|Pay when you cancel something...?
||[May. 22nd, 2012|08:53 pm]
The Question Club
I teach private swimming lessons in the summer. This is my only source of personal income through the year as I am in grad school the rest of the year. I have 14 years experience teaching with 10 years experience teaching private. I have six Red Cross certifications in lifesaving, water safety, first aid, etc etc. I have a high volume of repeat clients every year and often "sell out" of lesson times before June.|
This year I seem to not have as many lessons as usual because of families moving, students aging out (already great swimmers), and less people requesting multiple lessons per week. This doesn't bother me too much as it provides opportunities for new clients to come in.
A prospective client called me last year for lessons but I was already completely booked and had to turn her away. She contacted me last week about lessons for this summer. I have ONE slot left that would work for her daughters (the ever popular after day camp hour). I informed her that lessons should be paid upfront and ALL LESSONS even those that are cancelled for any reason must be paid for in full. This is a policy I started last year after too many summers of people cancelling and not paying me. If someone cancels a lesson it really sucks for me. I have this time where I can't book anyone else as lessons are scheduled through the entire summer (i.e. you book Wednesday at 3:00pm for eight weeks in a row). 99% of the time I can't get someone to take the canceled spot, as everyone already has their own scheduled spot and people who weren't able to book with me because I was full or didn't have a time that worked for them are not likely to book either as they usually fine someone else. She emails be back saying that she won't pay for cancelled lessons due to weather or if her child is sick. This has been my policy and I've never had a problem with it. She said if she has to pay for cancelled lessons then she will look for someone else. Keep in mind she called me last year and I couldn't book her because I was full and now she's calling me again, so I'm guessing she couldn't find someone else last year and likely won't this year either.
This is my livelihood. If she cancels because her child is sick, I don't make money. If you send your kid to camp, private school, daycare, anything like that, you still have to pay when your child is absent. Some places offer 24 hour cancellation notice like tennis clubs, the dentist, and hair stylists, but those places are able to re-book the lessons that are cancelled with other customers. I am not. And, why should the weather dictate my payment. If it rains, no one can control that, so I should not be punished for that. I started teaching some lessons in the rain because parents refused to pay for a lesson cancelled due to weather. I don't mind, but the kids sure don't like it.
So my question is... what do I tell this mom? Do I tell her to go find someone else who will agree to not have her pay for cancelled lessons (which will probably be pretty hard in my area)? Do I tell her that she doesn't have to pay for cancelled lessons and risk her cancelling whenever she feels like it? Do I require that she provide me with a doctor's note (she probably has a friend who is a doctor)? What do I do? I need the money from this lesson, but I don't want to agree to take her and have to turn someone else down who would agree to pay for the lessons in full. HELP!
TLDR: Do I tell this woman that my policy is all lessons must me paid for, even cancelled ones and lose her business. Or do I compromise on my policy, risk her cancelling and not paying for lessons, and keep her business?
Edited to add: I researched other lessons in the area and most charge $80/lesson whereas I charge $60. Some charge more. However most of them have a 24 hour cancellation and thunder/lighting/heavy rain policy. I also have cancellations for thunder/lighting/heavy rain but provide makeup lessons for them since they are paid for. I did the math, and for her to pay me for 16 lessons over 8 sessions would cost her $960 (two kids). The other instructors would cost $1,280. With a difference of $320, she would have to cancel an awful lot of lessons to make the $1,280 with the 24 hour cancellation policy work in her favor over my price. She is essentially getting two free lessons for each kid from me with my price vs. their price...