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.

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.

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