It's not often that I consider using my blog as a place to actually discredit a local business. Like, if I get bad service at a restaurant I'm not going to run here and let y'all know about it or if someone does bad plumbing work I'm not going to shout it from the rooftops. But when someone tries to bully me or my children, I think it's time to use the blog.
Last May, The Man and I decided to enroll the boys in a karate school. We figured it would be good discipline and exercise for the boys. The Man had trained his whole childhood and earned the rank of black belt when he was a teenager. Though he hasn't formally trained in years, he continues to practice on his own and I truly believe that karate has made him a stronger, more disciplined and focused adult.
Earlier that year I had taken the kids to the movies and was given a business card for Florida Genbu-Kai Karate. At the time the school was located in Royal Palm Beach, which was pretty close to us out here in the boondocks. So we went and checked the school out.
Sensei Keith Moore gave our boys a trial lesson and the boys really enjoyed it so I decided to sign them up.
SIGNING THE CONTRACT
Now, my spidey sense was tingling when I was presented with a year long contract for the boys. It seemed kind of irrational to sign a year long contract committing a 7 year old and an 11 year old to any activity for an entire year. But the boys were so excited and I really felt good about Florida Genbu-Kai, so I went ahead and did it. The school would have our credit card on file and take tuition out at the beginning of each month. I begrudgingly signed.
That was my first mistake.
Now, when we signed the contract I was told that after the boys passed their yellow belt test, there would be an additional class during the week for sparring practice, but that there would be no extra charge for additional classes.
THE FIRST HITCH IN THE ROAD
Oddly enough when the boys took and passed their test, Sensei Keith Moore and his wife, Karin, began harassing me to pay an increased tuition rate. When I refused, I was given the option to call a list of potential customers and try to book appointments for the dojo. In the spirit of helping out the dojo, I agreed to call this list. The list I was given was over 6 months old and the people on it often didn't remember adding their name to whatever fishbowl or ballot box the school had collected them in. I had terrible results calling them and only managed to book one appointment.
There we were, committed to the school for a year. There were times it was tough to keep it up, honestly. Goober had to give up football for the season because karate conflicted with practice times, but he truly loved going. Bug had practically no time after school before karate and complained constantly about having to go three days a week. It was a lot of dropping everything we were doing to rush to karate, a lot of driving, a lot of sitting around waiting for the boys to be done, and a few minor injuries.
My email inbox began to get regular emails from Sensei Keith Moore, most of them not related to karate at all - but silly forwards and chain emails. All emails were sent to all of the dojo customers with all email addresses clearly apparent to all readers. It irked me, but we had made a commitment and we were following through. I didn't want to bring up these "petty" little things as complaints because I started to fear that Sensei Keith Moore and his wife Karin might treat the boys differently if their mother were labeled a "problem-parent"... so I kept my mouth shut and carried on.
My spidey sense started tingling again when I was presented with a fundraising pamphlet that asked the boys to sell Domino's Pizza (or Papa Johns? I don't remember) to their friends and family. This fundraiser was presented to us on the very first day of the new school year. You know the day... when you're overwhelmed with new routines and paperwork and school uniforms and drop off circles. Not a great time to ask a mom to sell pizzas to help supplement their FOR PROFIT business that I was currently contracted to support.
Later on, just before Christmas, I was handed an envelope containing 20 raffle tickets with a note asking the boys to sell them for a dollar a piece for a 50/50 raffle splitting the prize with the school. In other words, the school was asking my boys to participate in a gambling effort so Sensei Moore could have more money for Christmas.
Now, I understand fundraising for non-profit organizations. And I can even understand if Florida Genbu-Kai had sent a letter home stating that more funds were needed for new equipment or maybe scholarships for underprivileged kids. Something. But to just send home raffle tickets with no explanation of what the money is to be used for is not acceptable. Especially since the parents can only presume that the money is just going directly into the owner's pocket. We did not sell any tickets.
So came the winter holiday. Florida Genbu-Kai was closed for a few weeks due to the holidays and because they were moving from Royal Palm Beach into a new location in Wellington. We were told that we would receive a credit on our tuition for February to make up for the lost time.
Before we could even address the issue of the dojo being closed for the better part of a month, I received an email from Sensei Keith Moore in the second week of January. This email was sent to every customer of the dojo - just as they all had been. This email shocked me. I'll just post it here in all its glory.
Yeah. Now, even though we hadn't been with the school for a year at that point I was horrified that Sensei Keith Moore would publicly admonish his students and their families like that. Was Florida Genbu-Kai really the kind of place I wanted to be sending my boys?
I had to sit on my hands not to respond to that email. Thank goodness the school was still closed at the time because it was several days later before I actually had to face Sensei Keith Moore and I had calmed down a bit at the time. He still had my boys in a contract for the next 4 months and I didn't want to make waves.
When February came, our tuition was charged with no discount. Again, I didn't say anything. I'm sure it would have really hurt the school to have to discount tuition for every member and so I just kept my mouth shut.
THE SAD, SAD ENDING
So finally, we were nearing April's end and the subject of renewing the contract came up. After such a year with the dojo, The Man and I had decided we would not renew the contract, but would be fine with Florida Genbu-Kai taking payments month to month for the boys to continue with the school. This was solely because Goober really loved the school and Bug had set a goal to get to a purple belt for himself. We didn't want to keep the boys from reaching their goals and we knew they were happy at the school.
So I approached Sensei Keith Moore to try to compromise with him on signing a year long contract again for the boys. I mean, our card was on file, they got their tuition at the beginning of the month, he had nothing to lose, right?
He stood tall next to me, arms crossed, and told me a story of another kid who refused to sign his contract. "I kicked the kid out" he said, seriously.
Sensei Keith Moore refused to compromise. Month to month was not acceptable, a shorter term was not acceptable, nothing but that year contract would suffice for him.
On the last Friday of the month, when I picked the boys up from the school, Karin Moore, Sensei's wife was there. She stopped me and again attempted to get me to sign a contract. I let her know that we weren't comfortable with it and that Bug didn't want to continue for a full year anyhow. She turned directly to Bug and started making a deal with him about what he would do at home while Goober was at class.
I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I didn't know how many times I had to tell them that we were not signing a contract. Not for Bug, not for Goober, not for anyone.
We did not return to the school for the class the next day that would have been their last class. I, honestly, just wasn't willing to be pressured into signing a contract again.
Today I received a new email from Sensei Keith Moore.
I will edit this one slightly because it has some personal information in it, but you'll get the gist: