I sent the following letter to Karate America, and their response was simply that my account "is not cancelable or refundable." They absolutely took advantage of me. Please do not sign your child up and be taken advantage of in the same way.
My name is &65, and I am the single mother of a four year old little boy named "James." I work to support myself and my son, and I receive no child support from anyone. I attend college full time with the hope that I can better provide for my son and we might someday have our own home.
The reason I am writing to is to ask you to assist me with cancelling my (James') membership with Karate America. When I initially signed up for the program, I was unaware of the various additional costs for uniforms and equipment. It is impossible for me to pay for these things, and it would be embarrassing and emotionally damaging for James to attend the classes and be the only child without them. In addition, my hours at work have recently been cut, making it impossible for me to afford our living expenses and payments to Karate America.
When I first realized that I could no longer afford to pay for my gas to drive to work, the rent, the utilities, and food and pay for Karate lessons too, I notified Mr. Benjamin Brotherton of my decision to withdraw James from Karate. The day I called and spoke with him was January 10, 2008. During that conversation, Mr. Brotherton told me that the only way to void the contract was to provide him with an address from an area where I would not be able to receive services.
When I initially signed up for the program, Mr. Brotherton told me that I would be able to pay a $150 fee to discontinue services. So, I asked him why I could not simply pay the $150 fee. He advised me that the discontinuation fee was not an option after I had signed my son up for the Leadership Program. I was terribly upset when I heard this, since there was NEVER an explanation of the change in terms when I signed James up for the Leadership Program.
At that point, I asked Mr. Brotherton, specifically, what the consequences would be if I could not pay for any further services due to a financial hardship. He stated that the account would be sent to a collections agency, and I had no further recourse. He did not inform me that I could, and should, to write a letter the corporate office for an appeal. It was only after crying and getting myself totally distraught that I decided to call someone above the local office.
The following are the events that have led me to make this decision:
On August 9, 2007, I signed my son up for 36 months of karate lessons at Karate America. This is the first time I have ever signed a contract for services with any type of fitness or recreational agency in my life. When I signed up, I knew that our situation is not easy, but I wanted James to have the best that I could afford, like any mother does. I also knew that life can change very quickly, and it would be unreasonable for me to make such a commitment for a four year old with no option out. So, I made certain that I asked about cancellation of the contract if, for any reason, I no longer wanted services. I was told by Instructor, Chris Box, that I could "opt out of the contract" at any time for a fee of $150.00.
Mr. Box approached me in early November about signing my son up for the Leadership Program. He explained that my son would be able to come in as frequently as we wished and receive special attention and instruction. I was NEVER told about any additional costs at that time.
On November 21, 2007, Instructor, Ben Brotherton, asked to speak to me about the Leadership Program. He described the same benefits that Mr. Box had mentioned, as far as introducing positive role models, etc. into James's life because his father is not present.
Mr. Brotherton then stated that the class would be an additional $40.00 per month. He did not inform me of any other additional costs, which I soon learned I would incur. Mr. Brotherton also neglected to inform me that I would not have the same option of removing my son from the program for the $150 fee. In addition, Mr. Brotherton spent more time inquiring about my relationship status and other irrelevant, personal matters than he did going over the details of the commitment he was asking me to make. He managed to ask me if I would like to go out with him some time, but he was not concerned enough about the welfare of me or my child to tell me of the commitment I was making.
This situation made me nervous and uncomfortable. I was not expecting to be approached like that. I feel that Mr. Brotherton tried to solicit a relationship with me only to take advantage of the fact that I would trust him and believe that he was looking out for my best interests. He knew that I was a single parent, and he took advantage of that fact.
I feel that it was totally inappropriate for Mr. Brotherton and Mr. Box to set me up to trust them and be beholding to them by telling me about what wonderful role models they would be to my son, replacing the father he didn't have. It was totally awkward and emotionally coercive for me. The behavior and tactics of these two representatives of Karate America was more than inappropriate, it was misleading, coercive, and wrong.
Short after I signed James up for the Leadership Program, another parent told me that the students were scheduled to graduate every two months, at a cost of $70.00 per graduation. Mr. Brotherton confirmed this when I asked about it. Soon after, I was told that students would need to purchase additional equipment, including $190 for a single uniform and $60 for a piece of plastic to protect my sons face.
When I questioned Mr. Botherton about these outrageous prices, he told me that I could only purchase them at Karate America. In a later, subsequent conversation, he told me that he felt that "parents who do not purchase the equipment are just being cheap. He also stated that parents who don't purchase the equipment are hindering their children from fitting in with the other students.
So, I feel that the terms of membership with Karate America were misrepresented from the beginning. I feel that I have been taken advantage of and coerced by both Mr. Brotherton and Mr. Box. While receiving a sales bonus for signing unwitting parents up and locking them into unrealistic contracts may be justified as everyday sales practices, coercion is not. In addition, how could either of these instructors be "good role models" for any child? Since when is a good role model someone who takes advantage of you?
I can only assume that Karate America does not approve of such "tactics." Any organization that seeks to raise up and train children to be the leaders of the future should have the highest standards.
My son has not attended class since January 1st because I cannot afford to send him to the karate school. My son and I live below the poverty level in this country. When it comes to making decisions about whether to put food on the table, pay the rent, or pay for a doctor visit (we have no health care insurance and my son is hyper allergic), or pay for Karate, I have to make sure we can live first. I know that you must understand how I feel.
I must restate that I would never have signed the Leadership contract if I had known that I would be giving up the $150 fee option out. It was my misplaced reliance on the intentions and honesty of Mr. Brotherton and Mr. Box that led me into this predicament.
I am willing to pay the $150 fee, as was the original agreement, but I ask that you please help me rectify this situation.
Thank you for your understanding.
They would not do anything to help the situation, and in fact sent me a bill for $6,650 for services that my child is not receiving.