Franchisees Get Feisty

They're suing franchisers to gain power--and winning

When Meineke Discount Muffler Shops Inc. used to hit up franchisee Mark J. Zuckerman for 10% of his sales to help pay for marketing, he expected to see top-notch ads. But in 1990, the Trumbull (Conn.) resident started noticing that newspaper advertising was waning and TV spots were appearing after midnight. Zuckerman and 19 other franchisees began asking questions. To their shock, they eventually discovered that the Charlotte (N.C.) franchiser (a division of British-based GKN PLC) had been pocketing 15% of the communal ad funds--while Zuckerman's group thought it was taking only 2%. From 1986 to 1996, Meineke's take totaled $17 million.

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