Cuppys Coffee and More / Elite Manufacturing — Fraudulent franchise
Cuppys Coffee and More and its illegitimate sister operation Elite Manufacturing scammed my partner and I to the tune of $40, 900. We saw an opportunity on their website which was plastered with credentials from the AAFD and touted their SBA approved franchise status.
A representative called us and gave us the names of three happy franchisees one of which we didn't know at the time was a ringer! She is employed by Elite Manufacturing!! Then came the high pressure tactics. The Franchise fee was going to increase from $10, 000 to $25, 000 but if I could send them a $5000 payment by the next day, Elite Manufacturing would pay the other $5000. We took the bait and made a credit card payment.
Then we made our first payment toward the purchase of a $189, 900 drive thru unit. That payment of $35, 900 was wired from my account to their account. We felt safe as the agreement we received stated that the initial payment was refundable if we were unable to obtain financing. Days passed before they even acknowledged my payment! My partner and I started to become suspicious even then but we really, really wanted this business and thought we had done a pretty thorough job of checking them out.
Cuppys could not help us with financing so my partner and I went to a local bank and obtained our own approval. After months of trying to secure a location and having to change from a drive thru to a cafe, our lender recinded their offer to finance us. We contacted both Cuppy's and Elite for a full refund. I don't have to tell you that our experience has been the same as all the other franchisees in our shoes.
Because my business partner is in a dire financial situation-with myself not all that far behind, we have aggressively attempted to get our money back. First the President of Elite told us that they are 'working on an exciting new program to help people like us.' None other than Lilly Tran (the happy ringer from paragraph one) called us to offer us a convoluted plan that included us sending in another $54, 000 and then Elite Manufacturing would offer us 'Frandollars' -yes, I'm not kidding! Frandollars is a low interest loan that we can pay back to Elite once our doors open. Once they have installed our $100, 000 equipment package (a couple of stainless steel blenders, ice machine and some cabinetry and a nice expresso machine) we can take out a loan using that as collateral for operating expenses. No thanks!
When I asked Lilly if she owned a franchise, she said yes but she paid cash for hers and described herself as independently wealthy. I told her that I was concerned about things we'd been reading on the internet. She then said that there were a few A**holes whining over $30, 000 and they were jepordizing the current franchisees who had $300, 000 invested. I am not making this up!
On Monday of this week (March 17, 2007) I spoke to Danny Jones of Elite.
I don't know what his title is but we were told to go to him about seeing a refund. We had placed a bunch of calls to him and were always told that we was on the phone. He told us he had been sick with the flu (same thing other franchisees tell us he tells them). He seemed shocked that we would not be interested in the Fran dollar. I asked him about the negative reports on the internet, he said that he had a guy in New York worth $62 million complaining about $5000. It seems that these people have only contempt for those of us who ask for refunds no matter what the amount. He was supposed to call us today to tell us when they were going to pay us back. When my partner told him she was about to lose her home, he asked her if she had a foreclosure letter yet as if that is relevent!!!
Of course...that call did not come. I called Doug Hibbing at Cuppys to request that they refund my franchise fee. I got Rudy Harper instead. I informed him of my report of the whole questionable ordeal to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Florida Department of Agriculture, who has jurisdiction over these matters and that I had already contacted the attorney general of my state. He promised me that he would call me tomorrow. Meanwhile my partner took to the internet blogs to tell her story. She had taken out a second mortgage to finance the down payment. The strain of that payment coupled with serious ongoing medical issues and a down turn in the housing market which affects her husband in the building trades has pushed her to the brink of losing her home.
The President of Elite Manufacturing called this afternoon. He was prepared to offer a temporary solution to my partners financial woes. Elite was willing to send her the money to pay her delinquent mortgage payments as they are good guys and don't want her to lose the farm-literally!! My partner felt guilty accepting this offer as we were equally invested in this venture and didn't want to get some of her money back while I waited for mine. To be honest, I wanted her to get at least some of our money back even though it was a pittance, because she really could use it and we may never get any more back from these crooks. I admit, it kind of hurt me that they were making some kind of (pitiful as it was) offer to my partner as if I was less deserving and as if I didn't even exist! Imagine, having to prove your need in order to get back money that is rightfully yours.
Needless to say, I completely lost my temper on the man. I have now been insulted by every possible method by these clowns which we are to believe are business professionals.
So here is my story. If my husband finds out that I have been scammed to the tune of $40, 900. He will kill me. Maybe that will move Cuppys and Elite to take pity on me and give him back enough of OUR money to bury me. I hope they don't pay him in Frandollars