Franchise Experiences


Staff member
Taita said:
As far as I know, a studio must refund any unpaid lessons if the student requests it. no questions asked.
To the best of my knowledge there is no over-arching requirement to this effect but, rather, that the pertinent regulations and laws vary from state to state. Here is some information provided by the Fereral Trade Commission regarding dance studios back in '92:

Federal Trade Commission said:
Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission
Dance Studios -- November 1992

Although dance lessons may offer opportunities for fun, entertainment, and companionship, they also may be more expensive than planned, especially if you do not know how to protect yourself against some dance studio sales practices. For example, beware of:
· Signing long-term contracts and prepaying thousands of dollars for dance lessons or clubs that you may be unable to complete or cancel;
· Signing additional contracts before the current one expires;
· Making large prepayments to studios that may be unable to give refunds should they suddenly close or go bankrupt.

In an effort to make consumers aware of certain sales practices used by some dance studios, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has prepared this brochure. It also suggests ways in which you can protect yourself.

Sales Techniques:

If you are thinking about or are already taking dance lessons, you should understand the sales techniques that some dance studios may use to persuade you to take lessons, or to take additional lessons.

Relay Salesmanship:
Some studio instructors use the technique of relay salesmanship (consecutive sales talks by more than one representative in a single day) to try to persuade students to buy lessons or buy more lessons. This tactic may put you under heavy pressure to sign a contract, encouraging you to buy lessons you may later realize you do not want or cannot afford.

Overlapping Contracts:
Some studio instructors try to convince their students during lesson time to sign additional contracts before completing the current lessons. In some instances, you may unwittingly be buying additional lessons that extend beyond your interest, your physical fitness, or even your life expectancy.

High-pressure Sales:
Some studio instructors, using high-pressure sales tactics, exploit student emotions or personal vulnerabilities to oversell lessons. Sometimes, when students refuse to buy additional prepaid lessons, instructors will neglect them in classes, embarrass them in public, or transfer them to a less skilled instructor.


Awareness about the possible use of these sales techniques can help you avoid potential problems. In addition, you may avoid some potential problems if you comparison shop for dance lessons.

Finally, before signing or renewing a contract for dance lessons, consider taking the following measures.

Pay in advance for only a certain number of lessons to see if you like them. You may get a discount if you make a large prepayment on a long-term contract, but it will have little value if later you are unable to take the classes, you want to cancel them, or the studio closes before your lessons are completed. At this time, only a few states require studios to post bonds to protect consumers' prepayments.

Insist that the following items are clearly stated in writing:
· any oral promises;
· the cost per hour of private and group lessons;
· your cancellation and refund rights; (These are important in case you change your mind about lessons, move, or become ill.)
· any prepayment protections, if required by state law.

You can ask about these important items when you comparison shop.

Do not sign a contract immediately, especially if you have concerns about the stability of the studio or are asked to prepay a large amount of money for a lifetime membership, an exclusive club membership, or dance cruise offer. Take time to think about the matter and talk it over with a friend, a family member, or an attorney. Even if your contract offers you a refund or cancellation option, you may be unable to get your money back if the studio closes or its refund check bounces. Prepay only as much as you can afford to lose if the studio closes.

As an additional precaution, you might wish to contact your local or state consumer protection office to learn what rights you may have under local or state law with regard to maximum costs for contracts, cancellation and refund rights, studio bonding requirements, and a "cooling off" period, which may give you a few days to reconsider your decision after you sign your contract. Also, by contacting your local Better Business Bureau office, you may be able to learn if there are any current complaints registered against the dance studio you are considering.


If you have a problem with a dance studio and cannot resolve it, send a letter describing your complaint to your local or state consumer protection agency and your local Better Business Bureau. (Check your phone directory for addresses.) Also, send a copy of your letter to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. Although the FTC generally cannot intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.
I know the state of Florida has some pretty strict regulations regarding dance studios.

Wouldn't it be nice if someone kept a record of studios that have been featured on television because of their unethical practices?

I once tried to help a lady at a certain franchise location. She pretty much spent $60,000 in one year. Her husband had taken care of the finances, and when he passed away, she was pretty clueless. They had her taking two lessons per day and each lesson was taught by 2 teaches, so she was paying for 4 lessons per day. There were times when they would raise their voice and semi-jokingly, semi-threateningly tell her she had better give them more money if she knew what was good for her. She was lonely and sad and the dance lessons were the drug. Now she is living on Social Security and has nearly nothing left.

There ARE studios like this out there. Usually, it's the elderly that are at the greatest risk.


Staff member
Hmmm, apparently California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin regulate the offer and sale of franchises....anyone know the nature of these regulations?


Staff member
Here's some background information on AMI as provided by their website.

Arthur Murray International said:

As America's second oldest franchise oganization, Arthur Murray International, Inc. is known around the world as a prominent entertainment company with franchises located throughout the United states, Canada and Puerto Rico, Europe, the Middle-East, Japan, South Africa and Australia. With the beginning of a new millennium, social dancing is again a significant part of popular culture for all generations. Today the Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studios continue a tradition of more than 88 years in teaching the world to dance. The history of the Arthur Murray Franchised Dance studios began in 1912 with a man named Arthur Murray, an American symbol of entrepreneurial success and social dancing. Murray was among the first to use advertising techniques considered cutting edge at the time. His concept of selling dance lessons by mail, one step at a time, took the use of direct mail to a new level.

Murray's creative use of print advertising attracted national attention as did his business acumen. In March of 1920, using students from Georgia Tech, Murray arranged to have music transmitted to a group of his dance students a few miles away. This was the world's first radio broadcast of live dance music for dancing. Prior to World War II, Arthur Murray teachers were a regular part of every first-class steamship cruise and during the Thirties, the studios introduced such dances to the public as the "Lambeth Walk" and "The Big Apple." In fact it was "The Big Apple" that launched Mr. Murray's one studio into the largest chain of dance studios in the world today. In 1938 the first official opening of a franchised dance school occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1942 singer Betty Hutton with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra recorded the big hit song "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry" for the movie "The Fleet's In" and by 1946 there were 72 Arthur Murray Dance Studios across America.

Arthur Murray was the first to realize the growing popularity of the Latin dances in America during the 1950's. Many conventions were held in Cuba during that time to give Arthur Murray dance trainers first-hand knowledge of the hot new Latin styles and moves that were in vogue and becoming popular. In July 1950, Mr. Murray purchased five fifteen-minute television spots on CBS and persuaded his wife Kathryn to do the teaching. Before the third show, Arthur bought a half-hour summer series on ABC. The show was called the "Arthur Murray Dance Party." By May 1952, the Murray's had televised almost 100 programs. Their TV ratings climbed and in the summer of 1952 they signed with their first sponsor, General Foods. Millions of viewers all over the United States fell in love with the show and flocked to the Arthur Murray Studios throughout the country. This highly popular show ran for twelve years on national television.

When Arthur and Kathryn Murray retired in 1964, a group of franchisees purchased the company and brought a fresh new spirit and leadership to it. Under its new leadership, the Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studios has kept pace with the rapidly changing "youth culture" and continues today to flourish as the world's largest dance instruction organization. Arthur Murray dance teachers can be found not only in the studios, but on the movie sets in Hollywood; backstage on Broadway; and partnering with major entertainers to promote the music that the world dances to. Whenever a movie involves dance, it's a good bet that AMI has been involved in some way, shape or form. Such movies as Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing II, Dance With Me, Beautician And The Beast, Flash Dance, An American President, True Lies, Saturday Night Fever and Scent Of A Woman are some of the films which have used Arthur Murray instructors to either teach a dance to the stars and/or dance in the film.

The Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studio's name appears regularly in major national magazines that include Vogue, Martha Stuart Wedding, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Woman's Day and more. Wherever advertisers want to reach consumers with a message of romance, intimacy or just plain fun, you'll see dancing, from the Gap' now famous Khaki Swing commercials to dancing M&M's and gas pumps. Arthur Murray International's commitment to dance goes even further, with senior management heavily involved in the world of professional and amateur competitive dance, known as DanceSport. Many of Arthur Murray's officials have contributed to bringing competitive ballroom to the forefront as an Olympic Sport.

All Arthur Murray franchised Dance Studios are independently owned and operated by individuals who started as dance instructors and worked their way up to the executive level. By the time they are qualified to purchase a franchise, they have experienced every phase of studio operations, from teaching and supervising to marketing and managing. It is possible for an ambitious person to advance to a top executive job and become eligible to be a franchisee within just a few years. Building from within has kept the studio system strong, with franchisees that are committed to the Spirit of Excellence which is the hallmark of the entire Arthur Murray system. Currently there are approximately 180 Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studios worldwide.
AMI also has this to say in its FAQ section:
Arthur Murray International said:
How qualified will my instructor be?
All of our dance experts must complete a most arduous training regimen. They are experienced on the dance floor and knowledgable in all techniques to help you master today's popular dances. Rest assured the teachers selected for you are the best in the business.
Thanks for the info Jonathan,

It's good to know the official FTC rules on this matter. As always, one should not be afraid to make sound business decisions for yourself. Dancing is supposed to be fun. I'd hate to see someone lose their love of dance because of a poor business decision. The AMI background is useful too. Did you take lessons at an AMI? What brought you to the aforementioned AMI event? As far as franchise restrictions, I'm not aware of the specifics of these states. However, it is my understanding (just from chatting with a manager of an FADS) that there is a limit to how many lessons in advance they are allowed to sell someone. I'm not sure if this is a company rule or a state regulation. Anybody know for sure?


Staff member
Hi Taita…as per my original post in this thread I did, in fact, start at an AMI studio. I was actually looking for a place to learn salsa and, at that time, didn’t know any better. :(

As far as the aforementioned AMI event, I was there for my research. I’m wrapping up my primary fieldwork phase this fall and realized that, although I’d visited several franchise studios (including both AMI and FADS), I hadn’t been to a franchise event yet so had wanted to make sure and include that as well.

I'm pretty sure this varies by state. I know Florida, for example, has stricter regulations than other states. I'll try to remember to ask a studio owner (I talk them every day) to see what they have to say.


Staff member
DanceMentor said:
I'm pretty sure this varies by state. I know Florida, for example, has stricter regulations than other states.
Yes, this came about as a result of legal actions having been pursued against a number of studios that took particularly reprehensible advantage of any number of elderly students.


Well-Known Member
I've never been to a Fred Astaire and once took a group class from Arthur Murrays; both of which are no longer in town.

Back when I was first learning to dance over 20 years ago one of the other students told me that they had gone to one of the two I don't recall which, but when there was a dance they could only use what they were taught at that studio and not anything learned outside of it. :eek:
I spoke with a FADS state director and he told me there is a federal law capping contracts at $7500. He told me that people still sell more than this, especially in Florida.
Panthra said:
I'm not quite sure why paying up front "pissed you off"
MissAlyssa, please don't put words in my mouth. In rereading my post I said it "put me on edge" and by this I hardly meant pissed off. I meant extremely nervous. I don't know about you, but putting $1,000 down up front is a big deal for me considering the amount of money. I want to be sure that the studio will uphold their end of the bargain. I've always paid in installments which I find to make a lot more sense for both the teacher and I.

Say my current instructor left the studio and I still had 2 or 3 lessons. The only reason I take lessons there is for him, he is geared toward competition and is by far the best dancer there. I am literally better than all the other teachers there simply because my focus is competitve and theirs is social. I highly doubt the studio is going to give me the money back for those left over lessons, so where does that leave me? Now *that* would piss me off. :p

I've never had to pay up front, my instructors have always taken care of administrative stuff after the lesson, whether it has been payed for or not.

Clearly a missunderstanding. You can only get SO much out of what someone types and frankly, I missinterpreted your statement.
In support of the programs that franchises sell, I will say that programs can really help a student to stay committed. Also, many studios offer payment plans. Even though you commit to a certain amount of money, you are making payments, and it's pretty easy to get out of the contract if the services have not been rendered.


Staff member
DanceMentor said:
it's pretty easy to get out of the contract if the services have not been rendered.
This is entirely dependent upon the franchisee! Some actually have ethical business practices and understand that, in the long run, good business involves customer satisfaction even of a student who wants to leave. I, myself, however, was given a very hard time in this regard and was not allowed such an out…and I know of several others with like experiences!

Many (most?) franchisees do, of course, understand this and conduct themselves accordingly. And, as some of the posts in this thread have pointed out, the value of the franchise programs can be quite good when group classes and parties are taken into consideration—especially earlier on in one’s dancing “career.” Also, and I really do want to stress this, the enthusiasm and camaraderie that I have seen at studio events is unmatched by any USABDA or NDCA event (although I would put the college circuit in the same boat).

The problem is that franchisees (not that they are unique in this regard) often want it both ways—they want the name recognition of their franchise without the concomitant “used-car-sales” smarminess also being associated with them as the results of an unscrupulous minority. One key element then is that the franchises need to do a better job of self-policing such that the few do not continue to discredit the reputations of the ethical majority. The problem, however, remains apparent in the Teflon-esque claim of “it depends on the franchisee” when still claiming only the benefits of franchise systems.

Note, for instance, this comment:
DanceMentor said:
I spoke with a FADS state director and he told me there is a federal law capping contracts at $7500. He told me that people still sell more than this, especially in Florida.
Breaches of federal regulations are known, yet the problem remains!


Staff member
MissAlyssa said:
You can only get SO much out of what someone types and frankly, I missinterpreted your statement.
A good point for us all to remember MissAlyssa! Thanks for the reminder! Also nice to "see" you again :D
In the registration process it says that "slanderous" claims would be a bad thing, yet I notice that several posters say "the chain" or "the franchise." Why not spit it out? Say it out loud or zip it. This forum/thread seems to be leaning towards a few other s from other sites. Ones that anonomously ripped AMI and FADS without recourse. Yes, I am FADS. Yes, I am offended by anonomous mud slinging.
I do agree that some franchisees are better business people than others, some are better dancers than others. However, we do have to follow legal guidelines that independents do not. Including sales limits and the "terrible" contracts. So many independents brag about no contracts. Big deal, we have to use them. I would use them even if I did not have a franchise. They make everything clear. The students know what they're getting from beginning to end. They also end the " you're my favorite student" discount. This one pays "x" and that one pays"2x." Everyone can compare and see they are all being treated well.
Last thought: treat the franchises with a bit of respect. We have helped spread the ballroom bug for over 50 years. Many of the top competitors would not be where they are had they not started with AMI or FADS. And we will be here a long, long time.
Hi B. Smith,

I'm glad you've joined the discussion, keeping this from becoming one-sided. You make some great points. Let me put some of them into my own words:
1. Franchises have been a major force in bringing ballroom dancing to the masses.
2. A contract also makes certain promises to the student to help keep the studio honest.
3. Just because some frachises aren't well run, that doesn't make all franchises bad. And folks, there are some awesome franchise studios out there!
4. In the US, I would be willing to bet that at least 75% the top competitors received training at a franchise.

B. Smith, people are not required to reveal their identity, but they may if they wish. Concerning liability, there have been cases of people being sued for making posts on forums. However, the forums themselves have been protected from liabilty in recent court judgements.

I think it's okay for someone to say something like, "I felt I was misled at an Arthur Murray studio", but not "The Arthur Murray Studio at 123 Main Street is running a scam on every student that walks through the door." If we noticed such a post that was specific to one studio, it would be edited or deleted.

Once again, I want to emphasize there are some wonderful Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray studios out there and there are also some terrible fly-by-night independant studios out there.


Staff member
B. Smith...welcome to the forums and thank you for contributing to this thread.

As I have tried to point out in my various posts, the franchises (both AMI and FADS) include both good and bad--just like anything in life! If you have additional points regarding what you perceive as benefits or advantages of FADS (or franchises in general) then please feel free to add those to our discussion. I, for one, would welcome such contributions.

On the issue of contracts, it should also be pointed out that the term is not a singular, monolithic referent. For one, not all contracts are created equal. I have visited franchise studios where the price per unit remains constant regardless of the number of units purchased and others with discounts for larger purchases. I'm not making a judgment call on this, but just pointing out that even the term "contract" has some variability involved as well. It should also be kept in mind that there are any numbers of independent schools who work on a contract basis as well--this is far from the unique purview of the chain schools.

Finally, as a point of clarification, I have been saying "franchise/franchises" in order to keep the thread open to input from all, not just those from one chain, so if that generalization was taken in the wrong way I do apologize.

(FYI, I did look on the FADS website for a history comparable to the one provided by AMI but, unfortunately, none such was available. Do you know of anything to this effect that could be shared?)

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