Thursday, September 9, 2010

Contract Dispute With a Franchise - Your Opinion Please

I got divorced and now I'm financially unstable.  I needed out of an expensive contract that I signed with Carson ATA Black Belt Academy, LLC.  I contacted the owner's wife and she told me that she would let me out of my one year contract. I got a phone call the next day on the answering machine that they could not let me out of the contract.  I sent the following e-mail:

"I am very upset by ATA's decision.  As stated by the divorce decree, if the second party does not agree to the children's activities/education/etc. and cost, then they do not have to support said activities. I am now a single income family that cannot support her children beyond the minimal (food, clothing, shelter).  This is not the typical case of, "I no longer feel like paying". I am also in the process of losing my vehicle which I can't afford to fuel up 1/2 the time. So I cannot consistently transport them from Dayton to Carson anyway. This is also something that the ex is not required to help with.
I am extremely humbled and embarrassed by my current situation.  I would love the luxury of giving my children more than the normal upbringing.  But at this time, I currently, simply, cannot afford to. 
I am also writing to inform you that the account the direct withdrawal was pulling from is no longer valid, there are no funds available to pay. As you had advice me, I am sending this to formally cancel the contract..."

When I went to print all the e-mails and give the answering machine message to a lawyer...well, all e-mails from both of my accounts and the message on my answering machine were mysteriously deleted.

A Bitter Life Lesson - Contracts (send to a newspaper?)

I have recently joined the ranks of struggling single mother with two children to support.  I received no financial support for myself or my children in the divorce.  I am still responsible for half the debt incurred while married, which includes 100% of the payments for an upside down car that consumes far too much gasoline, all medical, increased insurance rates, and now…rent.  So my cost of living went up usurping my whole paycheck, and forcing the occasional need to beg for money from my parents.  Naturally, trying to prove myself independent, I forced myself to adhere to a stricter budget, cutting the extras and buying nothing without a coupon or an accompanying sale. Telling your kids, “No, sorry, but we can’t afford it.” Well, it hurts at first and then less after the millionth time.  Sad that my children finish my mantra before I do.

The bitter life lesson has to do with cutting one of the extras, but realizing I had reluctantly signed a contract in January 2010.  I remembered questioning the owner about it, because of the impending divorce and having to move further away to find reasonable rent. I was worried about the potential loss of income and not being able to afford it. Pressured by their guilt trip on how this was good for my kids, I signed.  I agreed to try for a one year.  Now I am frantically trying to reconcile my memories of the verbal reassurances versus the cold unyielding print. The unyielding black ink also showed that she signed me up for 2 years and I didn't catch it. I had a bad feeling and that turned into major anxiety after a couple of phone calls and e-mails.  The karate place on the south end of Carson City, Nevada has decided to paint itself into the stereotypical image of a soulless corporate America.

First, I was told that they would dismiss the contract because of my financial situation.  Then I was told they would work with me.  The end result was that they still want me to pay for six months of karate for two children that will not be able to attend.  They will only dismiss a contract if I move out of state.  They do not allow for a divorce or loss of income. They want the full $1200.  A big something for a whole lot of nothing.  They have broken the broken the boards over my head and now are sticking the splintered pieces into my wounds.  They are adding manual billing fees and late fees.  They are calling me and demanding payment. Should I waste my time with a free consultation about the contract with a lawyer that I couldn’t possibly afford?  Nope!  So instead, I went to a bankruptcy lawyer.

Unbelievable! Bankruptcy, in theory, would leave me with money to meet daily living expenses.  I will get to keep all the things that that I was cutting down or out, that Karate for Kids is currently trying to take away from me by demanding payment for services not rendered.  But still, I’d prefer not to file.  It also requires more money to hire the lawyer that I don’t have, and the signing of another contract.  Yes, being a single mom feels impossible sometimes and has shot my credit to hell.  It is all brought upon myself through ignorance of the business world. But at least I learned, NEVER trust anyone's verbal integrity.  If it’s not in writing, it’ll screw you. And if it is in writing, well, it’ll still screw you.


  1. but at least in writing you can see it coming...? yeah hard to take anyones word with so many burnings...

  2. I can't give advice, being very ignorant on both business and law, but I had a run-in with the ATA back in the 70's. Seems their policy hasn't changed; they would only drop my contract if I moved out of state. So I lied and told them that's just what I was doing. They still sent letters to the address I gave them, but did not track me when I finally did leave there.
    I don't suppose there's anything there that can help you out, but it came to mind. All I learned was, if it requires a contract, I don't need it.

  3. Unfortunately, when you ask questions about the print, and they explain it with their interpretation (lying by notlying?) to make a person sign it....
    That's awful that they're the same as in the 70's! They should be ashamed, especially since they are always preaching integrity. They also are an embarrassment to the Martial Arts World.

  4. I am speechless. I cannot believe some people in this world. Greed is a horrible monster. Being a single Mother myself, I have contemplated bankruptcy myself. I hope things get better, and from what I have read, you are a strong Mom and your kids are so lucky to have someone who does love them. Materialistic stuff is just that material. Love is forever.

  5. Not sure it's worth going bankrupt for 1200. And you are right the only people benefitting are the Lawyers. Can't you negotiate terms. Pay a little off over a period of time? Been a single mum for 25 years, it's tough but doable. Just have to do without more I guess.