LA WEIGHT LOSS: Closing Prompts Franchisee Fingerpointing, Franchisor Befuddlement

(Franchise Pick)  Related:  LA WEIGHT LOSS CENTER CLOSINGS (updated 10/3/08)

LA WEIGHT LOSS CUSTOMERS

The post LA WEIGHT LOSS: La Quinta Center Closes Abruptly, Strands Members reports that the LA Weight Loss center in La Quinta, CA closed abruptly, stranding its angry members without notice, without an alternative program, and without hundreds, even thousands, of dollars worth of prepaid products and services they were due.

What else is new, right?  This story has been repeated over and over on Franchise Pick and Weight Loss Complaints, where the unofficial LA Weight Loss center closings list has topped 60 recently.  However, two new aspects emerged in this story.

First, an LA Weight Loss executive actually participated in an interview regarding the closing (as opposed to the usual unreturned phone calls).

Second was the franchisee – franchisor fingerpointing that has erupted. 

The La Quinta LA Weight Loss franchisee blames the LA Weight Loss franchisor

According to the story, “Franchise owner Patricia Gesswein has left a message on her cell phone, telling her customers she will miss them.
‘I got instructions from the corporate office today and I had no notice,’ Gesswein tells callers. ‘This was my job and my life. I’ve never been in a siuation like this.’”

This was my job?  A curious statement from the person who owns the business – even if it is a franchise.  That’s no doubt what set off Brian Siegel, senior vice president of the La Weight Loss franchisor, based in Horsham Township, PA

The LA Weight Loss franchisor blames the La Quinta LA Weight Loss franchisee

Franchise owner Patricia Gesswein has the corporate office of LA Weight Loss befuddled.  According to a story in the Desert Sun:

“We’re as befuddled as the customers are,” Siegel said Wednesday. “Patricia took the customers’ money and shut without notice. Our franchisees are required to take care of customers before they close. This includes proper notice and providing refunds. These are not our operating procedures.”

…Siegel said all he can suggest at the moment is customers call Gesswein’s cell phone number and leave a message. He said the corporate offices “have had trouble reaching her even before this.”

Previous customer Michelle Alfaro of Desert Hot Springs said she was less than three weeks into her 36-month contract for $699. She said Gesswein gave her three payment options — applying for credit, paying cash in advance or making three payments by post-dating checks. Alfaro chose the latter and canceled her two checks still in Gesswein’s possession.

“She really sold it, believe me,” Alfaro said. “She makes excuses on her cell phone message and blames everything on the corporate office.”

Well, Patricia Gesswein accomplished one thing – She prompted someone from LA Weight Loss to speak to the press about one of the many nationwide center closings.  She got the Corporate Office so befuddled, in fact, that Senior Vice President Brian Siegel forgot that company policy was to let their weight loss centers close without comment, and to let the phone calls of inquiring reporters and stranded members go unreturned. 

Maybe if they stay befuddled they’ll actually correct all the confusion out there about them, their relationship to the bankruptcy and criminal investigations regarding Pure Weight Loss and Vahan Karian, which the media continues to confuse and befuddle.

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