Refund Explosion - The Night
Rick Archer Went Vesuvius
April 30, 2000
everyone thinks the SSQQ Refund and Credit Policy is Fair.
Over the years there have been several occasions where our students have
argued with us over our Policy.
Probably the most famous fight over money occurred back in
April 2000. Let me warn you this is not the best story to
read if you enjoy seeing me look good. This argument
was definitely the low point of my entire business career.
The Couple Who Asked for a
Refund Half an Hour After their First Class Ended.
For many years, the SSQQ House
Policy on Refunds was "Ask for your Refund Before you
leave the building. Once you leave the Building, we will
give you Credit, but not a Refund". We had this policy posted from 1980 to 2000.
We assumed everyone knew this
meant to ask for Refund during class or at the very end
of your class as you were leaving.
However, if you read what it says literally, it means as
long as you are in the building that first night, you
can ask for a Refund. This is the story of how a
couple of students exploited that loophole and made me
furious in the process.
As I near my 30th year in
business, I can only recall getting in a serious
argument with a customer one time.
didn't just lose my temper; I completely exploded!!
AFTER the Vesuvius Event
We will start the story with this
email that was sent out one hour after the incident to a group
email list. The list contained the names of over 50 SSQQ
Country-Western students on it, the studio's "In-Crowd" of
Kathy Rivera and Roshan G
Sent: Sunday, April 30, 2000 10:37 PM
To: Tonia Bagley and 50 other SSQQ students
Subject: SSQQ Customers - Please Read - Thanks
Some of you may not know us, but I think we took Advanced
Western Swing with most of you. Up until tonight we have
enjoyed greatly our time at SSQQ. But an episode tonight
changed our minds. We hope you will take the time to read
what happened and rethink giving your business and
hard-earned money to this man.
Kathy and I started to take Ghost Town 5 tonight (Sunday).
We decided at the end of class that it was kind of crowded
and that we wanted to take private lessons with Marty Shea
instead of continuing the class. So, after class we went
to talk to Marty to set up lessons and find out what we
needed to do. Afterwards, we found Rick to try to get a
refund on the Ghost Town class.
His behavior was outrageous. We found him in the office.
Kathy explained to him that we decided we wanted to take
private lessons and we were wondering how to get our money
back for the Ghost Town class (as most of you know, the
policy is that you cannot get your money back after the
His FIRST response was to scream at us, "C'mon guys, class
ended 30 minutes ago." He then said something about not
having music and went into the party room. When he came
back, he asked us "what our deal" was.
We then explained again, and Rick continued to yell. He
finally took us to the front room (Room 6) where you pay
and tried to read off the posted sign which says that you
can not receive a refund after the first night. We
explained to him that it was the first night. At this
point, he started to yell at us and threatened to call the
Bellaire Police. He continued to scream at us and finally
ended up throwing all the money in his pocket on the floor
after slamming his CD case on the table.
He finally counted out my refund and told Kathy to count
her money from the money lying on the floor, all of this
while screaming at the top of his lungs. He then went back
to the office, and I went to talk to Marty.
Rick came back to me and started yelling things that I do
not want to repeat in this letter, let alone things I
would ever say to any one of my customers. I tried to look
for Kathy on my way out, but Rick continued to yell at me.
I found her outside in tears - she later mentioned that
she had feared that Rick might strike her in his
ridiculous and unnecessary rage.
I know many of you are faithful customers, but I would
like you to reconsider the next time you open your wallet
to this man. I know many of you were there, so you
possibly already heard what happened. Anyway, we will miss
taking classes with you all and with Marty and Kimberly,
but there is no way that either one of us will give
another penny to this man who could treat his customers so
poorly. Kathy and I will be looking for another place to
take lessons, so if you are interested in joining us,
please let us know. You can email me at "xxxx@Rice.edu" or
Kathy at "xyz@Rice.edu". Also if you want to ask me for
more details about what happened please feel free to call
me (Roshan) at xxx.xxx.xxxx.
Thanks for your time and sorry about this long email. We
hope to hear from you.
Roshan and Kathy
I was unaware of this email until
someone on the list forwarded it to me. Here was my
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2000 11:41 AM
To: K Rivera, Roshan K G
Subject: I am sorry
Kathy and Roshan,
First of all I would like to say I am sorry I lost my
temper last night. I was out of line.
There is no question about it - I snapped. I was so mad at
you I could barely see straight. The reason I was angry
with you was that I felt you clearly took advantage of my
I don't think you were entitled to a Refund. I still
don't. Class had ended 30 minutes earlier. The spirit of
the rule is to make up your mind while class is in session
or immediately afterwards. You came to my place of
business, you took my class, and judging from the moves
you were practicing after class, you appeared to
appreciate what you learned.
You basically appeared to want something for nothing.
I might add, Roshan, I see you take liberties with facts.
If you are going to do a hatchet job, you could at least
invoke a sense of fair play.
For example, I see you have complained about the room
being crowded as your reason for wanting your money back.
Please. Your class was put in Room 1 - the biggest room we
have. There was plenty of room. If you were so upset about
the crowded conditions, why didn't you get your money back
at Break? Or why didn't you come to the office after class
was over? Instead you and Kathy stayed in Room 3 and
practiced the moves from your class.
The truth is you only wanted your money back after you
decided 30 minutes after class ended to switch to private
I felt taken advantage of.
I might add, Roshan, that I lost my temper when you
ordered me to give you a refund whether I liked it or not.
You got right in my face and told me you weren't leaving
till I handed you your money. Yes, that is when I lost my
temper. No one likes being pushed around, Roshan,
especially not by a big guy like you. I threw the money on
the floor instead of shoving you in the chest to get you
to back off.
Then I picked the money up and you both got your refund.
It wasn't pretty and I am not proud that I lost my temper
Roshan, I am sorry I lost my temper. I have heard you are
actually a nice guy. I am usually a nice guy too, but you
were quite effective at getting under my skin. I might add
you raised your voice too. Your advantage was that you had
Kathy to calm you down plus continue the argument while
you regained control. In sports that is known as "2
against 1". Nice job of tag team wrestling.
Now Roshan, please spare the stuff about Kathy fearing I
might strike her. You are again playing to the crowd. I
never threatened her. It was you I was mad at and you know
Now that I have had my say, I would again like to
apologize to both of you for getting as angry as I did. I
agree I was over the line.
I would like to add that if you will forgive me, you are
welcome at my studio any time. And if I ever do see you
again, please allow me to shake your hands and tell you in
person I am sorry for my poor behavior.
Kimberly Lopez had just finished her
first night as a Volunteer in Marty Shea's Ghost Town class.
She also happened to be on the Group Email List. Here is
what she had to say to me after she read my apology to
Roshan and Kathy:
From: Kimberly Lopez
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2000 2:48 PM
Subject: I am sorry
I had on my "To Do" list to butt-in and drop you an email
about this incident. Last night was the first time I had
an opportunity to help out in Marty's class. The class was
excellent so I am glad that Roshan and Kathy did not have
any complaints about Marty's instruction.
I think your analysis about switching from groups to privates is
accurate. They should have asked earlier. I can't imagine
how many different personalities you must have to deal
with at the studio, but I wouldn't worry too much about
The Inside Story
- 5 Years Later
Rick Archer, 2005
As I write about this incident five years later and bring up
the memories, I still
feel the anger, I still feel ashamed of myself, and I still
feel deeply humiliated.
As with any story that has two sides to it, there was an
important subtext to this story involving two students
waiting for a private lesson that was not mentioned in the
letters above. As you will see, their presence had a
lot to do with my lack of patience that evening.
The Argument took place back in April 2000 at 9:30 pm on a
and Kathy - whom I had never met before - had taken Marty
Shea's Ghost Town 5 from 7-9 pm that night. Practice
Night had begun about 9:10 pm. I had been watching
this couple all evening because they had not paid for Practice
Night. Instead they moved into Room 3 and practiced
their Ghost Town moves as well as chatted with their
instructor Marty Shea. Frequently Marty showed them
what they were doing wrong on a pattern and coached them on
how to improve. I rolled my eyes at Marty because I ask my Staff to
refrain from teaching at Practice Night. However it is too
picayune a rule to actually bother to enforce.
However I was growing increasingly irritated at the couple
because they still had not paid for Practice Night.
I had a pretty good vantage point for what they were doing
because I was collecting Practice Night money in Room 2
right next door to Room 3. However I didn't confront
them a second time because I was suddenly preoccupied with
an unexpected problem.
My extreme behavior will make a little more sense when I explain
about the young couple sitting on the couch. I had
first noticed them when I first started collecting the
Practice Night money. I had never seen them before so I assumed they were
waiting for a teacher to give them a Private Lesson. These were the days before Hall Monitors
and I had my hands full running Practice Night practically
by myself. My attention quickly left the couple on the
couch as I went about my duties of
collecting money for Practice Night while another instructor
cooked the popcorn and opened up the drink room.
Our system for collecting money in 2000 was to get everyone
to pay their way into Room 1 first, then the money collector
would move into Room 2 to collect the $3 cover charge from any
latecomers. I went to Room 3 to ask Roshan and Kathy
for their money, but they said they weren't going to stay so
I backed off. It is my policy to give people five minutes to
make up their minds,
then go ask them again.
After ten minutes of collecting money from everyone, I turned my attention back to the
young couple. They
were still sitting there on the couch in Room 2 and they were
looking pretty worried about something. I approached them
and discovered they were indeed at the studio waiting for a Private
Lesson that night.
They were getting married in six days. They were in trouble
because they had waited till the last minute to learn how to slow dance to the first song at their wedding.
The problem was that their instructor had not shown up!
To make things worse, they were leaving on a plane for their
wedding in Michigan the next day. They were up a creek
without a paddle! No wonder they were worried!
This was their one chance to prepare. First I tried
phoning the instructor. I went in the office to call her,
but got no answer. Now I was frustrated because I knew
the only instructor still in the building who knew how
to teach Slow Dancing that night was me. Unless I
wanted to be a complete jerk, they were now my
responsibility because I
was their only chance.
This same instructor had pulled a
similar stunt recently. I was standing in the office fuming
to myself at being forced to clean up for the instructor's
negligence when I heard a knock on the door. I said,
"Come in" and that's when Roshan and Kathy
entered the office to ask for a refund. They said they
wanted their money back so they could use it to take Private
Lessons from Marty, the instructor who was their Ghost Town
teacher and the same man who had been giving them extra
coaching during Practice Night.
I was definitely caught off guard. No one have ever waited
this long to ask for a Refund before and their reason for
wanting their money back evoked no sympathy.
In my mind, they had taken an entire evening of class and
had enjoyed every minute of it. Typically Refunds are given
to Unhappy Customers, not two people who had obviously
benefited from the class! Furthermore they had avoided
paying for Practice Night even though they received half an
hour of extra coaching from Marty on a pattern that had
given Roshan difficulty. It was while Marty was helping them
that they decided they liked Marty so much it would be more
fun just to take the lesson directly from him and skip the
Ghost Town class. So now they demanded a Refund!
I looked at the clock on the wall. It said 9:40 pm. I
was frustrated because the woman I had hired to handle
Refund problems had left the studio over half an hour ago!
Now here was another headache to deal with that was someone
else's responsibility, but had fallen to me instead because
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I didn't not like their request at all. I thought they were
trying to take advantage of me. Furthermore I was
deeply preoccupied with my need to get to the Wedding
Couple which meant I wanted to get this over with quickly.
As Roshan pointed out in his letter, I was indeed curt. I said something like,
""C'mon guys, class ended 30 minutes ago."
Then before the conversation could go much further, I excused
myself for a moment to go to the DJ booth to get my CD
collection of Slow Music for the Wedding Couple.
I did this to buy some time. While
I was gone, I collected my thoughts to see why I felt so
Why had they waited so long!? If they
had simply asked for a Refund at the end of the class like
EVERYONE HAD BEEN DOING FOR TWENTY YEARS, there had been a
woman sitting at the Front Desk waiting to process refunds.
They would have gotten their Refund automatically.
When I returned a minute later, they were still there
waiting for me and so
was the Wedding Couple sitting on the couch 15 feet away
looking distinctly uncomfortable at the sight of the three
of us standing their arguing.
I had a bad attitude. I was definitely not in the mood to
argue about a Refund for a class that had ended 30 minutes
earlier. I impatiently explained that my Registrar had been
there until 9:10 pm, but that she was gone now. That was the
cutoff. They would
either have to finish taking the class or convert their
money into Credit to be used at a later date.
This is not what they wanted to hear. Roshan and Kathy weren't in the mood to take "No"
for an answer. Roshan is a very big man,
perhaps taller than I am. As I moved to go to the couple on
the couch, he blocked my path. This allowed
Kathy to continue to argue with me.
When Kathy tired, then Roshan started to argue with me. The
entire time this Wedding Couple was staring at me in horror.
If the SSQQ Story ever becomes a hit TV series, this "caught
between a rock and a hard spot" moment will make a good scene,
believe me. I was fit to be tied! Each time I
finished answering one person, the other came at me with
another point or argument. This two on one stuff was
wearing me down.
I could feel my frustration rising rapidly. This was turning
into a Royal Impasse. Do you ever ask yourself, "If I had to
do it over again, what would I have done differently?"
Even today I honestly cannot think of a way out of this trap
other than throw in the towel early and get on with it.
But then that isn't my nature, is it?
On the one hand, I had this couple demanding a Refund 30
minutes after class had ended. The Registrar lady with the
cash box had long since left the building. These
people were unwilling to disengage until they had their
money. It was obvious they were going to argue until I
I was impatient because I was in a hurry to help the Wedding
Couple. But I didn't want to give in!!
I was astonished at Roshan and
Kathy's nerve to stay for Practice Night, not pay,
practice their moves in Room 3, get what amounted to a
Private Lesson from Marty, then suddenly demand I give
them their money back for a class they obviously had
thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from. Their
had my dander up!
On the other hand, I knew that every minute I stood
there arguing with these Rice graduate students, I was
keeping the Wedding Couple waiting. My guilt was
kicking in from the other side of my brain. I wanted to
start their lesson because they were deeply worried.
Finally I seized on an idea - why not
show Roshan and Kathy the Refund Rule in writing? I
knew we had the Refund Rule posted on the wall in Room 6.
I led them to Room 6. The rule clearly stated "Ask for
your Refund Before you leave the building. Once you leave
the Building, we will give you Credit, but not a Refund".
My tormentors actually smiled when I pointed to that sign.
They had me now. Kathy said, "Well, what's your point?
We haven't left the building!!"
I said the rule meant that once the class had ended, their
chance to get a Refund had passed. This is when the argument
heated up past the point of no return.
Roshan and Kathy took turns shooting holes in this argument.
"We don't care what you say it means. We can read and it
says "left the building!! Why won't you honor your own
This is also when Roshan got in my face and said he wasn't
leaving the building until he had his money. I said he had
better back off or I was calling the Bellaire Police. Kathy
got right in behind me and started needling me how I wasn't
good for my own word, that I was a greedy arrogant
jerk who didn't have the guts to admit when I was
wrong. She called me a hypocrite who pretends to
care about his customers, but in reality just wants to hang
on to every last dime.
That did it. Roshan was in my face, Kathy was
calling me a corrupt businessman, the Wedding Couple was
looking frightened out of their wits, and the Refund Policy
on the wall had proven to be of no help. There was no end in sight.
I hated giving in to these two people! Then I snapped.
I went Total Vesuvius. I had about two hundred dollars in my
pocket collected from Practice Night. I grabbed the whole
wad out of my pocket and threw it on the floor. "There's
your goddamn money. Take it all. I don't give a D___!"
There were one dollar bills scattered everywhere. Kathy bent
down to retrieve her share of the money, but Roshan told her
to step back.
Roshan got right back in my face and
said, "Now pick it up, Rick. Pick up the money and count it out.
Count it out very carefully and give us the correct amount."
Seething with anger, I got down on my knees and collected
the money as they stood above me. The symbolism of victory
and defeat was not lost on me. I counted the money and gave
it to him.
They accepted the money and left. It was not a pretty
After they left, I gathered myself and went into another
room to teach the Slow Dance lesson. They were
petrified of me for some time, but eventually relaxed enough
to learn what they had come for. I think at one point we
even shared a laugh. I was in the building till nearly
Midnight working with them.
The next morning I was greeted by Roshan's poison email. Obviously
he intended to rub salt into the wounds.
THE FINAL WORD
First, I learned the hard way not to lose my
temper like that ever again!!
My behavior was
unprofessional. Till the day I wrap up my career I will
remain deeply embarrassed by my total loss of
learned to write the rules better!
Today thanks to the legacy of Kathy and Roshan, you know the
exact reason why we use specific times for our Refund Rules.
To my surprise, there were no obvious consequences or fall-out from the
email hatchet job. I suppose sharing my side of the
story plus my apology managed to cauterize the bleeding and
limit the potential damage.
I never heard another word about the incident from anyone.
It was like it never happened. I wish it hadn't.