The Strong Do What They Will

“Be your own boss” is a catch phrase many franchisors use to entice new buyers. Nothing could be farther from the truth in the Quiznos system. Once we (meaning the majority of Quiznos owners) bought into the system, we learned that we had paid approximately a quarter of a million dollars for the privilege of being an indentured servant.
April 19, 2009

The Strong Do What They Will
Ellen Blickman

The most rewarding aspect of the 500 + TEA (Taxed Enough Already) rallies that took place across the country on April 15 is that people finally said, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”

Finally, finally, people have started to take ownership of their anger. Change isn’t possible without action, whether it is a dictatorship, a government no longer working in the best interests of its people or an unscrupulous corporation or franchisor. These entities will keep going, keep growing, until enough voices shout, “NO MORE!”

Rich and I have been fighting our own battle against a corporation, which has done everything it can to ruin our lives.

Following the events of 9/11, Rich & I reassessed our values. We gave up our corporate lifestyles and moved to the bucolic Lehigh Valley. We wanted a peaceful, if not wealthy, life.

We bought a Quiznos franchise. Less than 8 months into ownership, Quiznos wrongfully terminated our agreement and then sued us. It took us almost 3 years to get to court but, after a 5-day bench trial, the judge ruled overwhelmingly in our favor. (See sidebar.) Following the verdict, we were interviewed extensively due to the “David v. Goliath” elements of our case. The one question that every reporter asked was, “Why did Quiznos single you out?”

When we bought a franchise, we bought into a system. By signing the franchise agreement, we agreed to abide by the franchisor’s requirements, which included selling only Quiznos approved products and maintaining a high standard of excellence in our restaurant.

Shortly after we became “proud” owners, we started noticing a number of disturbing discrepancies. While the Quiznos franchise agreement stated that Quiznos would sell food at competitive prices why, then, could we walk into a Restaurant Depot (a wholesaler to the restaurant industry) and find the same exact item for significantly less than what Quiznos was charging? How did the buying power of one surpass the buying power of 4,000?
Also included in the agreement with Quiznos, is that they would take 11% off each store’s gross: 7% royalty payments, 3 % regional advertising fund and 1 % marketing and promotion fee. After months without seeing any regional advertising, I asked for an accounting of how this money was being spent. I was told that since Quiznos is a private company, they were not required to give me an accounting or were required to submit to an audit. So where was that 3% being spent? Quiznos franchisees were barely breaking even and would benefit from the revenue that advertising would generate through an increase in traffic. Was it possible that the money was being misused to pay the CEO’s $70,000 property taxes on his Denver estate? Or to staff or fuel his private planes or boats? I also discovered that the food distributorship was owned by Quiznos and that the profits from the sales of food to Quiznos franchisees made up about 72% of Quiznos corporate profit. Additionally, I learned that Quiznos owned the company that sold the small wares to the stores (at a profit) and Quiznos owned the payroll service franchisees were required to use, at a higher fee than national competitors. How could I simply accept this without question? Why would I?

“Be your own boss” is a catch phrase many franchisors use to entice new buyers. Nothing could be farther from the truth in the Quiznos system. Once we (meaning the majority of Quiznos owners) bought into the system, we learned that we had paid approximately a quarter of a million dollars for the privilege of being an indentured servant.

So, why did Quiznos single us out? We did the unthinkable. We dared to question authority!

And, yes, we paid a high price. Fighting the lawsuit took everything we had. We won, at great cost, but we had the victory of knowing that we defended ourselves against a company that was unscrupulous. We fought the monster, and we won. (Technically, of course. Quiznos has appealed so we are still embroiled in this quagmire.) We accomplished what many others could not. Early on in our battle, the attorney for Quiznos told our attorney that if we continued to fight, he would “bury” us in paperwork. And, he made good on his promise. While we survived (barely), many others found their tactics emotionally and financially overwhelming. At least 4 Quiznos franchise owners have died by their own hand. The most vocal was Bob Babar, a California Quiznos owner, who left a Suicide note specifically outlining what Quiznos did to him and holding Quiznos responsible for his death.

Others gave up the fight in a different way. They signed a nondisclosure. They could put the nightmare of Quiznos behind them, but they could never, ever speak about their experiences. In their silence, they became enablers, allowing Quiznos to continue to farm unsuspecting people, who have no idea of what they are buying into. They are the ones who will suffer because of the deafening silence from the people who have been there. I can’t fault those people for doing what was right for them. Unlike them, I wasn’t given a choice other than to fight back with everything I had.

Because of our win, Quiznos owners realized that you could fight Goliath. Our victory has empowered others to fight back.

If you read our story with objective compassion and think that it cannot happen to you, think again. Quiznos is a private company and is not required to provide any accounting. However, are you aware that The Federal Reserve is also a private company? Quiznos came in and yanked our franchise agreement without reason. Are you familiar with Eminent Domain? I can continue to list similarities, but I am not a conspiracy theorist and trust that you can draw your own analogies. I will ask you this, gentle readers. As an American citizen, are you your own boss? Are the ever-changing requirements of your citizenship, like those of a franchisee, to best serve you, or your “franchisor?” Are you free or is that an illusion?

Our attorney, Jeff Cohen, used the same quote in his opening and closing arguments:

“The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must.”

This quote seems apropos in light of what our elected officials are currently doing to us.

There is strength in numbers and a million weak voices can drown out a handful of strong ones in Washington. So, I ask you: Are you mad as hell? Are you going to take this any more? Are you a fighter or an enabler?

Please check your local meet up sites for more information on groups working together to stop the further deterioration of our economy,

Judge Hoffman’s ruling includes the full story of Quiznos despicable actions against us. Read his full decision.

On February 12, 2009, Quiznos appealed the ruling. The appeal hearing has not yet been scheduled and, to date, Quiznos has not paid the award

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Risks: David and Goliath story, Advertising fund buys franchisor’s assets, Advertising fund paid to executives, Advertising fund use disagreements, Anger, Be your own boss, Bob “Bhupinder” Baber, Cruelest lies are often told in silence, Everything’s got a crack in it: that's where the light comes in, Franchisee-on-franchisee opportunism, Franchisees more willing to speak up, Gag order (confidentiality agreement), Gouging on supplies, Indentured servants, Infamous trademark system, Opportunism, Suicide, Supply margins are a hidden added royalty payment, Termination of franchisee, single, Trial decision always appealed, Unfaithful servants, Wanted: sheep, United States, 20090419 The strong

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