CURVES: Franchise Resale Buyer Cries Fraud

Curves International Inc. chief executive Gary Heavin, recently said that high SBA loan defaults were a result of “the overpriced resales of franchises between third parties.” (See QUIZNOS, COLD STONE, SUBWAY & CURVES TOP FRANCHISE LOAN DEFAULTS)

On the Unhappy Franchisee website (See CURVES: Disturbing Resale Story), a Curves franchise buyer of two existing clubs provides an example of how a resale business can be artificially, even fraudulently, inflated.  The results can be disastrous for the unsuspecting buyer.

The Curves franchise owner writes:

I am a Curves resale. I bought 2 clubs from a friend of the family, who I thought was a good person. She claimed Curves International told her to base the purchase price of her clubs, on the number of “active” members. When I bought my clubs, an active member was any member who had not canceled their membership. Therefore, the previous owner came up with the purchase price this way, (500 members x 12 months x $29 (plus tax) ~ $175,000 x 2 clubs ~ $350,000).

However, the new franchisee claims that a large percentage of the 1000 supposed members had actually cancelled their memberships and didn’t know their bank accounts were still being charged for their monthly fees.

When we bought the clubs, we switched from paper drafts to an electronic drafting system. A month later we started getting calls from women who were threatening to sue us for taking money from them without permission. I explained that I was the new owner, that they were still under contract, and based on my knowledge, the previous owner was drafting them when I bought the clubs. They argued with me and said they had cancelled their contracts, and they had not been getting drafted from Curves until we started drafting them.

How were 600 women billed for a service they had cancelled without them noticing?  Turns out that the previous owners’ charges appeared on their bank statements simply as “merchant.”  When the new owner switched to an electronic system that identified the charges as “Curves,” all hell broke loose.

I asked them to bring in a bank statement from any month prior, and the current months statement. When they brought in their statements, we discovered that the previous owners draft was coming out as “Merchant”. They didn’t realize they were being drafted until they saw our “Curves” draft. Over the next 3 months, we had over 300 women cancel in each club.

The lesson to be learned?  When doing your due diligence, do thorough and rigorous due diligence… hopefully with the help of a professional who knows these kinds of tricks and nuances, and knows the warning signs.

And keep in mind the wise words of my favorite doctor:

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.

Dr. Seuss

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Photo: Bobu.  Licensed by Creative Commons.