Franchise Ownership, Myths and Guinea Pigs

There are some lies in society that are immune to obliteration in the normal course; they simply, for various reasons, sustain themselves as accepted truths over incredibly long periods of time. These lies span all aspects of life and knowledge, and can be political, scientific, economic, or religious.

Myths are an example of such lies. For instance, in the franchise world the biggest myth is that franchisees are buying into a true partnership with their franchisors: “When you buy a franchise from us, you’ll be our partner.” Not only is the myth constantly perpetuated by those with knowledge that it is not true, but it is also repeated ceaselessly by many other ignorant people who wish they had the money to be franchisees and partners of franchisors. The myth in fact is so intriguing that even some of those who were scammed and wounded by the myth repeat it over and over.

One unique aspect of the “when you buy this franchise, you’ll be my partner” myth is that, unlike many other myths, it hasn’t changed over time as it has been orally handed down from generation to generation; it has remained the same for almost fifty years. This is, in part, due to the simplicity of the message; there are no details that are subject to the human mind’s natural memory and cognitive processes of emphasis and deletion. Similarly, perhaps also due in part to its simplicity, the myth does not appear subject to the mind’s normal tendencies to exaggerate, simplify, rebuild and edit. Re-telling of the franchise myth millions of times has not changed it one iota. Even fifty years of litigation hell for tens of thousands of franchisees hasn’t touched one little hair on the franchise myth.

In trying to figure out why the franchise myth is so durable, we should ask what more truthful alternatives might conceivably have formed along the way to take the place of the franchise myth. Let’s try a few hypotheticals: “When you buy this franchise, you’ll be a joint-employer with me, the franchisor.” No, that clearly doesn’t work. How about, “When you buy this franchise, you'll be my employee.” Hmm. Not quite right either. Maybe, “When you buy this franchise, you'll be an independent contractor.” Wait a minute, that is what every franchisor sneaks into the boiler-plate of the franchise agreement already; it's simply not sufficiently alluring to form the stuff of an oral myth. How about: “When you buy this franchise, you’ll be rich.” No, that won’t work; everyone will know that this is false. But, hold on. I just realized that this actually is another bona fide myth that is also currently believed in the franchise world. Accordingly, it can’t substitute for the ownership franchise myth.

Okay, let’s try: “When you buy this franchise, you’ll be our slave.” This seems a bit too harsh, and understandably has too many negative historical political connotations. What about: “When you buy this franchise, you’ll be our Guinea Pig.” No; unfortunately this would offend animal rights activists and therefore would not be repeated by politically correct people. Maybe: “When you buy this franchise, you’ll be our agent.” No, not zippy enough; who wants to be ‘just’ an insurance guy? Let’s try, “When you buy this franchise, you’ll probably be screwed.”

Now we’re coming closer. 

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