Sunday, January 10, 2010

What About the Stress?

Your health matters! During the four years operating my Cold Stone stores, I completely ignored the health issues that had been building inside me due to the immense stress I faced each and every day. There were some days I'd go into the bathroom just to throw up. I felt a tightness in my chest constantly! My blood pressure had skyrocketed to 180/115, and I developed Type 2 diabeties. I've had franchisee's tell me that there were days they could'nt get out of bed. Cecil Rolle's latest e-mail included a section on this very topic, and with Cecil's permission I'd like to re-print it:

"The stress associated with operating a Cold Stone Creamery franchise is caustic and overwhelming. Franchisees report time and time again that their stress level is constantly elevated by the financial shortfall from Cold Stone's failed business model. The constant worry of making payroll every 14 days, Sysco/Sygma payments, rent, utilities, royalties, money, money, money--stress, stress, stress.

Franchisees often have to pull money from their savings, investments, kids' college fund, 401(k), or invest their inheritance from their hard-working parents, borrow against the equity in their homes or other property. They borrow from their friends, family and whatever source they are able to procure cash from to keep their unprofitable stores open. Many report that they are often concerned about such issues as having their power and water disconnected. They report that Kahala-Cold Stone's constant, active and aggressive effort to terminate and take stores for the company's own financial benefit is an enormous source of stress even for franchisees operating well between the lines.

Stress has a long term--adverse affect on your quality of life. The sleepless nights, nervousness, irritability, cause irreparable damage to your health, not to mention the damage that it does to your relationships.

I hear from franchisees all the time regarding the relief they feel once they have closed their stores.

Stress has been definitively linked to premature aging, sleeplessness, anxiety, nervousness, frequent urination, frequent stomachaches, urinary track and other infections, irregular menstruation, immune suppression causing chronic infection and disease, and other conditions. It causes the onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, abnormal circulation, depression, hardening of the arteries and other diseases. According to

Stress is how the body reacts to a stressor, real or imagined, a stimulus that causes stress. [A Cold Stone franchise clearly qualifies.]

Alarm is the first stage. . .

Resistance is the second stage. If the stressor persists, it becomes necessary to attempt some means of coping with the stress. Although the body begins to try to adapt to the strains or demands of the environment, the body cannot keep this up indefinitely, so its resources are gradually depleted. [Emphasis added.]

Exhaustion is the third and final stage. . . . At this point, all of the body's resources are eventually depleted and the body is unable to maintain normal function. At this point the initial autonomic nervous system symptoms may reappear (sweating, raised heart rate etc.). If stage three is extended, long term damage may result as the capacity of glands, especially the adrenal gland, and the immune system is exhausted and function is impaired resulting in decompensation. [Emphasis added.]

The result can manifest itself in obvious illnesses such as ulcers, depression, diabetes, trouble with the digestive system or even cardiovascular problems, along with other mental illnesses.

Responses to stress include adaptation, psychological coping such as stress management, anxiety, and depression. Over the long term, distress can lead to diminished health and/or increased propensity to illness; to avoid this, stress must be managed. [Emphasis added.]

Your health matters and it should take precedence over even your finances. You can live--even thrive without money. (Many Cold Stone Creamery franchisees are firsthand proof of that.) But you cannot live a quality life without good health.

You should rid your life of the stress associated with operating your unprofitable Cold Stone Creamery store by closing it immediately.."

Cecil's comments on the effects of Cold Stone Creamery's failed business model on your health are right on point. He does not mention (so as not to add to your stress) the very real possibility of suicide. QSR magazine, the trade magazine for the quick service industry did an article on Quizno's franchisees who were strugling, much like we are, and pointed out that because of the financial devastation faced by many of their franchisees, two of them had committed suicide.

SUICIDE IS NOT AN OPTION!  Cold Stone is not worth it. There are many of us out here who have been in your place.  We can help you through the minefield.  Cecil's phone is always on!  My phone is always on!  There is a better life after Cold Stone, you just need to believe that.

I found this model of grief very insightful.  It perfectly matched with what I went through during and after the process of closing my stores:

7 Stages of Grief


You will probably react to the financial collapse of your business with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.


As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do for your business. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.


Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the collapse on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.

You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair


Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did or did not do, and focus on what could have been. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.


As you start to adjust to life without your business, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.


As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by the loss of your business. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life.


During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.

You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your situation without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.


  1. Very true! Very, very sad, but true. I am working through these stages after closing my store in 2008. I will always look at the day I signed for my awards and turned over $74,000 in cash as the one day I wish I could "do over". That $74,000 is just a fraction of my ultimate losses in the name of the "ultimate ice cream experience." I truly cannot fathom how different, and better, my life, my husband's and my children's lives would have been had I not boarded the train wreck of Cold Stone Creamery.

  2. I agree with the health factor. I had to have hip replacement surgery about 3 years after I opened and ended up having an infection which ultimately resulted in the artificial hip having to be removed, and a year of antibiotic therapy, because my immune system was not up to its normal level, due to the stress I endured for 3 years of losing money with Coldstone. I eventually had the surgery redone, and so far have not had any complications. I had been out of Coldstone for about one year when it was redone. Both doctors involved(one the surgeon, the other an infectious disease specialist)were concerned that I might not succeed and were actually talking of living with a wheelchair the rest of my life. Thanks for nothing Coldstone!

  3. Hi, Ed. Thanks for all the great information. A friend was considering CS as a potential business option, and along with other negative evidence I've turned up (mostly in their F Discl. Doc.), I think he should consider C S's organization as predatory, and stay away from them. Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing...Thanks again.

  4. You might be interested to know that Cold Stone is once again doing BOGO's. All of the FSI's will now be BOGOS and they are going to do online FSI's. Apparently customers will now have an unlimited supply of BOGO coupons.

    The heavy use of BOGO's was one main reason why so many franchisees went broke two years ago. Finally, the franchisees revolted, Jim Flaum was fired, and Dan Beem promised no more BOGO's. Well, Dan has decided that his promises aren't really promises, and most of the franchisees already know he is a lying bastard, so off we go! Since most of the franchisees who were in the system two years ago have gone broke and their stores were churned to other operators he figures he can get away with it, at least for a while. He gave the franchisees a load of crap about how this will increase your sales. True enough, the BOGO's result in a tiny increase in same store sales, but they also result in a giant decrease in net profit. Since Cold Stone charges royalties on the top line they really don't care what the franchisees bottom line is. They get more money, we go out of business.

    Over 175 stores closed in the US last year. That doesn't even count the number of stores that were churned, just the ones that closed entirely. Cold Stone claims the net decrease in stores is small, which is true only because of stores opening overseas. Meanwhile, after killing the golden goose, Dan and his crew are busily picking at the carcass to see if they can screw the franchisees out of a couple more bucks.