The Federal Trade Commission has rule that are supposedly in place to protect franchise buyers from fraud from franchisors who might attempt to mislead them into purchasing a franchise. Part of the franchise rules are addressing required disclosure paperwork. In this disclosure document, which is required to be given to franchisees 10 days before any purchase is made are the names, addresses, phone numbers of all franchisees in the system. For smaller home based franchises this means home numbers, addresses and personal information.
I am very concerned about our company, The Car Wash Guys and the possibility that International terrorists might use our mobile car wash trucks as tools to distribute biological weapons. We use trucks and trailer units that have capacities in excess of 600 gallons and low volume, high-pressure sprayers. Our team has washed cars at office buildings, military bases, mass transit districts, rent a car companies, airports, malls, QSRs, grocery stores, shipping and distribution yards, truck stops, parking structures, golf courses, media buildings, etc, etc. We wash things like shopping carts, wheelchairs, school buses, trucks, aircraft, boats, awnings, concrete, decks, playground equipment, etc, etc. In a single day our crews may be at 10-20 locations, in a week each truck/crew maybe as many as 120 locations, throughout a given city. And we have set up franchises in 23 states so far and that means in a lot of cities. What concerns me here is this:
In our UFOC (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular) there is a list of franchisees, with names, addresses, phones numbers, and areas. It contains the perfect information of everything an evil-doer needs, except a map of how to get to the franchisees location. Even of more concern. Many of our franchisees own multiple trucks (units) and many park such units at their homes. They are not guarded they are just parked there. Someone could easily walk up and put something inside of the tank and walk away and our franchisees would then be spraying chemicals of mass destruction all over the city the next day. That would be bad. Not only from a franchisor's stand point and damage of brand name, but also from a stand point of what damage it could do to America. I am not alone in this problem. Think about TrueGreen ChemLawn, Pest control franchises, etc. We are all at risk, yet nobody is thinking there.
We have set up special precautions to protect our Water Supply Tanks, have other franchisors? I believe it is up to each franchise system to do a RISK EVALUTION of such things, put it in writing and protect ourselves and our franchises. The franchising community, together can do our part. Think about the idea of a direct mail franchise company, there are many like Money Mailer, Coupon Clipper, etc. Additionally; I propose a simple idea. Delete the section of the UFOC with listings of franchisees, names, areas and addresses. Until a more final phase of the sale and after the franchisor receives a ten-year background check from the prospect. Or perhaps only if it is asked for from the prospect in writing later. Putting out a list of everyone who owns a ChemLawn truck in the country is just stupid right now. How about the name brands which are American icons, like McDonalds. After all last time they went after AMERICAN AIRLINES and UNITED AIRLINES. I have already had competitors who pretended to be a prospect, later dump hydrofluoric acid in the tanks of one of my franchisees a couple of years ago to cause him to damage the paint on customers car so he could pick up an account from an auto dealer our franchisee washed for. We did not figure out what happened for quite a while and only learned of it after the damage and an employee of the competitor became disgruntled and told us. What if that were anthrax?
Even more scary is the fact that I had several former franchisees who were Muslim, who often discussed their despise of our government. Which I guess was probably them exercising their free speech, which is allowed of course, yet now it does not seem so innocent. There are so many franchises out their that have free access to facilities, such as; Shred It, AmeriSpec, American Leak Detector, Environmental Biotech, Merry Maids, Service Master, Terminex, ChemDry. I have personally seen the ease at which our company transverses through airport fencing, security gates, etc. They see the truck and the uniformed employee and wave us forward. Now think about this problem, our team without knowing it could deliver a bio weapon simply by an evil-doer dumping something in a tank. Very few lawn companies or termite pest control companies lock their tanks, I know this because our company washes these trucks, and rarely are their any locks on the tanks. The smaller the franchisee the more unaware they might be. Are all these companies sure they have trustworthy employees, and even if they are, do they secure and lock tanks and vehicles? Not just parked behind a fence, anyone can scale a fence. If an evil-doer is willing to die for his cause, I doubt if a fence will slow down or stop him/her. An evil-doer could also order services and hijack the truck or unit. Remember in San Francisco when Thieves would order a pizza from Dominos and then shoot and kill the delivery driver for the $50.00 in cash on him? There are so many ways to use a franchised unit to do these things. We must protect the franchise model, reputation of brand name and the American people. We should not make it easy by giving away all this information freely for no real reason. That would only hurt all franchisees of any system all over the country. The American Federation of Scientists announced that it deleted 500 pages of sensitive information on their initial review, and this is one of the most pro-freedom of speech supporters in the country.
These are our most brilliant minds. We are smart enough to follow their lead. With all this said, I wonder why we are putting these UFOCs on the Internet at FranData, why state agencies copy them for mere copy fees to anyone who asks and why anyone expresses an interest to buy a franchise can get one, with lists of all franchisees, addresses and phones numbers. Since franchisors cannot discriminate based on ethnic sympathies, we must give out this information freely. WHY? Some information is dangerous in times of such threats. We should make this a new policy today, not tomorrow, there is no time for committees, no time to talk about it. Just do it. If a franchisee wants to call on other franchisees they are certainly allowed to do so after things have checked out and after they submit a written request along with a background check.