General Dance Discussion > Why the hate for franchises?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Newdancer81, Sep 19, 2015.

  1. Newdancer81

    Newdancer81 Active Member

    Hi all.

    I'm just wondering, it seems like there is a general dislike for franchise studio in the dance community. I'm wondering why this is. I know Arthur Murray is quite a big chain across North America. Is it because the prices are generally more expensive? Is it because it is too standardized?

    Also, would you consider a local studio that has 3 locations in your community a franchise? The owner lets you traverse between different studios depending on your schedule.
  2. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    (Note: I haven't taken from any franchise studios myself, so this answer is meant as a description of impressions from the outside.) Typically when people talk about "franchise studios," they mostly mean Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray, although people also may talk about other independent studios that follow the "franchise model." I'd say that the defining feature of that model is the contract, where you're required to buy chunks of lessons at a time. The primary objections that people tend to have are the price in combination with a lack of flexibility. It is important to note that different franchise studios can be very different, and they play a very important role in teacher training in this country. However, with the "bad" ones, the perception is that business priorities and dance education priorities are unbalanced, with students ending up feeling tricked out of their money. So, issues like high pressure sales tactics to get you to renew your contract. Highly specified teaching plans that prevent teachers from giving you information or teaching you steps that you haven't paid for yet. Efforts to keep students from contact with other studios or non-franchise competitions, so they don't realize that the dance level there is higher than inside the franchise. Discouragement of high level students who may come in from elsewhere so the lower level students don't realize that their teachers are just starting out themselves. It seems that as a rule, the franchises do a very good job of making people feel welcome and supported, and for people who want to take advantage of all parts of the contract -- privates, groups, parties -- the price isn't so bad. But there are enough stories of bad experiences floating around the dance community that a lot of people with more experience tend to prefer independent studios, which of course also vary highly, but where you typically at least will have the option of a la carte, pay as you go lesson buying, and where you typically will have more flexibility to create the dance education that works best for you.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
    Sania, Loki, FancyFeet and 3 others like this.
  3. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    @bia covered everything well, I only have a few things to add.

    It wasn't the high pressure sales tactics that bothered me, perhaps living in New York made me immune and cold hearted enough to say no to multiple people in a sales room trying to pressure you. What got me eventually sick and tired of a franchise was the emotional sell. Me telling my instructor one thing one day and then another coming up in another instance or day, using that information against me to make a sale. It wasn't a one time occurrence, and even with the anti-frat rules it felt like borderline stalking on their end.

    They do harbor a great atmosphere in their competitions though, as my parents currently dance in a franchise. My parents only goal with dance is the social aspect though, so they enjoy the franchises a lot. I've been to that studio a few times when I go to visit.

    Many franchises should be looked at independently. The one I first started at I had a great instructor, but it was ultimately ruined by their studio manager/owner just trying to pry stuff out of me.
    Rhythmdancer likes this.
  4. Rhythmdancer

    Rhythmdancer Well-Known Member

    To add on to the posts above, there are independant studios that operate like franchise studios also and some of those studio owners came from franchises. The franchise model wouldn't be as bad for me if they did their privates based off of instructor experience and had flexible payment plans. I don't want to spend the same price on an instructor that has been dancing for 3 years that will get killed in a silver collegiate heat as I would on a pro that does decently in competition. I understand why they don't but I don't like it and it almost discourages me from furthering dance if I were to move somewhere that only has this set up.

    The problem sets in when people have been dance consumers for a while and they start noticing patterns. Such as how some studios switch staff frequently and gets brand new instructors. Every studio is a different experience but franchises get a bad rap because they have a brand— the problem is more of a symptom of ballroom dance education in the US as a whole. You'll get excellent small studios and terrible small studios.
  5. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Here's a thought. AM actually did more for BR dancing than any indies combined, Their weekly TV show in the 50s drew millions ( the 1st if you will, "strictly " ).
    They introduced mambo to the masses and Cha cha, among all the others they demoed .

    They also produced comp couples of world class ( Jenkins and Silvers to name but 2 ) .
    They created opportunity for 1000s of future champs and teachers, many who went "indie" .

    And, of course, there were charlatans, but measured against the successes, a small percentage .

    I have worked for both over the years , and 90% were legit in their business operations. Do they "sell ?", of course they do , but the high pressure days by and large, are long gone .

    They are a great "gateway " for entry into teaching...
    ocean-daughter and MaggieMoves like this.
  6. Newdancer81

    Newdancer81 Active Member

    Well the first studio I went to was Arthur Murray. The instructor was nice and all, but I do agree it was slightly high pressured sales after my first set of lessons.

    For the studio I am at now, it was a high pressure sales pitch after the demo lesson but after that, they've been fairly low key. My instructor hasn't asked about the showcase that often.

    What I do notice though is that there are varying levels of instruction as well. Some appear to be just starting off as instructors and some are quite advanced. I think most of thr longer tenure ones have been around for 2 years or more.

    I'm not trying to do anything competitive just for fun. They do try to sell packages but if you just want do ad hoc lessons, they are also willing. So I guess this is similar to the franchise model? The only thing is, I think if I didn't have my current instructor, I wouldn't enjoy it as much but from what I see, the newer instructors only teach group classes and the more experienced ones do private.

    The one independent studio I went to, I didn't really enjoy. I'm not sure if it was because they had such a big class or the general feeling of it.
  7. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    You really have to look at them on a per studio basis. I've also found as a whole, franchises use a different teaching model than a majority of the independents. Most will teach their students the steps first, and worry about the technique later. But as franchises directly market first to social dancers, this makes sense as to just get people moving on the dance floor. More advanced students or the ones who want to compete will ultimately push for more and more technique oriented studios rather than just syllabus level steps which I can learn on my own.

    The extremely rigid structure of their teaching is also their downfall especially when students start to get more advanced. They do employ some great marketing to get their students in the door, but once they start advancing that rigid structure will chase them away with silly excuses. Things I remember being that, "We can't teach you Paso yet because you're not at such and such level..." were just silly, I thought. I won't go into all the business details of it, but there are reasons that their new students are more valuable than their older ones, as silly as it sounds.
    Loki likes this.
  8. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    That is the most important thing to remember, whether looking at an independent or a franchise studio. I dance at a franchise studio that has excellent teachers. One student of my former teacher came in and wanted to do Viennese Waltz--that was really the only reason she wanted to learn to dance. He obliged. Some students come with the goal of competing (either franchise or NDCA events), some come in to learn social dancing. All are accommodated. The teachers all work with top-level coaches, and top-level coaches come to the studio. Is this the case at all franchise studios? Absolutely not, but nor is it at all independent studios.
    scullystwin42 likes this.
  9. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    you might benefit from reading the numerous other threads on this by using the search function...the term franchise is usually meant to indicate a chain far larger than just three, where a certain set of policies and procedures are known to be in effect across the board....there are numerous pros and cons...and it is hard to generalize....the costs do tend to be high and the communities do tend to be a bit more closed to non-franchise events, but that is by no means absolute and sometimes the support and affirmation there can make it a very good environment for many folks.....quality varies just as in non-franchise studios
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  10. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Franchises were once literally outlawed in several states for their business practices. That legacy still lingers to some extent.

    You can google up details.

    I personally have no beef with franchises. I just prefer indies for several reasons.
    Sania and MaggieMoves like this.
  11. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Depends on the history of the studio. My studio has three locations that we travel amongst and is a former franchise (of the well-known ones) but broke away several years ago. However, many of the old franchise practices remain.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    In 1947 the manager of the first AM studio in Portland was indicted by a federal grand jury for filing false claims under the G.I. Bill. I haven't been able to find whether or not he was convicted, but he quickly became an former employee of AM. Same individual was quoted, before he took the fall. "They can do you dirt on the dance floor, (he) laughs," talking about ballroom competitions in England. He then described one of his own tactics.
    Nevertheless, there were "soon" 4 AM studios in the area.

    Certain dances, such as Argentine Tango, and any of the swing dances, seem to be better served by non franchise teachers, since you can often find those who have built a career learning and teaching one particular genre of dance.

    I will consider Murray's if I decide to learn the ballroom dances. They were recently running ads on the buses here!
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
  13. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member

    A greater extent than I think we sometimes boss, who has never danced ballroom in his life, wants to learn to dance with his wife. But because of the reputation of franchise dance studios in Florida, where he grew up, he refuses to go to any kind of franchise studio to do it. In his non-dancer mind, Arthur Murray studios = fleecing old ladies out of their money. I have assured him this is not the case at all franchise studios, even all Arthur Murray studios. But when he's ready to start taking lessons, I'll find him an independent instructor.

    I also have no beef with the franchise studios, though I have never danced at one - but the locked-in contracts and lack of flexibility do discourage me and cause me to recommend independent teachers or studios to new dancers. However, I can see the allure for someone starting out - especially a couple - who wants to learn to dance socially, go to parties and group classes, and just have a good time.
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Not quite true.. What did happen was this; "they" outlawed the selling of contracts over $1500... and in some parts of Fla. a cash bond was/is, required .
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Those contracts, do not stand up in " Law ".. that's empirical evidence. And.. pretty much all the franchise studios do not want to get into a legal battle ( bad publicity )..

    To take that supposition a step further ( no pun ) .

    A well known long time franchisee, turned his AM studio into an independent, " they" took him to court..... "they " lost .
  16. Newdancer81

    Newdancer81 Active Member

    What do you mean by contracts? At my current studio, you can buy individual lessons if you inquire but they also offer something similar to AM called units, which is basically a package. You buy them and use them up. It's not a contract because you can not use them but it's your loss as you lose money. What are these contracts you speak of?
  17. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    They ( some of them ) used to have written contracts .The "paper " they wrote, was bought by a credit company at a discounted rate ( ECB ) .
    Not having worked for them in some time, I don't know if that system is still in operation .

    But, even so, IF you purchase lessons in bulk, and for some reason are unable to finish the course, then there has been cases where refunds were originally not given . A verbal contract had taken place . In pretty much all cases , refunds were given when challenged ,less minor expenses ( commissions ) .

    And, not all franchised schools operate the same. There are certain guidelines they must follow, but ,are allowed to establish their own business practices .
  18. Newdancer81

    Newdancer81 Active Member

    Ah I see. It's not the type of contract I was thinking. You technically purchased a bill of goods, and how you use them is at your discretion. If you purchased lessons, and didn't use them, then they charged you a penalty for not using them, that's more of a contract. I don't know the laws in the US, but in Canada, you don't have to offer refunds unless the service/good has caused you harm in any way. It is up to discretion of the retailer/service provider and as long as the consumer is informed, it is okay.
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    My evidence is empirical; have known over the years I worked for both AM and FA, students who had claimed refunds, and as I re-call after much discussion, studios relented .

    I do believe in todays market, this ( large contracts ) would be a very rare exception .
  20. Newdancer81

    Newdancer81 Active Member

    Oh yeah, I agree. I just wouldn't really call it a contract. Sorry, technicality. It's not legally binding that you take X amount of lessons. You just purchased them and you don't have to use them.

    I thought there was something else behind these contracts such as hidden clauses, etc.

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