TRILOGY THREE -
Written by Rick Archer, July 2007
When life tosses you a hand
grenade, throw it back.
Rick Archer's Note:
This is a very intense story. I must warn you there
are many times when I will not look very good.
However, if I am going to
write about the mistakes of others, my sense of fair
play suggests I should share some from my own closet
as well. Besides, I didn't look too sharp in
the previous two stories; why start now?
This story serves as a powerful lesson on
why all people need to learn how to control their
temper, especially in a public setting such as your
own place of business.
In addition this story
serves as a positive lesson on what to do AFTER you
is the name for the horrible Temper Tantrum I threw at the
studio one night in April 2000.
I suffered a complete
meltdown that I have regretted ever since. I have always referred to this
in my life as 'The Vesuvius Incident'.
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 a 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 an answer.
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 and gave them the Refund. That private lesson
was still waiting for me and it looked like I was going to have to
give in to break the impasse.
This is when I completely lost my temper.
Even though Roshan had received a Refund he didn't deserve (in my
opinion), now he wanted to punish me for my temper as well. He
decided to exact a strong measure of revenge by trying to hurt my
After he got home, 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 effectively gut my entire Country-Western program.
This was the email equivalent of a live hand grenade.
what exactly did I intend to do about this crisis?
THE END OF
A MARRIAGE & THE BEGINNING OF A VERY BAD DAY
2000 in general
was without a doubt the toughest year of my entire life.
Even though 2000 was the biggest year in SSQQ history,
our success caused so much over-crowding that I had to
deal with constant complaints and headaches. With
Y2K problems, Living la Vida Loca, and
Bush-Gore struggles as the backdrop, 2000 started out
terrible for me. Twelve months later it ended the
same way when when my second wife Judy asked for a
divorce on Christmas Eve.
In addition, one day in particular -
April 30 - takes the
cake as the absolute worst day of my life.
In order to appreciate the horror of this day, at least
some background context is required.
February 2000 marked the first horror story of 2000.
It involved a lawsuit threat from powerful and
deep-pocketed Texas A&M University. These people sounded
serious! A&M was definitely not on my list of
organizations I wanted to take on in a court of law.
After the dust settled, this became a very funny story,
but for a while there I was scared out of my wits.
My crime was teaching a crash course on a Houston-area
club dance that had long been known as "Aggie
Jitterbug". I really wasn't trying to step on any
toes. That was what it was called!
Nevertheless, I became ensnarled in a bizarre argument
with Texas A&M University over whether I had the right
to teach the class under the name ''Aggie Jitterbug".
you not refrain from using the trademarks, quite
honestly, I (and I’m sure many other Houston area
Aggies) would find it a blatant act of greed on both
the part of SSQQ and Leisure Learning magazine and
rather disgusting that you would contribute to end
the noble act of raising scholarships for worthy
"You have not received consent or approval for the
use of marks exclusively licensed to Licensing
Resource Group. Therefore, your use of “Aggie” is a
direct infringement on the rights of Licensing
Resource Group. We consider your infringement to be
a serious intrusion on the rights of our client."
Do you believe
me now? Although this one-night class consisted of
just 10 students, TAMU obviously took the alleged
For a while there, 'Forbidden Word' and 'Shaggie
Jitterbug' became well-known catchphrases here
at SSQQ. This argument was so ridiculous that it
bordered on satire. Thinking the Houston Press
would be amused by a story this silly, I approached them
with the details. Sure enough, the Houston Press
was delighted to help any way they could.
One thing led to another. During my March 2000
interview with a Houston Press reporter, by coincidence
I made a discovery that raised a cloud of suspicion
about a controversy from the previous year.
The 1999 Houston Press Best Of Houston
issue had named some obscure gay bar that went out of
business a month later as the "Best Place to Swing
Dance". The gay bar had swing dancing all of one
night a week that was poorly attended. The whole
thing had a bad feel about it.
During my face to face interview, the reporter said SSQQ
was the actual winner of the 1999 Houston Press award
for best Swing Studio (for the second year in a row).
And I received a plaque to prove it.
HSDS Controversy 2000
Naturally I wanted to print these new results in my
April 2000 Newsletter, but Judy Archer raised
objections. She was uncomfortable that I wanted to
revisit some old grudges as part of the article.
So I allowed Judy to read the article before I published
it. I squirmed as she changed several passages,
but was thrilled to finally get much of the story about
the HSDS-SSQQ Controversy in print for the first time.
My article about HSDS painted a very poor picture of
this organization. In particular, it
chronicled SSQQ objections regarding the
incident. This part of the story stirred up a
lot of old demons.
Every action has a reaction. On Friday, April 28,
2000, I received an email from our perpetual HSDS
nemesis Carnell Pipkin. Carnell had emailed me to
respond to my April Newsletter article.
Judy and I immediately began to argue on how to respond
to Carnell's letter. The argument started tense and grew
This same argument been floating through our marriage
like a recurring nightmare for some time now. The
argument had begun in 1997 when HSDS confiscated Judy's
first Swing team and lured Carnell away from SSQQ.
Judy and I disagreed strongly on how to handle those
problems. Back then, at Judy's request, I had backed
down and let Judy handle things her way.
The argument grew much more intense during the Harvest
Moon Ball incident in October 1998. Again Judy
wanted to handle things her way, but I reminded her how
poorly things had turned out in 1997. Nevertheless
Judy prevailed again. And again things turned out
So when I made my Houston Press discoveries in April
2000, I had pretty much had it with HSDS AND JUDY.
I was going to write the story whether Judy liked it or
not. Judy's constant refusal over the past three
years to allow me to simply tell the SSQQ side of the
story left me deeply frustrated with both her decisions
and with the outcome of each event. Like
Lieutenant Gerard trying to catch the Fugitive, several
times I felt I had HSDS in my grip only to have Judy
help them escape.
Now in March 2000, Judy was not at all happy with my
decision to print a story whether she liked it or not.
As a compromise I agreed to give her some editorial
control. After a few deletions here and there,
Judy reminded me I was publishing this story over her
objections, but that I had her tepid blessings to do
what I had wanted to do for the past three years -
PUBLISH THE STORY OF THE FEUD.
Even watered-down, the April 2000 SSQQ Newsletter story
was not flattering to HSDS or Carnell Pipkin. He
took exception to many things I wrote. So now on
April 28, 2000, Judy and I stared at Carnell's
email letter had
the predictable effect of reigniting the same bitter
argument between Judy and me on how best to deal with
HSDS - attack (Rick) or hide (Judy).
Judy immediately began the 'I told you so' routine.
Look what you've done, Rick! She pointed out my
story had brought this ancient enemy back into our
home... and she had warned me this might happen!
Now that the wound was reopened, all the pain from three
years of disagreements over HSDS came flooding back in.
However, there was a new twist to our fight - this time
we had done things my way. Not surprisingly, I saw
things different than Judy.
In my opinion, we had lured Carnell back into the open.
He had given us a fresh opportunity to give him the
comeuppance he so richly deserved.
Judy said absolutely not. No more stories!
She wasn't going to let this thing escalate and hurt
her. She had suffered more than enough already.
Judy had agreed to allow me to write a Newsletter
article against her better judgment and now her old
nemesis was knocking on the door. She didn't want
any part of new controversy. Leave Carnell alone!
I disagreed. Carnell's email was proof that my approach
had worked. We had smoked him out in the open!
We had him in writing saying several very ugly things
and several very inaccurate things. Untie my
hands, Judy! Let me go to work.
Judy said she would think about it. I left Judy
alone for the next day or so while Judy made up her
mind. However, I wasn't very optimistic.
There was a great deal of dread in the Archer house that
weekend. Carnell's email meant big trouble.
Sunday morning, April 30, 2000, I received the following
email from Judy:
Sent: Sunday, April 30, 2000 9:48 AM
From: Judy Archer
To: 'Rick Archer'
This (letter from Carnell)
makes me sick to my stomach. I have waited a long time for this
controversy to die down and for HSDS and SSQQ to simply go their
own ways, but now it's really hit the fan. You may thrive on
this sort of thing, but I'm not cut from the same cloth.
Did HSDS do us wrong? Yes. Can we get over it?
I sure as hell hope so.
I even softened your statements as much as I could and asked you
not to do this
(i.e. print the
first April story about the HSDS/SSQQ bad blood)
but you did it
anyway and now I'm once again victimized with no recourse.
Maybe it's time I got out of the dance game altogether; my life
has more than its share of unhappiness and strife, why go
looking for more?
I HATE BEING THE BAD GUY!!!!!
HSDS used SSQQ, then went into competition with us. So did
Debbie Reynolds (an ex-teacher who left the studio) but what are
we going to do about it? Lindy has brought me extreme joy and
extreme sadness. I've lost many friends because of it. I'm tired
of it all and I wash my hands of it. I guess my fun trip to
Dallas (a Swing Event) is off since I'm not willing to travel
there and confront Carnell alone and his gang alone.
Now you and I will
fight (AGAIN) because of this thing. My life sucks.
Just the fact that Judy had emailed me instead of coming
to my office to talk some more gave me a bad feeling.
Email is a lousy way to settle personal differences.
Email may be good for information exchange, dentist
reminders and bloodless sparring, but it doesn't handle
emotions well. I have never seen an email heal any
Judy's email shook me up something fierce.
After I finished reading Judy's email, I was pretty
worried for several reasons.
First, I could not understand Judy at all. She
said she hated being the bad guy. Okay, that I can
relate to. Except that Judy wasn't the bad guy.
I had never seen Judy do one false or unethical thing in
my life. Judy 's integrity was unquestioned.
How could she be the bad guy? If she would simply
let me tell the story and do things my way, Judy would
come out looking just fine.
It was Carnell who should be worried, not Judy.
After all, for three years, Carnell had been fortunate
to be spared any serious counterattack. The man
had taken some serious risks and miraculously gotten
away with them thanks to Judy's inexplicable reluctance
to set me free on the computer keyboard.
Now with his April 2000 email letter, Carnell had made
some pretty bold statements that could be easily
It looked to me like Carnell had taken yet another big
chance by offering to cross swords with me. And
why not? As long as Rick was chained up, Carnell
had little to fear. But that was my name under the
recent article. Didn't it cross his mind that
maybe Judy had loosened the chains a little?
But Judy, listen up - no guts, no glory!
Did Judy seriously expect there would be no
repercussions to my article? I explained to Judy
that this was simply Round One. Most battles worth
fighting are not won or lost on the first or second
move. We would have to likely have to turn this
into a campaign stretched over a series of email
exchanges. Otherwise we would lose a golden
That is where we had left it while Judy was mulling it
Now as I read Judy's email response, I sighed. My
words had fallen on deaf ears again. Today's April
30 email from Judy made it likely that she would not
allow me to write a response to Carnell. This
meant yet another opportunity to strike back at a person
who had caused us nothing but trouble would again be
missed. That same cold rage at my inability to
convince Judy to let me do things my way swept over me
again. It was an eagle talking to a turtle... we
just didn't share the same philosophy.
Judy was terrified of public controversy. I knew
this was true, but I couldn't stand it! Sure
enough, at Judy's verbal request later the same day, I
promised her I would not respond to Carnell's email.
Her decision was not a surprise to me, but a cold chill
came over me. I had just realized that I didn't
see how this marriage could continue much longer.
This moment meant we had probably reached the point of
A stiff truce
ensued. Things between Judy and I were never the
same. We continued to treat each other with
respect, but our relationship became increasingly formal
To be sure, the problems with HSDS had exposed a
fundamental 180 degree difference in our personalities
that simply could not be mended. The frustration of
losing one battle after another to HSDS combined with
the pain of our constant disagreement on how best to
handle our worst nightmare (HSDS) drove a bitter wedge
between us so deep that our marriage became colder than
the Ice Age. Seven months later on Christmas Eve,
we gave up.
Indeed, my foreboding on April 30 had been frighteningly
accurate. That moment had been the Beginning of
MY WORST DAY CONTINUES
Judy and I took
two cars to the studio that afternoon because it was my
Late Night, but not hers. I was scheduled to stay for
Practice Night later on. On the way to the studio,
I wondered about a guy who recently told me that dance
teachers had the easy job in the world.
Through my pain, I smiled ironically at that thought.
I was getting ready to teach two classes and stay for
Practice Night as well. I was looking at a seven hour
work shift on a day that I was already exhausted.
I was not even remotely in the mood to go to the studio,
but I did anyway. It's called being a professional.
30, 2000, was the first day of the May Dance Semester
here at the studio. First days are always hectic.
People can't figure out what class they belong in, what
room they belong in, they change their minds, and are
full of anxiety about keeping up with their new
instructor. First days are a pain the butt
sometimes. This one was no exception. I went
through my paces and taught both two hour classes.
Now it was 9 pm and I had a date with destiny.
Judy was long gone. So were the other instructors.
A woman named Marla Jennings had been the Late Registrar
that night. She was paid to wait at the studio
till classes ended 9 pm in case anyone wanted a Refund.
You might be surprised to know that Refunds are pretty
rare. Tonight was no exception. There was
not a soul in sight, so Ms. Jennings put away the money
box away and left the building around 9:12 pm. We
made eye contact as she left, but the moment was too
unremarkable for more than a smile and a glance.
Now my attention drifted to the antagonists of our
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 Kathy and Roshan 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!
I had my hands full with running my end of Practice
Those were the days before Hall Monitors. 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 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, Kathy and Roshan 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. Then he demonstrated a
Ghost Town pattern. Obviously Marty was giving them some extra coaching.
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. Even 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 because I became preoccupied with
an unexpected problem. A young couple was still
sitting on the couch looking pretty worried about
This couple had been on my radar for
twenty minutes now. Besides my issue with Roshan and
Kathy, once the Room 2 had cleared, I noticed
the 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 the
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
was 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. I was very tired and very grouchy. At
50 years of age, it was no picnic working a 7 hour day,
especially not when you have a failed marriage on your
I had promised to
dance with my students in Room 1 during Practice Night. But that wasn't going to happen if I had
to teach this Wedding Lesson. I was doubly upset
because this was the same instructor who had stood up some different
students a week before. I dialed her phone number. 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
Yeah, sometimes things like this
happen, but I didn't have to like it. Just add it
to the list.
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.
I was definitely caught
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 just stared at them flat-footed 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 the history of the studio 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, Roshan and Kathy 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 in that sense, no good deed goes
unpunished. By letting them stay as long as they wanted, now I had
them on my doorstep demanding a $60 Refund!
But 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? Are we going to put their patterns
back on the shelf? Besides, the patterns were already used!
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 urgent or 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 (later changed to one hour.) Once that class was over, I had
the right to say the student had committed to that class. From
that point on, if they changed their mind, they were not going to
get their money back.
Kathy and Roshan had changed their mind. But they
weren't going to get their money back. Their first class was over.
They were too late. The registrar was gone. Go home.
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.
I was already in a very bad
- I had a marriage on
- 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 her 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.
- 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
these guys?' Later I was to find that they were
both Rice students. Roshan was a graduate student
in the Engineering Department. I believe Kathy was
a Senior and a star rugby player.
They were obviously bright, that was for sure. And
they were also obviously used to getting their way.
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. Plus they were a lot younger than I
was. Their intensity was something to behold.
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 and a Royal Pain in the youknowwhat. 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 giving in isn't my nature, is it?
As I typed
the 2007 update to this story, 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.
I suppose I could have asked them to pay for Practice
Or since they were still on the premises illegally (had
not paid for Practice Night), I could have ordered them
to go home. Now that would have made things
But I was too worn out from the day's events to be
creative. So I stuck to the one strategy I had
left - hang in there.
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. Just
give us the money and we will go.
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.
No good deed goes unpunished. 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 for thirty minutes 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 turned crimson.
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! Just take
your damn money and get out here."
There were fives and one dollar bills scattered all over the floor. Kathy bent
down to retrieve her 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.
just kicked my ass. Waves of humiliation rushed through my
With resignation, I slowly collected the money, went back to the
desk, counted the correct amount and gave
it to him.
He accepted the money and left. It was not a pretty
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
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 in this immense studio 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.
I could see they were in some sort of shock. Hmm.
Welcome to the club. 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 really a monster after all.
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. This took a long
time. But I was
determined to see this through. We were there till nearly 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 lonely one. I slept upstairs
that night and licked my wounds in private. This had been the
worst day of my life. Little did I know tomorrow would be
almost as bad.
THE DAY AFTER VESUVIUS
When I turned on my
computer the next morning I was greeted by Roshan's poison
pen email. Another student had forwarded it to me.
I shook my head in disgust. What was this guy made of, anyway? 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 had not seen ruthlessness of this magnitude since... well, I could name a
couple people... but I won't.
I took a deep breath and started to read. The first thing I noticed
was that Roshan had sent this email less than an hour after he left the studio
(he left around 10 pm. His email went out at 10:37 pm).
To save time, I will highlight the passages that raised an eyebrow.
Kathy R 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.
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 Kathy 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
Roshan's poison pen email
scared me to death. As
I pondered the ruinous implications of this email, it took my breath
This was the first time I
had ever considered the potential power of the Internet to reach large
groups of people swiftly. Let me
tell you, I was terrified.
I noticed that
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 these people sided with Roshan and kept
forwarding his email, 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.
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; now he wanted to cripple my business too.
Roshan was aiming
for my jugular.
It was obvious to me
that Roshan wasn't
playing fair. He was playing fast and easy with
We decided at the end of class that it was kind of crowded
dance class wasn't crowded. The class was in Room One, our
largest room. Roshan was just trying to think
of some face-saving excuse behind their ridiculous
Refund demand when he wrote his email. The
truth was he didn't have a reason to demand a Refund
other than he wanted one.
- His behavior was outrageous.
Yes, my behavior
was outrageous. So was his, but why bother
adding that detail? My behavior was no more outrageous than
Roshan's. My voice was never any louder than
Roshan's except when I finally snapped.
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.
point, he started to yell at us and threatened to call the
The confrontation was very aggressive at times.
All told, Roshan physically
blocked me twice and got in my face twice. He
suggested that I had been aggressive - and yes, I
was - but in reality he was even more aggressive.
Right at the end, 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.
His words made it sound like I was going to use the
Police to get out of paying the Refund.
Not true. I fight my own battles. I just
wanted him to back off.
This move by Roshan was pure Spin - a careful
manipulation of the facts.
I certainly did not appreciate having him manipulate
this detail in his Spin.
"Rick came back to me and started yelling things that I do
not want to repeat in this letter"
I don't remember this at all. It has been
seven years, so I admit it could have happened.
But I doubt it. I was in too much of a hurry
to the Wedding Couple to waste any more time on a
I found Kathy outside in tears - she later mentioned that
she had feared that Rick might strike her in his
ridiculous and unnecessary rage.
This was Roshan's
master stroke. Roshan had the
nerve to tell 50 SSQQ students that Kathy had been in tears and in
fear of being hurt by me. In the process, Roshan told a
Kathy was a powerful woman, 5' 9", 150 lbs, a rugby
player on the Rice Varsity for crying out loud,
certainly no trembling faun in the forest. Roshan was bigger than I was. Two of them, one
Kathy was worried I might hurt her? Oh sure...
and have Roshan's hands around my throat in an
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.
MY RESPONSE TO THE NIFTY FIFTY
I had caught an
enormous break. Roshan had posted the email
addresses of every person on his list where I could see them. This
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.
30 minutes later I posted an email of my own to the
Nifty Fifty .
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
Class had ended 30 minutes earlier. The spirit of
the Refund 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
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
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.
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.
REACTION TO MY
The first thing I had to do
was tell the truth even though it hurt. I had to admit for all
the world to see
that I had out of
control. Yes, I definitely lost my temper.
Then I apologized. Once. Twice. That
helped a lot. People make mistakes, but they don't always say
they are sorry.
Now I began to
dissect what Roshan had said. The place to start was exactly
where the argument had started the night before - 30 minutes
Then I pointed out what the Rules were -
The spirit of
the Refund Rule is to make up your mind while class is in
session or immediately afterwards. (Notice I said 'spirit'.
I was still licking my wounds on that issue.)
One person said the key for them was when I
confirmed it took 30
minutes for Roshan and Kathy to get around to asking for their
Refunds. It turned out I won this argument because my students
knew exactly what the rule was supposed to mean. Roshan and Kathy's 'first
night' technicality may have won them their argument and
their Refund with me, but it didn't win them any support at all
among their peers.
In fact, it turned out everyone in Roshan's group understood the Refund Rule the same way I did
- get it when your class is over IMMEDIATELY, not when half the
studio is getting ready for bed.
Everybody lined up behind me on that one. Roshan and Kathy
didn't lose credibility, but they did lose a lot of sympathy.
Roshan and Kathy had violated the sense of the Rule. The Jury
of Public Opinion agreed Rick had every right to stand up to them.
Roshan and Kathy did however lose credibility with their lame excuse
for why they asked for the Refund. That nonsense about crowded Room 1
did not hold any water. That was
a mistake. Roshan was emailing the same people who had
been in that room same night. They didn't need me to say a
word. All these people knew better already. There was
plenty of room for their class.
That may have been the biggest mistake in his letter. It cast
serious doubt on what Roshan was
Besides all that, these same people knew that Kathy was no shrinking
violet. Once I accused Roshan of fibbing about that issue,
Roshan's nonsense about Kathy's tears and fears did not pass any
credibility tests. I scored a big point there.
Now that the honesty
of the poison pen writer was called into question,
everything else - the Bellaire Police mention (which was bogus, by
the way) and the descriptions of my mad man behavior (which was
exaggerated) - lost their power.
I had succeeded
in putting doubt in people's minds as to Roshan's credibility.
My quick response had worked
absolute magic. It stopped the crisis cold in its tracks.
Ultimately, Roshan and Kathy were seen by their
friends as bullies for relentlessly intimidating a
man who was guilty mostly of sticking up for a
principle they all agreed was fair.
about the temper tantrum, but under the
circumstances my behavior was easy to forgive.
Some people even suggested they would have lost
their temper too under similar circumstances.
I had expected at least
some damage, but to my surprise, there were absolutely no negative consequences or fall-out from the email
hatchet job. I don't remember losing a student. To my amazement, I
was completely forgiven.
THE COURT OF
practiced by professionals is called Public Relations, Media,
Politics, and Law.
But the place where Spin is practiced the most often is in Everyday
Life. Spin when practiced by normal people like you and me is
called 'Your Side of the Story'.
There are simple events every day where something happens and people
immediately try to put the best face possible on their version of
two basketball players wrestle for a loose ball on the floor. Hands are
flying everywhere faster than the eye can see. Suddenly the ball
goes out of bounds.
What happens next?
Both players immediately look at the Referee and point to the other guy:
He knocked it out, not me!
They know that the Referee is quite possibly unsure exactly who hit the
ball out. He is trying to make up his mind, so they try to
manipulate his decision.
This is called 'Working the Ref'. Every Ref makes an occasional
mistake because he has to make split second decisions on situations that
actually require a camera, not the naked eye. That's part of
sports! And every player knows his vulnerability.
'Working the Ref' is a skill every player learns early in his or
In Life, we all take turns. Sometimes we are the Ref and
sometimes we are the player.
If you are concerned about your Reputation, then Learning to Work the
Ref becomes a major survival skill in today's world.
When it comes to the Court of Public Opinion, the Spin
Doctor has three advantages
Spin Doctor presents his side of the story first (a huge
Spin Doctor forces the Responder to refute the charges
or automatically lose.
Responder doesn't know exactly who Dr Spin has talked to
One: The Spin Doctor
presents his side of the story first
Slapping Incident - Trilogy One - Pat had an entire week's head
start to get her version what happened in place. Just like
concrete, the longer you leave it alone, the more powerful it gets.
By the time I realized what Pat had been doing, her version was the
equivalent of the Ten Commandments burned in stone.
In the Harvest Moon Incident - Trilogy Two - Carnell not only
got his version out first, he got it out there in two places.
Carnell formally charged Judy and me with snobbery, snubbery and
possibly racism. But in addition someone leaked his charges to
the street as well. Thanks to Ann Pan's phone call to Judy,
Carnell's official complaint was invalidated, but the Street Version
was the one that did the damage. If the right hand doesn't get
you, the left one will.
The SSQQ response - Judy's letter - was only seen by two people in
1998. A lot of good that did us.
In the Vesuvius Incident - Trilogy Three - Roshan had
a head start of only a couple hours. Although he had sent out his
email the night before, most people were reading his email the next
My email showed up at most an hour or so later for many people.
By answering as fast as I could, my quick response at least
neutralized his head start advantage before it could get much
momentum. In other words, I messed up his cement before it
could set in.
Spin Doctor forces the Responder to refute the charges or
Slapping Incident - Trilogy One - I only responded in detail to
one human being. This gentleman not only asked me not to
mention his name in the story, he said he was going to stay neutral.
Since he wasn't prepared to say anything of value like "I saw Rick
put down his coffee. He never threw it at Pat" or something
equally valuable, I didn't see any point in dragging him into the
fray against his wishes. This effectively meant that I never
refuted the charges at the time. So I lost.
In the Harvest Moon Incident - Trilogy Two - Carnell won this
one easily because we never mounted any kind of defense.
In the Vesuvius Incident - Trilogy Three - Roshan forced me
to refute his well-written letter. By accentuating my bad
behavior, Roshan attempted to distract people from the facts
surrounding our confrontation.
I was forced to defuse the bad behavior angle by admitting it was
true, apologize, then explain WHY I was angry in the first place.
This was where Roshan lost the battle. It turned out that my
students agreed with my position - ask for the Refund immediately
after class like everybody else does. What makes you so
special that you can wait half an hour?
But I did make errors in my response letter, several in fact.
1 - Roshan misled people on my Bellaire Police remark, but I failed
to refute this very powerful allusion to cowardice.
Nor did I point out in any effective way how this privileged pair
had acted like spoiled brats. I was too busy defending
myself! And that's the point. The person
who hits first makes the other person play defense. They put
the pressure squarely on the shoulders of someone like me.
And that pressure may create mistakes.
3 - As I was writing my first draft in my response, I completely
overlooked that Roshan had written, 'Class ended 30 minutes ago.'
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.
How did I
ever miss that? I must have had some sort of blind spot.
I crafted my first draft around the fact that Roshan had
DELIBERATELY tried to mislead people into thinking he was playing by
the commonly accepted rules. I caught my mistake at the last
second . My finger was literally on the "SEND BUTTON" when I
caught that blunder during a final check.
As I completely rewrote my letter to take account for the correct
facts, I wondered how I could make a mistake like this.
I decided that I was so emotional from Roshan's attack that I was
not thinking clearly. I nearly sabotaged my entire case right
there. Roshan had put the pressure squarely on my shoulders
and the pressure almost caused a huge blunder.
The Responder doesn't know exactly who
Dr Spin has talked to
In the Slapping Incident - Trilogy One - I knew exactly
who Pat's target audience was, however I had waited too long for it
to do any good. To clean up the damage meant chasing down at
least a dozen key people - none of whom wanted to talk to me.
This meant playing phone tag. Since they didn't want to talk
to me in the first place, this would have been a big headache.
Then I would have had to beg them to listen to my side of the story
and try to persuade people who didn't like me very much at the
moment that my version was the correct one. Pat's version was
set in stone. Talk about an uphill struggle!
In the Harvest Moon Incident - Trilogy Two - Carnell's
official version was neutralized by Ann Pan. But his street
version ran amock. It is quite unlikely that Carnell's
official version made the slightest reference to race, but the
street version certainly did. The Rumors killed us.
I had a fully-functioning web site. I had an excellent letter
from Judy. I could have neutralized most of the venom had I
obtained permission from Judy to proceed. At the very least I
could have removed the Race issue from the Rumors and cut the venom
factor in half right there. This incident leaves me with a
huge sense of regret.
Vesuvius Incident - Trilogy Three - This was Roshan's biggest
mistake. By listing all the email addresses in plain sight, it
was effortless for me to piggyback his poison pen email with my
rebuttal just hours after his. I was able to address the exact
same people with my side of the story and stop all rumors right in
Had he not been so stupid, I would have been forced to put a letter
on the web site. That would have exposed my own bad behavior
to the ENTIRE STUDIO AND TO THE ENTIRE CITY! As it was, I only
had to write a letter to the select Nifty Fifty.
Big difference. No, make that a VAST DIFFERENCE. In
other words, I got lucky. But at least I knew what to do once
I caught a break...
Plus I had an angel.
OUT OF THE
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
Rick - 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
After I forwarded Kimberly's email
to the Nifty Fifty, all remaining tension was
diffused. By siding with my version of the events, Kimberly's
email effectively ended any remaining doubts caused by my volcanic
This leads me to my final point - Can you get a witness?
In any ambiguous situation, having someone rush to your defense
could make all the difference in the world. The more I think
about these Trilogy stories, the more they remind me of movies about
highly-contested legal cases. One person's testimony often
contradicts another's testimony. Who knows what the verdict
will hinge upon?
In this case, having a solid witness like Kimberly ended the entire
incident. Case Closed. In fact, by putting all remaining
fires to rest, Kimberly's help opened the door to an entire new
direction for SSQQ.
As you will see, her intervention made a huge difference .
ALMOST LOST AN IMPORTANT BUSINESS CONNECTION
good reputation is more valuable than money."
- Publius Syrus
Just to give you a
deeper understanding of how valuable the Kimberly Lopez email was, let me
share a story.
The same morning Roshan's poison pen letter was
distributed, I received a phone call from a woman named
Adriana. concerning my Vesuvius moment.
Adriana was a poised and outgoing dance student I had met at the studio.
Because Adriana and I were about the same age, we developed a quick
rapport. Once I discovered she was a travel agent, I told her
how the first cruise I had organized back in 1998 had not gone as
well as I hoped.
As she listened to my story, Adriana made the connection
immediately. SSQQ was a travel agent's fondest dream. If
a trip was planned and promoted correctly, the numbers would be
impressive. She suggested I give the cruise idea another try.
In fact, Adriana was about to set up a meeting between her boss and
me when the Roshan incident broke.
Adriana was appalled when she received Roshan's email. Then
she received my follow-up response, but it wasn't enough. Even
after my explanation, in her eyes, I was still at fault. Adriana
said she was stunned at my outburst. It called into question
my maturity and my self-control.
Adriana held me to a higher standard for two reasons. One, she
was about to do business with me. Two, it
turned out she knew Roshan personally from dance class and liked
him. Her impression of Roshan was "what a
nice young man he is. In fact, he is so quiet I can't begin to
picture him arguing with you like that!"
Adriana went on to say that she had given Roshan her email
address because she trusted him. Roshan was trying to organize a group from SSQQ to go
dancing after class. Now his
account of last night's argument between us left her deeply
As I mentioned,
Adriana had been about to set up a meeting between me and her boss.
She was calling me because now she wondered if maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Even
after I told her my side of the story again over the phone, Adriana remained
I was determined to find
a way to
repair the damage. As Adriana and I engaged in phone debate, by chance, the email from Ms. Lopez popped up
in my In-Box.
I read it and decided to forward the email to Adriana immediately.
This brief, relatively
simple email from Ms. Lopez made an incredible difference.
After she read the email from Ms. Lopez, Adriana finally began to
believe that I had been provoked. Yes, I had lost my temper,
but maybe that 'nice quiet young man' Roshan had contributed to the problem after all...
Adriana's confidence in me was largely restored. The connection
between Adriana and myself was left intact.
As of 2007, my wife Marla has organized 9 cruises under the
sponsorship of Adriana's travel agency. At this point, SSQQ has
taken over 1,000 passengers on one wonderful adventure after
another. And to think how close this came to being a road not
traveled because I made a near-fatal mistake...
By fighting to save my Reputation, I kept open a door that would
eventually lead to the most important new direction in my career -
the SSQQ Cruises.
HOW THE LOVE
BOAT ERA STARTED
THE REPUTATION TRILOGY
If you recall,
Spin is defined as a careful
manipulation of the facts.
Spin is effective because it presents only one side of the
story. This shifts the responsibility for getting the entire
story out to the other person... and if they fail to respond you
have an easy victory. However Spin can backfire
- if the other person DOES RESPOND and can prove you have
manipulated the facts, you have given them a huge opening to damage
their credibility. So you still have to be very careful what
As I wrote
this article in 2007, I took another look at Roshan's letter.
Roshan's letter was actually pretty good. And it should have
been - with my temper tantrum as a starting point, he had a lot of
material to work with!
Then I compared Roshan's effort to Pat Archer's Spin Version
of the Slapping Incident back in 1986. In my opinion, Pat had
less to work with. If you remember, I said Pat was completely
in the wrong. On the surface, she had hit a defenseless man.
Here is my point -
I won the Vesuvius Incident even though I was essentially in the
wrong with my totally unprofessional behavior.
But I lost the Slapping incident even though Pat was guilty of the
I lost the incident where I was largely in the Right and I won the
Incident where I was largely in the Wrong.
Now isn't that curious?
lies in the Spin, i.e. the ability to take the details of an
ambiguous event and work them to your advantage. Spin is like
the Magic of Illusion.
the story of the Vesuvius Eruption, thanks to my succinct and timely
response, Public Sentiment swung completely in my favor. Yes,
I had behaved poorly and, yes, I made a mistake, but I was provoked.
Once I explained carefully 'why' it happened, people forgave me.
I was amazed at the number of people who rushed to my defense.
Fourteen years earlier I had been thoroughly outclassed in
Spin Control by my former wife Pat in the Slapping Incident from
Trilogy One. Yes, Pat hit me, but she convinced everyone it
was she who was provoked. I lost, but I paid attention.
I was forced to witness a similar lesson in the
Harvest Moon Incident. Because I permitted my former wife Judy
to tie my hands, I had no choice but to watch helplessly as a Smear Campaign successfully
devastated my studio's reputation in the Swing Wars. But I can
assure you I was taking notes.
Now after two brutal experiences with failure in the Court of
Public Opinion, the Vesuvius Incident proved I had learned my
lessons well - Respond swiftly, tell the Truth, Explain Why you
behaved poorly, and definitely be sure to
And guess what happens?
Presto! Poof! The damage disappears.
OUR NEXT STORY:
Reputation on the line
Is the 2007 SSQQ Salsa Program mediocre?
2007 SSQQ dance instructors a bunch of charlatans?
Does Rick Archer fire his instructors
And why did dance champion Bryan Spivey mysteriously quit
his job at SSQQ?
It is time to put the Principles of
Reputation in action. We will answer these questions and more in our
next Chapter our study on Reputation.