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As God is my witness

I’ll never shun franchises again


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Can the editor of a franchise magazine find happiness in a world without franchises? Here’s one woman’s humble quest to live an independent life. And how she literally couldn’t do it—at least not for 40 days and 40 nights.

My original intention was to rip off the idea from the book, "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible," and apply it to franchising.

Since I would have trouble being literal for a year, I decided a month would be a decent amount of time to see if I could live franchiseless. But Publisher Mary Jo Larson pointed out that it would be tough to find a gas station that wasn't franchised. I'm not big on sacrifice and I knew I wouldn't take a bus to work if I ran out of gas. I also knew my husband wouldn't let me drive his car with its full gas tank—I have a history of denting fenders—so I had to rethink my experiment before it even started.

And then I realized author A. J. Jacobs also took some liberties with his humble quest for a lifestyle straight out of the Bible. He didn't feel the need to sacrifice fatted calves or smite annoying neighbors. I was good to go. And thank God my quest didn't include having to grow a ZZ Top beard like Jacobs'.

I thought my experiment would be a slam dunk since many of the services I use regularly—hair salon, dry cleaner, cleaning service, gym—aren't franchised. My husband shovels our snow in the winter and mows the lawn the other month of the year.

 

Nancy Weingartner, Managing Editor
Nancy can be reached at 612-767-3207 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com

I do, however, stop at Caribou Coffee on the way to work frequently, and giving up mango iced tea could be considered a sacrifice—or at $3 a day, a blessing, according to my frugal husband. Fortunately, the nonfranchised, omnipresent Starbucks provided a substitute.

Plus, there are franchises I'd never miss, such as DoodyCalls, which picks up after dogs. I live on a golf course with an unfenced yard, so my husband and I take turns escorting our two Jack Russells outside—and we clean up as they go. I could have  installed an Invisible Fence during my experiment, since it's more of a dealership than a franchise, but I'm pretty sure both dogs would take the hit if there was something on the other side of the electrical barrier they wanted—such as a small child (Hank) or a leaf (Daisy, she's the dumb one).

If DoodyCalls would come to my house three times a night to take the dogs out and hang around while they sniff the entire yard, I might consider hiring them. In Denver, Hank had a doggy door and could let himself in and out. If the door was closed, he could tap a string of brass bells hanging on the doorknob to alert us. When we moved to Minnesota we had to get rid of the bells, because he'd slam them into the door repeatedly if we didn't immediately respond to his nature's call.

If I was a risk-taker, rather than spend money on pet clean-up services, I would invest in one. It would give me something to do on my walks around the neighborhood, and my dogs could point out the piles for me. In addition, I could groom Hank to take over the business one day.

Why is it most dog services cater to pets' needs when their owners are at work? What about those of us who could use a break from our pets when we're home? Fortunately, the logo for a new doggy day care getting ready to franchise—The Barker Lounge—is a martini glass, so surely they have evening hours. I bet Hank would be a poodle-magnet at a bar; he'd have some good pick-up lines.

I thought the easiest thing to avoid for a month would be franchised restaurants. After all, there are tons of great independents in the Twin Cities. What I hadn't counted on was skipping a meal. On the day I was to meet the photographer at Flo Francis's condo for the cover story's photo shoot, I had forgotten to bring a lunch—OK, so I forget every day—and by the time I realized I was hungry, I was forced to grab something on the way. If you want fast food you can eat in the car, you have limited choices that aren't franchises. My only option was to pull into Burger King or embarrass myself by fainting from hunger.

I thought my slip-up was a fluke, but the next day—the very next day—our accountant asked if I wanted a pulled-pork sandwich from Famous Dave's and without thinking I handed her the money. It wasn't until I had wiped the last bit of sauce from my keyboard that I remembered I was on a franchise fast.

I fell even further from grace that weekend when I agreed to go to the golf show at the Metrodome. I thought I would be safe because the vendors were mostly golf courses. Instead, I stumbled upon a shopping opportunity. I debated over a sky blue and black  golf bag versus the grey and yellow for so long I thought surely my husband would grab one and pay for it in disgust. But right as I could see his patience waning, his name was called over the loudspeaker to claim his prize at some booth and I was left to pay my own way. So much for visiting independence. But, at least it was a nonfranchised vendor, so I was being faithful to my self-imposed exodus.

And then I noticed the show's sponsor—Nevada Bob's. Its booth had such good bargains, women golfers were phoning friends to see if they wanted them to pick up golf shoes or gloves for them. I ended up buying two pairs of non-white golf gloves, knowing I'd never find flowered gloves that cheap ever again.

On the way home we stopped at an independent restaurant where we paid around $30 for two hamburgers and three deviled eggs.

My month of living franchise-free isn't over, but I think my experiment is. I admit it, I can't live without franchises. It's too hard. And it doesn't take the wisdom of Solomon to realize franchising does pay my salary every two weeks. I guess our motto here at Franchise Times should be: Buy unto others as you would have them buy unto you.

Can I get an amen?

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