Dillema...Contract or no contract?

Shotochem

Purple Belt
Founding Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2001
Messages
312
Reaction score
4
Location
MA
Hi All,

I just returned from traveling for a couple of weeks. When I returned I found out my dojo has decided to go to an outside billing agency with automatic billing and contracts for a min of one year. They also raised the price of tuition. I have no problem with the increase as we all have to eat. Its the contract I have the problem with and that is being imposed at the organizational level.

The bummer is that I like where I'm training, its close to home and the schedule is good for me. I like the people and I like the instructor. I can either suck it up and do the contract or find another place to train. I really don't want the contractual obligation yet unless I travel 3x the distance I do now my options are of limited quality.

I could either go the Villari route or switch back to Shotokan
I have spent 7 years in Shotokan and one + in Kempo.
I know little first hand in regard to the Villari people and I have a choice of 2 Shotokan schools one IMHO, is quite bad and the other is OK not great. The one I really want to train at is over an hour away and I choose my family time over travelling that far to class.

What I asking is am I selling out my personal beliefs on contracts or am I just being a weenie about it?

Would any of you walk away as I am leaning or stay?

-Marc-
 

Ybot

Blue Belt
Joined
Aug 26, 2006
Messages
277
Reaction score
26
Location
Sacramento, CA
IMO from a business point of view contracts make a lot of sense. They only suck when your a beginner and your not sure if you'll like the school, like the instructor, or if you'll have the commitment to stay training on a regular basis. Also, they are kinda shady if they promise you black belts and stuff.

You claim you like the school, and the instructor, so it seems to me that you just don't trust yourself to stay committed to the art for the length of the contract.
 

Fushichou

Yellow Belt
Joined
Sep 4, 2007
Messages
20
Reaction score
0
Now, as you said, you like the school and the instructor, so ask yourself. . .do you plan on studying for the year to come of the contract? Can you comfortably pay the increased rate? What are the terms of the contract, including being able to cancel it in the event of injury, illness, or moving? Read over the terms of that contract closely, even if your instructor is a nice guy, that billing agency probably won't be so nice.

Personally, I refuse to learn from any school that requires contracts: the best schools I've studied at have actively eschewed them, and I've trained at too many mediocre schools that were obsessed with them. I've got a bad taste in my mouth for when legalities start coming between you and your martial arts instruction.
 

grydth

Senior Master
Joined
Jan 13, 2007
Messages
2,464
Reaction score
150
Location
Upstate New York.
Hi All,

I just returned from traveling for a couple of weeks. When I returned I found out my dojo has decided to go to an outside billing agency with automatic billing and contracts for a min of one year. They also raised the price of tuition. I have no problem with the increase as we all have to eat. Its the contract I have the problem with and that is being imposed at the organizational level.

The bummer is that I like where I'm training, its close to home and the schedule is good for me. I like the people and I like the instructor. I can either suck it up and do the contract or find another place to train. I really don't want the contractual obligation yet unless I travel 3x the distance I do now my options are of limited quality.

I could either go the Villari route or switch back to Shotokan
I have spent 7 years in Shotokan and one + in Kempo.
I know little first hand in regard to the Villari people and I have a choice of 2 Shotokan schools one IMHO, is quite bad and the other is OK not great. The one I really want to train at is over an hour away and I choose my family time over travelling that far to class.

What I asking is am I selling out my personal beliefs on contracts or am I just being a weenie about it?

Would any of you walk away as I am leaning or stay?

-Marc-

When faced with this twice, we have walked once and stayed once - and I still believe each choice was correct.

The first time the school made a great living off suing people for the balances of contracts. I actually think they made more that way than on existing students. I did some research and the 'billing agency' - whose full name and address was not on their form - turned out to be a collection agency with a very checkered past. They wanted all sorts of personal data, which they had absolutely no need for... unless they were pre-planning a law suit. When I was told contracts were being instituted - "no exceptions!" - it was too bad that I saw the guy with a wad of cash in his hand another student had just given him. The other student was so embarassed he quit too.

The second dojo was a very friendly and professional place. If those people have any dishonesty in them, I didn't see it. They said the financial details were simply overwhelming them and taking away from teaching. No promises at all about rank were made - shodan is and has been a 6 to 8 year endeavor. The agency has a very fine reputation and has a well respected martial artist on the board. So we signed and stayed.... my girls are thriving there and I feel I'm getting what I paid for.

So I'd advice you check some things out further - I feel it is a case by case call.
 

Sukerkin

Have the courage to speak softly
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
15,325
Reaction score
493
Location
Staffordshire, England
Some incisive comments made above :tup:. I'm too tired to be eloquent right now so I shall just give my personal opinion that contracts have no place in martial arts instruction.

If I was given no option up front then my answer would be a definite "No!". Of course if the sums of money involved were not significant to me then my opinion would differ but it has been my observational experience that 'contracts' and 'high fees' seem to go hand in hand.

MA tuition as a business is a sensitive issue with me so you have to take my point of view with a pinch of salt. Moderate fees to cover costs raise no eyebrows. Larger sums changing hands instantly raises my 'shields' and given any choice I would go elsewhere.

That said, my own fees recently took a 400% hike with a change of training venue - from 瞿1 to 瞿4 a week :lol:.
 

stickarts

Senior Master
MT Mentor
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jul 6, 2003
Messages
3,902
Reaction score
59
Location
middletown, CT USA
My view is that doing business with contracts is not in and of itself bad, It's a matter of how they are used.
For example, we do use contracts, however, students may opt for a 12 month membership for a less expensive tuition rate, or a 6 month membership, or just pay month to month month with no committment although that is more expensive.
The agreement is fully discussed up front, they have several days after signing the contract to decide if they want to cancel, and if a student gets injured or moves away they may exit the contract, which I think is fair.
Also, when a student has a major issue they only have to come and talk to us and we do our best to compromise.
I view our use of contracts as making a more professional environment, and the fact of the matter is that we work very hard and we have financial committments that we must honor such as paying our landlord and other bills every month. My financial committment is actually far larger than the students!
Only you can decide what is right for you. If you like the instruction, feel you will get your monies worth, and trust the school and expect to be training for the next year then I think you should stick with them.
But you have to feel good about it so there are no regrets.
Sometimes contracts are applied in a bad way and thats what gives so many people a sour feeling about them.
The core of any relationship is trust and no contract can replace that, however, getting everything in writing keeps agreements clear, can form a solid committment, and when applied in good faith helps keep a business in operation.
I have seen very successfull schools that don't use contracts as well as many who do so both ways can work.
I hope this helps!:)
 
OP
Shotochem

Shotochem

Purple Belt
Founding Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2001
Messages
312
Reaction score
4
Location
MA
Thank you all for your replies. The thing that is spooking me out is taht the tuition is going up $50 more a month and if I jump in to a one year commitment I would have an increase of $25 instead of $50 and after the year pay the full increase. I dont see myself getting anything additional for that much of an increase. I currently pay $80 a month and am willing to pay a little more as I do think it is still a bargin.

But when you increase to $130 and add a contract with nothing additional....?

Lets face it, I love to train but I have a family to support and it may not be practical for me to continue with this organization.

I understand they have expenses, but then again, so do I. This just sucks!!!

I am still waiting to see what the rest of my dojo mates think as they are the ones I enjoy training with and if many of the decide to leave I have that much less reason to stay and feel guilty if I decide to leave.

-Marc-
 

JWLuiza

Black Belt
Joined
Jan 20, 2006
Messages
654
Reaction score
32
Location
Pittsburgh
My view is that doing business with contracts is not in and of itself bad, It's a matter of how they are used.
For example, we do use contracts, however, students may opt for a 12 month membership for a less expensive tuition rate, or a 6 month membership, or just pay month to month month with no committment although that is more expensive.
The agreement is fully discussed up front, they have several days after signing the contract to decide if they want to cancel, and if a student gets injured or moves away they may exit the contract, which I think is fair.
Also, when a student has a major issue they only have to come and talk to us and we do our best to compromise.
I view our use of contracts as making a more professional environment, and the fact of the matter is that we work very hard and we have financial committments that we must honor such as paying our landlord and other bills every month. My financial committment is actually far larger than the students!
Only you can decide what is right for you. If you like the instruction, feel you will get your monies worth, and trust the school and expect to be training for the next year then I think you should stick with them.
But you have to feel good about it so there are no regrets.
Sometimes contracts are applied in a bad way and thats what gives so many people a sour feeling about them.
The core of any relationship is trust and no contract can replace that, however, getting everything in writing keeps agreements clear, can form a solid committment, and when applied in good faith helps keep a business in operation.
I have seen very successfull schools that don't use contracts as well as many who do so both ways can work.
I hope this helps!:)
That's great you allow options!!! I think selling 3 months chunks is a great plan as well.

But I personally, would never sign a contract.
 

ewhip

Yellow Belt
Joined
Sep 3, 2007
Messages
31
Reaction score
0
Location
Marietta, GA
Tough situation. My 2 personal caveats to training:

1) I refuse to sign contracts
2) I refuse to train in classes with 10 year olds..

If faced with either situation I'll move on to a different option. I WILL pay a few dollars more per month rather than signing a contract - I really don't have a problem with that situation.

Fact is, things change. You never know how your life could change in 3 months and the last thing I need is a collections company coming after me for martial arts dues.
 

Phoenix44

Master of Arts
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Messages
1,616
Reaction score
68
Location
Long Island
I more or less agree with Stickarts. It's not the contract I'd be worried about--it's what the contract says. A lot of contracts give you an out, for example, with a month's notice.

Look, I don't own a dojo, but if I did, without a contract, what protects me? If a person continues to show up in class for an extra month or so promising to pay, how can I hope to collect without a contract?

Having said that, I think $130/month is a lot of money.
 

Danny T

Senior Master
Joined
Sep 5, 2002
Messages
4,258
Reaction score
2,293
Location
New Iberia, Louisiana USA
Hi All,

I just returned from traveling for a couple of weeks. When I returned I found out my dojo has decided to go to an outside billing agency with automatic billing and contracts for a min of one year. They also raised the price of tuition. I have no problem with the increase as we all have to eat. Its the contract I have the problem with and that is being imposed at the organizational level.

The bummer is that I like where I'm training, its close to home and the schedule is good for me. I like the people and I like the instructor. I can either suck it up and do the contract or find another place to train. I really don't want the contractual obligation yet unless I travel 3x the distance I do now my options are of limited quality.

I could either go the Villari route or switch back to Shotokan
I have spent 7 years in Shotokan and one + in Kempo.
I know little first hand in regard to the Villari people and I have a choice of 2 Shotokan schools one IMHO, is quite bad and the other is OK not great. The one I really want to train at is over an hour away and I choose my family time over travelling that far to class.

What I asking is am I selling out my personal beliefs on contracts or am I just being a weenie about it?

Would any of you walk away as I am leaning or stay?

-Marc-

I understand this is touchy subject and it eems many here are against contracts or tuition agreements. I can understand your reluctance. In the many posts on this forum I have read from a large number also complaining about their instructor shutting down their school and/or moving. Why? Is it possible they simply could not afford to continue? Martial Arts in America is a business. Sure there are many backyard instructors who do a very good job of training. But how reliable is your training schedule? What happens if the weather is bad, the instructor is sick, or out of town? Does your training continue as normal or do you have to do something different like not train?

We do tuition agreements. Why? Because it is sound business. I have invested thousands of dollars in training equipment, products, building, signs, insurance, utilities (which are at far higher costs than your home). I and the business have made a commitment to provide an excellent training facility with excellent training equipment along with excellent instruction, coaching, and training. We are open for training 5 days a week every week. If an instructor is sick or unable to attend their class then there is back up. That class will be provided. My school business spends approx $55,000.00 a year in expenditure not counting payroll. We are not a large school with most of our students being children, better than 80% of our students are adults. They are great students and we care tremendously about their training but we must be able to cover the cost of being in business. Far too many people come to train and realize that it is hard work and are not committed to the training, Oh, they are so excited about training and learning but suddenly something else comes up and couldnt make the last two weeks of training or last month so they do not want to have to pay. Well we were open, instruction and training was provided and the cost of being available even though they didnt attend was still there. I care deeply about all who train with me and will work with anyone who is committed to training. But I and those who are on our staff must be paid along with their FICA, workers comp. and other federal, state, and local taxes. Property taxes, ad-valorium taxes, inventory taxes which most individuals do not realize are assessed each year.

In our tuition agreements I am asking for a commitment from you just as I have committed to you the student. Is that unreasonable? I think not. If you are not willing to make a commitment then why should I? How would you feel if your instructor simple didnt show up for your training time? Oh I didnt feel like it, I was tired, I had something else to do. We know things come up in life and schedules cant be always be met however it is a one way street. The commitment is wanted by the student from the school but the student also wants the freedom to simply not show or have to pay if they dont show. You want the ability to simply change your mind with no regard to the others making the commitment you wanted. We all know there are no guaranties in life or are there? You want a guaranty the school will be open and there will be a class dont you. But no guarantee you will come back and pay. Well the tuition agreement states the school will provide a safe training facility with training and instruction on time on the days we say we will. It also states what your tuition will be and that tuition is owed whether you attend class or not because we provided it. Which is what you the student wanted in the first place. How would you feel about working for a company who hired you to work on Mon through Fri. 8-5 but only if there was business during that time? No one came in today so we arent going to pay you.

Now we also have several outs with our agreements like if you move out of the area, lose your job, extended sickness or injury etc. on a case by case basis.

Since implementing the tuition agreement programs 21/2 years ago our retention rate increased as will as our student enrollment. Therefore in our case not only has it been good for our school it seems our students want the commitment of the agreement.

If you enjoy your training, like the instructor and school, attend the classes regularly and are going to continue training why are you concerned about YOUR commitment.


Danny
 

still learning

Senior Master
Joined
Nov 8, 2004
Messages
3,749
Reaction score
48
Hello, Many martial art schools are going with outside collection /billing companys or agencys...it cost more.

Most of the martial art schools is a BUSINESS first, teaching your there ART.

Contracts provide a steady income they can relied on to pay bills.

Is this a bad thing? NO ...free's the time for your teachers to forcus more on the teaching than trying to remind those who are behind on payments.

Do you own a cell phone (mostly likely you have a contract). All credit cards have a contract? Contracts are a way of life today.

If you have a personal issues for a martial art contract? Then move on to something that offers what you want. Even if it means learning a new style or martial art? THIS GOOD BE A GOOD BLESSING TOO!

Trust your feelings not your Brain trying to figure things out. Your feelings is the best answer!

I have "feelings too".....................Oh that was the hammer falling on my feet! "ouchi"

Aloha (trust your own feelings)
 

rompida

Orange Belt
Joined
Jan 23, 2004
Messages
75
Reaction score
3
Location
Monroe, NC
Its a tough call...

Contracts give MA a "commercial" feel - which none of us really want.

But they can help keep a school organized and running without the instructor/owner having to engage in "bill collecting". I have used contracts to some degree, but I think they should be used with a healthy dose of common sense. For instance...

I have students pay month to month for a month or two. THEN, they may choose to pay month to month or get a discount for 3 months or a bigger discount for a 6 month contract. I don't do any contracts over 6 months. For the first month or two, the student can decide if the training is really for them. Then decide how they want to pay from there.

Contracts sure can make life easier. I hated having to explain to soccer mom's that "NO, you don't get 2 weeks credit to the next month because you decided to skip classes for the last two weeks", and "No, you can't continue training when your a month past due on tuition". People will try to run all over you if given the chance. Contracts and billing agreements can really help here. I think there is a way to fair about it while still maintaining the integrity of your school.
 

stickarts

Senior Master
MT Mentor
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jul 6, 2003
Messages
3,902
Reaction score
59
Location
middletown, CT USA
I more or less agree with Stickarts. It's not the contract I'd be worried about--it's what the contract says. A lot of contracts give you an out, for example, with a month's notice.

Look, I don't own a dojo, but if I did, without a contract, what protects me? If a person continues to show up in class for an extra month or so promising to pay, how can I hope to collect without a contract?

Having said that, I think $130/month is a lot of money.

I agree. that sounds like a lot of money to me too. We charge far less than that.

Good point about the dojo being protected. one reason that we also went to contracts is because too often we supplied products or services to have someone leave and never pay. Without anything in writing, you have no leverage to ever recover the money. We work very hard and don't make much.
Most never realize just how difficult it is to own and operate a school long term. (But also a great source of fulfillment and pride!):)
 

stickarts

Senior Master
MT Mentor
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jul 6, 2003
Messages
3,902
Reaction score
59
Location
middletown, CT USA
Thank you all for your replies. The thing that is spooking me out is taht the tuition is going up $50 more a month and if I jump in to a one year commitment I would have an increase of $25 instead of $50 and after the year pay the full increase. I dont see myself getting anything additional for that much of an increase. I currently pay $80 a month and am willing to pay a little more as I do think it is still a bargin.

But when you increase to $130 and add a contract with nothing additional....?

Lets face it, I love to train but I have a family to support and it may not be practical for me to continue with this organization.

I understand they have expenses, but then again, so do I. This just sucks!!!

I am still waiting to see what the rest of my dojo mates think as they are the ones I enjoy training with and if many of the decide to leave I have that much less reason to stay and feel guilty if I decide to leave.

-Marc-

It may be worth talking one on one with the owner and letting him / her know all of this and seeing if something can be worked out.
I agree that is a big increase, especially if no additional service is being offered.
If enough students talk to the owner, perhaps a change can be initiated.
I know that I always appreciate communication from students. When students leave without letting me know about an issue, I don't have a chance to address it.
I am sure many others feel the same way that you do. Even small increases can tend to upset people. These increases are pretty large.
 

arnisador

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 28, 2001
Messages
44,573
Reaction score
455
Location
Terre Haute, IN
I don't sign contracts that are longer than a few months--certainly, it must be less than six months--but I do see the value of them to a business owner who needs some stability in income. They're not all bad and not all good.

A related thread:
Contract Schools.
 
OP
Shotochem

Shotochem

Purple Belt
Founding Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2001
Messages
312
Reaction score
4
Location
MA
The jury is still out. I need a little more clarification of the contract. If I am reading it correctly, it may only need a 30 day notice and you are free of the contract. It may very well be that they just do not want to handle the billing and financial aspect of things and are simply jobbing it out.

If that is the case I would feel a lot better about it and would be willing to sign on as I do not really want to leave in the first place. Its just that I have been burned before with a health club and have friends who were burned by MA clubs. I am just being cautious.


-Marc-
 

Sukerkin

Have the courage to speak softly
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
15,325
Reaction score
493
Location
Staffordshire, England
Caution is a good thing in all things financial, Shoto. I think, in the end, it depends on how you feel with regard to the terms of the contract and the ease with which it can be mutually terminated.

I have to say that I started this thread firmly in the "No way!" camp but thoughtful posts by members such as Stickarts have changed my views. Well done to those chaps for making good points.
 

Brian R. VanCise

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Sep 9, 2004
Messages
27,758
Reaction score
1,520
Location
Las Vegas, Nevada
I do not use contracts and can never see myself using them. It is not that I do not think they are good or that they can not work for both the student and the training hall. For me it is more personal in that I like to surround myself with people of like minds and training goals. If someone is not interested in being there then I do not want them there as it will take away from the training. So that is just my opinion on contracts.
icon6.gif
 

Kacey

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jan 3, 2006
Messages
16,462
Reaction score
227
Location
Denver, CO
Given what you said initially, my primary concern would be not the contract itself, per se, but a concern that the additional cost is going, not to the instructor/school, but to the billing company. I understand why a billing company wants annual contracts - without some type of contract, they cannot do automatic billing in many places - however, I would still be leery of the cost, and especially if a significant portion of the cost increase is going to the billing agency. I am also somewhat concerned about not having the option to pay monthly, even with an added cost.

If the contract clearly states you can void it if you contact the billing agency within "X" days of the next billing date (and assuming that time frame is less than 30 days), then you need to decide if the added cost without added value is worth it to you - and only you can decide that; there are too many variables for us to decide for you. I will point out that a cost increase from $80 to $105 is a 31% rate hike, and the second, from $105 to $130 is a 62% hike from the original cost - that's a really big increase.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
 
Top