Contracts. *cue spooky music*
In the world of martial arts and martial arts studios, contracts are a necessary evil. I have trained in places that have required a contract to be signed and those that did not. I have even taught at my instructor's schools who had a contract (if you could call it that; it was basically "you pay X dollars a month and it's due on the ___ - that was about it).
The places where I've signed my name to a legal document for training have all been at locations where the Owners/Head Instructors have had to worry about paying rent, utilities, and so on. They are a way for the Owner to help gauge how much revenue is coming in a month and make running a school less stressful than wondering if next month you're going to have five students paying or twenty students paying.
When I've trained out of recreation centers and elementary schools after hours, where the instructors didn't have that much in the way of overhead, I cannot recall signing a contract. Currently I am teaching out of a Township Building after hours so my students are not required to sign any form of contract, and can even pay a drop-in fee if they don't want to pay every month. If/When I ever open my own school, contracts will almost be a certainty.
The issue I have with contracts is what is sometimes found inside them, often hidden in the small print. I have no problem with contracts that have the standard "You pay us X dollars per month, don't hold us liable for injury, and give us ____ month notice if you wish to cancel" and any other terms I find reasonable.
And in the interest of full disclosure, I have been screwed over by a contract in the past.
No, often the clauses I find myself cringing at are...well, ridiculous. I have seen copies of contracts posted on line and heard stories from other that included such ridiculous clauses as a Non-Compete clause (can't study at another school within X miles) and even astronomical termination fees.
Many years ago (8 or 9 off the top of my head), I saw a picture someone took of their contract and posted it online asking if it was normal. In it, the contract stated that if the student terminated his/her contract with the school prior to the term (3 years if I recall correctly), then the student was forbidden to train in another school of the same style within 40 miles of the dojang (yes, it was a TKD school) for a term of two years. 40 miles?!? 40 miles. Sigh...you know, gotta protect that "brand." Thankfully these Non-Compete clauses tend to be the exception, rather than the norm (or so I believe, I have no data to substantiate that claim).
Termination fees are another point of contention for me. Or I should say, extortion fees are a point of contention for me. I have zero problem with a contract having a reasonable termination fee. I realize our definitions of reasonable but I typically expect a termination fee to run somewhere around the sum of 2-3 months worth of training.
The gripe I have with outlandish termination fees, and the video I saw this morning, are when they go beyond reasonable. Parent in Canada signed their two daughters up for a Tae Kwan Do school (not going to name the school, but this is a very recent story - as in a few days ago - so a quick Google search should turn it up if you care - if not and you're still interested, message me privately). They signed three year contracts for each of their daughters. After three months, the daughters decided it wasn't for them (as what often happens with kids). So they let they're daughters quit.
Before going any further, yes they signed a three year contract, I am not disputing that. That is their fault for putting themselves in that situation.
However, as the video goes on, they received a $3500 cancellation fee for their two daughters. $3500. Thirty-five hundred dollars! I really want to add a swear word in the middle of that last sentence to punctuate the point. When the parents have stated they are not paying that and are now being sued for $10,000 by the school.
That is now a legal matter between the parents and the school so I'm not going to weigh in (although I probably could based on the video story and counter the school posted on their website). But what blew my mind was $3500 cancellation fee.
I'll let that sink in again. $3500. All because parents did not read the fine print and signed their kids up for a program they did not even know if the kids would enjoy (which obviously they did not).
Edited for formatting issues