No Contracts
Home Up Ballroom Dancing


Why SSQQ does NOT have Contracts

Written by Rick Archer
First Draft: July 2000
Last Update: August 2007


This story deals with the origins of the SSQQ approach to staying in business - Keep it Fun and People will continue taking lessons automatically.

2007 marks the 30th year of business for SSQQ Dance Studio.  I have always believed that if you make dance classes enjoyable and give people an opportunity to make friends, they will fall in love with dancing and continue to take dance classes willingly. 

Get the students to laugh and give them a sense of accomplishment and that is all the encouragement they need to sign up again.  For 30 years, this Philosophy has worked like a charm.  Our customers, or 'students' if you prefer, have voluntarily returned time and time again to sign up for classes one month at a time.  And if they don't sign up again, they frequently send a friend over to take their place.  Something must be working - our advertising budget is practically Zero.

I have always preferred the light touch.  The very thought of using sales tactics goes completely against the grain of the studio's friendly ethic. 

With this tradition in mind, imagine my shock when I saw this Review about SSQQ posted on City Search. 

SSQQ - Least Recommended Dance Studio
Posted by katklaw

I have taken numerous lessons through the years in Houston to keep my dancing skills up to date and would never send a friend to SSQQ.

The management, as well as the staff that works there regularly, are unusually snippy and sarcastic (unless you agree to buy the big package) and the pressure to buy is their biggest priority.

I would like to go to their studios (they are in close proximity to my house) but since I have yet to have one pleasant experience with them , and since my last dance experience with them was so negative, I am going to keep going to other places in town.

I appreciate that they have been in business for quite a while in Houston, but there are too many other dance studios in the city that have a friendlier and less pressure filled environment.  

Definitely try somewhere else first!

Pros: Been in business for a while, larger studio

Cons: Surly service, unusual clientele, parking, high pressure sell

Does this Review sound like the SSQQ you know? 

Considering I have spent my entire career trying to make SSQQ the least commercial dance studio possible, those criticisms really got my blood boiling.  Heck, we don't even push tee-shirts much less dance packages!

However, before I respond to the criticisms listed above by Katklaw, I would like to tell you the story of how and why SSQQ developed its low pressure marketing philosophy.

Rick Archer
August 2007

adventures 4.gif (10921 bytes)


One of the most depressing experiences of my life involved taking dance lessons at a franchised Ballroom Dance studio here in Houston back in 1975.  I was 25 years old.

I was persuaded to try an inexpensive
Introductory Offer for Ballroom lessons at the now-defunct
Arthur Murray Houston studio.  It was located at the time on West Gray over in the River Oaks shopping area.  (Incidentally, I do not know how the Arthur Murray Studios conduct their business in modern times.   Please keep in mind this event occurred over 30 years ago.)

One afternoon Maggie, a young lady I had met over at Rice University, called me up.  Maggie said she wanted me to take Ballroom dance lessons with her. She told me about an ad that said we could take 4 half-hour Introductory lessons for $5 a person.  

Maggie and I had been dating for a month.  Maggie
knew I had been taking Disco lessons somewhere else (Learning to Dance).  As she put it, I was the only man she knew who had ever admitted to an interest in dancing.  In fact, we had gone out dancing on our first date.  Maggie was impressed and said I was a great freestyle dancer.  She assumed my Disco skills could be transferred over to Ballroom dancing as well.

I wasn't so sure about that. 
I had only been dancing for a year. All I knew was a bunch of Disco line dances. I had never partner danced in my life.  As I listened to her pitch, I had serious misgivings.

Furthermore Ballroom dancing didn't interest me at all.  I was strictly into Disco music.  But a persuasive beautiful woman is difficult to resist.  And she was right about my interest in dancing. 
It took Maggie twenty minutes to persuade me, but I finally gave in and agreed to go with her.

Ballroom_Dancing.jpg (9319 bytes)

The first half-hour lesson consisted of one move to 3 different dances - Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, and Cha Cha.  (4 dances, but we skipped one dance each week).

We had a male instructor.  From the very start, 
Henry was not even the slightest bit interested in me.  He took one look at me dancing with Maggie and realized I possessed almost no natural ability.  My dancing was so bad I got the feeling he was slightly disdainful.  I was embarrassed.  He and I never developed a rapport

On the other hand, Maggie thought he was wonderful.  They clicked instantly. The rest of the first lesson consisted of Henry telling me to watch how he did it as he took Maggie in his arms and swept her away.  Maggie enjoyed herself thoroughly.   She seemed to glide effortlessly across the floor in his arms while I watched in consternation.  How did Maggie learn those moves so fast?

In 30 minutes - the length of the lesson - we did 10 minutes of Foxtrot, Cha-Cha, and Tango each.  How much do you suppose I learned?  The few times I was actually allowed to try, I struggled mightily.  I didn't understand the rhythm, I had no idea how to lead, and the footwork was a complete mystery.  Maggie's frown didn't help either.

I did give it a try, but I was kind of hopeless.  Nevertheless, I am not a quitter by nature.  I dutifully showed up with Maggie for my second lesson.


I was disappointed to find the second visit was no better than the first.  I had actually nursed a secret hope that I could overcome my jitters and figure this Ballroom stuff out.

This week Henry skipped Cha Cha and added Waltz.  I could not get the hang of this rise and fall business.  Plodding along, I moved with the grace of a three-legged elephant. 

I frowned as my instructor basically gave up on me.  He and I did not click at all.  Instead he spent most of the half hour flirting with Maggie who was having the time of her life.  I stood still and fumed while Maggie danced the night away in Henry's arms.  At this point, I had pretty much had enough.  I left in a very bad mood.  The advertisement had said dancing was fun.  Not in my opinion.


As you might gather, it wasn't easy for Maggie to get me to show up for the third lesson.  I resisted mightily, but I finally succumbed to the Magic Words, "You Promised."

The first 30 minutes of the third week was an instant replay of the first two, except that Henry ignored me even more as if that were even possible.  I didn't care anymore.  Promise or no promise, I wasn't coming back.  I could not wait to get this over with. 

However at the end of the lesson, Henry surprised me with a twist so bizarre I could never have imagined it.  He called Maggie and me over for a meeting.

Before my very eyes, Henry actually got out two Report Cards and proceeded to pencil in a letter grade for each dance we had learned!  

I stared at my Report Card in open-mouthed shock.  I could not believe for a moment that
Henry had the nerve to grade us!  Whose ridiculous idea was this?  What planet had Henry beamed down from? 

Finally I got hold of myself and actually looked at my Report Card.  I frowned. 

To his credit, Henry was at least honest.  While Maggie got straight A's, I got a C in Foxtrot, a C- in Cha-Cha, a C in Waltz, and a D in Tango.

Gee, if I had only known, I would have done more homework or brought him an apple.  As I stared at my C- dance average, I thought darkly to myself that even these miserable grades were inflated.  In my opinion, I deserved a 4-F.

Let's have a little fun with this moment.  Let's say that Henry and Maggie decide to celebrate her Straight A Report Card. They are Waltzing the Night Away.  Meanwhile I stare at my Ballroom Grades.  Pretend I lose my balance and accidentally bump against a magic lamp.

Poof!  A Genie comes out and whispers to me not to despair.  The Genie predicts that from these humble beginnings I would someday rise to create the largest dance studio in Houston Texas and produce the most popular dance studio website in the world. 

Now if you had seen me dancing, you would absolutely gag at this suggestion.  C'mon, a story this improbable only happens in the movies and fairy tales!  I in no mood to be humored.  I would stare at the Genie like he was out of his mind and tell him just how absurd that idea was.  I would tell him to go back in the Lamp and leave me alone.  Dumb Genie.

I wasn't that bad of a dancer.  Maggie had been right - I was actually a pretty fair Disco dancer. I definitely knew my right foot from my left.  But freestyle dancing and partner dancing were completely different ballgames.  At the time I knew absolutely nothing about the inner workings of Frame, the Ballroom technique where you use your shoulders to signal to the woman where to step next.  Nor did I like the music very much.  And I definitely didn't like my instructor.  It was his job to explain how to lead, but he could not have cared less. 

I had been set up for failure from the get-go. 
No one can expect a Beginner male to learn to lead and dance nine patterns (3 per week) to four dances in three 30 minute lessons simply by watching some instructor dance with his girlfriend the entire time.

I was completely lost in a sea of self-criticism. Since I was clueless about the realities of partner dancing, I did not realize I had never had a chance. 

Meanwhile Maggie would not shut up about her straight A Report Card.  Not only was I disgusted with the stupid grading system, I was ready to kill Maggie for rubbing it in how the instructor had said she had danced much better than me.  Even though I agreed it was true, what exactly possessed Maggie to put me down like that?  I guess she thought she was being funny.

I said nothing, but I was upset.  Beneath my cold exterior, I was actually very embarrassed at being exposed as a crummy dancer.  This entire experience was deeply humiliating.  I can't remember more than a couple other incidents in my life where I have ever felt more ashamed of myself. 

It is a good thing I did not realize my pathetic performance was in truth mostly the fault of my instructor or I would have given that jerk a piece of my mind.


As if my Report Card wasn't enough humiliation, Henry had saved another little surprise for us.  Just as Maggie and I were getting ready to leave, some new guy came up to Henry to say something to him.  Henry turned to us and asked us to follow him to the back.  He told us the Dance Director wanted to see us.  The Dance Director?  Although I did not understand what was going on, the tone in Henry's insistence warned me this might not be pleasant.  What did Henry know that I didn't?

As you surely have guessed, we were about to be sold a package of Ballroom Dance lessons.  But I was so young, I really did not know this myself as we walked down the hall.  I sensed a trap, but to be honest I had a morbid curiosity just to see what this was all about.   With Henry leading and the new guy behind us, I got the feeling they weren't taking any chances that we might slip away. 

Maggie and I were shown the way into a cramped room.  We were given two wooden chairs which faced a desk. The door was behind the desk.  In other words, if we wanted to leave, we would have to walk around the desk. 

The Dance Director was already in the room.  He greeted us.  Escape was made even more difficult when the Dance Director invited Henry to join the meeting.  Now we had a desk and two men blocking our exit.  Henry would literally have to move his chair in order for us to leave. 

Then they strapped us both to a chair... well, just kidding.  However we were clearly cornered.  To say I felt intimidated would be an understatement.  What kind of racket were they running here?

The Dance Director began by saying there was an important dance competition coming up.  He said he had been walking by and had noticed just how well we were picking up the material.  I frowned.  He obviously hadn't seen me.

Since we had shown unusual promise, the studio wanted us to represent them in the Big Contest!  Maggie beamed with pride.  I stared at her and I stared at him in total disbelief.  Had Maggie taken some medication?   This guy was so phony it was ridiculous.

Then I turned my gaze to Henry.  After that line about our "unusual promise", Henry was deliberately avoiding eye contact.  He was busy doing goo-goo eyes with Maggie.  I assumed he was also making a mental note not to give anyone a C- in the future just minutes before the big Sales Meeting no matter how bad they were.

Paying no attention to my existence, the Dance Director smiled at Maggie and continued his happy talk.  He announced that his studio was counting on Maggie and me - Mr. C Minus Gift to the World of Ballroom Dancing - to help them win the big dance competition.  "We can't do it without you!" 

'However, in order for you to do well, you would need a little more polish.' 

They were ready, willing and able to give us in-depth

And because they desperately needed our help with the Novice phase of the competition due
to our 'unusual promise', they would give us a Large Discount if we would sign up Right This Minute

He looked straight into Maggie's eyes and said how important it was that people with our kind of potential should fulfill their dance destiny. 

Have you ever heard a more ridiculous line of bullshit in your entire life?  These guys were not smooth at all.  In fact, the Dance Director was the first hard-sell person I had ever met, but I imagined two guys selling me fake watches in an alley couldn't be any clumsier than he was.   

On cue, the Dance Director magically produced a Contract for Dance Lessons.  On the Contract in bright red ink I could see the word DISCOUNT that reduced a $2,000 sales price down to $1,000 ($979 to be exact). 

I was amazed at their audacity.  Does this stuff actually work with anyone?  What person in their right mind would cooperate with an approach this stupid?  


At this point my morbid curiosity was satisfied.  I had guessed some sort of sales pitch was awaiting us but I had wanted to see how it was delivered.  Okay, I got my show.  I was ready to leave now.

Just as I was about to say something, Maggie took control of the interview.  Putting her hand on my arm to calm me, Maggie whispered, "Let me handle this." 

Surprised, I backed off and said nothing.  I didn't really know Maggie that well.  She and I had only been dating for a few weeks.  But her behavior regarding this Ballroom stuff had left me bewildered on more than one occasion.  What was going on between her and Henry?  I thought Henry was gay, but maybe not.  Was she trying to make me jealous?  And why rub it in that my dancing was so mediocre compared to hers?   Had the tables been reversed, I certainly wouldn't have acted that way. 

Now for the second time that evening, my morbid curiosity had gotten the better of me.  I decided to stick around and see what Maggie had up her sleeve. So I sat back and watched. 

Maggie chose a negotiating style best described as "cute them to death". 

Maggie laughed and joked and made one excuse after another why we couldn't sign the contract.  I did not like her style at all.  In my mind Maggie was prolonging the torture. 

bullet'We don't have enough money'
bullet'we are kind of busy'
bullet'we don't know much about dancing'
bullet'not sure if this is right for us, couldn't we think about it?'
bullet'how about if we let you know next week?'

As Maggie yapped away, I stared at her incredulously.  Why don't you just say 'no' and let's get out of here?    I grew sick in my stomach.  This cute stuff was giving me nausea.   I could not understand why Maggie was prolonging this conversation.  What is the point of toying with this guy?    He was practically drooling that Maggie was trying to match wits with him.  Doesn't she realize he had absolutely nothing to lose by dragging this out? 

At first I wasn't all that mad at the Dance Director, just impatient.  In fact, after I figured out that this was how he made a living, I felt sorry for him.  I could see he was very determined to close this deal.   He did most of the talking, but occasionally let Henry get a word in edgewise so he could catch his breath.  As far as I could tell, he was just waiting till she tired out.  Between them, the two salesmen pressured Maggie for an hour - yes, an hour - to sign the expensive thousand dollar contract for dance lessons.

They literally would not take "no" for an answer.  Subtlety was clearly not their forte.  I did not appreciate being cornered in this small back room by two con men who sat between us and the door.  

Despite their pressure, Maggie appeared totally un-phased.  She showed absolutely no sign of nervousness.  Whatever Dance Director said, Maggie parried it with the same broken record...  '
too broke, too busy, not enough confidence, blah blah blah'.

Maggie kept giving excuses and the salesmen who had nothing else to do hung in there waiting for her to give them an opening. 
I watched the three of them bandy arguments back and forth like a tennis volley. 

I could not figure out Maggie's strategy.  Was she trying to wear them out? 
I suppose erosion works when you are talking eons, but I am not as patient as the Grand Canyon... 

We had been in here for nearly an hour.  Finally I had had enough.  Life is too short for this charade. The shtick was growing old and
I wanted out!  I resented the high pressure techniques of these con artists and I was disgusted with Maggie's evasive negotiating style.  So I got up and said, "I am ready to go.  Would you permit us to leave now?" 

The two men were stunned. They didn't know Mr. C Minus Cha Cha could even speak! 

Staring down at the seated men, I gave them a look that said I meant business.

What I was not prepared for was the look of disappointment that crossed Maggie's face.  On a night when one shock followed another, I was incredulous to realize Maggie had been enjoying herself!

Believe it or not, Maggie tried to calm me.  She wasn't ready to go!  She asked me to sit back down.  I was astonished that Maggie was contradicting me for the second time.  That was my last straw with her.  I snapped at Maggie, "Sit down?  What for?  I have no intention of signing this contract.  I am sick and tired of watching you let these men waste our time!  We have been here for an hour and letting you handle this has gotten us nowhere."

The room fell silent.  My hostility had a chilling effect indeed.  However, thanks to Maggie's intervention, they did not yield.  Seeing that the two men continued to block my exit, Maggie started up again.  I stood there incredulously as they once again began treating me like the Invisible Man.

Through some sort of non-verbal communication, the three of them had
resurrected the debate!  Despite the fact that I was standing up, despite my appalling rudeness to these two men and despite my confrontation with Maggie, they began chattering away again as if I wasn't there.

I was baffled by their determination.  Not once had I given the slightest hint I would cave in and sign their stupid contract, but they hung on anyway.  As far as they were concerned, it wasn't over till it was over.  Incredulous, I just stood there and silently watched them begin to dance again.

How do I explain my behavior?  Call it 'Fascination'.  I could not figure out how three people who were supposed to be on opposite sides of the fence were in such tight collusion with each other.  Maggie kept saying she didn't want to sign the contract, but her smiles and body language were encouraging.  Furthermore, how on earth did she manage to ignore my presence and my stated wishes so effectively?  As far as she was concerned, I didn't exist.  I was mystified.

Round Two lasted ten more minutes.  Finally I couldn't take it any more.  It was time for a show of force. 
I may have been the worst dancer in history and I may have only been a 25 year old kid, but I was still 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.  If I was determined to go, a couple of wimp dance instructors would have a serious time stopping me.  Considering my mood, I was ready to walk across the desk if necessary.  "Gentleman, I am leaving now.  Please get out of my way."

They took one look at my face.  That did it.  With obvious resentment, Henry begrudgingly moved to let me pass. 

To my surprise, Maggie followed me wordlessly which I might say was a departure for her.  It was the first time she had followed me in three weeks.  Heck, I was ready to leave her in the room.  I didn't care.

It was very awkward moment for everyone.  From the look on their faces, I realized these two men had actually believed they had a real chance at a kill.  They were so close until that stupid lug got up and ruined it...

Sorry to disappoint you, Guys.  Too bad I wasn't the spineless dork you assumed I was. 


What an ordeal!   As I walked to the car, I tried to understand the motivations that created such a hostile showdown.

I laid the blame right at Maggie's doorstep.  It occurred to me that by leading them on, Maggie had actually gotten their hopes up.  I believe they thought they were on the verge of making a sale. 

Why did Maggie tease them?  What did she get out of it?  I could not fathom what reason Maggie had for leading them on, but I blamed her for the debacle just as much as I blamed the salesmen - I may have only gotten a D, but I understood the meaning of "It takes two to Tango". 

Who knows, maybe she wanted to sign up for those lessons and was hoping I would somehow be persuaded if I listened to her long enough.  But the pressure from the salesmen turned me cold from the start.  No way.

As you might suspect, I did not return for my fourth and final lesson. This also wrapped things up for Maggie and me. 

Watching her tease and banter with these two men when she had no intention of signing a contract disgusted me.  Why give one excuse after another why we couldn't sign the contract when in my mind a simple "No, thank you" would have been sufficient?  Maybe she was raised to be polite. 

Not me, I am too direct by nature to understand her tactics.  Evasion is a pretty lousy way to negotiate.


I didn't do too well at learning the Tango, but I did learn a valuable lesson nonetheless. 

As you might gather, t
his Contract experience was so distasteful that when I did go into the dance business for myself four years later, I made sure that SSQQ would never breathe a word about contracts.  I preferred to let people sign up for ten weeks at a time (later shortened to one month).

At the time, my decision went completely against the accepted way dance studios historically used to obtain customers.  But as far as I was concerned, my decision was a no-brainer. 
This high-pressure sales job still ranks as one of the most distasteful experiences of my entire life.  Who on earth invented this business tactic, the Mob?

The behavior of the Dance Director made no sense to me.  While I watched in mounting anger, I could see the reason these salesmen were so desperate was obvious - they were selling an over-priced service that no one needed.  Everyone needs a car.  Everyone needs a house.  But no one "needs" dance lessons and definitely not at that price! 

People do not like being pushed around.  Did it occur to the Dance Director there might be an easier way to sell lessons?  Dance lessons are basically entertainment.  Why not try making the lessons fun and see if that worked? 

After all, I had been returning to my Disco lessons faithfully every week for nearly a year without the slightest bit of arm-twisting.  Not one person ever lifted a finger to ask I was going to continue.  I wasn't particularly good at it, but somehow during that time, Dancing had gotten under my skin.  Why not give people a chance to fall in love with dancing and see what might happen?

So when it was my turn to become a dance teacher, my attitude from the start was to allow my students to make up their own minds whether to continue or not without manipulation.  I did my job the best I could and hoped that was enough. 


In 2000, one of my dance students remarked that every dance program he had ever been to in Houston operated pretty much the same way that SSQQ did.  He asked why I made such a big deal out of 'no contracts'.   I was beating a dead horse.

His comment took me off guard.  I thought about it for a while and decided he had a point.  As far as Houston was concerned, the old contract system was practically dead. 

Back when I started SSQQ, my decision to avoid using the contract system was considered a risky move.  Since contracts were the accepted way to run a dance studio at the time, SSQQ was clearly going against the grain.  In that sense, I was a pioneer going about things my own way.

Fortunately this new approach was effective.  I have no idea whether my studio's success played any part in making the contract technique go bye-bye, but the non-pressure philosophy definitely became the accepted way that most independent dance instructors in Houston conducted their business.  Although I do not pay much attention, today I would guess only a few franchised Houston dance studios still stick to the contract system. 

SSQQ has proven you can run a successful dance studio without strong-arming students.  Dance lessons are fun. When there is no pressure, people will take more lessons quite willingly.  In fact, they protest when another level isn't offered!   Why other dance studios still use the contract system is one of life's great mysteries.

Our 'no contract
philosophy' may have been ahead of its time, but it seems to have worked since we are going strong after 30 years while many of our high-pressure competitors have quietly exited the scene.


Although I endured a deeply humiliating experience with my first Ballroom lesson, you might be surprised to know I decided to take Ballroom lessons again later that same year (1975).  Sorry to say, this was no tale of redemption. 

At first, I did better in my second attempt.  I completed the entire six-hour program which used a Group Class format similar to the SSQQ system.  A young lady I met in the class gave me a lot of encouragement that I was doing well.  She said I was one of the best guys in the class.  I wanted to ask her out in the worst way, so I decided to make my move at Graduation Night. 

At the end of the six weeks, the instructor invited the entire Ballroom class to join him for a night of Ballroom Dancing.  This evening would prove to be my downfall.  It turned out I had learned only enough to get myself set up again.  my inadequacy at Ballroom Dancing was badly exposed that night.  Sorry to say, I ended up losing the girl again, although this time it hurt much worse than Maggie because I had a huge crush on this girl.  (BALLROOM PRACTICE NIGHT)

The pain was intense, but I recovered.  After licking my wounds, I picked up the pieces and joined another Disco dance class a month later.  I kept plugging away.  Whenever one dance class ended, I took another.  I was determined to improve. 

I am not a natural dancer.  However, I am a determined person.  I got knocked down several times, but I got back up.  I refused to quit.  With a nod to our friend Nietzsche, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

In all, it took me four years to become a very good dancer which is probably twice the time it takes most men to accomplish the same thing. 

Amazingly, my hard work paid off in ways I could never have anticipated.  Beginning in late 1977, I parlayed a remarkable series of lucky breaks into a dance career.  Today SSQQ Dance Studio stands as living proof that I am indeed a lucky man... the harder I work, the luckier I get.

So think about it.  If you want to learn to dance, then don't fold every time something goes wrong.   If I can do it, you can definitely do it too.  Just put your mind to it.



On August 17, 2007, I received the following email.

-----Original Message-----
From: Alex S
Sent: Friday, August 17, 2007 1:34 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: SSQQ reviews on Google Maps

Rick, I did a google map search for SSQQ and I noticed some reviews.  I think this is pretty important since google maps is so popular.

Click on the placemark and you should see the reviews

Apparently the Google Map links is connected to something called 'City Search'.   That is where I ran across this review of SSQQ by someone titled 'Katklaw'.  I have no idea who this person or what their experience was at my studio.

I believe that everybody has a right to state their opinion.  After all, didn't I just get through evaluating a dance studio myself in the "No Contract" story?  

That said, I think I have a right to respond to the critic.

Some of what Katklaw says is correct.  We do have parking problems.  And there are times when we lose our patience with certain customers. 

Although we pride ourselves in being friendly, I will be the first to admit that we do stand our ground at times when we think a customer is unreasonable.  We give service, but we are not servile.  There is a difference.

That said, I think Katklaw is guilty of some deeply inaccurate assertions.  

These statements are false:

  1. (unless you agree to buy the big package)
  2. the pressure to buy is their biggest priority
  3. less pressure filled environment
  4. high pressure sell
Anyone who is familiar with SSQQ knows we do not have any "big packages" to sell.  This false statement alone compromises the integrity of the entire complaint.

Furthermore, since you have finished my article on "No Contracts", it should be clear to you by now that SSQQ absolutely refuses to pressure its customers into taking any classes.  

Quite the contrary, we pride ourselves in being the least commercial dance studio that has ever existed.  

Furthermore, I defy Katklaw to identify anyone at SSQQ who is involved in high-pressure sales. 

In short, this person is a liar.  They don't even know what they are talking about. 

So on August 30, 2007, I decided to send this response to Katklaw's poison pen review.

SSQQ Responds 08/30/2007
Posted by richardjarcher

My name is Rick Archer. I am the owner of SSQQ. I would like to point out that several comments posted by Katklaw in one of the SSQQ Reviews on City Search are deeply inaccurate.

The following 3 allegations have no merit whatsoever:

1. (unless you agree to buy the big package)
2. pressure filled environment
3. high pressure sell

Everybody has a right to express their opinion, but they do not have the right to speak incorrectly.

Anyone who is familiar with SSQQ knows we do not have any "big packages" to sell. This false statement alone compromises the integrity of the entire complaint. The truth is that our classes sell for $40 and $50 for a month of group dance lessons.

Furthermore, SSQQ absolutely refuses to pressure its customers into taking any classes. Quite the contrary, we pride ourselves in being the least commercial dance studio that has ever existed.

Furthermore, I defy Katklaw to identify anyone at SSQQ who is involved in high-pressure sales.

In truth, we try to make our classes fun and hope our customers will return of their own free will. There is no arm-twisting at SSQQ Dance Studio, of that I can assure everyone.  30 years of business indicates that our low key philosophy is effective.

As for Katklaw's curious assertion about our "unusual clientele", consider the source. Besides, our students would probably take that as a compliment.

Read this review on City Search



(Rick Archer's Note - I have said repeatedly that SSQQ does not pressure its students.  This is a fact.  If you want to know what pressure is like, read this letter)

-----Original Message-----
From: T
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 11:56 AM
Subject: OMG!!!

I just had a few moments and decided to give the newsletter a once through....OMG!!

Now, you must know me well enough to know by big mouth has to give at least a couple cents input, if not an entire dime!! I will go chapter by chapter here since I am just appalled at the lengths some people will go!

First off....let me be the very first to tell you that the very essence of SSQQ is the reason I stayed here!!  I have taken a few classes here and there and I can tell you first hand that the PEOPLE here at SSQQ make all the difference, students and teachers alike!

I first took an introductory class at Fred Astaire on Memorial years ago. I became so aggravated that I could spit gravel. They made sure to take what little time I could afford to spend in their studio and harass me throughout the entire lesson! It was all about the hard core sell. Bring in your family, your spouse, your friends, your dog, your first born to sign up for our massively expensive lessons!!! The way I felt was I was paying him money to teach me, not to become his sales recruit! I finally lost it on my instructor. He actually pushed me to the point of pure anger and that takes quite a bit of pushing let me tell you!

After consistently hounding me, and I had tried in every possible way with as much politeness as I could muster, I just blew it.  I had explained to him that I only had one co-worker and she hated to dance. My family lives out of town therefore they wouldn't be coming in to dance. I basically had no local friends and had actually hoped to make some friends that shared a common interest when starting class there. He then started in on my husband.

I love my husband dearly, but the very reason we have worked out so well over the past 18 and 1/2 years is because neither of us push the other into our hobbies. He doesn't care to dance or paint and I don't care to fish or hunt. He does his thing and I do mine and then we get together and talk about it. It works out fine for us and I encourage anyone else to do the same. You should not have to sacrifice things you enjoy just to share your lives together. I would never dream of expecting him to quit fishing or hunting, those are things important to him. Just as he would never hope to expect me to quit my art work or to stop dancing. He knows it is something I love to do.

Now once this instructor had started in on my husband and had actually had the audacity to insinuate that should my husband CARE about me, why wouldn't he want to make me happy and learn to dance!!!??? Can you believe this imbecile??!! You know, you can say what you want about me, but make the mistake of attacking my loved ones or are in for whatever this Italian/Irish temper is about to sling your way!! I take my friendships and my family very seriously. I will be the first to defend them in any way through any given situation with all claws and teeth bared.

I immediately ceased dancing and told him with my icy cold stare shooting daggers into his eyes...."I tell you what.....I can guarantee that I will be able to get my husband up here. As long as you don't mind if he comes in full camouflage gear and sits right there at the top of that staircase and proceeds to use you as an arrow target. Would that be fine with you?"

I don't know if it was my death stare, or the idea of just how painful a broadhead would feel striking his ass, but he immediately backed down. I left and never returned.

After doing some hunting, finding only many places far too expensive for me to attend, I came upon another studio located actually, not far from Fred Astaire.  It was Dance Arts off of Memorial and Dairy Ashford.  Although I could not afford the regular classes (at $50 a pop it was an impossibility!) I scooped up as many scattered group classes I could afford, practice parties too.  But this place too pushed the very expensive private lessons. The owner begged me to join her tango team stating I had good latin hips!! Said I had natural dance talent...she needed me. (Of course, I thought she was going to spit up her coke when I told her ass is fat. It is kind of hard NOT to swing your hips when you have a fat ass LOL!!) Thing was....I simply could not afford it. Plain and simple. Eventually I had to quit all together as I hit a hard financial bump in my life and could not even afford the scattered classes I had managed to round up at that time.

When I moved to The Heights (having previously lived in Katy), I thought well, maybe I can find a place where I can scoop up some group classes when I have the money, or maybe a weekend party or something. I was hopeful. Thing was...there just aren't that many places willing to accommodate someone that doesn't have a shitload of money to plunk down for private lessons. Their parties are usually reserved for those money bearing people. I did find one place I visited for a Friday night party and it was the most dull, most boring place I had ever stepped foot into. All the dancers were couples. And they danced only with their partners. I sat there the ENTIRE evening sipping on a soda and danced ONE dance the entire night and that was with the owner at the end of the night. Nuff said.

Then one night I stumbled over SSQQ. I originally thought it was too far away, I have had no such luck so far, am I sure I want to do this anymore..... It just happened to be the Sock Hop party I attended. Everyone was SO friendly here!  People talked to you. People danced with you. I made 3 new friends that very night and went to eat at IHop till 3 in the morning and I still see two of them regularly at the studio!! I thought this too good to be true when I decided to look further into SSQQ. I found out that no one sporting rubber mallets were ready and waiting to whack me over the head demanding I bring in recruits to line their pockets! And the classes were very much affordable as a whole. I could take one group class all month for less than the cost of a private lesson! And the best thing was that even as I could not afford to personally take advantage of the low prices....I was perfectly welcomed ALWAYS to attend as many parties as I wanted or could afford to go to!!!

I have stayed ever since and sing SSQQ's praises to all with a willing ear. I can not say enough good about the place that is for sure.

Now for the next subject.....ex-SSQQ members.

The question should be how come there are STILL so many current members???? Your numbers should speak for themselves. There are people out there just waiting to dip the tip of their poison arrows into your gut. They are jealous and wish to steal business by slinging crap everywhere. As I mentioned before....I will stand up to anyone against my friends and I consider SSQQ just that. A family of friends is what I have found here. Just try me! How many ex-members still come to visit or attend a party even though they no longer take classes? How many partnerships and friendships have started within the walls of SSQQ? The fact that this studio is full of warm, caring people ensures its success no matter what.

Poor Instructors?? WHERE??? Yes, good instructors will be people with natural talent and skills....but as instructors here pretty much hand picked, aren't they? I can not imagine Rick hiring anyone to teach a dance class that he has not seen for himself how they dance. Don't you think someone running a dance studio for over 30 years would be able to spot someone with talent?? DUH!!

Every single instructor I have met at SSQQ are brilliant! They are happy, kind, helpful and don't ever mind taking an extra minute to explain or demonstrate something for you! Not only do they have talent, they are good, decent human beings that are there to share their love of dance with others.

Well, this ended up a long winding email...LOL...but like I warned...this must be more a quarters worth than a dime LOL!!!

Have a great day!

Ms. T




-----Original Message-----
From: Joe C
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 9:54 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: August 2007 SSQQ Newsletter

The thought of you retiring, Mr. Archer, made me want to register asap for your classes.  It will be a sad day when you do. After 30 years which is hard to imagine, how fast time flies. I recall taking classes in the mid-eighties, and again in 2004 and both times for 4-6 month stretches, were good times for the wife and I.  Heck, we been married 30 years this year!  Anyways, we plan to come back and take several classes. Thanks for your dedication.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 11:40 AM
To: Joe C
Subject: RE: August 2007 SSQQ Newsletter

Thank you very much, Joe. Those are kind words indeed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Joe C
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 12:59 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: August 2007 SSQQ Newsletter

Don't retire Mr. Archer!  Semi perhaps.

You're a legend.  If it were not for your classes, the wife and I may have thrown in the towel.  When we were at the stretch, we signed for dancing to spice our relationship and believe me, it has.  You even say it in your website.  Women love to dance.  And when we go to different revues, over the last 20 years, I have seen more guys on the sidelines because of not knowing how to dance.  Too many females just dying to be asked.  They always seem to have that sparkle in their eye of a man who knows how to dance.

This past year, the man I have trained under since '84, retired after 39 years teaching martial arts. I bet you know who I am referring to - Grandmaster Kim Soo of Kim Soo Karate, started off in downtown, now home to the Toyota Center. It was a set back when it was announced two years before. Just the idea that we wouldn't have him teach on a fulltime basis. However we are fortunate to have him teaching on a semi-retired format.

Anyways, I hope you stick around for a long time to come - either fulltime or semi -retired.  I cannot imagine the thousands of marriages you saved from your dance instruction.  Take care.

Sincerely, Joe

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 2:06 PM
To: Joe C
Subject: Kim Soo

I don't think I told you this, but I actually took karate lessons from Kim Soo myself.

Back in the early Seventies, a movie called Billy Jack did the same thing for karate classes that Saturday Night Fever did for Disco classes.

Seeing an outnumbered Indian half-breed kick the hell out of some redneck bigots on behalf of underdog Indians and Hippies was one of the most joyful experiences of my life!  Justice Prevails!

So in 1974 I signed up for karate lessons at the downtown location you mentioned.  I took class for about six months until one day I came to the realization that the circles I traveled in were unlikely to require street fighting skills. It was about this point I concentrated more on my dance classes.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my karate classes. Kim Soo taught several of my classes himself. He was a real leader; very poised and impressive.

This movie played a big part in his eventual expansion. I have often compared his good fortune to my good fortune in that we both parlayed a surprise hit movie into a career. It never dawned on me that he really is not that much older than I am.

-----Original Message-----
From:  Joe C
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 6:36 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Kim Soo

Mr Archer,

Billy Jack during the '74 release was one of my favorites besides the Bruce Lee movies. Tom McLaughlin did an earlier movie titled Born Losers in '67 so I was a big fan.  It's coincidental that several years ago, GM Kim Soo had mentioned wanting to learn to dance. I think he felt both arts shared the same - passion, discipline, and grace. That's why I say you as well as GM Kim Soo are what I would refer to as "Living Legends" of Houston.

You both started something in Houston when there was very little to offer in dancing and martial arts.

I recall taking the 5 lessons for $5 dollars from Arthur Murray studio on West Gray. This was in '73 or '74. After the last class, I was escorted into this large office surrounded by the pretty instructor and three big gorillas that resembled bodyguards in the Godfather. I was pressured into signing a one year contract for $1700.

That was like a million bucks for me. After repeated failed pressure tactics, I was allowed to go.

Everyone knows SSQQ and Kim Soo Karate. I hope you never retire.  Stay in excellent health and take care.  Until our next dance lesson....


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 4:10 PM
To: Joe C
Subject: Kim Soo and Arthur Murray

Are you sure we are not leading parallel lives? I had a near-identical experience at that exact same Arthur Murray studio!!!

In fact, it was just as stressful as your experience. You should read the story.  I am sure it will make you laugh.

No Contracts

Do you mind if I publish your letters?  I would print them under Joe C...  your letters are the perfect conclusion to my own story about this same shakedown experience.  I would be very grateful.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Joe C
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 8:17 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Kim Soo and Arthur Murray

That's funny Mr. Archer.  I read your experience. It's a great story.

The ad I answered to was in the "Zest" magazine, advertisement back section, of Sunday's Chronicle. Mine were 5 lessons for 5 bucks. There was another dance school offering the same. Arthur Murray's happen to be closer for me to travel from.

If I recall the room I was corralled into, seemed 15x15 size dimensions and had a large nice executive desk. The salesman and the three gorillas were nicely dressed, pin striped Mafia attire.

My torture was around 45 minutes of every known sales tactic to get me to sign the contract without breaking every bone in my body. I resisted the intimidation but for a good portion of the time spent in that chamber, I thought I would never be found if I said no. Finally after I mentioned I would have to talk to my Father who I said was a police officer (I lied to desperate measures), they abruptly released me without further containment.

I never looked back and my unfair judgment was that I figured all dance schools were the same and did not pursue any further avenues to enhance my personal values.

It would be 15 years before I tried the approach again and lord and behold did I strike out again.  Up on 45 south at Monroe was a C&W dance school so I gave it a try. The wife was with me and we wanted to learn together. It was a Saturday afternoon and just as soon as we arrived well before the 5:00 pm closing, one of the dance instructors was locking up.  However she agreed to extend the dance instruction at "her house" a few blocks away.

She had converted her living room into a min-dance floor with 360 wall mirrors.  After the cordially introduction, we agreed to the private lessons of $20 per session. That's when the Dance Instructor from hell arrived.  I couldn't get the steps down - two left feet with their own minds, so after trial after trial, the physical and verbal abuse went into high gear.  She pulled, jerked, pushed if I was not in the right pattern, then she said perhaps I was too dumb to learn how to pick up the simple dance steps.  We endured this for another sessions and finally I decided not to return. I think I still have war wounds from that fiasco.

Our next adventure was with Gilbert Huron. He was good but sometimes some of the classes did not meet the number of minimum headcounts and besides, the instruction was fast.  If you got left behind, you were doomed. We took several months of instruction but felt our needs were not being fulfilled.  But we did buy a good number of his tapes.

Then I heard about SSQQ.  The recorded message - the 861 or something number I dialed seemed genuine.  Excited, the wife and I gave it a try. Our first class was 2-step and it was packed to the gill.  It was easy and fun!  We had a great time, met a lot of good people and couldn't get enough.  We wanted to learn all SSQQ had to offer. That's the feeling I think everyone who passes through your doors get. I want more and I want it from here.  So please Mr. Archer, you cannot retire.

The company I work for - Air Liquide - has a portion of summer intern package for French interns to learn as much about Texas during their 3 month stay.  SSQQ is part of the package and every year, they all are registered to take several of their favorites - Salsa, C&W, and Zydeco. No one can ever fulfill the big shoes you leave when you retire.  You said it yourself, dancing keeps you young and vibrant!

I have no problem using my letters.  It would be an honor. Take care sir.

Sincerely, Joe


Who would have thought I would run across someone who had the identical experience I had over at the same former Arthur Murray dance studio on West Gray?

As I stated earlier, if you make the classes fun and treat people with respect, they will continue to take dance lessons automatically. 

And if they graduate, then they will either come back again sometime further down the road or they will send their friends.

Now you see why I resent Katklaw who claims to the world that SSQQ uses pressure tactics... nothing on earth could be further from the truth. 

You do not have to strong-arm people in order to get them to sign up dance lessons.  Just make the classes fun.  The dancing will do the rest.

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