Simply being exposed to the claim of low risk/high success can influence you to buy a poo-filled franchise

July 26, 2012

Communications designed to persuade mislead and damage you using untruths and half-truths is called propaganda.

Social psychologists define something called priming: unconscious memories influence your behavior. Sometimes fo a very long time. Through repetition (a form of brainwashing).

Franchising trade magazines and trade shows influences potential franchisees to see franchising (in relation to independent business) as lower risk and higher success. Banks write their booklets in a very pro-franchise manner. McDonald’s success and its use as a bell weather (“the McDonald’s of the poo-collection industry”) primes candidates to attribute success where none exists.

Neither of these “truths” is true but that’s irrelevant. By the time the candidate franchisee is looking the low risk/high success bias is part of their DNA. They’ve created a stereotype.

As the scientifically-based research indicates, just looking at words associated with either youth or old age influence how you behave.

What kind of chance do you think you have at a trade show or a franchisor’s open house when every tiny detail is controlled for a positive sales effort? No one’s brain is very good at defending against these extremely powerful persuasion trick and traps. The technology of franchising is the science of neutralizing your defenses and then when the financial loss happens, re-assigning blame from these techniques to you (ie. On Cooling the Mark Out).

BBC Replicates Bargh’s Famous Priming Study at The SituationistJohn Bargh


Franchisee advisory committees are frequently chaired by Nurse Ratched

December 10, 2010

I have suggested here that franchise systems are an example of a total institution as defined by Erving Goffman.

Mental hospitals are a traditional example of a total institution.

There are lots of Nurse Ratcheds in franchising and lots of acting out franchisees.

Look to those that create the environment, not those who have to endure it.


CertaProSucks.org breaks new social media ground for franchisee advocacy

September 13, 2010

Kudos to the folks behind CertaProSucks.org for introducing a new way to communicate a former franchisee’s message.

This is the first application of a franchise investor, self-published animation…ever. A very complex message that is delivered in a beautifully simple manner. Dense with meaning. Well done.

Common archetypal themes (universal, systemic, across all systems) revealed by a cartoon:

  1. sold during a psychologically vulnerable time (unemployment),
  2. franchising is a sales game (not a product/painting business),
  3. no experience needed (those in industry can see through “con”),
  4. debt as a trap activated by shame,
  5. time (after the honeymoon when experience comes in),
  6. bankruptcy threats delivered via liquidated damage clauses (largely hollow threat to be sued for the royalties, ad fund, product margins for the years you are NOT a a franchisee; ie. the unused portion of your agreement’s 1st term).
  7. rapid cycling of selling-failure-re-sell (churning) possible through the promiscuous use of gag orders,
  8. shame-humiliation emotion is dominant human effect (It’s your fault, ad hominem, debt held by family),
  9. sloganeering techniques (mindless repetition of self-interested platitudes, thought-terminating cliches),
  10. the role of sociology in taking a loss or a spoiled identity (bankruptcy stigma, regret, isolation, and silence; On Cooling the Mark Out paper), and
  11. reason for failure: individual, one-off or business model engineered to maximize franchisor ROI via predatory re-selling process (statistics suggest the latter discoverable via simple a math formula in the disclosure documents; 43% over 3 years).

xtranormal.com certainly looks like fun.

I like the potential of bullshit dialogue being revealed through humour and thought bubbles.  Allows for the easy recognition of hyperbole and the misuse of metaphor. Ridicule is a very powerful tool if used correctly.

Love to see a series.


Can an empire be saved by shaming investors like Ariel Buk?

August 15, 2010

There are costs involved in maintaining investor confidence and commercial relationships. Some people need to learn to “take one for the team”.

Ariel Buk and Sonia Karabin may need to understand that they should cool down, be quiet and go away about losing a $85,000 deposit on a non-existent Ontario, Canada franchise. They and, by extension, the many hundreds of other “failed franchisees” need to be taught their role in this confidence game by the industry stakeholders: take one for the team or risk being shamed.

1. James Daw presents the story in yesterday’s Toronto Star article,  Ice cream dream becomes nightmare about Mr Buk’s experience with Piazza Gelateria and Café. This is shrewd. For example, Mr. Daw opines:

They [husband and wife] should have looked more closely at the business opportunity, and their decision to use mainly borrowed funds after Buk had lost his job.

They should have considered the minimum $300,000 cost of a lawyer to sue for a refund if things went wrong, and the chances of recovering anything from a relatively young numbered company.

2. Robert Cialdini lists authority as one of Six Weapons of Influence. My experience is that attorneys are given a  lot of authority by new Canadians. Many of us see past their pretensions, BS and fear. [Examples of authority.]

Ben Hanuka of Davis Moldaver LLP is quoted as saying:

“Very few mom-and-pop franchisees ever go to that length (of hiring experts to research a franchise opportunity),” says Hanuka. “It sounds too complicated to them.”

All it well with the world the reader is assured. Go back to sleep because these people get what they deserved. The blame lies with:

  1. the anonymous, individual “other” (mildly retarded immigrant scapegoat) deserved what he got (“your success follows from your blind obedience to authority” dogma)  and not that
  2. stakeholders align their self-interest in maintaining a facade of legitimacy: not a fake, or a Potemkin village scheme which has preyed upon identifiable groups, in plain sight,  since at least 1971.

Social Psychology-based Hypothesis: Elite stakeholders deflect systemic wrongdoing by using the largely-internal mechanisms of On Cooling the Mark Out by Erving Goffman (shame-humiliation effect) while using the public’s widespread fallacy of theBelief in a Just World, BJW (Melvin Lerner, retired University of Waterloo, Canada) in the country’s largest daily newspaper.

Every dying empire resorts to displays of public humiliation.

Why were people crucified in Jesus’ time?
Crucifixion was a Roman custom used on the worst malefactors and rebellious slaves. Judea was a tributary to Rome at that time. It is recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus that after the last rebellion of the Jews and the capture and razing of Jerusalem, the countryside was practically denuded of trees the Romans crucified so many. WikiAnswer

Detail: Crucifixion was often performed to terrorize onlookers into submission. Victims were left on display after death as warnings. Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful (hence the term excruciating, literally “out of crucifying”), gruesome (hence dissuading against the crimes punishable by it), humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal. Crucifixion methods varied considerably with location and time period…

While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Although artists have depicted the figure on a cross with a loin cloth or a covering of the genitals, writings by Seneca the Younger suggest that victims were crucified completely nude. When the criminal had to urinate or defecate, they had to do so in the open, in view of passers-by, resulting in discomfort and the attraction of insects. Despite its frequent use by the Romans, the horrors of crucifixion did not escape mention by some of their eminent orators. Cicero for example, in a speech that appears to have been an early bid for its abolition,  described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment”, and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.” Wikipedia

Humiliation is the most unpredictable, violent and destructive human emotion. It can result in many types of loss (see Bob “Bhupinder” Baber, WikidFranchise)


Failed franchisees are stigmatized and shunned

July 13, 2010

It surprises me less as time goes on but it is remarkable how far all franchisees which I once considered friends, go out of their way to avoid public contact with me. They literally recoil in fear or catching some invisible but unwanted disease.

Their social/economic need not be defiled is very profound.

Stigma and Social Identity chapter

The Greeks, who were apparently strong on visual aids, originated the term stigma to refer to bodily signs designed to expose something unusual and bad about the moral status of the signifier. The signs were cut or burnt into the body and advertised that the bearer was a slave, a criminal, or a traitor – a blemished person, ritually polluted, to be avoided, especially in public places. Later, in Christian times, two layers of metaphor were added to the term: the first referred to bodily signs of holy grace that took the form of eruptive blossoms on the skin; the second, a medical allusion to this religious allusion, referred to bodily signs of physical disorder. Today the term is widely used in something like the original literal sense, but is applied more to the disgrace itself than to the bodily evidence of it…

Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Erving Goffman 1922 – 1982

I think most “failed” franchisees like me internalize this loathing which accounts for the dramatic under reporting of all franchise opportunism. The shaming that goes on by Blue MauMau contributors such as Richard Solomon, triggers this self-censuring mechanism quite well also.


Going Postal: Self, family then workplace violence (not if but when)

September 7, 2009

PhysicalAbuse

I had covered what Erving Goffman defined as a Total Institution earlier:

…a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.

Franchised business models can become so intrusive, demanding and dysfunctional as to create an environment that breeds workplace bullying.

Intimidation leads to violence, just as predictably as you see in other “hermetically sealed” institutions such as prisons or non-voluntary psychiatric wards.

I worked at a provincial psychiatric hospital (St. Thomas, ON)  for 9 months as a medical audit coordinator just after my Ivey MBA in 1985. I reviewed hundreds of inpatient and outpatient medical case histories: about 1/3 including the most serious crimes you can imagine that can fall under a Lieutenant-Governor’s Warrant. I interviewed many partners and children and their abuse always, always, always was much earlier, pervasive and shame-filled than the subsequent police and justice system intervention.

I came to appreciate the fragility of mental health and the origins of family violence.

Franchisors set the business model: they are almost 100% responsible for the way humans try to survive an, at times, inhuman situation.

That franchisees can be managed into a situation where they are baited and then  go postal would not be a surprise to any mental health care professional I have ever known. Any minimally competent human relations professional would know that a primary truism in human psychology is: behavior is caused, it very seldom arises from no where.

Workplace violence starts with aggressive thoughts — then — verbal threats and in extreme cases, will manifest itself in property damage and physical assaults. Way before any visible signs (chairs through windows, managers fearing for their safety), the bullying target has become to a danger to “self and others” in their secret places: in their family.

To control a man’s livelihood is to control his life.

When senior management flagrantly bullies a group’s informal leader, this aggression is processed as an assault on everyone that supports that individual. That behavior is beyond the executive’s legitimate authority and is therefore he or she is personally responsible for their actions under the law.

A corporate culture of entitlement, unjustified superiority and arrogance often manifests itself in a preoccupation with form over substance (ie. it’s easier to spin a crisis rather than fix it). When managers push and push and push for no valid business reasons, the most vulnerable (families: partners and children) suffer the most.

Workplace violence is more likely the more management views the target group as a “problem” or as even subhuman (ie. lacking in intelligence, weak mind/strong back).

Individuals who control franchise systems should conduct themselves in a lawful, just and appropriate manner if they happen to be viewed by others.


Blue MauMau returns false First Opinions

August 2, 2009

SecondOpinionBlueMauMauBlue MauMau is like a laboratory that provides knowingly inaccurate readings.

How a problem is framed influences very much the potential treatment and outcome. Humans anchor on a conclusion, often inaccurately and that can be used against them.

The cheapest form of dispute resolution is to plant the seeds of hopelessness early on.

I have tried to provide honest reviews personally, here and at WikidFranchise in the last 11 years.

I cannot say the same for Blue MauMau (BMM) anymore.

I was absolutely pleased by the range of and depth of discussion at first on BMM. It seemed to offer real hope for a forum of real change.

Over time, I had a gut feeling that things were not what they appeared. I have contributed less and less over time as my private concerns grew.

I first asked on FranchiseFool, Is Blue MauMau Crooked? in September 2008.

  • Curiously, no one from BMM (let alone Don himself) ever asked me why or attempted any defense.
  • I’ve never been afraid of an open debate and have always returned every BMM telephone call I ever received.
  • I found the BMM lack of interest in WikidFranchise.org to be noteworthy also. Dick Gibson from the Wall Street Journal reviewed it but BMM found it irrelevant?

The purpose of BMM is to confuse and misdirect the real causes of franchise failure.  Some directly (Dale Nabors, Bob Frankman, GBeany) shout down any new ideas on a digital platform while others act as apologists. The “blame the victim” mantra is unimaginative. The false near-religion that “pre-sale due diligence can look forward enough to predict and prevent franchisor opportunism” is an insult to any thinking former franchisee.

At best, the attorneys are silent when directly questioned. All three of them don’t seem to have their heart in it anymore.

BTW: Saying that you cannot earn legal fees in a certain jurisdiciton and are therefore somehow less biased is a moronic argument which is notable for its lack of assurance that: I receive $0 for any views or efforts made associated with BMM. What they offering is not legal opinions at all: a legal relationship (fiduciary duty, solicitor:client) does not and cannot exist because their is no contract between the internet reader and the lawyer.

The result is a thin gruel of half-truths, faulty rhetoric, thought-terminating clichés, and political science, served up to cool out the marks by producing a “hopeless situation“: for both individuals and groups of investors.

In big industry new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses. Marshall McLuhan

Maybe the originator of the phrase global village may know a thing or two about how technology is resisted by a dinosaur industry and the profitable delay by its social media contractors.

It is certainly not the first activity that has been captured by a U.S. $1-trillion industry that defends itself by any means available. But I may be entirely wrong in my conclusion that BMM is a digital house negro.

I am happy to debate anyone, anytime, in any credible forum.

I’ll let you know…


Franchising as a Total institution

November 27, 2008

goffmanasylumsThere are different types of social arrangements or establishments.

Social establishments – institutions in the everyday sense of that term – are places such as rooms, suites of rooms, buildings, or plants in which activity of a particular kind regularly goes on. In sociology, we do not have a very apt way of classifying them. Some establishments, like Grand Central Station, are open to anyone who is decently behaved; others, like the Union League Club of New York or the laboratories at Los Alamos, are felt to be somewhat snippy about who it let in.

Goffman is interested in a specific type in this book:

…we find some that are encompassing to a degree discontinuously greater than the ones next in line. Thier encompassing or total character is symbolized by the barrier to social intercouse with the outside and to departure that is often built right into the physcial plant, such as locked doors, high walls, barbed wire, cliffs, water, forests, or moors. These establishments I am calling total institutions, and it is their general characterisitics I want to explore.

Total Institution definition:

…a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life. Prisons serve as a clear example, providing we appreciate that what is prison-like about prisons is found in institutions whose members have broken no laws.

There are 5 classifications of a total institution. They are designed to take care of people who:

  1. are harmless but unable to care for themselves (nursing homes, retirement home),
  2. can harm self and others (mental wards. psychiatric hospitals),
  3. are a threat to others (jails, concentration camps),
  4. are doing a specialized job (military, boarding school, work camps), and
  5. are retreating or training (monasteries, convents, cloisters).

Please note that some establishments are entered into voluntarily (monastery) while some are not. Goffman defines, roughly, a total institution environment as one in which you sleep, play and work in the same place.

Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, Erving Goffman, 1961.

  • It is my experience, franchise trademark systems have many similar characeristics of total institutions.

Why franchisees overplay the fool mask

October 20, 2008

Franchisees realize fairly early on in their relationship that there are extremely rigid rules of behavior within franchising’s “club”. There are very severe penalties for those that do not respect its rules.

Those that question too much are branded as “not on the team” or as troublemaking outsiders. You learn very quickly how outliers are shunned.

To avoid this potential loss, franchisees learn to adjust their behavior in ways that seem fairly odd to outsiders. One way to cope with an undesired situation, inside and outside, is to play the fool or adopt a clownish mask.

Erving Goffman presents the concept of minstrelization in which:

the stigmatized person ingratiatingly acts out before normals the full dance of bad qualities imputed to his king; thereby consolidating a life situation into a clownish role;…

Goffman then quotes Anatole Broyard from his Portrait of the Inauthentic Negro: How Prejudice Distorts the Victim’s Personality (1950, 9 page pdf):

I also learned that the cripple must be careful not to act differently from what people expect him to do. Above all they expect the cripple to be crippled; to be disabled and helpless; to be inferior to themselves, and they will become suspicious and insecure if the cripple falls short of these expectations. It is rather strange, but the cripple has to play the part of the cripple, just as many women have to be what the men expect them to be, just women; and the Negroes often act like clowns in front of the “superior” white race, so that the white man shall not be frightened by his black brother.

This is a very important point.

And it is important because the “Franchisee Identity” of learned helplessness (passivity, deference to authority, hatred of collective action, distrust of peers and “outside experts”, black/white thinking, “deer in headlight” look, belief that their problems are unique to their own system) carries over after they are no longer franchisees. Note: These values serve the franchisor both before and after a dispute is identified; they set the boundaries of the franchise game just like in football.

  • But note: The “Franchisee Identity” severely handicaps their individual ability to defend their interests. The mask that they bought and were given, blinds them to the skills they must use to solve their problems (ie. trust, co-operate, go outside for help, etc.).

Broyard continues to explain the problem with sticky masks.

I once knew a dwarf who was a very pathetic example of this, indeed. She was very small, about four feet tall, and she was extremely well educated. In front of people, however, she was very carfeul not to be anything other than “the dwarf,” and she played the part of the fool with the same mocking laughter and the same quick, funny movements that have been the characteristics of fools since the royal courts of the Middle Ages. Only when she was among friends, whe could thorw away her cap and bells and dare to be the woman she really was: intelligent, sad, and very lonely.

Franchisees seem so pathetic on Blue MauMau (eg. deserving of their fate?) as they whine away because they are unaware of how they’ve been changed by being a franchisee:

  • they are playing out the roles that they have been socialized to perform.

Indeed, the mainstream media seem to reinforce this stereotype by only running what I call head-in-hand franchisee stories: bewildered, one dimensional victim-actors with the accompanying photograph of the unlucky two spouses.


Franchising exchanges $ for passivity and distrust

October 6, 2008

As someone who has been a franchisee, worked with franchisees for 10 years and also worked in a provincial psychiatric hospital, the following Erving Goffman quote has always intrigued me:

  • Society is an insane asylum run by the inmates.

Goffman is arguably the most famous sociologist of the 20th century and his 1961 book Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates promises to be fascinating.

I am just starting into it but by scanning Wikipedia and the book itself, these are the themes I will be looking for as I read it:

  • a mental-hospital patient is formed more by the institution (not the illness),
  • patient’s reactions and adjustments are similar to those of inmates in other types of institutions,
  • two classes are created and maintained within every institution (guard and captor),
  • the features of the structure is primarily to create predictable of behavior of both classes, and
  • Goffman defines a new term “total institution”.

Total Institutions are closed worlds such as prisons, army training camps, naval vessels, boarding schools, monasteries, and nursing homes where:

  • the inmates are regimented,
  • surrounded by other inmates, and
  • unable to leave the premises.

I think franchise systems have many of these prison-like characteristics and that being a franchisee is a life altering event. One franchisee described it as undergoing 3 divorces at one time.

I have noted the similarity between a franchisee and being a member of a cloistered religious order or cult.

You enter into a totally new faith-based world, a re-birth actually (foreign language, working 60-70 hours per week, long-term relationships put on hold, charismatic leadership, etc.)

Franchising powerfully changes the investor’s personality and personal identity as does every closed world. (But, dangerously, without any emotional safeguards for the initiate nor any models/myths/maps to return from their adventure.)

For me, modern franchising primarily produces two “products”:

  1. an investor who is both cognitively and emotionally incapable of defending himself (so institutionalized, so passive as to be unable to help himself, even if they had the individual economic resources to do so) and
  2. an investor who is also impossibly distrustful of everyone else (many times the most suspicious of those most able to help them); although together as a group, they could solve their collective problem.

Franchising has the power to create and then imprint learned helplessness (a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to act or behave helpless in a particular situation, even when it has the power to change its unpleasant or even harmful circumstance.).

All authorities can “brand” this helplessness because humans tend to:

  1. underestimate the influence of the situation and
  2. overestimate our individual defenses.

I’ll report back.

Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them: they love their servitude. Jean-Jacques Rousseau


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