How A Quiznos Owner Shot Himself 3 Times In The Chest

In a post Friday, we mentioned a recent NYT article about Quiznos franchise owners suing the parent company for oppressive business practices. The piece mentioned Bhupinder Baber, a franchise owner who sued the company for opening new location too close to his own and Quiznos responded by terminating his franchises.

Bhupinder’s suicide note [PDF] said, “”Quiznos has killed me. Destroyed my life. Destroyed my family life for the past seven years.”

This note was found on his body after he walked into a Quiznos bathroom in LA and shot himself three times in the chest.

We, like some of the readers, wondered how the shots were physically possible.

One of our readers, a former 7-11 owner himself, IM’d us to shed some light…


clokergod: I just read that post about Quiznos. I read the suicide thing a few days back, but how the hell do you shoot yourself 3 times in the chest?
benpopken: Not very carefully
clokergod: In a business like this one, I know from owning a 7-eleven at one time, lemme tell you, you don’t really make money on anything but coffee since they heightened the prices of cigarettes
clokergod: You make a pot of coffee that costs exactly 5-10 cents to make, you sell 3-4 20 oz. cups for 1.20, that’s where your profit is
clokergod: Once a store does something like make you buy their coffee beans at something like 40% more than you could get off the market, for the same coffee, then they send in auditors each month at a random time, that get the counts of cigarettes wrong, time and time again, and fine you like 11 grand until you correct the count, the stress and bullshit adds up
clokergod: Thats how a poor bastard gets the strength to shoot himself in the chest 3 times, he wants to MAKE SURE it’s over

— BEN POPKEN

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  1. mad_oak says:

    I can see how the Japanese philosophy where the company is most healthy when its vendors are healthy never really caught on in the states. Everyone got caught up in the auto companies dictating price cuts to its suppliers. “Sure, we’ll lose a little per item, but we’ll make it up in volume.” William Davidson, billionaire and owner of Guardian Industries told the auto companies to go f*ck themselves. He is still in business, all the suppliers that agreed are in bankruptcy. I met a VP of an instrument manufacturer based in Windsor. His Japanese clients send in auditors AND advisors every year. They advise on how to run the business as efficiently as possible AND they make sure the company is making money so they know they have a quality supplier for years to come. These franchising companies look at it as a sucker born every minute. How the hell do you enter a business agreement when the other guy dictates every term? A franchise ain’t like ‘at will’ employment but that is what it appears these people are agreeing to.

  2. manevitch says:

    @mad_oak:

    As a representative of a franchisor (not food service) I can assure you that not all franchise agreements are written the way Quizno’s is. Our franchise members are free to purchase equipment and supplies from whomever they wish, and although we negotiate pricing with our vendors, on those rare occasions where we receive compensation that is fully disclosed and typically the money goes to our advertising fund for the franchisees. Additionally, the terms of the franchise agreement at the time of signing are binding. Any material changes mu8st be mutually agreed upon.

    I’m not saying Quiznos isn’t evil; I’m just saying that not all franchises can be painted with the same brush.

  3. dohtem says:

    @manevitch: And who the hell might you be?

  4. timmus says:

    It’s really weird how clokergod answered his own question… it kind of confused me who was asking what.

  5. mac-phisto says:

    it can definitely be a double-edged sword. there’s a lot of power (esp. in food service) in having a name. it seems pretty shortsighted that a company would compromise their profits (& subsequent royalties) by increasing supply costs – some of these agreements require 45% or higher of revenue! take on higher supply costs & marketing/training material & i could see why someone feels compelled to take their own life.

    if anything, a supply chain builds buying power & should decrease overall cost vs. market price. this is just sad.

  6. Mayor McRib says:

    Many people get into a franchise with dreams of opening their own business. Sooner than later they realize the nightmare that they are working for the franchiser.

  7. WindowSeat says:

    The sad thing is anyone with the money and brains to be able to own a Quizno’s already has the tools at hand to make it on their own as the owner/operator of a traditional deli. The only difference is they have to have some marketing savvy since they’re not part of a chain’s advertising pool.

  8. Stepehn Colbert says:

    @timmus:
    looks like he was asking a rhetorical question, then answered it. I know it seems confusing; its hard to express “matter-of-factly” comments in text.

  9. nequam says:

    What an absolute tragedy. Granted, Quiznos cannot be blamed for this poor guy’s suicide, but the fact that he was driven to kill himself and to use his failed franchise as a reason certainly points up the difficulties of running a business essentially with your hands tied. I happen to live above a Quiznos that opened about a month ago (in a large apartment building). I can see already that it is headed toward failure. It’s poorly run, but that is only part of it. I routinely see the owner set up with his inventory sheets, paperwork, and calculator at the first table as one walks in the door. It strikes me as odd that he would work on that stuff in such a prominant spot. But also, he looks frazzled. It looks like chaos. I hope it works out for him.

  10. Promethean says:

    There are 3 rules to remember when owning a franchise. I suppose this person shot himself once for each rule he broke:
    1. Don’t buy franchises
    2. Don’t buy franchises
    3. Don’t buy franchises

    Really. You have all the headaches of your having your own business, and none of the legal, financial, or tax bennefits.

    Think of it this way: If you own a Quiznos franchise, you business is selling Quiznos products. But what’s Quiznos Corp’s business? Not selling Quiznos products, no. It’s selling Quiznos Franchises.

    They’re not in it for franchise-holder profit. Sure, you’d think that common self-interest would dictate that profitable franchises would, as a whole and in the long-term equal even more profitable companies, but if you look into the news about places like Krsipy Kremes, 7-11, etc., you’ll see that short-term greed often wins out.

  11. erock0 says:

    This is horrible. Just to brighten things up!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG042nkReBA

  12. Jesse in Japan says:

    Dude, this was LA, he probably shot himself in the chest three times with an Uzi or Mac-10.

  13. br549 says:

    I pity the Quiznos franchise owners around here. I had heard a long time ago that Quiznos had very unfavorable rules, including absolutely no exclusive area.

    When the first Quiznos showed up, I loved it, was glad to go there. Part of that was me, I changed, it’s no longer new, so I care less.

    But the other part is the prices are 50% higher just two years later (and no more coupons), and you can just about see two Quiznos while standing in one spot now.

    At work, there’s 1 a block NW of me and one 1 block SE. They’re barely over a mile apart. At home there’s 1 a block NW of me, a block S of me (again 1 mile apart) and another 2 miles W of me.

    Whereas at home the closest Wendy’s is 2 miles and a McDs two blocks away closed up.

    Whatever you pay for a Quiznos, it’s too much, given that there can easily be another one just outside your window.

    It just seems to me that the franchisor/franchisee relationship doesn’t work. When things start to go well, the franchisor is going to change the rules on your unilaterally and decrease your exclusive area so they can call more franchises while they’re valueable. And then, when it reverses it’ll be even worse. Why would anyone buy a new franchise in a company that is on the slide and has franchisees already looking to sell on the “used” market?

    Look at In n Out. They’re more careful about where their locations are. They don’t overpopulate them, so each one does a pretty good business at lunch. What’s different about In n Out? They don’t franchise. They’re owned & operated by In n Out (they’re private too).

    O&O seems to be a much smarter way to do it. The different locations aren’t going to work against each other. And if the company needs money, it’s easy to raise capital nowadays. With so many private equity funds around, you don’t even need to go public if you don’t want to. So to me, it seems like the only reason to franchise now is to distance yourself from the actual business. And if a company is looking to be less associated with the actual retail aspect, why would I want to get involved in it?

  14. soldierboyadam says:

    mmmm…toasty. You smell gun powder?

  15. pianoart says:

    I agree with all previous posts, which begs the question…”Why all the Starbucks?”

  16. Jason-Ryan-Isaksen says:

    First I have to say this guy shouldn’t have killed himself over money, that’s the sum of it.

    As far as franchises go, I agree you are locked into not just making a business run, but in exchange for brand recognition and a supply chain in place, you give up a lot of control and pay franchise fees which places a big burden on you. I know people who run their own resteraunts and it typically takes 5 years to make the initial investment back, and many places make just pennies on the dollar. Food service is a low profit business, the inventory is perishable, and with franchise fees on top of it, you can get into real trouble.

    I’d recommend anyone to make their own theme resteraunt instead and really own it. Many people have been bought into by corporations that like their theme and want to make them into a chain. In any case, the food service business is built on having better food than the other guys in town, that’s what builds loyalty. If you’re going to franchise you’re going to probably make less, be at the mercy of the corporation you get into bed with, and trade all kinds of control for name branding which you could build yourself just by having the best food in town for the type of resteraunt theme you’re doing.

    There’s a mexican place in town that serves hot from the fryer tortilla chips when you sit down, that’s why I go there. A grociery store has a deli where they make the rolls every 2 hours and I get their deli sandwiches just for those rolls. A local pizza place has the best pizza dough, you can tell it’s made fresh. None of these things are really expensive, but that’s what brings customers in and keeps them. If you’re going to get into food service, make a name for yourself with the food instead of paying fees and giving control over to some greedy corporation.

    One local ice cream place holds Saturday classic car club shows and all the cars filling the parking lot jam pack the place. There’s a lot of good ways to gain customers other than paying a corporation to use their name and logo, and giving lots of control and money to them in the process. One person I know ran a pizza place in a college area, and just getting a wine/beer license for each delivery vehicle gave him the edge being able to deliver it to people who showed proof of age as long as they ordered as least two pizzas.

    Well since it’s too late to make a long story short, I’d recommend instead of a franchise to just do it the hard way and make a name for yourself. There’s a lot of demand for pizza, but also a lot of competition, and customer loyalty can be won over by just having a highly paid dough maker keeping ahead of the others. Just that one practical difference makes it work.

  17. westvaco says:

    We live in ‘service’ economy which means most of us really don’t make anything but provide services to each other. Net effect people who would have normally made a living working in factories now are forced to find work pushing paper, working in restaurants and other such work for far less money. Net effect more and more service companies dot the landscape living off a ever decreasing profit margins. Eventually the economy reaches a saturation point where this collapses. And since there is no place to go but the streets people take to the streets. And this guy simply couldn’t handle the new reality.

  18. Clarksville says:

    Elizabeth
    Mar 14, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    A costly lesson
    on Mar 14th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Prospective Quiznos buyers please read this carefully. I have always prided myself in that fact that I try to make good decisions. Yet, the decision of my husband and myself to purchase a Quizno’s restaurant is one decision that has been anything but positive. Please take your time reading my story because it may help you to avoid making a terrible mistake. I am hoping that by sharing my experience the information may save your family, finances, sanity and future.

    We transfered our Quiznos over 23 months ago. Our weekly labor ranges between 22% to 25% – the goal is 20%. Average food costs range between 30% to 33% the goal is 30%. Not only have we not made money, but we have lost over $45,000 in the last twelve months in addition to $34,000 during the first 11 months. Additionally, another Quiznos near my location is also showing similar dollar losses based upon information that the owner has shared. I realize that there are poor stores in the system. It is unrealistic to assume that every owner runs a great operation. However, our store has one of the highest customer approval ratings in the area. In addition, our location regularly appears on the top half of page two of the weekly blast fax. The blast fax is an intra-company sales reporting tool utilized by owners in order to compare their store statistics to a large grouping within a certain geographic region. It is of great concern that our business is making more than 2/3 of our geographic region and yet we are not even breaking even. One wonders how the stores that are producing less volume than ours manage to survive? The fact is that most do not for long. The owners eventually become disappointed with this company and are either forced to sell or walk away because they can not find a buyer. Despite working as an unpaid “volunteer” at our location for the past 22 months I have never sacrificed quality or service. We have never skimped on labor in order to squeeze more money out of the bottom line. Our store is meticulously clean and the employees are well trained. Yet, despite all of our efforts, we have lost a lot of money. Yes, we conduct local marketing weekly in addition to other strategies that the company suggests to increase revenue – but to no avail. There are a fortunate few that are doing well, however, this is a rare exception. I too have a friend that is profitable. Her location is in a busy commercial district with plenty of daytime professional traffic in addition to evening residents as well. She is one of the fortunate stores that appear regularly on the top of the first page of the blast fax. Yet, despite the fact that her store is one of the more frequented locations, she has remarked that because her business is one of the highest grossing stores in the region, she is frankly surprised that she is not making a greater profit. She, like I, works her business diligently both in front and behind the scenes. She is also one of the fortunate few.

    In our case, the fact that the company put not one – but three – new Quiznos extremely close to our existing store has been but one of several factors for our lack of profit. Even our customers remark that they are surprised that the company places stores in such close proximity. Our restaurant, once grossed between $9,000 to $11,000 average per week before we bought it. The addition of the other stores dramatically cut into our customer base. Currently, a $9,000 week is the rare exception. After paying over $320,000 for this store, we expected to at least net $70,000 per year. We would settle for breaking even at this point. We still have customers that make the extra trip to patronize our store because we offer the best service and most pleasant environment of the other Quiznos in the immediate vicinity. Yet, that is not enough to help our bottom line.

    We realized that we were not going to make money two months into our venture. We put our store on the market right away. Today, almost two years later, we have been forced due to financial constraints to give it away. Another owner has offered us $90,000 and we are finally getting out. He knows that he will make a profit because at $90,000 it is a positive net sum gain for him. A store can not even be constructed for $90,000. He has said that based upon our P&L and the price that he is paying, he will probably make about $30,000 – perhaps $35,000 per year at our location. The key to profitability according to our buyer, is owning several locations that can be purchased for very little and planning to make about $30 – $50K per location based upon the traffic flow of each individual store. The key is to pay as low as possible for a store in order to squeeze out a small profit from each location.

    One might ask why do so many franchisees fail to make a profit and so few do?

    The answers are:
    1) The profitable stores are located in areas with significant traffic flow to offset the high costs associated with operating one of these stores.

    2) Non profitable stores (poor operations excluded) have been canabalized by our very own franchisor. It is apparent that none of the company’s decision makers understand the franchisor’s own required reading of “Behind the Golden Arches, The Ray Croc Story”. If they understood the symbiotic relationship that exists between corporate and its franchisees, then they would realize that the franchisee is the life blood of the company and it is not in anyone’s best interest to undermine the very people that make the system operate.

    3) A store’s location is not sufficient to produce the high traffic necessary to cover its numerous expenses.

    4) In regard to expenses, the franchisor has a monopoly upon most services, food and equipment necessary for us to operate. There are simply too many hands in the till for profit to filter down to the bottom line – the franchisee. There is something very wrong when a person can go to their local Restaurant Depot and find the same exact product made by the same manufacturer, same weight and ingredients but pay half the price of the same item sold by our required distributor. Many of my fellow owners have found this to be true regarding food and equipment time and time again. Other franchises that have a “franchisee consortium” responsible for monitoring and regulating costs of the goods and services utilized by franchisees have not only a higher satisfaction rate but are profitable as well. – (Source QSR magazine.) Of course there are always problems even in the best of systems, yet the bottom line is profitability. No one buys a business because they “like” the product. Investors purchase businesses in order to make money. In addition, there is no transparency within the company despite the fact that our franchisee’s pay extremely high royalties. Where there are royalties there should be total transparency. These restaurants are a long shot in the very best case. Yes, there are those who will sing the praises of the franchisor, but the extreme and vast majority will say that it is simply not worth the time or investment.

    5) The existing business model is fatally flawed and operates for the sole purpose of making money for corporate as well as their investors.

    6) Many of us have paid too much for our stores.

    7) The costs keep creeping back up from the reductions announced by last year’s new administration while the suggested retail prices have either fallen or remained the same.

    Our broker has decided not to sell any future Quiznos until the company changes its entire business model. Ours will be the last that he will handle until the tide truly turns.
    It has been predicted by the new administration that the future for Quiznos is “bright” and that eventually there will be more “positive” stories rather than negative ones such as ours. It is a known fact that there are at least 450 Quiznos for sale on a well known web based real estate site versus only 24 Subways. Why do you think that is the case? Stories just like ours have played out and are occurring every day. Of course, Subway has its share of difficulties as well, but one thing is undeniable, a Subway does not stay on the market very long before it sells, whereas it is almost impossible to sell a Quiznos – let alone give them away as lease assumption only. Someone must be making something worthwhile at our competitor’s stores otherwise they would not be in such high demand. It is widely viewed that the “happy” owners of the future will be the ones that are either the second or third generation franchisees. When those of us who have over paid and are not able to financially continue on at our Quizno’s “volunteer” jobs have either had enough and sold for pennies on the dollar or “gone dark” the next generation – the future “happy” ones – will take over what we have built with our blood, sweat, tears and cold hard cash.

    So yes, the company is accurate on one point: There will eventually be many more positive stories about which the company will boast. Those stories will come from the new owners who have purchased the deal of a lifetime and will ultimately profit from our failed investments. At the price that most of us are either walking away from or giving them away for in order to extricate ourselves from this financial nightmare called Quiznos, the next owners will actually be able to make a living from one of these stores. It is called “churning” and I firmly believe that this is an integral strategy to the corporation’s plan to make their restaurants a worthwhile investment in the future. It is simply a matter of time before we all cry “uncle” and corporate knows it.

    And yes, then the next generation will truly be “happy”. Please think carefully before you invest in ANY business. Perform due diligence, talk to other owners, read comments posted on the internet, read trade magazines – anything that will help you to make an informed and objective decision. I only wish that we had known about this web site as well as the many others that I have since found in our family’s nightmare odessy. Perhaps things would be different and life would actually be “normal”. This was a very costly lesson. Our lives, my children’s sense of security and future has been devastated by this experience. We are struggling just to survive at this point. I hope that you can learn from our mistake.