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I’ve been asked to answer a few questions about this book but first, I’d like to thank a few people who helped make it possible.
On top of the list is Don Sniegowski. Before I found Blue MauMau, I was only learning bits and pieces of the Dunkin’ Donuts story from other franchisees. His website provided the depth of information I needed to process how the industry works, at least at Dunkin’ Donuts. I would also like to thank all the franchisees and former employees of Dunkin’ Donuts who have been sharing their stories with me, some that put my story to shame. I will be addressing this part of the story soon. But the book is not just about Dunkin’ Donuts and to the franchisees who have reached out from other systems, thank you. And, finally, thanks to any one who takes the time to read the book. Your comments are appreciated, positive or negative. Don’t worry, I can take the heat.
On to the questions
Why did you write the book?
First, I was not interested in re-litigating my past with Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s over. But, somebody needed to write a story about the dark side of franchising, which has been kept under wraps by the industry for too long. Since I was not encumbered by a confidentiality agreement and I had a story to tell, I decided to do it. If a prospective franchisee reads my book before signing on the dotted line with Dunkin’ Donuts or anybody else, then I’ve succeeded by covering topics that I know the salesmen they are dealing with either glossed over or didn’t even talk about.
What is the message you want to tell prospective franchisees?
Make sure you really understand the legal agreement you are signing and do not allow yourself to be forced into signing because the salesman, or even your own lawyer, tells you, “everyone signs it, as is” Even though this may be true, go with you instincts if something doesn’t smell right do not be afraid to make the hard decision and pass. Due diligence is the guiding principal of all investments and involves far more than reading the documents and projecting sales. The ethics and attitude of the franchisor is at the top of the checklist and you will only confirm what this is by speaking with franchisees and ex-franchisees who will openly discuss this.
I found out that the hard way that the franchise agreement in the wrong hands is bad news for franchisees. And when this agreement is in the hands of an aggressive team of litigators, like I experienced at Dunkin’ Donuts, then it becomes an economic disaster waiting to happen.
This is a true story, right?
Most of the book comes from, and is verified by, emails, and ,court documents submitted by both the plaintiff and the defendant in my case. Virtually all of the conversations I had with Dunkin’ Donuts’ managers were witnessed by other people, who will confirm that they happened, or are confirmed by emails contemporaneous to the conversation. So, when Dunkin’ Donuts told me just a few months into our new business relationship to stop talking to them about my financial losses, they did that in an email, which I saved. When George Condos, the chief brand officer of the company blithely told me, “Irwin, franchisees go bankrupt all the time,” he said this in front of other witnesses, who will confirm it. When Stephen Horn, legal counsel for Dunkin’ Donuts, described in gory detail how his investigators spied on franchisees, including their private lives, searching for “ammunition” for a “confrontation meeting”, he did this in front of Paul Steinberg, who had the conviction to write about it.
So, Dunkin’ Donuts can go ahead and hire an army of lawyers to peruse every word in Dunk’d. At the end of the day, the truth is the truth.
But you lost the court case, right?
I did, and again, I am not interested in re-litigating this part of my life. However, I am justified when I say I was robbed of a jury decision by the same judge who had ordered a jury trial over the strenuous objections of Dunkin’ Donuts. By the time my case finally came to trial, four years later, he was recovering from a stroke and, at 79-years old, did not appear up to the task of managing a jury trial. He admitted that it was his incomplete jury instructions that caused a mistrial at the first trial. Then he bullied my attorneys into resting our case at the second trial before a single witness from Dunkin’ Donuts ever raised their right hand.
But in the federal court system, judges decide when they will retire from the bench, and there was nothing I could do about it. I believe this part my story is essential reading for anybody who wants to take on their billion dollar franchisor corporation in court.
Will the book be available in print?
Yes, for everybody who needs to feel that cover in their hands, we are working out the details. In the meantime, the e-book will aslo be available on Amazon later this week.
Am I am expert in all things retail?
No, and neither is anyone else. Retailing is one of the largest and diverse sectors of the U.S. economy and each category operates on unique principles. I understood the businesses I was involved with and wrote a book on my experiences and the decisions I made – the good ones and the bad ones. Frankly, I tell anybody who asks, that I’ve learned far more from my mistakes and bad deals than I ever did from the ones that made money. A book about all the three-pointers I made at the buzzer would bore everybody, including me.