The Night Vesuvius
Erupted at SSQQ
Written by Rick Archer, June 2002
Last update: July 2007
This is the story of the night I suffered a complete
meltdown at the studio. I have always referred to this
as my 'Vesuvius Moment'.
Two students, Roshan and Kathy, cornered me 30 minutes after their class had
ended to ask for a Refund. Their demand came at the
exact moment I was about to begin an emergency private
lesson. Desperate to begin the private lesson, I was
not in the most patient of moods. Nor did I think they
deserved a refund. But they refused to take 'no' for
What ensued was the most bitter argument I have ever had
with a dance student. The argument did not become
physical, but it was heated. At one
point, Roshan and I were nose to nose in anger.
Eventually I gave in. That private lesson was still waiting for me and I
had to break the impasse.
But the Refund wasn't enough for Roshan. Even though he had
received a Refund he didn't deserve (in my opinion), now he wanted
to exact a measure
of revenge too.
That same night, Roshan wrote an incredibly damaging email
about the incident and forwarded it to 50 SSQQ students. This
email was well-written, but (in my opinion) deeply biased.
The email ended with the suggestion that everyone join Roshan in
finding a new dance studio to attend. Roshan's email had the power
to essentially gut my entire Country-Western program.
It was the email equivalent of a live hand grenade.
What was I going to do about it?
THE STORY BEGINS
30, 2000, was the first night of the May Dance Semester
here at the studio.
I had never met Roshan and Kathy before. In fact,
the first time I ever noticed them was at 9:10 pm that
evening. As I was to learn later, Roshan
and Kathy had been at the studio that night to take Marty Shea's
Ghost Town 5 from 7-9 pm. In order to take Ghost
Town, you had to complete at least four or five months
of preliminary classes. Although I did not know
them, these two people were certainly no strangers to
the studio. They knew the drill at Practice Night.
The Sunday evening Practice Night had begun at 9:10
pm. The reason I had my eye on this couple was
that I was suspicious. They had not bothered to
pay for Practice Night (back in those days, we
used to charge for Practice Night. Sunday Practice went from 9-11
pm. It cost $3 a person). In fact, it looked
to me like they were trying to avoid paying!
Those were the days before Hall Monitors. That
night I had my hands full with running my end of Practice
Night. I was both the DJ and the person
responsible for collecting money. I wasn't completely alone;
while I collected money, Marty Shea was down in the Drink Room
There were about 40 people milling about in Room
2 waiting for Practice Night to
begin. Using the map for reference, I was standing at the door between Room 1 and Room 2.
As the crowd approached me to give me their
Practice Night money, something odd
caught my eye. 40 people were moving into Room 1, but two people
moving in the opposite direction towards Room 3.
by my post at the door to Room 1 for ten minutes.
From that vantage point, I had a limited view through the
door into Room 3. That wasn't good enough so I walked over and
peeked. Sure enough, Kathy and Roshan were
dancing in Room 3. They appeared to
the Ghost Town moves they had learned that night in class.
When Marty Shea finished with the popcorn, they stopped
dancing and began to chat with their instructor.
They were standing near the doorway so I could actually see all
three people talk. I had nothing else to do as I stood at my post so I
continued to watch from a distance. Marty seemed
to be explaining something. If I were to guess,
Marty was giving them some free coaching on the side.
Marty appeared to be showing the
couple what they were doing wrong on the
pattern they had just learned in dance class that night. I surmised that Roshan and Kathy had gotten confused on a move, so they
stuck around to get some extra help from their teacher.
Judging from the smiles, Marty, Roshan and Kathy had
bridged the teacher-student gap and were now friends. I rolled my eyes at Marty.
I had specifically asked my Staff to
refrain from teaching at Practice Night. However this
picayune a rule to actually bother to enforce and to this
day I rarely say anything. We are, after all, in
the business of helping people.
felt myself growing increasingly irritated at the couple
because 20 minutes had passed and they still had not paid for Practice Night.
Time's up. So at 9:30 I walked across Room 2 and entered
I went up to Roshan and Kathy and asked
for their Practice Night money. They replied they said they were not going to stay.
Whenever someone says this,
I back off. It is my policy to give people five more
minutes to make up their minds, then go ask them a
second time. So even though they had already been
there for twenty minutes, I left the room without
I never actually got around to
and Kathy for their money a second time. I now became preoccupied with
an unexpected problem.
Besides my issue with Roshan and
Kathy, once the Room 2 had cleared, I noticed
there was a young couple - college age around 21 - sitting on the couch in Room 2.
I had never seen this couple before. They seemed
completely lost sitting their on the couch. They
were looking every which way. Maybe they were
waiting for a dance teacher and didn't know what they
looked like. That was probably it. I decided they were
waiting for a teacher to give them a late Private
Lesson. Having identified them as harmless, my
attention left the couple on the couch as I continued my
duties of taking requests for certain songs and
collecting money for Practice Night (people came late
all the time, so I had to hold my post).
pm, Kathy and Roshan told me they were about to leave.
As I returned to
Room 2 around 9:32, I noticed the
were still sitting there on the couch in Room 2. By my
estimate, they had been waiting close to half an hour. They looked pretty worried about something
and I had a pretty good idea what the problem was. So I approached them
to ask if I could help. As I had guessed,
they were indeed at the studio waiting for a Private
Lesson, but their SSQQ instructor had not shown up.
They were getting married in six
days. They ruefully admitted they had waited till the last
minute to learn how to slow dance to the first song at their
wedding. They were in bind because they were leaving on a plane for their
wedding in Michigan in the morning. And yes, they had
never danced in their lives.
No wonder they were worried! Without
help, they were up a creek without a paddle. They were down to
their last chance to prepare. So I went into the office to call
the instructor. I got no answer. I was frustrated because I knew
the only instructor left at the studio who knew how to teach
Slow Dancing was me. Unless I wanted to be a complete jerk
and ignore them, this couple had become my
responsibility. I was
literally their Last Chance to be able to dance gracefully at their
I did not actually wish to teach
them. It was supposed to be my night to
stay and dance with my students in Room 1 as I had
promised. But that wasn't going to happen if I had
to teach a Wedding Lesson. I was doubly upset
because this same instructor had stood up some different
students a week before. As I listened to the phone
ring continuously to no avail, I was already fuming to
myself at being forced to clean up for the instructor's
negligence. Yeah, sometimes things like this
happen, but I didn't have to like it.
That's when I heard a knock on the door. I said,
Roshan and Kathy
entered the office. They said they were there to ask for a refund. They said they
wanted their money back so they could use it to take Private
Lessons from Marty instead.
I looked at them incredulously. Marty of course
was the instructor who was their Ghost Town
teacher and the same man who had been giving them extra
coaching during Practice Night.
No one had ever waited
this long to ask for a Refund before. There was one
thing I was sure of - their reason for
wanting their money back half an hour late evoked no sympathy.
I was definitely caught off guard.
I just stared at them for a moment. Meanwhile my
mind was racing. Marty was a friend of mine and I trusted
him completely. Although I never actually asked
Marty for his side of the story, I doubted seriously he had a
hand in this. Marty couldn't have cared less about the
money. He was a medical researcher who taught
dance lessons for the fun of it. It was just a
lark for him; I couldn't see this big friendly guy
chasing down private lessons for any reason other than
to be helpful.
I guessed this Refund idea was a spur of the moment
decision. While Marty worked with them in Room 3, they
realized they could learn faster and better from Marty one on one, so they decided to dump Group Lessons for Private Lessons.
In other words, they had changed their mind about the
Refunds are actually not very common at SSQQ. Our
statistics show that one person in two hundred asks for
their money back. Our system works like this - A
student pays up front, takes the class and decides
during their First Class whether they like it or not.
If they don't like their class, they go back to the
Registration Desk, get their money back, then leave.
We don't argue with anyone, we don't make them feel bad
and we don't play games.
But once their first class is over, in our eyes they
have committed to their class. Refunds are out of
This couple's first class was over half an hour ago.
It should have been cut and dry. But what made
this case unprecedented was they were the first happy
customers in history to ask for their money back for a
class they appreciated.
Refunds are requested
Customers, not two people who had been laughing and
smiling all night long! For starters, they had obviously benefited
from the class. They had been practicing their
moves all night long. In fact, they liked the new
patterns so much they hung around to try to perfect
their moves with Marty's help.
Nor did the irony of the unpaid Practice Night escape me -
while they were busy avoiding paying for Practice Night, Marty was
giving them a free lesson. That's when 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 $60 Refund! And I didn't
want to give it to them.
RESISTED THEIR REQUEST
I realize that some businesses bend over backwards to
cater to their customer's every whim, but that unfortunately has
never been my style.
We are not like Macy's where we sell merchandise that can be
returned. How were Roshan and Kathy supposed to return two
hours of dance patterns?
The major problem for my particular business is that I sell a
service that no one needs. Dancing is fun, but it is not
necessary to sustain life.
Dancing is entertainment, plain and simple. When something
more entertaining comes along, people will drop social dancing
without the slightest hesitation for the simple reason that it is
I have learned to live with people who change their minds.
What I will not do, however, is give back money every time someone
changes their mind.
If something more important comes along, then
I say okay, I understand that you can't finish your class at this
time. When you are ready, come back and take the class at a
People change their minds ALL THE TIME!
But every time they do, don't come to me and expect me to jump
through hoops to accommodate them. I understand that customer
service is important, but there has to be a limit.
Somewhere along the line I decided my students
had two hours to make up their mind. Once that class was over, I had
the right to say they had committed to that class. From
that point on, if they changed their mind, they were not going to
get their money back.
And now Kathy and Roshan had changed their mind. But they
weren't going to get their money back. Their first class over.
They were too late.
GOT ME UNDER PRESSURE
As I hung up the phone to the missing dance instructor, I looked at the clock on the wall. It said 9:40 pm.
My memory of that moment was that I was already in a very bad
- I was exhausted. My work day had
started at 4 pm that afternoon. I had taught two classes and now
it was my night to take of Practice Night too.
- I was frustrated because one of my
instructors had dropped the ball with the Wedding Couple. This
was the second time this instructor had stood someone up.
I was tired of covering for this instructor's irresponsible
- I was already angry at this Refund couple
because they had loitered around the building for half an hour
- I was deeply preoccupied with
my need to get started with the Wedding Couple. More than
anything else, I was impatient with the Refund couple because I
had something more important to do. The social worker side of me
insisted I go rescue that young couple before they have a
- Furthermore giving Refunds was not my job. I was frustrated because the woman hired to handle
Refund problems had left the studio over half an hour ago. Here
was another headache to handle because
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Most of all, I was angry at this couple
for asking for a Refund 30 minutes after their class ended. Not
only did I think they had a lot of nerve, I hated being forced
to waste my time and JUMP THROUGH HOOPS at their whim. But what
choice did I have?
BATTLE BEGINS IN THE OFFICE
I told Kathy and Roshan that a Refund was not called for
in this situation. Their class was over; that was the cut-off
for Refunds. They replied that they disagreed.
Till now they had just poked their noses in. Now Roshan moved forward
to block the office doorway.
I can read body language. It was obvious he and Kathy were not
leaving until they got what they wanted.
didn't want to argue. I had a wedding lesson to
I was short. I said, ""C'mon guys, class ended 30 minutes
ago. Furthermore I have a private lesson waiting for me.
The woman who gives Refunds left a long time ago.
And I don't have time to argue."
There was an exchange of words. I could see this
conversation was going nowhere. So I decided to
try to end it without ending it... just walk away.
conversation could develop any more momentum, I excused
myself for a moment to go to the DJ booth to get my CD
collection of Slow Music for the Wedding Couple. Roshan
didn't budge from the office door.
So I stopped and looked him in the eye. "Excuse
me, I need to go to the DJ booth." This time he
Now that I had escaped the office trap, I
went over to speak to the couple sitting on the couch in Room 2. I couldn't help but notice
they were very worried.
So I tried to reassure them.
"It doesn't look like the instructor is coming, so I
will help you instead. Excuse me a minute, I need
to go get some music and I will be right back."
As I walked away, I could see that Roshan and Kathy watched me like a
hawk. By their crossed arms and their faces, I could
tell they weren't going anywhere nor were they going to
let me out of their sight. Who were these guys, anyway?
While I was in the DJ booth, I had a chance to collect
my thoughts. I felt taken advantage of. The
Refund Policy was clear - ask for your money back before
your first class is over or forget about it. Their
class had been over half an hour ago. They had a
lot of nerve!
Why had they waited so long!?
That thought kept racing through my mind. If they
had simply asked for a Refund at the end of the class like
EVERYONE ELSE HAD BEEN DOING FOR TWENTY YEARS, I had a lady sitting at the Front Desk waiting to process refunds.
They would have gotten their Refund automatically.
Instead they wandered into Room 3 without paying for
Practice Night. I could just feel the anger rising
as I returned to Room 2. I knew I had a
confrontation waiting for me back in Room 2. At the time
I wondered why
they felt so justified in their Refund request to stand
their ground like that. People don't fight that
hard unless they are convinced their position is rock
solid. I could not come up with an answer to that
question. All I knew was that I had no choice but to accept that
they were deeply committed to their position.
As I walked back to face the music, I wondered, 'Who are
ARGUMENT ESCALATES IN ROOM TWO
I was gone
three minutes. When I returned, Roshan and Kathy were there
waiting for me and so
was the Wedding Couple sitting on the couch 15 feet away.
Immediately Kathy and Roshan made a beeline to intercept me
so Round Two of the argument could start.
"We want our money back and we aren't leaving till we
"You should have asked for your Refund 30 minutes ago.
Your class is over."
So right there in Room 2 we went back and forth. I could
see the wedding couple
looked distinctly uncomfortable at the sight of the three
of us standing there arguing. They looked at each
other. What on earth had they gotten themselves into at
this bizarre dance studio?
I did not appreciate this argument one bit. 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
going to take "No"
for an answer. Roshan was a very big man,
perhaps taller than I am. As I moved to go to the couple on
the couch, he blocked my path. By running interference and
stopping me, 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. 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 tag team stuff was
wearing me down.
At the ten minute mark, I could feel my frustration escalating.
There was no movement to this argument. This disagreement was turning
into a Royal Impasse. There was no end in sight. What was I
going to do?
Do you ever ask yourself, "If I had to
do it over again, what would I have done differently?"
For the ensuing seven years, I honestly had never thought of any 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?
As I typed
an update to this story in 2007, it did occur to me to
go get Marty to either intercede or at least stand by as
a witness and a peace officer. Why it took me
seven years to think of this obvious solution is beyond
me. I really could have used some back-up.
round we went. I had already repeated every
argument, but here we go again... they were 30
minutes late and the Registrar lady with the
cash box had long since left the building. Blah blah
The more I
listened to them argue, the more amazed I was at their
persistence. I cannot even remember what their
reasons were that I owed them the money. Roshan
and Kathy would not take 'no' for an answer.
simply all night long with these guys. It really
didn't matter what I said or they said... like a boxing
match, they were going to let me keep exchanging punches
until I wore out. They were
willing to stand there wearing me down until they had their
They were going to argue until I
On the other hand, I knew that every minute I stood
there arguing with these Rice graduate students, in the
back of my mind I knew 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.
Unfortunately my concern for them seriously undercut my
On the other
hand, Roshan and Kathy seemed to have nothing better to
do... in fact I think they enjoyed taking turns messing
But I didn't want to give in!! I
didn't think they were right. Unfortunately a
house divided is weak. One side of me wanted to
argue, the other side was impatient to help the Wedding
Couple. My lack of patience was working
against me. I needed to end it quick.
ROUND THREE - THE
KNOCKOUT PUNCH IN ROOM 6
Finally I seized on an idea -
I remembered I had the Refund Rule in writing! Why not
show Roshan and Kathy the Refund Rule? This might be
my best chance to end this argument once and for all!
The Refund Rule was posted on the wall in Room 6, so we
moved from Room 2 over to Room 6.
I pointed to the wall. "Ask for
your Refund before you leave the building. Once you leave
the Building, we will give you Credit, but not a Refund".
In the twenty years (1980-2000) this policy was posted, this
Rule had always meant to ask for a Refund during class or as you
were leaving class at the end of the night. In other
words, once your First Class is over, don't come back and
expect a Refund after the fact.
So for 20 years, that's how it had worked. That's how
it had worked, that is, until now.
Kathy read the sign and immediately began to smile.
Kathy said, "This sign says 'once you leave the
building'. Well, what's your point, Rick?
We haven't left the building."
Roshan and Kathy had never seen this sign in their life.
They had no idea it was even there. But once I led
them right to it, it only took Kathy 15 seconds to make a
mockery of it.
What? I read the Rule myself. Then I read it again.
damn. She was right!
Why hadn't I noticed that?
The Rule wasn't supposed to mean that, but that's what it
said. I must have had some sort of blind spot. Even
though I wrote it myself, that particular interpretation had never
occurred to me to before.
Nor had anyone else
caught it either.
Why not? For the simple reason that we had never had a
happy customer ask for a Refund before.
For 20 years, people who wanted Refunds couldn't wait to
get out of here!! In all these years, we had never had
someone stick around after class to have more fun, then
suddenly decide to ask for a Refund. How utterly and
absolutely absurd. Our happy customers had always stayed
But there it was in black and white. Kathy had spotted a
loophole even an Elephant could fit through. I felt
sick inside. I had just read the writing on the wall,
literally as well as figuratively. With the realization that
I had probably lost this argument, that awful sick
I wasn't giving up yet. It ain't over till
I fumbled desperately for a comeback.
I said the rule meant that once the class had ended, their
chance to get a Refund had passed. That's when the argument
heated up past the point of no return. "You have got to be
kidding. You owe us a Refund!"
I stuck to my guns. I said the Rule means when your class is
over and the Registrar goes home, you can turn your tuition
into credit, but not a Refund.
Roshan and Kathy took turns shooting holes in this argument.
Finally Roshan got fed up.
He got up in my face. We were toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball. "I don't care what you say it means.
I can read. It doesn't say, 'when your class is over.'
It says 'when you leave the building'!! Why won't you honor your own
words? We aren't leaving this building until we have
I said he had
better back off of me or I was calling the Bellaire Police.
Roshan took a half step back, but Kathy
saw the opening. She immediately got right in behind me.
Kathy started needling me, "Rick, you aren't even
good for your own word. You are a greedy arrogant
jerk who doesn't have the guts to admit when you're
wrong. You are just a hypocrite who pretends to
care about his customers, but in reality just wants to hang
on to every last ugly dime."
Crossfire. I was
getting hit from both directions. That did it. Roshan was in my face, Kathy was
calling me a corrupt businessman, the Wedding Couple was
looking scared out of their wits, and the Refund Policy
on the wall had proven to be of no help. There was no end in sight.
No one was coming to my aid and there was no way out. I was finished.
I was so mad at them I could explode! I hated giving in to these two people!
But it looked hopeless. They were getting stronger and my resolve
And to think
they had won because I was too stupid to write my own Rules
correctly. That was the most bitter thought of all. To
think I had lost this argument due to my own stupid
mistake was more than my bruised and battered ego could
handle at that point.
I had fought these two bullies to a standstill only to
sabotage my own position.
The realization that I had been defeated by my own words was
pretty hard for me to bear.
That's when I snapped.
A flash of anger came over me.
I went Total Vesuvius - I was red hot in an instant.
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 damn money. Take it all. I don't give a damn!"
Now there were one dollar bills scattered all over the floor. 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 off the floor. Kathy left the room, but
Roshan stood over me appreciating the moment. The symbolism of the
conqueror standing above the vanquished was readily apparent. He had
just kicked my ass. Waves of humiliation rushed through my
shaking body. With resignation, I counted the money and gave
it to him.
He accepted the money and left. It was not a pretty
sight. But it is the truth.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
After Roshan and
Kathy left, I gathered myself as best I could. I could
see there were a few people left in the building, but they
gave me a wide berth. I went into Room 2 to collect my
Wedding Couple, but first I went to the office to take a
When I came out a minute or two later, I wondered where everyone
else had gone. Where were the 40 Practice Night
students? Where was Marty? That's when I figured
out that most students from the Practice Night had left ASAP
when I went into the office.
I never saw any of them leave. I had no idea how much
my students had seen or what they thought, but maybe it was
best that they left me alone to save face. This fact
that they had been there at all left me deeply embarrassed
Certainly no one had rushed
to my defense. I was the Solitary Man. Well, not exactly.
There on the couch shrinking in horror was the Wedding Couple.
If you appreciate dark humor, just imagine what was running through
They were alone with the mad man.
Yup, we were the Left Behinds. The three of us were alone in
the building now, a fact that I am sure was not reassuring to the
Wedding Couple at all. This could be the dance studio
equivalent of Bates Motel and I was Norman Bates. I could stab
them to death and no one was there to come to the rescue.
Maybe I should go get my Psycho wig. I knew just where to find
If anything, the fact that the Wedding Couple was still there is
powerful testimony to just how desperate they were.
To ease their
minds, I suggested we to go Room 5. This room had a
huge window plus an exit door to
the street. Completely conscious of their fear, I
deliberately avoided ever getting between them and the door.
Was this a fiasco or what?
Slowly but surely, they
came to realize I wasn't a monster. The two of them stayed
petrified of me for some time, but they eventually relaxed enough
to learn what they had come for. I think at one point they
even shared a laugh with me.
Sorry to say, they weren't fast learners either. But I was
determined to see this through. We were there till Midnight.
After I finished working with them, I refused to accept any money.
I told them my self-esteem needed a boost, so please accept my
wedding gift. They seemed to understand where I was coming
from, so they left with a hand shake and a quick hug for the dancing
No, they didn't run to their car in the empty parking lot. Out of
morbid curiosity, I watched from the doorway.
My own ride home was a long one.
THE DAY AFTER VESUVIUS
The next morning I was greeted by Roshan's poison
pen email. Another student had forwarded it to me.
My anger from last night returned. It wasn't enough for him to bully
me into giving him a Refund he didn't deserve. Nor was it enough for
him to tower over me as I groveled at his feet picking up one dollar bills.
Now Roshan intended to rub salt into the wounds and sabotage my business.
I took a deep breath and started to read. The first thing I noticed
was that he had sent this email less than an hour after he left the studio
(he left around 9:50 pm. His email went out at 10:37 pm).
Kathy Rivera and
Roshan K 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
STARING INTO THE
I guess his poison pen email was
the Rice Graduate Student equivalent of kicking sand in my face for good
Kind of ruthless, actually.
I noticed that he had
included the names and email addresses of 50 SSQQ Western dance
students. These people were the most experienced Western dancers
at the studio, the 'Elite' if you wish. This Nifty Fifty was the Studio's
Western In-Crowd of the day. The ties that bound them extended weblike to practically every Western student we had.
Everyone knew someone. If they sided with Roshan, the studio's vibrant Western program would be reduced to
rubble. Maybe we could save a few students taking Beginning Twostep,
but that was about it.
This was the first time I
had ever witnessed the power of the Internet first-hand. Let me
tell you, I was stunned. As I pondered the ruinous implications of this
email, it took my breath away!
I realized that with a few minutes of work at his typewriter and one little click of
his mouse, Roshan had sent his letter flying to 50 of my top Western dancers.
If the Nifty Fifty in turn continued to forward the email, pretty soon news of my temper
tantrum would be city-wide. Roshan wasn't content to get his money back and
humiliate me in the process; he
wanted to cripple my business.
Roshan was aiming
for my jugular.
Furthermore, Roshan wasn't
playing fair. He was playing fast and easy with
dance class wasn't crowded. It was in Room One, our
largest room. Roshan was just trying to think
of some face-saving excuse behind their ridiculous
my behavior was no more outrageous than his had
Actually we kept it pretty clean. There had been no fisticuffs or curse words
other than my 'Damn' when I threw the money on the
floor. Yes, we had both raised our voices, but I had
never once balled up my fist or threatened to punch him. Nor
Neither of us ever touched the other person.
the confrontation was very aggressive. Roshan had
threatened me by getting right in my face. Rather
than push him away, I threatened to call the police if
he didn't back off.
All told, Roshan had physically
blocked me twice and had got in my face twice. He
suggested that I had been aggressive - and yes, I
was - but in reality he was even more aggressive.
of all, Roshan had the
nerve to tell 50 SSQQ students that Kathy had been in tears and in
fear of being hurt by me.
This guy had no conscience
But how was I going to prove that to my students?
I had no choice. I had to respond to my accuser.
I knew I had caught an enormous break. For Roshan to post the email
addresses of every person on his list was a huge mistake.
maybe he did have a conscience - a guilty one. If so, his guilty conscience caused him to slip up.
This meant all I had to do was hit 'Reply' and my response would
be sent to the Nifty Fifty as well as to Roshan and Kathy.
everyone saw there was another side to this story, they would be
forced to think twice. I had just caught a lifeline.
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.
OUT OF THE
One thing leads to another. By chance, in response to my rebuttal of
the events, out of nowhere an angel of mercy appeared on my
Kimberly Lopez had just finished her
first night as a Volunteer in Marty Shea's Ghost Town class.
Kimberly also happened to be on Roshan's original Nifty
Fifty Group Email List.
After Kimberly read my response to Roshan's letter, she decided to
what Kimberly had to say to me after she read my apology to Roshan
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 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
I had expected at least
some damage, but to my surprise, there were no negative consequences or fall-out from the email
Once I posted Kimberly's email, all the tension was
diffused. By siding with my version of the events, Kimberly's
email had effectively put out the fire caused by my volcanic
I suppose sharing my side of the story plus my apology
began to control the damage, but Kimberly's email put to rest any
Public sentiment swung in my favor. Yes, I had behaved
poorly, but I was provoked.
Yes, I had lost my temper, but then Roshan and Kathy had no business
asking for a Refund half an hour after the class was over either.
Furthermore, Roshan came off looking like a bully. Roshan liked to hit below the belt by playing
footloose with the facts.
For example, remember poor Kathy, the tear-ridden
damsel who cowered
in fear lest I might strike her? Let me jog your memory.
"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."
A recent Internet search revealed that Kathy was a star rugby player at
Women's Rugby wins at Mardi Gras Tournament... Freshmen
wings Carrie Mills and Kathy Rivera scored their first tries of the
season in the first half of the University of Florida game..."
Those rugby girls play rough! I should know.
I still have scars to prove it.
Lessons from this Story:
Over the years, I have had two major battles over
Refunds. By coincidence, both of my formidable
opponents have been Rice Graduate Students.
Kathy and Roshan took me to school on my Refund Policy. Once in a while, Life decides to
teach you a lesson by taking a 2 by 4 to your head.
They literally knocked me to the floor. By the
time I got off the ground, I had learned my lesson.
I immediately went about writing the rules better.
I posted an iron-clad policy for the entire world to
see. Thanks to the legacy of Kathy and Roshan,
I now have the Refund
Rule posted on four walls at the studio, on every
walk-in and on-line receipt, and plastered all over my
web site. In addition, I have at least a dozen
articles explaining my position on Refunds.
A few years later, the Universe sent me a new test.
This time I was ready. I won the second encounter (Rice
MBA Refund Struggle). I have Kathy and Roshan
to thank for that.
However, trust me when I say I really do
not want a third battle. I would never say
'never', but I will add that my vigilance on the subject
of Refunds has reduced the arguments to a near trickle.
Mostly, this incident remains as a painful, powerful
nightmare in the back of my mind as the day I lost my
self-control. It is the day I learned how much
damage my temper can do.
rescued my business reputation, but the damage to my psyche didn't repair as easily. Ever since, I have been
very worried that I might lose control like that again. Like any ex-drinker
who lives daily with the threat of alcohol, I know I always have to watch out
for a temper that is very self-destructive. It isn't fun knowing you
have demons inside.
I never heard another word about the incident from anyone. It was like it never happened.
I wish it hadn't.
INTERESTING FOOTNOTES TO THIS STORY
July 2007, I wrote an eight-chapter article on
While I was writing, I made two new
discoveries related to my embarrassing temper tantrum.
The first discovery was a long-forgotten memory that I almost lost
an important business connection over my temper tantrum. A
woman named Adriana was deeply concerned that maybe her travel
agency shouldn't do business with me after all.
to read this new angle.
discovery was even more fascinating. Back in the years 1997
through 2001, my studio was involved in a feud with an organization
known as HSDS (Houston Swing Dance Society). Sometimes
things got every personal.
During this five year span, I argued with my wife Judy on a
continual basis on how best to effectively deal with the problems
this organization caused us. I was a hawk; she was a dove.
One day our most bitter rival sent us a letter that gave me the
chance to bring the problems out in the open and perhaps turn the
tide of publicity in our favor. Instead my wife Judy
absolutely refused to let me air the story in public. That
afternoon we had a knockdown, drag-out argument over which road to
Afterwards, Judy wrote me an email which essentially said she was
miserable and blamed me for the entire mess. I was furious and
depressed at the same time. It was obvious my marriage was
headed for the exit door (we separated six months later).
By chance, I took another look at that letter while I was writing.
What do you know? Judy sent me that letter on Sunday,
April 30, 2000 9:48 AM.
That night I
suffered the most embarrassing public loss of control in my entire
Coincidence? I think not. I think this letter put me in
a lot of pain long before Roshan and Kathy began to argue with me.
But when I went to write the story several years later, I had long
forgotten this other incident which obviously had a deep effect on
Rick Archer's Note: In July 2007, I included this story as part
of a 7-chapter article on Reputation.
If you have enjoyed reading this story, I have a strong hunch you would
thoroughly enjoy the
Essays on Reputation.