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CURVES: Robert Lay’s Story

March 10, 2009

The American dream of owning your own successful business seems to be going up in smoke for a lot of the Curves Franchise owners. The story you are about to read may seem like a Steven King horror novel but it is a real story that has happened to my wife and I. To all of the past, present and future owners of a Curves franchise please take the time to read the whole story as at the end we explain what we plan to do and how you as an ex or present owner may want to get involved.

My wife and I had owned and operated our own business for over 20 years and had been very successful at doing so. While we were making a great income from our business there was something missing in our life. Neither us felt that we were contributing to society but just taking and we decided to make a major change in our life. That was when we heard about Curves for Women. It was a new franchise that only had 300 or so clubs and for the first time in years we both became excited at the prospect of actually helping people reach their goals. We bought our first club in 1997 located in a city of thirty thousand. From the first day it opened it was more successful than our wildest dreams. Not only were we making excellent money but the personal rewards helping people better their lives was a truly rewarding feeling. I can still remember as if it was yesterday the first time a Dr. of one of our members came in to check out what we were doing as he couldn’t believe the changes his patient had gone through. She had gotten off her high blood medication and had lost over 40 pounds in 4 months. It was truly amazing and over the years we have seen it happen numerous times over and over.

We sold our first club in 2001 and bought two more franchises. My wife became a mentor for Curves International around this time and I was helping to sell franchise for Curves International as so many of are members wanted to own a club. It was at this time that we started to see problems arising with Curves International but we attributed it to the fast growth that Curves was going through. In 2002 we bought two more franchises but this time they were in what was called a metro-area instead of city under thirty thousand in population.

The first problem we encountered with Curves International was in early 2003. Curves sold a franchise that was a corridor of land between one of our franchise’s and the next city 8 miles from our southern boarder. It was obvious to us that the territory didn’t have the necessary population to support a facility and that Curves International was selling any location just out of greed and the fact that there were so many people who wanted a franchise. The people who bought that franchise tried to open up on our border but it had always been an unwritten but followed rule of Curves International that you open in the middle of your territory so that disputes between owners over stealing members from your territory didn’t arise. We immediately filed a complaint with Curves International and they stopped the new owner from opening at that location. Unfortunately for the new owners there were no other commercial locations between the two cities so they were forced into selling that franchise back to Curves International for a loss.

It was also at this time that Curves International started to change personnel. The employee’s who we had a personal relationship with that had started Curves International with Gary Heavin were leaving the company at an alarming rate. Seven employees that were the top management of Curves left or were forced out because of Gary Heavin’s greed. They ended up filling a law suit against Curves which was later settled out of court. It was at this time that Diane Heavin became involved with Curves and a whole new history was being written about how Curves was started. The original Curves member guide which was written by Gary Heavin and June Manley was taken off the market and the new Curves book authored by of course Gary Heavin was on the top 10 of the Times best seller list.. To make sure it was on the Times best seller list all the clubs had to order at least on case. That is when we as owners realized Heavin was a manipulator and not the born again Christian he portrayed to be. It was also at this time that the price to buy a franchise more than doubled in price. This came as quite a surprise as Heavin had always maintained that he would never ever increase his franchise price and he even swore on the bible in front of a group at club camp that he would never break his word on that. Well as we all know he didn’t keep that promise for long, which just shows his greed.

At this point my wife and I became quite concerned and even considered selling our business but other problems arose concerning Curves International that demanded our full attention. In 2004 another Curves location located on our boarder of one of our metro-areas hired two of our employees and stole around 15 members from our club. Both employees had signed the anti covenant not to compete and in our state those agreements are strictly enforced by the courts. We considered going to court but since it was another Curves facility we decided to file a complaint with Curves International. And to let them handle it. What a mistake that was as they did nothing. We transferred the members files but refused to transfer the money for the members dues until such time that Curves International responded to our complaint. We were told by the area director, which was a new position at Curves International, that we were trouble makers and he refused to send any of are clubs the members appreciation bags. Shortly thereafter Curves International resold the corridor of land that had been sold back to them at a loss from the previous owners and they allowed the new owners to open up in nearly the same location that they had refuse the previous owners only a year and a half before. The new owners advertised in our area and ended up getting 10 or 11 members to transfer to their club. Again we held their monthly dues but did transfer the members files. We immediately filed a complaint but again got the same response nothing. It didn’t take long for most of the members who transferred to come back to our club as the other location was small and in a very run down area and to this day that club has not shown a profit and has been sold numerous times over the years for little to nothing.

Then in 2005 the real problems with Curves International started that we are still contending with today. In one of our metro-areas a competitor by the name of Ladies Workout Express opened up right across the street from our location. Unknown to us they had hired our manager and one other employee from that location and when the employee’s left they had stolen off our computer our member files. They ended up stealing over two thirds of our membership with in a week. The employees had signed the covenant not to compete so we immediately hired a lawyer and prepared for a lawsuit. As I stated before in our state that agreement is strictly enforced but it took four months to get it into court. During this time that location was losing so much money that we decided to move the location next to our other territory so that both clubs could stay open. We sent in the required change of location form to Curves International but never heard anything back from them so we went ahead and relocated in late 05. The owners of the Ladies Workout Express eventually went broke because of the lawsuit and the fact that they would end up owing us monetary damages. They filed for bankruptcy to prevent us from collecting any monetary awards in Dec 05 but we did have the satisfaction knowing that we did what was right

In early 06 we were informed by Curves International that because we abandon that location they were terminating all of our franchise agreements. We immediately requested mediation for all of our clubs which is authorized by our franchise agreements with Curves International. We never heard back from them so we hired a lawyer in Waco, TX to represent us. He proceeded to send them a letter requesting the same mediation process and they did respond to him. They sent him letter stating that it was premature to go through the mediation process at that time as they were in the process of researching our reason for moving. Curves International continued to debit our account for the franchise and advertising fees for all the other clubs we owned but stopped talking the fees for the one territory that they stated we abandoned. The lawyer had us send Curves International a check for the fees and a new authorization form for them to deduct it from our account. Neither our lawyer or ourselves ever heard anything back from Curves International so we all assumed that things were back to normal.

In the spring of 07 we made the decision to start selling off all of our clubs and to completely retire. It didn’t take me long to sell the club we owned that wasn’t in a metro-area and I agreed to stay with the new owner’s to help train them how to run the business. We sent all the documentation into Curves International and the sale was completed by January 08. That freed my wife and I up to concentrate on our metro-area clubs and to get them ready for sale. In Feb of 08 we heard that a Curves club was opening in one of our territories within a mile of our current club. We could not understand how Curves International could do such a thing. We again filed a complaint by phone and e-mail to Curves International and several weeks later we were informed by e-mail that they didn’t know what we were talking about. We were told we didn’t own any franchises and hadn’t since we were terminated in 05. That came as quite a shock to my wife and I as our franchise and advertising fee’s had been deducted all along from our checking account and we had just recently sold a club that they were telling us we never owned. We had a local lawyer send a letter to the new owners explaining the situation and that we would be seeking legal recourse against Curves International and depending on the outcome they were opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit. During this time we had bought and paid in full for the Smart Equipment for Curves International and were waiting for the installation which was scheduled for the June 24th. On June 20th , a Friday we received a phone message telling us that the Curves Smart Installation was canceled and that we had to call Curves legal for an explanation. We left messages both e-mail and phone every 30 minutes on Monday June 23rd and finally late in the afternoon we received an e-mail stating that one of there lawyers would be in touch with us before the end of the day, They never sent an e-mail or a phone call as was promised but by mid day the next day they did respond by e-mail. It stated because of the problems with the members transfers, the fact that we abandoned a franchise, and that we had interfered with the opening of the new franchise located in our territory we weren’t approved for the Curves Smart. Yet in late May they had sent all the promotional ad material for the Curves Smart and of course we had gone to a considerable amount of expense for training the employees, advertising and promotion of the Curves Smart equipment. It was at this point that my wife and I decided that drastic action had to be taken against Heavin and Curves International.

While we still love the concept of Curves we feel that because of the deceptive and we believe fraudulent business practices that Heavin has allowed under his management Curves will eventually end up in the toilet so to speak. After spending many hours on the internet we have found that there are many lawsuits against this man and his company. Just read some of the post’s that are on franchisepick.com from owners concerning the new ten thousand fee if your club goes under and closes to the vitamins that were sold in Feb and March by Ideas in Action at a discount to owners without telling them that they would expire at the end of May. The lack of support and communication from Curves International that all of us owners are going through is intolerable. It is impossible for an owner to get through to them on the phone and good luck if you expect a call back in a timely manor. The fact that we as owners pay a lot of money for our advertising fees and have no accounting of where it is spent and a quite frankly we never see many ads in our area.

I have taken the time to do the necessary research to find several good lawyers who handle franchise law who are more than willing to help Curves owners who are having similar problems with Curves. I for one am going to go after Curves International and Gary Heavin in a court of law. These are not class action but group action lawsuit and if you don’t understand the difference contact me and I will explain it to you. There have been over 200 such lawsuit filed against Curves in the last several years and while some have been settled in mediation others are in the process of going to litigation. If you are a past or present Curves owner who has experienced these problems and want satisfaction whether it be monetary or revenge please contact me. We have several options that we can go and I for one am positive we will win as the other lawsuits have been successful so far and have set a precedent for ours. It is time for the owners of Curves franchises either past or present to stand up together and put a stop to Heavins’s ramped destruction of peoples lives just for monetary greed.

Thanks for reading our post and God Bless you all.

ARE YOU AN CURVES FRANCHISE OWNER OR FORMER CURVES FRANCHISEE? 
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE CURVES FRANCHISE OPPORTUNITY? 
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Comments

1,331 Responses to “CURVES: Robert Lay’s Story”

  1. michelle says:

    I’ve been on this site several times over the last few years in an attempt to find more information about why my club was failing and if it was only me. Even though CI told us it was our fault if we failed, I realize now it was not. There are many passionate, knowledgeable owners who have struggled. After being in the red for almost 3 years, I recently closed my club. The only person(s) I hold responsible, now, is CI. They utterly failed us. How? By a complete lack of innovation and marketing. Bottom line! To those of you who are worried about CI coming after you for money after closing, tell them to f**k off. Don’t be afraid!

  2. Hope says:

    Has anyone out there experienced the new required weign in at the mandatory action group meeting?! If not yet, this is how it works, you are told you have to attend the action group meeting, some of us travel over an hour to get to the location, and if you dont attend you are threatened that you will be removed off the curves website, you will not receive any national leads and you will be denied curves complete os access. So you go to the meeting, you are tested on if you have memorized the required scripts, if you dont pass you face the same threats mentioned above….as if all that isnt bad enough, you are then told you are to be part of the weightloss program, and you need to weigh in….regardless of whether you need it or not…and if you try to decline you are told you HAVE TO WEIGH IN!!! What is this!!!! Is this not somehow illegal a violation of personal privacy and rights, discriminatory!!! Who of us signed up for this when we bought our business, who of us knew we would be tested, threatened, forced on a diet, and forced to be weighed in, and we are paying them to do this to us!!!! If all this had been disclosed, and we knew what they would demand, I for one would have not signed the dotted line, I would have had the facts so I could make a informed decision!!! I have invested all my money to be humiliated, stressed and abused!!!

  3. Exowner says:

    I closed at the end of Feb. Every month I get an email saying I owe them $2400. I know its not much to many but after losing money over the last 2 years it is. I had the club 4yr and 9 month. Had I been able to stay open I would have owed the minimum amount of royalty and ad fees totaling $870. They were the ones who said we’re going to penalize me for being non compliant and pay max fees- that’d be in the neighborhood of $7600 for those last 3 months so that is why we closed 3 months early. The latest email says they’ll turn it over to a collection agency if not paid. They have almost $1000 in wellness payments that were held thru the closing process. That was more than I would have owed had I been allowed to stay open and I feel they are paid in full. We have always had stellar credit and I hate to think Curves would damage that for what seems more like spite than anything. CI failed us as owners by just taking money, coming up with costly ideas we had to pay for and then weren’t advertised and too many other numerous things along the way. I LOVED Curves and my members and hated that this happened.

  4. MARY says:

    Get out as fast as you can. Get an attorney if need be, but do not hesitate, CI is only in for the money. I lost my home and 4 years of my life to CURVES, almost broke up my marriage. Worst experience of my life. No support from CI, sold us locations that had too small of demographics to support any sort of club. CI just wanted the franchise fees, they did not care if we succeeded or not.
    Too bad too, because I truly believe that the workout did work for many women and gave great results.

  5. SL says:

    I have just made the decision to close one of my clubs – just over one year after Curves rejected a resale buyer as she did not have enough assets to satisfy them. I have emailed them about continual health problems, that the club has never made money and cost me an awful lot, and that the club is now unsaleable. No concern was ever expressed for me – no support offered. I can close knowing I have given my all, worked past the point of exhaustion and having the threat of termination fees over my head. I will not pay them. I kept up my end of the bargain. Reluctant to say too much more as this process is just starting for me – but I am happy to speak to other owners etc about possible legal action, and am okay with my email address being given out to others who are or have been in the same position. I do have another club – maybe that will go in my favour? Good to know that we are not alone. I still love Curves, my members and what Curves originally stood for. I just thing corporatisation has got in the way – and that franchisees are not valued. If we treated our members the way we have been treated, we would not have any business at all.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I closed my curves almost 5 years ago. I received all the threats of what they said I owed, but I never paid them a dime. We are currently trying to refinance our home and a lien is popping up. Does anyone know how long a lien stays on property? Also, are the curves liens valid? Anyone have a recommendation for a lawyer to help us have the lien removed?

  7. b Loser says:

    I am about to close.. I am scared. I have no money left. I will have to declare personal bankruptcy. I have not finished my franchise agreement.
    I feel like such a loser. I knew going into this I was not going to get rich. Wasn’t trying to. I just thought it would make it….but it is not working.. the new ownership came in too late I think to save this sinking ship and now they are just blaming it all on us owners.
    Your town office would be able to tell you who and when the lien was put on your property.

  8. Closed says:

    “B” You are not a loser! Over 600 clubs have closed in California alone. That is over 75% of original clubs. Of clubs that are still open, I know of none that are “thriving”. You can’t tell me that any of these owners were/are losers.

  9. Linda says:

    I thought about the idea of Curves, after reading this. Whoh! Thanks for the scoop on what’s going on. I only have a business degree and don’t have the health side of fitness, and was wondering where the training would come in. I would not for the world get involved with curves. I think going in business on a stand alone fitness program small enough to make women comfortable and lose weight would be the thing to do. I like the combo affect similar to curves, yoga and zumba. This would be cool but have no idea how that can play out. Hmm. Thanks for the read and I pray that the schemers who own Curves at the top get penalized greatly. It’s horrible to cheat the franchise owners of ad funds where they never did the ads. What a thief.

  10. Nancy Davis says:

    O K….I was considering buying into an existing franchise in TX but am certainly rethinking that since reading this story and these comments. So are the new owners not moving away from the Gary Heavin debacle? No improvements? I need to know!! Thanks for your input!

  11. MICHELLE says:

    I bought a Curves franchise in NY and despite investing thousands of $, the business was terrible. No advertising even though we paid an advertising fee, and I tried everything I could to promote locally. I signed a 5 year agreement, but after about 3 1/2 years, with out ever collecting a paycheck, having to work at Curves full time AND work another full time job to pay my own bills, I asked Curves what the procedure was if I needed to close early due to financial reasons, no business coming in, and dropping memberships. They said if I followed all closing procedures that they would work with me for a final reduced closing fee. It would be reduced from what I would owe them for the remaining months left on my franchise agreement for royalty and advertising fee’s. I followed everything, had to scrap thousands of dollars worth of MY machines which I owned outright because that was a requirement of these closing procedures ( I got $60 for the scrap metal) and I had to show proof from the receipt. Remove all signs, destroy all files, etc, etc. After closing according to their requirements, they said I would owe them $6,000, all at once, 2 weeks from when they told me! I almost died! I told them I did not have it, could they reduce the amount, and put me on a payment plan? They said no to reducing the amount, but would accept payments of $500 per month. I could not afford that, and asked again for them to reduce the amount and accept lower payments, a lot lower! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? $500 a month? I was in shock! They said no, even though I complied with all of their closing procedures. 6 months later, I just received a letter from a collection agency demanding $21,800 that Curves now says I owe them. I wish someone could help all of the franchisees who have put everything they have into their businesses only to be raked over the coals and taken advantage of by this horrible company. For anyone who is thinking of buying a Curves…run like hell. I never made a dime, invested and lost thousands, and now they say I owe them more than I can even fathom. ( I make less than $30,000 per year, drive a used car, and shop with coupons!) I have no idea how they can get away with these kind of unfair, horrible business practices. It makes me sick.

  12. barb says:

    Has anyone seen good since January of this year some the new owners have too over? I am wanting to buy a curves but now skeptical about it.

  13. just a nobody says:

    http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HR186ER

    House Resolution No. 186
    Commending Gary and Diane Heavin

  14. just a nobody says:

    some penalty eh?

  15. just a nobody says:

    I’m glad to know where my fees have gone.
    11 full baths, over 18k sq feet living area.

    We all have certainly been generous!

    http://neighbors.whitepages.com/search/neighbor_search/2924-Cliff-Pt/Spicewood-TX-78669-3252

  16. Guest says:

    Zestimate: $6,463,226

    From 2011 before it was taken off the market: “PUBLIC AUCTION. Once listed over $16M, now opening bid is $3.5M! The creator of this magnificent estate has chosen to Auction this property and demand that it sells by April 9, 2011 to the highest bidder. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own an exquisite compound on Lake Travis. These opportunities only happen on rare occasions, & this time it is yours for the taking. 1,000 bottle wine cellar. Vistas from almost every room and the 6,000 sq ft of outdoor terraces. A must see!!! ”

    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2924-Cliff-Pt-Spicewood-TX-78669/83827176_zpid/

    I guess running the fastest-failing franchise in history was a pretty lucrative endeavor.

  17. Guest says:

    Delegate David I. Ramadan (R) – House District 87 introduced http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HR186ER House Resolution No. 186 Commending Gary and Diane Heavin

    David Ramadan is CEO of Curves India. His bio reads: “David is actively involved in several other corporations and ventures including RAMA Legal, Curves for Women (Middle East & India), Expand to America, and DRZ Jewelers and consults with clients in diverse industries internationally. ”

    Is it appropriate for a delegate to be passing bogus resolutions glorifying his business partners and (I imagine) campaign contributors?

  18. just a nobody says:

    Like Gary Heavin said, “. . . I’ve made more money than I can spend.”
    So yeah, I guess running the faster-failing franchise in history was lucrative.

  19. just a nobody says:

    Most people think they sold to Northcastle, but Gary and Diane Heavin retain 60 percent ownership and still serve behind the scenes making the decisions.

  20. ADMIN says:

    I did three quick posts on North Castle’s acquisition of Jenny Craig.

    Very confusing.  They’re merging Curves and Jenny Craig AND they’re remaining separate?

    I hope franchisees will chime in.


    CURVES Monty Sharma’s WTF? Email to Curves Franchisees about Jenny Craig Acquisition

    CURVES: North Castle Partners Press Release on Jenny Craig Acquisition

    CURVES Owner North Castle Partners Acquires Jenny Craig

  21. No name says:

    I closed my club in June, 3 months prior to expiration. I couldn’t hold out any longer. I hadn’t been paid in 2 years but it had gotten to the point that I couldn’t even pay my rent. The closing procedure was completely FUBAR! I was told to do some ridiculous things. The fee amount changed constantly. They stole my Wellness money, my Trak fees and, worst of all, they continued to bill members past the closing date which I had to reimburse from my own pocket! They agreed to reduce the amount owed if I gave them my Surves Smart equipment, which I did. Now, almost 5 months later, I get a threatening email from a law firm stating I owe the higher amount! I will never pay a penny! I would love to sue them! They ran Curves straight into the ground with their lack of innovation and lack of effective, heck, ANY! marketing.. My last hope was North Castle but it quickly became apparent that they, too, had their heads up their A*! Things got worse. And now to see this info about Jenny Craig! Yes, wtf!? I am so glad to be ou and not having to deal with that! I feel badly for club owners that are still open. But, gosh, I MISS my members and I see almost every post here says the same. We all loved our clubs, and i loved going to work so much that I did it without pay for years! CI let us all down.. We are NOT the failures here!

  22. Dee Dee Cooke says:

    Hello everyone, I just spoke with Kelly Spann at the Law Office of Jonathan
    E. Fortman about our potential claims as Curves franchisees. They want to
    talk to as many people as possible. Contingency/no cost. Please go to
    http://fortmanlaw.com/curves-request-for-information/ and give them your
    story!

  23. Mzee Otivo says:

    Hi guys!

    I read an (old) article on ClubIndustry.com that quoted a former president of CI, Mike Raymond, stating that “We made it easy for them to decide to leave by announcing a policy that removed any penalties for closing.” (See http://clubindustry.com/blog/examining-state-curves)

    Does anyone know what the *new* policy for closing down franchises allows?

    Any formal changes in Franchise Agreements beyond 2011 that indicate this policy specifically?

    Thanks much!

  24. Rob says:

    Hello fellow unsatisfied Curves owners. I bought my northern New Jersey club in 2008 and closed in 2010.
    CI was asking for $40,000 royalties for the 3 years still in my contract. They sent me 2 letters in first year. Then I never heard from them until this week – last week of March 2014.
    A local attorney representing CI is stating that $12,500 will settle this debt. I have until THursday to pay the $12,500. That’s 3 days notice.
    Any suggestions?
    Anyone else facing this?
    I’m also wondering that since my condo is being sold this month as a short-sale, has this “debt transaction” somehow reached unsavory bill collectors and they are racing to get my money. Just a thought. The CI royalties debt never came up during the short-sale negotiations. Apparently, it was not in my credit history.
    Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Rob in NJ

  25. Hello, Rob ( and all other unhappy Curves folks…)

    Sorry to hear about your dispute with CI about unearned royalties.

    My firm, Bridge Management Consulting, helps small business owners them , who who are struggling with overwhelming debt resulting from a failing or closed business.

    We’ve handled several franchisees who need to get out of their particular franchise hell, and we’ve successfully fought back on behalf of our clients. Don’t give into them!

    Feel free to contact:

    Ryan Lineham, Director of Client Services
    401-390-3800
    ryan@bridgemgt.com

  26. Aussie Z says:

    Rob I would be interested to know when the franchise agreements went from 10 years to 5 years all of us in Australia signed up for 10 years, I managed to stay open for 6 years and finally when my membership dropped to 84 members I had to close. I received 3 emails from CI stating that I owed them $64,000 (what a joke) and like you haven’t heard from them for nearly 2 years. I guess they will catch up with me eventually but they will have no hope of recovering that exorbadent amount they want. Isn’t there a statute of limitations?

  27. Exowner says:

    Aussie. When I bought my Curves in 2008 it was for a 5 year contract and the gal I bought it from also had a 5 year. I also rec’d several emails abut owing them money for closing 3 months before my contract was up but have never been notified since and it has been 14 months. I am keeping my fingers crossed I don’t ever hear from them again. Loved the members but ended up disliking CI with a passion.

  28. Lynn Nickels says:

    Please provide me with the names and telephone numbers of the attorneys well versed in franchise law, which you found through your research as I fully intend to file suit against Curves International/North Castle Partners and agents for same.

  29. Dee Dee Cooke says:

    Lynn, this is who you should call:
    http://fortmanlaw.com/curves-request-for-information/

  30. I’m interested in speaking with any current or former Curves franchisees. Drop me a line at kstrauss@forbes.com

    Ed. Note: Curves franchisees and former franchisees:
    I have spoken to this writer (Karsten Strauss) and he is a legit staff writer for Forbes. He has assured me that he will protect the anonymity of anyone who wants to speak to him on condition that their name or location is not disclosed. There has been WAY too little media coverage on the challenges facing Curves franchisees, so I am glad Forbes is interested in doing more than a fluff piece.

    Here’s info about him:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/

    ADMIN

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