KUMON Franchise Complaints

November 4, 2013

Kumon franchise complaints include overexpansion, over-saturation of markets, and an indifference to the success of franchisees by its Japanese parent company.

Are you familiar with the Kumon franchise opportunity?  Share your opinion with a comment below!

According to the Kumon franchise website, Kumon is “an after-school math and reading program that employs a unique learning method designed to help each child develop the skills needed to perform to his or her full potential.”

With an international network of independently owned and operated franchises, Kumon claims it the largest and most established program of its kind in the world.  States the website:  “Kumon has nearly 250,000 students enrolled at more than 1,500 individually owned and operated Math & Reading Centers in U.S. and Canada alone.”

One would think that having brand dominance of the supplemental education market would be a benefit for Kumon franchise owners… unless continued expansion results in cannibalization of sales between competing franchisees.  We received an email from “concerned owner” who worries that, among other things, Kumon is overexpanding at the expense of existing owners.

Concerned Owner writes:

kumon logoMany Kumon franchise owners are concerned about recent expansion of Kumon in seemingly saturated areas.  The corporation is using generic criteria to evaluate potential market areas, namely family income and a specific number of children in K-8.  The generic criteria is not adjusted based on disposable income, cost of living, and who actually contributes to average family income.  The exclusion of important market data has led the corporation to overestimate their market potential and an unjustified expansion plan.

Kumon corporate also does not have a good understanding of their customer.  Kumon offer a good value but they do not know the segment of customer that respond to the value.  Instead, they are trying a shot gun approach to increase brand awareness.  They are trying to sell expansion as an investment in brand awareness but awareness is no substitute to a targeted message to the customer segment that responds to a companies value prop.  Again, this lack of market knowledge and poorly thought out increase in brand awareness leads to over expansion.

In more saturated areas, such as the tri-state NY, NJ, CT area, the corporation is just trying to open up centers in close proximity to some of their largest centers.  The corporation does not seem to care that an owner can lose 20 to 30% of their revenue because the corporation hopes to net an additional 5 to 10% growth between the 2 centers.  Kumon corporate does not put in capital for the center, that responsibility is on the franchisee.  Because the franchisee puts up the capital, Kumon does not share in the risk of the current and new owner.  For the current owner, its a loss because they are losing on their top line.  For the new owner, they will not get an adequate payback on their investment (build out, furniture, advertisement, etc).  Kumon corporate does not care because they can get an extra 5 to 10% without risking anything.

The poor market data, cavalier attitude towards existing/potential franchisee owners, and no risk sharing between franchiser and franchisee leads me to believe that a Kumon franchise may no longer be a wise investment.

Most franchisors have an expansion strategy based on market saturation.  Their goal is to dominate viable markets with the greatest possible presence in order to create strong brand recognition, to squeeze out competitors and to maximize systemwide revenue.  Overexpansion can result in franchise encroachment, perhaps the greatest source of franchise litigation and unhappy franchisees.

What do you think?  Is Kumon Math & Reading franchise doing what it needs to do to create a strong system, or is it overexpanding to the detriment of its franchise owners?

Do you have other complaints regarding the Kumon franchise system?




226 Responses to “KUMON Franchise Complaints”

  1. Ralphie says:

    I read that Tori Kumon, the founder of Kumon Math & Reading was a part of the Japanese Imperialist Army that occupied China, Korea, Philippines etc. The Japanese enslaved thousands of Chinese and Koreans, and made them sex slaves. These Chinese and Korean sex slaves serviced the cadres on the Japanese Imperialist Army. Many of these women died from STDs and other venereal diseases contracted from the marauding Japanese Imperial soldiers and other mongrels of the enemy forces. Some of these women managed to escape and sought refuge in the United States.

  2. Jamila K says:

    I was researching for my daughter’s school paper and what did I find! Shocking!

    Manoa pair to face
    extortion charges
    The allegations come from
    the son of the founder of Kumon

    By Debra Barayuga

    A Manoa couple allegedly extorted $150,000 earlier this year from a son of the founder of the Kumon learning method in exchange for 2,000 “compromising” photos.

    Debra Tajiri, who is licensed to operate Kumon math and reading centers in Manoa and Kailua, told Hiroshi Kumon he ruined her life after they had an affair in 1996 and began asking him for money over a 21-month period beginning in March 2002, according to a federal complaint filed against her earlier this year.

    She and codefendant Sean Yonehiro, whom she hired to work in her centers as an assistant, face a preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court on Sept. 27 on a charge of sending international extortion communications. The offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

    Both were arrested Feb. 17 after Yonehiro met with an FBI agent posing as Kumon’s attorney at Ala Moana Park earlier that day and took from him a bag containing what he believed to be $150,000, according to the federal complaint.

    The couple were released after posting a $25,000 unsecured bond.

    Kumon is the second son of the late Toru Kumon, a high school math teacher in Japan who devised a system 50 years ago to improve scores in math and languages.

    At the time of the affair, Hiroshi Kumon was director of the international division of the Kumon Institute of Education in Japan, the parent company of Kumon North America, one of five regional headquarters worldwide responsible for operations in Canada, the United States and Mexico. He is no longer affiliated with Kumon.

    According to the complaint, the Feb. 17 meeting was requested by an individual who went by the name “Max Lee” and who had been e-mailing Kumon while he was in Japan beginning in February 2003 threatening to release compromising photos of Kumon if he didn’t pay for them. The complaint does not describe the photos but does say that Lee threatened to release the photos if Kumon also did not send more pornographic pictures of himself.

    Tajiri’s attorney, Howard Luke, and Yonehiro’s federal public defender, Alexander Silvert, declined comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said the case is ongoing and declined comment.

    More than five years after their affair, Tajiri allegedly began e-mailing Kumon between March and October 2002 asking for $500,000 to remodel her house, the complaint said. In those e-mails, she allegedly told Kumon that “you have taken a lifestyle from me,” and that she was considering filing a lawsuit.

    She also accused him of infecting her with a venereal disease and said that he should pay for her medical treatment. Kumon allegedly paid her more than $350,000, court documents say.

    But from December 2002 to January 2003, Tajiri allegedly continued asking Kumon for money, saying electricity at her home was shut off and that she could not pay contractors to finish work on her home.

    In March 2003, Tajiri e-mailed Kumon again, saying she needed $550,000 to secure a building contract. When he didn’t respond, she e-mailed him in June 2003 saying her life was “hell” and was over, and asking him why he had not sent money, the affidavit said.

    Investigators learned that the e-mails sent by “Max Lee” came from an account belonging to Tajiri and from her Nipo Street home, the affidavit said.

    One of three vehicles spotted at Tajiri’s residence was a white Ford pickup truck that was later seen at the Hawaii State Library on Jan. 29 — the first meeting Lee allegedly requested for Kumon’s representative to bring the money. A man was seen walking around the library on that day before leaving in the white truck registered to Yonehiro, who lists a Nipo Street address as his residence, the federal affidavit said.

    Matt Lupsha, vice president of education and communications for Kumon North America, which oversees Kumon centers in Canada, the United States and Mexico, said the organization regards the incident as a personal matter that did not affect its operations.

    Tajiri “removed” Yonehiro as an employee after the complaint was filed and he has had nothing to do with the operations since, Lupsha said.

    Tajiri, who has been a Kumon instructor since 1991, continues to operate the Manoa and Kailua centers.

    “We’re confident that the charges against Debbie will be dismissed and this is basically the effort of a third party, her employee, who received financial gain through his actions,” Lupsha said.

    Kumon, with 160,000 students enrolled in 1,600 U.S. centers, has made tremendous contributions to society and families worldwide, including in Hawaii, for the past 16 years, Lupsha said.

    “I don’t think this unfortunate incident can overshadow all of our contributions that we’ve made to the success of children there,” he said.

  3. Pat Cena says:

    Very interesting to know that Kumon Math & Reading franchise system has a history of sex crimes and venereal diseases, more than education. I once was considering a Kumon franchise, but not any more. It seems that the criminals have flooded the Kumon franchise system (or they may have been there to begin with) and are preying on children and families alike. This place is as dangerous as it can get. Not for me. Its best to put my money elsewhere with a franchise system with a good reputation than a Kumon franchise.

  4. Jamila K says:

    Man pleads guilty in Kumon extortion case

    By Associated Press

    HONOLULU (AP) _ An Oahu man who extorted 150-thousand dollars from the son of the founder of the Kumon Math and Reading Centers is set to be sentenced in September.

    Sean Yonehiro faces a maximum two years in prison and a 250-thousand-dollar fine.

    Yonehiro pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to sending electronic and telephone communications to Hiroshi Kumon in Japan, threatening to hurt his reputation if he didn’t pay the money.

    Yonehiro had worked as an assistant to Debra Tajiri — the director of two Kumon franchises on Oahu — who had an affair with Kumon in 1996.

    Tajiri had also been charged in connection with the case, but the government decided against prosecuting her.

    Kumon learning centers are located in 43 countries, with more than 14-hundred in North America alone.

  5. CSK says:

    Pat, SEX OFFENDERS exist every where. I may agree with you that sex offenders and child molesters may exist at KUMON Math & Reading franchises. That may be the case at all other learning programs. It is still the parents’ choice whether they want to enroll their children or not. If parents enroll their children in such places, it is the parents’ fault.

  6. davidchung says:

    Goodness gracious! This raises some important questions:
    1. Where was this Kumon guy knobbing the Kumon franchisee Debra Tahiti? At the Kumon learning center or in his house or motel?
    2. How is this Yonehiro connected? Was he just a videographer or a jilted lover?
    3. How many Kumon sex tapes were made?
    4. Who had the venereal disease first? The Kumon guy or the Kumon franchisee Debra?
    5. What venereal disease did they contract?
    6. Is there any danger that students can get the venereal disease?
    7. Was Yonehiro a Kumon franchisee?

    Can anyone answer my questions? This is so confusing.

  7. bobg58 says:

    davidchung, What are you smoking, dude? What’s confusing is why are you wrecking your nuts analyzing this Kumon sex thingy.

    Its simple: The Big Japanese Kumon owner laid one Debra. Man, if you’re dad owned franchise tutoring schools and was rolling in dough, you could have knobbed away too. Take a cue.

  8. Owl22 says:

    I wanted to open a Kumon center in Beverly Hills but Kumon has a very bad reputation here.

    I believe that it’s all because of the notoriously infamous “Bling Ring Gang” based in and around Calabasas, California, who burglarized the homes of several celebrities. In total, their activities resulted in the theft of about $3 million in cash and belongings, most of it from Paris Hilton, whom they robbed several times. However, over 50 homes were reportedly targeted for potential burglary.

    The alleged ringleader of the group, Lee was the daughter of North Korean immigrant Vickie Kwon, originally from North Korea. Lee lived in Calabasas with her mother, who owns three Kumon Math & Reading centers of the children’s tutoring company Kumon from Japan.

    I have decided to go for an Eye Level center instead. Overall, Kumon Math & Reading has a very bad reputation.

    Wish me luck.

  9. Edna K says:

    I feel that every child has to be protected from their educators’ sexual advances be it at Kumon learning centers or elsewhere. Shame on people who use education to rape, kill, molest or abuse innocent children.

  10. Akemi says:

    Kumon downplays the origins of the company because Toru Kumon’s son was involved in a disgusting sex scandal with one of their tutors. The founder and his family are seen as an embarrassment. A Kumon franchise is not worth the effort anymore.

  11. Ann Norcross says:

    Spending money on a Kumon franchise is a bad a flushing your money down the toilet. I have a friend who invested her life savings into Kumon without realizing that Kumon has a bad reputation due to the sex scandals involving franchisees and children. I have seen her struggle to survive and now she might shut down her center.

  12. Paul says:

    Ann, Its no brainer. You friend should not have invested the money into a company that has a very bad reputation like Kumon. Any company involved in harming children should not be in the business of catering to children – education or otherwise. Your friend should have researched Kumon before taking the plunge. There are many other opportunities in franchising. If she still wants to stay in education there are much better education companies with a great reputation. Try Gideon Math and Reading. They are a much better company.

  13. Dax says:

    Joy Hofmeister is the Republican candidate for Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 2014 elections? This must be a joke. Tulsa doesn’t need Kumon into its public school system.

    Hofmeister serves as CEO of Kumon Math & Reading Centers of South Tulsa. She served on the Oklahoma State Board of Education from January 2012 until her resignation on April 24, 2013.

    Tulsa doesn’t need anyone associated with Kumon learning that is responsible for countless crimes against children, child molestations and other sex crimes against children.

  14. Elena says:

    Would anybody who knows, please answer my question! I am an Instructor of one of Kumon education centres. Our Franchisor (The Head office, actually) threatens us, Instructors, to take away our licenses. Is it just a threat to be able to keep us disciplined or there is a regulation which allows the franchisor to take away franchisee’s license? Thank you. Elena

  15. N Lee says:

    Ellena, other instructors I know are also being threatened by KNA management. In my opinion suffer in silence till Mino Tanabe and Robert Lichtenstein are fired from the company because they are very cruel people.

    Japanese style management is to threaten instructors like you and me. Company should make Larry Lambert or Prateek Mahata the President.

    Are you in California? If you are in California, I hear that you can leave Kumon and become a EyeLevel instructor with no problem. Some instructors I know say that EyeLevel is much better than Kumon.

  16. Sierra says:

    The company has always struggled with a business model that doesn’t account for the high rent that needs to be paid by franchisees in North America. The 40%+ royalty was established in Japan where housewives provide Kumon out of their homes and therefore have very little overhead.

    The sexual deviance and graft identified above goes deeper. The Japanese management are known to frequent “hostess bars” where often underage girls boost the fragile Japanese egos with fake conversation and provide “physical favors” for a little extra cash. These expensive nights out are expensed to the company. That is, money earned from educating children and “contributing to world peace” goes to fund backroom prostitution and exploitation of minors.

  17. says:

    My question is why is Joe Nativo still there? He spearheaded Savio Rebelo’s horrible reign AND allowed Hamanaka and Nose to steal money (for which they were fired). He was also a big supporter of Peter Tu, who is the biggest do-nothing backstabber Kumon has ever seen. If anyone of authority at Kumon is reading this, please PLEASE fire Joe Natio just as they did Savio Rebelo and all the others. (Robert Lichtenstein the blowhard lawyer and the incompetent HR staff should be fired, too for covering up all the bad behavior and illegality. (Oh yeah. Because Lichtenstein has his own sexual misconduct and even though he is an old man, constantly tries to pick up the young staff.)

  18. KWE says:

    Well, well, My suggestion is not to get ahead of yourselves. It is the Kumon worksheets that keep you franchisees in business. The company really doesn’t need any or all of you. Even a “Trained Ape” can run our centers and do a much better job. Franchisees like you are a disgrace to our system.

  19. naomi says:

    Wow! Trained Apes > Kumon Franchisees
    That’s a good one.
    Even though its funny, I tend to agree with that one.

  20. NYC Tech Guy says:

    I was briefly employed by Kumon in mid 2010 in the Kumon University division. I had the misfortune to work directly with both Savio and Peter directly. The comments posted here are accurate to a T. Savio was a closet racist who was too blind to realize that the entire American workforce despised him. His arrogance and inappropriate comments to female staffers is what led to his eventual downfall. Peter Tu has been in this country for well over 20 years now, and cannot grasp either a command of the English language or a knowledge of the culture of the American workforce. It made “The Office” look like a reality TV series.

    I was a contractor assigned to work on a outside project for Kumon, and was promptly told by my contact, an Indian manager, that I was to “shut up and not ask any questions”. Savio then proceeded to call my team “A bunch of stupid Americans who cannot compete with the outside world, and thats why Kumon, as well as foreign workers are needed here”.

    I will not go into any more details right now, but all I can say is that this type of behavior is a trickle down effect from the top management and spreads like a disease to all managers below. The company is in deep trouble and will only get worse as time goes on

  21. Lauren says:

    I agree that Mino Tanabe should be fired. Most of the staff and even my own co-workers think that he is just a pinhead wearing a Guy Fawkes mask who has turned Kumon into a bad musical. Anyone here in Teaneck can attest to his alarming stupidity and that of the other Vice Presidents and Japanese here. Communication and direction do not exist here. We feel like a bunch of blind fools following an Ass at the top down a steep canyon. Not sure if Japan even realizes our plight here. No one knows for sure when we would hear of layoffs from the top. Its always the little people like me who usually get hit the hardest for the insanity of the claptrap at the top.

  22. Kumon says:

    Actually, Mino is considered by most a a reasonable leader. Not perfect, but light years better than Savio Rebelo, Joe Nativo and Peter Tu. The leader of Kumon or any large company will always be criticized by some. But the Savio-Joe-Peter Axis of Evil was beyond a doubt the very worst time in Kumon. It’s understood why Savio was terminated as soon as Peter lost power, but why on Earth is Joe Nativo still there…bullying instructors, firing staff, embezzling money, getting incredibly drunk at all company events…shameful!

  23. Guest says:

    Mino may have his faults, but we all know it’s a struggle for him to try to undo the horrible damage done during the Savio Rebelo and Joe Nativo year. The Hamanaka/Nose scandal was disappointing and typical of the cronyism that has gone on at Kumon for years. During Savio Rebelo’s misguided and reprehensible stint as COO he ended our medical insurance plan only to bring on an inferior and more expensive plan sponsored by his insurance salesman friend. I have it on good authority that he got a kickback.

  24. NYC Tech Guy says:

    Blatant racism has always been a part of the Japanese culture for hundreds of years now. It is a problem that will never go away 100 percent. As Japan was never colonized, it created a superiority complex that is prevalent in many other Asian cultures. Korea, and China have this same cultural issues. When you have a company that is controlled by Imperialist infused heads of company, and that same set of principals is infused into the various managers, this creates a unique company culture that can manifest itself the way Kumon has in the conflicts between the Japanese managers & American subordinates, as well as between the company and the center owners. IE “We do it this way because the Japanese owners WANT it this way”. Look up the word “Gaijin”. It may shock and surprise you!

  25. TK says:

    All true. But the racism being addressed here was conducted by an autistic, immature Indian, obese, insecure Italian American and a duplicitous, careerist Chinese. Savio. Joe. Peter (Weiming).

  26. NYC Tech Guy says:

    I am aware of that. But no one in Japan dared to do anything about it until it was too late.