I just want to know people think about Fred Astaire? Arthur Murray? The franchised dance studios...are they respected? How to best go about learning from them and not to have your pockets emptied by them?
This topic has come up many times on these boards, if you search for "franchise" and also "Arthur Murray" and "Fred Astaire" you'll pull up a bunch of threads.
The basic answer is that it all depends. It depends on who is running the particular franchise you are dancing at, and who is teaching there. I started out at a Fred Astaire and although was regularly subjected to sales pressure where I'd be taken into the manager's office (it was like buying a car), but I also got very lucky and had an excellent teacher who had just been brought over from the UK. I also held firm on the sales pitches, and never bought more than I wanted in terms of lessons or "competition packages."
After that, I've only taken lessons from independent teachers and independent studios, and I must say that my experience with them has been far better than with the franchise. First of all, I've never in 10 years had a sales pitch for anything. Secondly, my lesson prices are lower and the quality of my teachers is still excellent.
The best thing to do is to check out all the teachers and studios in your area to see who you like best. Talk to people, find out who they like and why. If you can, go to a competition and see who does well and find out who teaches them. Ask for recommendations. You might find the right teacher where you are now, or someplace else, but don't feel guilty about looking around.