Confesssions of a former Cat’s-paw

I have played several roles within the franchise industry: McD crew & manager, 2x franchisee, media mouthpiece, national franchisee association founder, 2x lawsuit defendant, consultant, lawsuit investigator, researcher, and writer.

The one that I regret the most is that of a cat’s-paw. In my own defense, I was acting with the best of intentions. In hindsight, I was just fooling myself.

  • The only franchise law that will be passed in Oz is one that is bought and paid for by the highest bidder.


cat’s-paw n. a person used as a mere instrument by another

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2001

There are several interests that benefit from the short-term effective awareness-raising [muck raking] that comes from a public inquiry, media coverage and law creation charade.

Opposition politicians: They require sexy issues to criticize the government with and these David v. Goliath stories are quite compelling. Understanding franchising requires a commitment in time and intellectual horsepower that is rare but of a very narrow interest when compared to, say, health care. Most politicians have a short attention span and will move onto the next issue very quickly.

Governing politicians: Modern democracy is the brokering or refereeing of competing interests. Franchisees face the most powerful combined, committed and forceful, international commercial interests that exist anywhere.

Big Franchising =

  • (petroleum + grocery + auto) product franchisors
  • plus the business of law
  • plus financial institutions
  • plus peak association & hangers-on
  • plus suppliers
  • plus media.
  • Governments retain power by giving the powerful what they want.

    Politicians know that they are there for a very short time and they will have to rely on their private sector friends when their public career ends. It is not wise to go against that aligned interest of billions of dollars of capital without some counterbalancing benefit. The appreciation of a few dozen franchise investors not very much incentive to pee in someone’s pool.

    These class of businesspeople are used to getting their own way and they have a very long memory and very deep pockets to sue dissenters.

    • In 1993 the Canadian president of what used to be the world’s largest automobile manufacturer told an Ontario minister: “If you pass a franchise law [in the midst of 1st serious media attention], we will not invest in the province for 5 years.”

    Franchise bar: Franchisors purchase 95% of the legal services. Private action-based disclosure laws increase the aggregate demand for the franchise bar services. An effective franchisee advocate is a useful in creating a bogeyman to further the superior position of the franchise lawyers.

    Ambitious Crusading Lawyer: A franchisee advocate will attract a White Knight attorney who will offer free lunches and free advice. His job is to charm, encourage, prepare and then betray the individual advocate.

    Franchisors: Most mature operators actually use opportunistic behavior very sparingly. They recognize that franchise systems are mini-societies and that making a HUGE example of a wayward franchisee quite infrequently is more efficient and much less risky than taking everyone to the wall 100% of the time.

    • Every McDonald’s franchisee knows what happened to a former operator who didn’t go along with corporate. The sausage-making happens only every 15 to 20 years. The subtle, verbal and private history lessons are usually enough to keep the Yahoos in place.

    But just just so as not to get too rusty, as the Romans proved long ago…there is nothing like a good old-fashioned franchisee advocate crucifixion to keep all hands on the oars. Hope you enjoyed talking to the media…

    Peak association: Finger puppets will do as they are told by their Board’s Himmler. They will be given 100% access to the bureaucracy and politicians while the franchisees will get 0%. The association will be openly, fully and repeated publicly discredited and it will NOT matter one bit. The are messenger boys.

    Media: They are will only go so far in covering abuses. They are large commercial concerns that rely on corporate advertising dollars. They do not scratch the surface and even look for systemic abuse. They only publish the individual, severed head-in-the-hand type of story.


    All of these interested parties know far more about the abuses in franchising that any Johnny-come-lately franchisee advocate could ever know. They’re the insiders for God’s sake.

    • Increasing the Knowledge of industry experts [or talking publicly about it] will never change any Power Dynamics within franchising. [This is the lesson of all social sciences including political science: a discipline started by Stephen Leacock, a CDN BTW.]

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

    digital nose-tweakers versus Big Franchising’s table scraps?

    Dance Band on the Titanic

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