Angry dieter's wallet slimmer after franchise fails

Mr Earnshaw said the branch had not closed, but he and his wife had their contract terminated with no warning, four days after asking Ms Neil a series of questions relating to their franchise agreement. He said he knew of nine or 10 franchisees whose businesses had closed since November 2007…”My wife put her heart and soul into the business. She really believed in the programme and counted her clients as friends." Mrs Kerr and other clients were "pawns in the game", Mr Earnshaw said.

Otago Daily Times
February 26, 2009

Angry dieter's wallet slimmer after franchise fails
Allison Rudd

Dunedin dieter Shirley Kerr does not want much - just the personalised weight-loss programme she was promised, or her money back.

Mrs Kerr lost some weight after paying $990 in November for a Sureslim weight-loss programme, but the only thing significantly lighter is her bank account after the Otago franchise closed suddenly five weeks ago.

Despite assurances in writing from Sureslim New Zealand's national office in Auckland she would be looked after by the Invercargill representative, Mrs Kerr heard nothing for weeks and abandoned the programme.

Her repeated emails and telephone calls to Sureslim and the Otago franchisee went unanswered until the Invercargill representative made contact with her yesterday, not long after the Otago Daily Times conveyed her complaint to Sureslim.

However, Mrs Kerr said she was still not happy.

"Being looked after by remote control is not what I signed up for. I can't believe it.

"They've taken my money and delivered nothing," Mrs Kerr said.

The only long-lasting result of her dealings with the company was a recipe book, she said.

"It's quite a nice recipe book. But I am always going to look at it and say ‘That cost me $1000’."

She said she approached the ODT because she did not want other people to get "sucked in and lose their money", as she had.

Sureslim director Robyn Neil referred calls yesterday to the company's public relations manager, John Dawson, of the direct marketing consultancy firm Coo'ee New Zealand.

In an email, he said the Otago franchisees' contract was terminated because they had breached the terms of their contract. He would not say what the breaches were.

All clients affected by the closure, about 80, had been contacted and offered ongoing support from elsewhere until a new Otago franchisee was appointed. He could not say when that would be.

Clients would not have to pay another fee to the new franchisee, he said.

Mr Dawson said "the closure of the Otago business is another example of the effects of the global recession which every company in New Zealand is coping with in one way or another".

But former Otago franchisees John and Heather Earnshaw disputed that yesterday.

Mr Earnshaw said the branch had not closed, but he and his wife had their contract terminated with no warning, four days after asking Ms Neil a series of questions relating to their franchise agreement.

He said he knew of nine or 10 franchisees whose businesses had closed since November 2007.

He said he could not go into detail about the franchisees' concerns but said they were consulting lawyers about possible joint legal action.

Mr Earnshaw said he and his wife spent more than $300,000 establishing branches in Otago and Southland in 2005 and had now "lost everything".

The Invercargill branch was shut by Sureslim in April last year.

"My wife put her heart and soul into the business. She really believed in the programme and counted her clients as friends."

Mrs Kerr and other clients were "pawns in the game", Mr Earnshaw said.

"I feel absolutely disgusted about the way she and our other clients have been treated. But there is nothing we can do about it. She has to take it up with Sureslim."

Contacted about Mr Earnshaw's comments, Ms Neil again referred calls to Mr Dawson.

He said Sureslim "operated to the highest ethical standards" and complaints from franchisees were "sour grapes" and "had no basis in fact".

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/45092/angry-dieter039s-wallet-slimmer-after-franchise-fails


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