A Victory for Victims of Franchisor Abuse

A Victory for Victims of Franchisor Abuse

Today is a momentous day for victims current and past stuck in a broken franchise system in British Columbia.  Today at 1:30pm the government of BC will put forward the long-awaited Franchise Act put forth by Carole James on May 13th, 2015 now gets its second reading.

 

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We should be very careful not to give full credit to Coralee Oakes, though.  If it were not for the prodding and pushing of Carol James and Adrian Dix, it is doubtful that this bill would have moved forward so quickly, or, possibly at all.

Will this end the pain forever for franchisees?  Of course not.  Franchisees will always be in a lower position of power under their Franchisor, but that is more than acceptable if the Franchisor is ethical and gives a duty of fairness to their ‘partners’.

It is not by coincidence that almost every other Canadian province has enacted the legislation.   It may have taken a long time and lot more victims along the way, but now, finally, a Franchisee will have a chance to right some wrongs as well as make a much better investment for his/her family.

What are the implications for current Franchisees stuck in the system?  For some it will make their stores more difficult to sell, no doubt.  They may have prospective buyers come across truths about the Franchisor during the disclosure process that will make them flee.  But is that any worse than handing off the pain to yet another victim?  Over the long term, this is the necessary change to stop the abuse.

What are the implications for current Franchisors?  For those who are already operating in provinces like Ontario, this will be ‘business as usual’ with a few tweaks.  For those who have been operating only in BC and under the dark cloak of invisibility and hiding behind their top lawyers and beating down their victims with unbeatable legal bills so they can continue their wicked ways – starting today their day will get very difficult and very uncomfortable.

Dunkin’ Donuts Dunked by Quebec Ruling

A 12 year franchisee-franchisor court battle (more acurately ‘battles’ plural) may finally be coming to a close in favour of the little guy as described in this recent article in the Globe and Mail.

In addition, it looks as if franchise legislation may soon become a reality in BC

But what is often not discussed in all of these positive changes is the trail of destruction that occurs leading up to these payouts.  Depression, divorce, and bankruptcies are just some of the items in the list.

In the past, the game has been quite simple for the franchisor.  They not only usually have deeper pockets than their franchisees, but they also often have their own ‘errors and omissions’ insurance which essentially allows them to pay a relatively small deductible and then let this insurance pay for a lawsuit that might be the result of an ‘error’ or an ‘omission’.

But the Franchisees do not have the liberty of purchasing ‘Protection Against Errors and Omissions Insurance’ insurance to level this field.  The Franchisee is forced to fight the battle on their own.  Yet the whole reason they are even trying to fight, is usually because they are losing or have already lost all their money!

The only option that a Franchisee can do is what the Dunkin’ Donuts team did – organize a group and/or class action lawsuit.  This way they can split the costs at least and prove that it’s not just one noisy Franchisee that is upset but the majority.

Something stinks here and change cannot come soon enough.

BC Liberals Step Up Game on BC Franchise Legislation

BC Liberals Step Up Game on BC Franchise Legislation

There are rumours that the BC Liberals are taking action on a bill put forward by Carol James of the BC NDP. This is nothing but good news and has begun to restore confidence in the BC Liberals amongst the thousands of franchisees across the province.

Until now, the BC Liberals have remained silent on the topic, even though extensive research and consultation has gone into the topic and came back overwhelmingly in favour of the need to adopt the franchise legislation already in place in most Canadian provinces.

“I visited my MLS Scott Hamilton who displayed a genuine interest in the bill and has assured me that he will be following up on it.” reported Wayne Taylor, operator of Franchisepro.ca. “Most policitians and people in general have no idea how negatively the current justice system is affecting BC families. It’s something most people just can’t imagine is happening behind these friendly logos they see on the streets they walk.”

BC is one of the last remaining provinces to adopt the legislation which has left many wondering about the ethics governing the province. Comparisions have been made to the property disclosure statement in a real estate transaction. “As a listing realtor, if I know of something so serious that the purchase of a home could turn into a disaster, I’m required to disclose that on the Property Disclosure Statement (PDS). Everyone would agree not showing something material like this is wrong. So why then can franchisors be part of passing a knowingly bad deal without such disclosure?” continued Taylor. “I personally know two grown men who have contemplated suicide, one of which would have left behind a family. I know of one divorce and multiple bankruptcies. If I didn’t have the support of my wife and two loving parents, I seriously have no idea where I would be today psychologically. It’s brutal out there and I just keep meeting more victims with each passing day.”

The BC Franchise Legislation Bill was brought to the table back in December of 2014. Carol James and Adrian Dix took the initiative to bring the bill forward and question the BC Liberals about why this legislation is not tabled. “Scott Hamilton was unsure why the bill had not been dealt with but has assured me that he will look into it and follow it up for me which is great. I have renewed hope that 2015 will be the beginning of a more healthy franchise environment” Taylor concluded.

Franchisepro.ca picks up on Important Franchise Legislation article in Reputable Magazine

Franchisepro.ca picks up on Important Franchise Legislation article in Reputable Magazine

Wayne Taylor plaintiff in a lawsuit against Blenz Coffee in Vancouver, was interviewed in a reputable national magazine called Food Service and Hospitality.

Read about it here on Wayne’s Franchisepro.ca

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Read about it here

Ray Russell’s ‘Fresh Slice’ and its Potential Impact on Franchisees

Imagine you had just invested your life savings into a Fresh Slice Pizza Franchise location when you read the headline in your local rag “FreshSlice Pizza owner had affair with employee before she was fired, judge rules”.  Chances are you won’t be feeling a lot better than Ray or his family.

Some people might argue that those kind of stories are not important and that they don’t affect the business.

Those people are wrong.

The first question I’d ask is ‘Did Mr. Russell have a prenuptual in place?”  If not, the ownership structure of their chain might quickly change.

The second question I’d ask is ‘If this is how Mr. Russell conducts himself in his personal moral life, might he also compromise on business ethics issues –  like how he deals with looking out for his Franchisees’ best interests.”

Everything just became very shaky, and a gambling man might make a wager that the FreshSlice stock, if traded on the exchange, just lost a few percentage points.

 

 

Blenz Coffee Franchise Poster Child Example of Need for BC Franchise Legislation

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In this most recent Business in Vancouver article on the topic of the need for franchise legislation in BC, Wayne Taylor briefly describes his personal experience dealing with Blenz Coffee (Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company Ltd) and just some of the claims he and two other former Franchisees have against the Vancouver franchise and its directors Sarah Kate Moen, Geoffrey Hair and Brian Noble.

Blenz Coffee and many other local Franchisors have essentially been able to do whatever they like while they hide behind their weighty franchise agreements and the shield of their pricey lawyers.

Until now.

Franchisees around BC have had enough and have figured out that the scales have not only been unbalanced but completely lop-sided in their Franchisor’s favour.

Typically what will occur is the Franchisee will enter into a binding legal agreement with the Franchisor and by the time he or she figures out that their investment is built on sand (or worse) they have no money left to fight the imbalance in court because government has been conveniently avoiding getting involved.

The result? Ruined marriages, unnecessary bankruptcies, lost homes, and serious cases of depression around our beautiful cities.

For some Franchisees there may be time to recover their financial house before retirement but for many others the clock has run out by the time the battle begins.

The government of BC needs to at least make a way for the small guy to have a fighting chance against companies that display sociopath and bully-like, in the same way that they have in other provinces.

It’s time to level the playing field.

 

Is McDonald’s Franchise Business Model Starting to Lose?

It’s daily business to hear of smaller Vancouver franchises milking their Franchisees’ profits and doing funny business, but it has been rare if not non-existent to hear negative stories like this one about McDonald’s from a business perspective.

We are often asked, at the VCSFA, “Are there any good franchises out there?” to which we always reply “Yes, there are a few good ones out there and not all hope is lost.  The model remains a win-win model, in theory providing there is a leadership who cares.”

But sometimes leadership doesn’t care.

It seems that more often than not, the Franchisor views their Franchisees as slaves in their revenue-stream producing retirement plan.  Any noisy ones are quickly silenced by their pricy lawyers and no media seems to exist to expose the wickedness of their ways.

Until now.

The wide webs of the world have made it possible for the little guy to raise his or her voice.

Obviously things are not well at McDonald’s these days and we hope that the Franchisees will continue to stay noisy about it which will help prevent new stores from opening so fast and force leadership to start caring about the financial well-being of their number one partner – their Franchisees.

George Moen Vancouver’s Serial Entrepreneur: Part 1 in an Investigative Series

“Yes, we’re in the beverage retail business,” he says, “but really what we are is a franchise development company that just so happens to use coffee as a vehicle.”
 – George Moen, 2010

There is no question that George Moen has been working hard over his lifetime to maintain his self assigned title of “Serial Entrepreneur”.  Anyone involved in social media at all, would drop their jaw in awe at the number of followers he has on Twitter (currently 134,000+ at the time of this article).  Articles like this one, describing the power of his endurance to achieve success have been published regularly over the years and likely someone is in the middle of publishing one right now.  Mentioned in many of these articles are things like:

  • Serial entrepreneur
  • Sandwich Tree
  • Blenz Coffee President/CEO
  • Rapid Time Networks http://rapidtimenetworks.com/
  • Inca One Resources
  • Coaches Planner software
  • High Output Business Networking

But there is much more to the George Moen story than meets the eye.  There are many things about his ‘success’ that are no described in these articles and online profile that make up an important part of who he is.  Questions like:

  • Where is Sandwich Tree today?
  • Who is this “Tonyc” listed on the Sandwich Tree website and what is his relationship to George Moen, Steamrollers and Blenz Coffee?
  • What was the experience of Franchisees under George Moen as their Franchisor?
  • Is there a relationship between Inca One resources and is there a Blenz connection?
  • What is Rapid Times network and how does it work? And does it work?
  • Is there a connection between Blenz Coffee and Steamrollers?
  • Who are the vendors that Blenz and Steamrollers have chosen in the past and did this relationship benefit the Franchisees?
  • What is Black Tusk Tea and who owns it?
  • Is there a connection between the ever-respected Van City Buzz and George Moen who both have countless tens of thousands of follwers and Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company?
  • Are there any law suits that involve George Moen or any of the corporations with which he is involved?
  • What are the similarities between Sandwich Tree, Steamrollers, Blenz Coffee and their business model?
  • Which law firm represents Blenz Coffee and why is this interesting?
  • and more

Stay tuned as we explore these and other interesting connections as they pertain to George Moen, Vancouer’s ‘Serial Entrepreneur”

 

Vera’s Burgershack – Port Moody Franchise Sells for Staggering Loss

“What? Me worry?” – This could have been the caption on Gerald Tritt’s recent Instagram upload that portrays him living it up with a smile that would put Alfred E Neumann of Mad Magazine to shame.  Mr.Tritt appears not to have a care in the world as he tools about in a loaner Ferrari for the weekend, living the dream as he weekends in Chicago and hangs out with the Boss Man himself, Bruce Springsteen – champagne dreams and caviar fairy tales indeed!
Alas, it is a lifestyle that many Vera’s Burger Shack Franchisees can only aspire to after investing in the Gerald Tritt Franchise system.

In September 2014, the original Port Moody Franchisee managed to escape The System after having his store on the market for over a year.  That particular Franchisee purchased a brand new location on Newport Drive and opened in or about September 2012 at a cost rumoured to be in the range of $375,000.00 to $400,000.00.   Initially, the location recorded robust sales as it consistently ranked among the top of Vera’s locations in monthly sales and $2,000 daily sales were often recorded.  However, the good times were not to last as the Port Moody location began a descent down the sales rankings by location.  By June 2013 a scant nine months after opening, the Franchisee had had enough and listed the location for $379,000.00, but, like the Broadway location, the Franchisee could not find any takers.  The location remained on the market as sales continued to decline pushing it ever downward on the Vera’s sales rankings by location.  In September 2014, the news broke that the location had sold but at a price far far below the Franchisee’s investment.  Reports suggested the location, less than two years old, had sold for a price between $215,000 – $200,000.00 representing a loss in excess of $150,000.00 to the Franchisee who had bought into the Vera’s Burger Shack brand.

It was the second location within three months that had sold at a loss in excess of $100,000.00 to its selling Franchisee.  Unfortunately, it appears that unlike Gerald Tritt, neither the Port Moody nor the Broadway Franchisees will be driving Ferraris anytime soon.

Style Over Substance: A Nightmare Recipe for Vera’s Franchisees

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It was the best of times for Gerald Tritt and Noah Cantor, co-founders of the Vera’s Burger Shack franchise, as the summer of 2011, saw Vera’s Burger Shack ink a deal to expand the Vera’s franchise to the United States Pacific Northwest.  Vera’s was flushed with a run of several years growth and had grown from a seasonal concession stand in West Vancouver to a flourishing franchise with sixteen locations.  However, it wasn’t to last – without an underlying business model that went beyond depending upon the personalities of individual Franchisees and a cartoon logo – it could not last.

A clue to the coming debacle for many of the Vera’s franchisees can be found in Gerald’s choice of individuals to expand the Vera’s brand in the USA.  The purchaser, Paul Brown, a promoter, who promoted such sport luminaries as Tonya Harding, figure skater turned boxer, appeared, at least according to Vera’s own press release,  to have no experience in operating a single restaurant, let alone operating/managing several restaurants within a cohesive franchise system. On the face of it, Gerald and Noah seemed to want someone to promote the brand as oppose to having someone with strong restaurant experience to screen and assist prospective franchisees in opening Vera’s franchises in the Portland area.

Up to the time of the signing of the U.S. expansion deal, Vera’ s Head Office had often emphasized style over substance when managing the growth of the Vera’s franchise system.   A failure to establish a head office training system for new Franchisees, a comprehensive training manual, regular inspections, and even one method of cooking the burgers had led to an absence of standardized behaviour across the Vera’s franchise system.  All the while, Gerald Tritt was fond of telling Franchisees he had spent over a $100,000.00 on branding the Vera’s name.

By the spring of 2013, Gerald Tritt had found himself rid of his most troublesome Franchisee who had made the painful business decision to lose six figures as oppose to continue being a participant in a franchise system that was failing to maintain standardized behaviour amongst its Franchisees.  However, it was clear that franchise’s troubles were just beginning.

By August 2013, eight of the thirteen franchises were listed for sale (and this was excluding the two that were sold at the beginning of the year) – a stunning indictment of the Vera’s franchise system for the stampede of Franchisees wanting out was nearly as crowded as the last train rolling out of Paris in June 1940 before the Nazi advance.

It is now over a year since the Franchisee stampede began and with the exception of North Vancouver and Broadway (which sold at a loss of at least six figures to its franchisee – see A Poor Broadway Performance), the remaining six Franchisees continue to list their stores for sale – albeit some at substantially reduced listing prices.  It was rumoured that others were listed for sale but these cannot be substantiated at the time of this article.  The U.S. expansion plans remain exactly just that – plans.

To date, Vera’s is limited to being a Lower Mainland franchise with half of the franchisees wanting to sell and with its head office having no immediate plans to open locations elsewhere in Canada or the USA.  As Gerald Tritt’s plans for a thousand store empire slowly fade to oblivion, the Vera’s nightmare lives on for its Franchisees.

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