Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission
Dance Studios -- November 1992
Although dance lessons may offer opportunities for fun,
entertainment, and companionship, they also may be more expensive
than planned, especially if you do not know how to protect
yourself against some dance studio sales practices. For example,
Signing long-term contracts and prepaying thousands of
dollars for dance lessons or clubs that you may be unable to
complete or cancel;
Signing additional contracts before the current one expires;
- Making large prepayments to studios that may be unable to
give refunds should they suddenly close or go bankrupt.
In an effort to make consumers aware of certain sales practices
used by some dance studios, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
has prepared this brochure. It also suggests ways in which you
can protect yourself.
If you are thinking about or are already taking dance lessons,
you should understand the sales techniques that some dance
studios may use to persuade you to take lessons, or to take
Relay Salesmanship: Some studio instructors use the
technique of relay salesmanship (consecutive sales talks by more
than one representative in a single day) to try to persuade
students to buy lessons or buy more lessons. This tactic may put
you under heavy pressure to sign a contract, encouraging you to
buy lessons you may later realize you do not want or cannot
Overlapping Contracts: Some studio instructors try to
convince their students during lesson time to sign additional
contracts before completing the current lessons. In some
instances, you may unwittingly be buying additional lessons that
extend beyond your interest, your physical fitness, or even your
High-pressure Sales: Some studio instructors, using
high-pressure sales tactics, exploit student emotions or personal
vulnerabilities to oversell lessons. Sometimes, when students
refuse to buy additional prepaid lessons, instructors will
neglect them in classes, embarrass them in public, or transfer
them to a less skilled instructor.
Awareness about the possible use of these sales techniques can
help you avoid potential problems. In addition, you may avoid
some potential problems if you comparison shop for dance lessons.
Finally, before signing or renewing a contract for dance lessons,
consider taking the following measures.
Pay in advance for only a certain number of lessons to see
if you like them. You may get a discount if you make a large
prepayment on a long-term contract, but it will have little value
if later you are unable to take the classes, you want to cancel
them, or the studio closes before your lessons are completed. At
this time, only a few states require studios to post bonds to
protect consumers' prepayments.
Insist that the following items are clearly stated in
- any oral promises;
- the cost per hour of private and group lessons;
- your cancellation and refund rights; (These are important
in case you change your mind about lessons, move, or become ill.)
- any prepayment protections, if required by state law.
You can ask about these important items when you comparison shop.
Do not sign a contract immediately, especially if you have
concerns about the stability of the studio or are asked to prepay
a large amount of money for a lifetime membership, an exclusive
club membership, or dance cruise offer. Take time to think about
the matter and talk it over with a friend, a family member, or an
attorney. Even if your contract offers you a refund or
cancellation option, you may be unable to get your money back if
the studio closes or its refund check bounces. Prepay only as
much as you can afford to lose if the studio closes.
As an additional precaution, you might wish to contact your local
or state consumer protection office to learn what rights you may
have under local or state law with regard to maximum costs for
contracts, cancellation and refund rights, studio bonding
requirements, and a "cooling off" period, which may give you a
few days to reconsider your decision after you sign your
contract. Also, by contacting your local Better Business Bureau
office, you may be able to learn if there are any current
complaints registered against the dance studio you are
If you have a problem with a dance studio and cannot resolve it,
send a letter describing your complaint to your local or state
consumer protection agency and your local Better Business Bureau.
(Check your phone directory for addresses.) Also, send a copy of
your letter to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission,
Washington, D.C. 20580. Although the FTC generally cannot
intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may
indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by