Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A personal letter from Paul Mann of Fetch! Pet Care, Inc

The franchise backlash continues in the pet sitting world. My earlier post announced the alliance between Petco and Fetch! Pet Care, a national pet sitting franchise corporation. Since then, independent pet sitters are in an uproar, worrying about how this will impact their own business. 

CEO of Fetch!, Paul Mann, annoyed a lot of people when he said pet sitters can do this job sitting at home in their pajamas. That article was more of a PR gimmick than reality, but it got a lot of attention from hard-working self-employed pet sitters, who are busy from 7 am to 10 pm every day driving around from house to house, caring for an assortment of animals. Petitions and nasty letters are flooding into Petco's and Fetch's corporate offices, prompting this letter from Paul Mann I received this morning from Fetch's PR agency, Fishman Public Relations:

To the nation’s independent pet sitters:

 

Last week, we distributed a press release announcing that Fetch! Pet Care and PETCO had entered into a corporate partnership, in which PETCO would exclusively promote Fetch! Pet Care to its customers, starting with two test markets in California and Seattle.

 

We would like to take this time to address any concerns that the partnership announcement has created among independent pet sitters.

 

First, please keep in mind that we have a shared mission of delivering the best care possible to our country’s pets. As such, we would like to request that everyone engage only in positive steps that will help build each other’s businesses, while at the same time benefit the pets.   

 

According to the APPMA and Packaged Facts, only 5 percent of pet owners have used a pet sitter or dog walker. Most pet owners in America use neighbors, family and friends, or they kennel or board their pets. This is primarily due to a lack of awareness and education as to why a professional pet sitter/dog walker is a better choice. The Fetch!-PETCO partnership is designed to create more opportunity for all pet sitters and dog walkers.

 

While Fetch! Pet Care is a national brand, our franchises are locally owned and operated, and are members of the local pet community in the same way that independent sitters are.  Fetch! Pet Care franchisees are involved in local pet rescues, giving back to pets in need, and engaging in the community. They work hard to find good pet sitters; offering standardize training, and encouraging continued industry education, which includes CPR, first aid and pet handling skills. Just like you, we are all genuine pet people who desire to make a living doing what we love.

 

We sincerely hope that you will view this partnership as an opportunity to leverage the additional awareness it will bring to our industry, and use it to drive your business.  We all look to achieve the same goal of offering the best care possible for the pets in our communities.  We welcome the opportunity to partner with you to continue these efforts.  As an example, independent pet sitters who want to work with PETCO can do so by contracting as independent providers through Fetch! Pet Care and accepting assignments under the Fetch! Pet Care name.  Of course, you would still be able to service your own clients as well.  We currently do this around the country with numerous partners who own and operate their own pet care business.

 

We also extend with open arms the opportunity for independent pet sitters to franchise with Fetch! Pet Care in areas where we still have availability. In doing so, you will gain access to PETCO and the numerous other national partnerships we have in place, national and local marketing and PR, as well as additional operational best practices.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  We greatly appreciate your input, and hope that we will have the opportunity to work together to carry out our shared mission of delivering the best care possible for our nation’s beloved pets.

 

For the Pets,

 

Paul

 

Paul Mann, Founder & CEO

Fetch! Pet Care, Inc.

www.fetchpetcare.com

11 comments:

Lisa said...

Paul Mann has some gall to say, "we would like to request that everyone engage only in positive steps that will help build each other’s businesses" and then turn around and say, "As an example, independent pet sitters who want to work with PETCO can do so by contracting as independent providers through Fetch! Pet Care and accepting assignments under the Fetch! Pet Care name."

How exactly does this build ANY business other than Fetch! Pet Care??

Most Independent Pet Sitters have started their businesses because they don't want to work for a corporate entity. They want to provide a personalized service to those in their own neighborhoods.

ksps said...

An excerpt from Paul Mann's letter:

"As such, we would like to request that everyone engage only in positive steps that will help build each other's businesses, while at the same time
benefit the pets."

Since day one, when Paul Mann first began promoting Fetch, he has insinuated in his advertising and PR that independent sitters were not as good as Fetch sitters. Now he's publicly insinuating that independent sitters are the ones being negative. Apparently, it's ok for *him* to not "engage only in positive steps that will help build each other's businesses" while he's ripping apart the reputation of independent sitters in his advertising and PR, but it's not ok for independent sitters to fight back, or *they* appear to be the bad guys. This guy twists every little thing to make him look good and independents look bad. I sure hope the press, clients, and organizations thinking of partnering with this company will see through all the BS and see him for what he really is.

Miranda Murdock said...

I am almost speechless by this letter from Paul Mann. Almost, but not quite!

First- (re: "as to why a professional pet sitter/dog walker is a better choice.")
If the concern is the best possible care for pets, then you must know that pet sitting is not ALWAYS a better choice. Some (although not many) pets are not suited to pet sitting, and a knowledgeable and honest pet sitters recognize this and will make a recommendation that is suited to the pet. Although I am a pet sitter, I know that a dog with severe separation anxiety, for instance, is not a good candidate, and will make a referral to a kennel that I have a good relationship with.

Second- (re: "This is primarily due to a lack of awareness")
If increased awareness is the goal, then PETCO could champion that cause without ignoring the existence of the 8000+ independent pet sitting businesses. They could have customer handouts that highlight ALL the care options, without specifying a particular business. They could fund a national awareness campaign, as a PSA. There are many ways PETCO could promote pet sitting without promoting Fetch.

Third- (re: "our franchises are locally owned and operated, and are members of the local pet community in the same way that independent sitters are.")
I guess this depends on what your definition of "local" is. The owner of the Fetch franchise that serves my area lives 124 miles away. Local?

Fourth- (re: "As an example, independent pet sitters who want to work with PETCO can do so by contracting as independent providers through Fetch! Pet Care and accepting assignments under the Fetch! Pet Care name.")
I know I speak for many when I say we would NEVER consider servicing client's under the Fetch name.

Finally- (re: We also extend with open arms the opportunity for independent pet sitters to franchise with Fetch! Pet Care in areas where we still have availability.")
This just defies logic. We are already legitimate owners of successful businesses, with substantial client bases. Why would we consider dropping double-digit thousands of dollars into the Fetch coffers? A franchised name offers nothing that we don't already have. We are not the kid next door, Mr. Mann. We use sophisticated programs to run our businesses, we avail ourselves of training on a continuous basis--in fact most of us require it, rather than just "encouraging it" as you said. We are recognized in the pet communities for the countless hours we put in at shelters, rescues, teaching pet care to youth groups. We have established relationships with the pets and their humans, based on the longevity we have in our communities. What you offer to your sitters and your clients does not surpass what we offer, have offered for years before you developed Fetch, and will continue to offer for many years in the future.

Miranda Murdock said...

First- (re: "as to why a professional pet sitter/dog walker is a better choice.") If the concern is the best possible care for pets, then you must know that pet sitting is not ALWAYS a better choice. Some (although not many) pets are not suited to pet sitting, and a knowledgeable and honest pet sitters recognize this and will make a recommendation that is suited to the pet. Although I am a pet sitter, I know that a dog with severe separation anxiety, for instance, is not a good candidate, and will make a referral to a kennel that I have a good relationship with.

Second- (re: "This is primarily due to a lack of awareness") If increased awareness is the goal, then PETCO could champion that cause without ignoring the existence of the 8000+ independent pet sitting businesses. They could have customer handouts that highlight ALL the care options, without specifying a particular business. They could fund a national awareness campaign, as a PSA. There are many ways PETCO could promote PET SITTING without promoting Fetch.

Third- (re: "our franchises are locally owned and operated, and are members of the local pet community in the same way that independent sitters are.") I guess this depends on what your definition of "local" is. The owner of the Fetch franchise that serves my area lives 124 miles away. Local?

Fourth- (re: "As an example, independent pet sitters who want to work with PETCO can do so by contracting as independent providers through Fetch! Pet Care and accepting assignments under the Fetch! Pet Care name.") I know I speak for many when I say we would NEVER consider servicing client's under the Fetch name.

Fifth- (re: We also extend with open arms the opportunity for independent pet sitters to franchise with Fetch! Pet Care in areas where we still have availability.") This just defies logic. We are already legitimate owners of successful businesses, with substantial client bases. Why would we consider dropping double-digit thousands of dollars into the Fetch coffers? A franchised name offers nothing that we don't already have. We are not the kid next door, Mr. Mann. We use sophisticated programs to run our businesses, we avail ourselves of training on a continuous basis--in fact most of us require it, rather than just "encouraging it" as you said. We are recognized in the pet communities for the countless hours we put in at shelters, rescues, teaching pet care to youth groups. We have established relationships with the pets and their humans, based on the longevity we have in our communities. What you offer to your sitters and your clients does not surpass what we offer, have offered for years before you developed Fetch, and will continue to offer for many years in the future.

Finally- Here are some recent statistics--although they might not be up to the minute current, they are certainly pertinent:

- Fetch has some 200 locations.
- 44 of these locations are in California (22%). Many have overlapping service areas.
- Serves 1800 cities. (average of 9 cities per location)
- 561 of these cities are in California (31%)
- That's only about 10% of cities in the United States have Fetch coverage (1800 of 18443)
- Serves 35 states. That means 15 states have no pet sitting coverage by Fetch.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other posts. Sounds like there is a monopoly building here. This is a violation of the antitrust laws. Pet sitters should ban together and file a class action lawsuit. They do just terrible PR.

Anonymous said...

Miranda is right! I saw a u-tube video where Mann says he is the only one run ning things like abusiness and that there are no reputable pet sitters out there. That is not the ethical way to build a business. He is not an honorable man it seems. PEventually his customer s will see that.

Terry Albert said...

Wow! This continues to be a hot topic. I think the quality of the Fetch! franchise will depend on the people who own it. If someone who is not particularly and animal lover and just wants to go into business, they will not be as successful. Pet sitting is not like running a McDonalds. It takes a lot of passion and dedication.

Of course Petco is going to jump on the latest hot trend, and many chains are trying to corporatize (I just invented a new word) every aspect of pet care- training, boarding, grooming, etc. They may look slick to the consumer, but the proof is in the service each individual business provides.

A couple local pet sitters I know are Fetch franchises, but you would never know it. I certainly don't see the benefit of buying in.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how franchise owners would feel comfortable paying so much for fetch pet care franchise once they realize what pet sitting really is. I noticed it didn't mention on their site that you work 7 days a week, holidays and the pay isn't enough to justify the 21k investment. Imagine any new pet sitter who took even a fraction of that money and put it into advertising they would be much better off. Yes they would lose some money not knowing which are the best advertising places but in the end the business they build would be their own and they would still come out ahead even with the loss. Most pet sitters don't have much money to advertise when they start, they have to depend on passing out flyers and cards.
As for Petco I figure if they want to advertise my competition, that's their decision - I now send all my clients to Petsmart.

Anonymous said...

Hey, no worries. Paul Mann was never able to get the Petco backing and the partnership never really got off the ground. Of course, he sold a lot of franchises based on the promise that franchisees would seePaul Mann/ substantial revenue based on the partnership. Not true, just one more Fetch scam!

Anonymous said...

Petco is one of the tools Paul Mann used to sell Franchises and is the least of the worries. No, it never got off past the test and in fact several California Franchises have left the system.

Most of the Fetch Franchisee owners went into this business for their love of animals. Many bought into Fetch as a way to start a second career after being laid off from their prior professions - Now not only out of business but losing thousands of dollars in the process.
Paul Mann’s condescending attitude is not just for the Independent Pet Sitters.

melf said...

I know a Fetch! franchise owner. After a year of owning the franchise she discovered that the pet sitters she hired (ICs) needed to have set up an LLC and be registered with the Secretary of State. Shouldn't Fetch! have told her that up front? She also had to take on a part-time job this year to supplement her income because she wasn't making enough yet to just run the franchise - I don't know what Fetch! told her about how long it would take before she could run the business sitting at home in her jammies (as I believe Mr. Mann has said previously), but any independently owned pet sitter would know that's bull.