is this: Make sure you’re certain you want to commit to a long term contract, and read it thoroughly, before you sign it. Most companies offer a month-to-month option for a slightly higher price. This difference in price can be well worth it when you get tired of tanning or move to a beach community in a few months. Enjoy the warm weather.

Forrest Orswell is a staff attorney for Student Legal Services. SLS is available to students needing help with their legal issues. They can be found in room 182 of the Lory Student Center, online at or by calling 491-1482. Send your questions for this column to the Director of SLS, Kathleen Harward, at Letters and feedback can be sent to

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