- Report: #236272
Report - Rebuttal - Arbitrate
Complaint Review: ATL International - All Tune And Lube
ATL International - All Tune And Lube8334 Veterans Highway Millersville, Maryland U.S.A.
ATL International - All Tune And Lube Sells Franchises based on having a Turn Key System The only Turn Key system they have is selling franchises. ripoff Millersville Maryland
*Consumer Suggestion: ATL International:
*Consumer Comment: franchise sales
They have an excellent system for selling you a franchise, followed up with almost daily calls from a person that is assigned to you.
I sent off for their franchise offering etc. In it listed some lawsuits with disgruntle franchisees, and also a list of all franchisees of date. I asked about the lawsuits, and they respond that this is normal, "you should see how many McDonalds has to disclose." I bought it.
They got "edgy" when I started to contact some of their franchises on my own (not just the ones that they conference called with me.) When I told them about problems that other franchisees were having, I was told that they "weren't following the system" or that they were "off system." I asked why they didn't work with these locations etc, as it was a reflection on the company as a whole. They made it sound like they are just being nice, giving them a chance... not like McDonalds and forcing them to do it "on system." This seemed fishy to me, but I kept investigating. Many of the locations that I tried to call had either changed hands, changed names, or had gone out of business.
I had some frequent flyer miles so I flew to Maryland to see their office and meet some of the individuals in the company. They have a small office, and the people were very nice. The VP is very likeable and a great salesman, really smooth. When I asked them questions about how they did things, the answer was always "that's part of our system - you'll learn that at your training."
Because of my personal situation with being bought out of another business, I hastily jumped and purchased a franchise... believing that I would get a "turn-key" system to run an All Tune and Lube franchise.
I went to the training and basically it was good sound information. Business basics 101 mixed in with some automotive terms etc. When I would has specific questions about services that we would offer in our locations, I was told that the onsite regional manager would review this with me, when he came to help open the location. I got with their financial department and placed orders for all of their suggested equipment, trusting them that it was all that I would need to run the business (other than a few items that they gave us on a list to purchase locally).
The advertising VP met with us and explained their program showed us a few great four-color two-sided glossy ads and explained that they will help us with all of our advertising. We all noticed that they had oil changes at an extremely low price of like $12.95. This was pointed out as the leader item. Understanding the need for loss leaders in retailing I went with it. I didn't read all of the fine print (just like customers don't - that their would be extra fees added to this price, but more on this later.)
A big part of the training is on making sure that you use the car checklist to find all the areas that need service or repair on each and every car that comes to your center. This was the key to success. Find and sell these repairs and services and you would be successful.
Training sounded good. the balance would be covered in detail with the regional manager who would stay with us as long as we needed them.
Next back home, I insisted that they have a site person come and help get a location. They had a contract person (not an employee) come and aid in picking a site. Nice guy. Confirmed that one of the sights that I had selected was the best one.
Next I asked about when do we run ads for our employees. I was told that they don't do that until about 7 to 10 days before opening day. I had been in retail and had opened new locations etc. and felt that this wasn't enough time. but they assured me that mechanics and car techs are different. If we hired them too far in advance, they wouldn't still be available upon opening. OK I trusted their experience. We ran the ads. ZERO response. I started to worry. They said that the regional manager would help get people. In the meantime I went to the State job service, local employment offices and etc. and placed ads. These were the only places that we got responses from.
The regional manager came; we all worked hard setting up the equipment, stocking the shelves with thousands of dollars of inventory. At night, he came with the "System", a stack of photocopies of photocopies. I knew right then that I had made a huge mistake, but what do you do. I had purchase a franchise, leased a building, spend thousands of dollars remodeling it, bought signs and etc.
To establish our menu of services, he dug into the pile of copies of copies and found outlines of what other locations had figured out for themselves as far as a menu of services to offer. Another flag that there is no system!!
Next we reviewed outside marketing to get commercial accounts. Again he dug into is pile of copies of copies and pulled out some homemade looking flyers of what other locations were doing to let businesses know about their services. the Corporate professional advertising department didn't have anything for this. even though it is suppose to be a huge chunk of your sales. Another flag that there is no system!!
Opening day was only 2 days after the regional manager arrived, so I had to go with what he gave us. As I talked with him (nice guy - had worked for the company off and on) I asked if he was going to be our contact for continued training and for reviews of our location etc. He told me that his job was opening locations and that I would be assigned to a manager in Maryland that would continue the training and guide me from there. Interesting, that they wouldn't have a regional manager that worked with each location in a "region" like other franchises do to aid them in being "on system" and helping them to be successful. Another flag that there is no system!!
Next we reviewed our grand opening ads. Having no clue about the automotive business. they looked good to me. The regional manager had them modify a few items and we approved them (still not noticing the fine print.)
The regional manager set up our computer system and off we went.
Opening day arrived. I was put on the order desk keying in orders from customers, my "service manager" was running back and forth with the orders to the mechanics.
Right off, customers started asking questions about our pricing on our ads. The oil change price didn't include "shop fees" and "hazardous waste removal fee", so the real price was about $5 higher (the fine print!!!) (Great, now we start out of the gate making up stories to the customers. the auto industry already has a bad name for not being honest and this is how they have us run our ads.) As I looked in more detail on the ads, almost every promotional item was slightly deceptive and misleading. I got sick.
Next I learn that the regional manager (that was to stay as long as we needed him) was leaving 4 days after we opened!
The ads did get in lots of customers. We had to explain to every one of them about the fine print (so that we didn't have to fight with them upon paying their bill.) Not a great way to introduce your business to the area. I have had a good reputation of being honest and straightforward. and this was digging at me.
We went for about a month, struggling day to day to "create our own" way of making the business work. The big "system" and being on or off of it, was mainly using the deceptive ads, with almost bait and switch techniques, and inspecting all of the cars, and using high pressure sales techniques to scare customers into getting them done.
Our inside corporate manager called once. I asked him about not getting as much in sales per car as the company average. So he sent me a copy of materials about "overcoming customers objective. true this was a factor, but hardly the continued training we needed. We didn't hear from him again (we did get a e-mail about our "continued training" with him, but there isn't a system organized for it.)
Finally in despair I called him and let him have it. I let him know that I felt that they didn't have a system; they didn't even have a menu of services for each of their locations to offer customers, let alone a system of running a successful business. He said they did have a system and had been using it for 20 years or so. Right a sales system to sell franchises that is fine tuned to perfection, but not any thing with any meat for the locations, just a few books with tons of pages of MAP codes on explaining services to customers (copied from an association that they help found to assure customers that they are honest. right!) I told them that I was going to close the location. I didn't feel it was honest to run ads this way, and being "on system" demanded that you do it. The manager talked me into having them send out another field regional manager to work with my service manager and me. I agreed. I felt that if I didn't get some straight answers from this trainer then I would suffer the consequences and close the business.
The new trainer came. Again a great guy. But this time he was straight up. He said that we needed several pieces of equipment to run our center right to fulfill the services that we would need to be successful. I asked why the company didn't have us get this equipment right up front. He said that they did in the past, but that it had to do with agreements with manufacturers etc., so they stopped adding them. This along with a few other things that I discovered from talking with him finalized my mind and I closed the location.
I am in the process of working through a bankruptcy, and starting over financially in life. I am also consulting with an attorney to see if I can recover any of my fees that I paid to ATL International.
As I've thought about it since I closed, if they had been in business for over twenty years in the automotive field and only have a few hundred locations. then they are doing something very wrong. Others in the same field have thousands of locations, but THEY HAVE SYSTEMS THAT WORK FOR THE LOCATIONS. NOT JUST SYSTEMS THAT WORK TO SELL FRANCHISES.
I wish someone had been straight up with me and I would have never gone into the automotive business without any experience in the field. BEWARE and WISE, hold on to your wallet!!
Idaho Falls, Idaho
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This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 02/17/2007 11:34 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/ATL-International-All-Tune-And-Lube/Millersville-Maryland-21108/ATL-International-All-Tune-And-Lube-Sells-Franchises-based-on-having-a-Turn-Key-System-T-236272. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.
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