Thursday, January 30, 2014

Should I Charge for a Cancelled Tutoring Lesson?

Examples and reasons why you need a lesson cancellation policy.

I recently missed a dentist appointment.  How did I remember I missed it?  Well, I received an invoice for $50 in the mail about one month after said cleaning should have occurred, reminding me that I scheduled said appointment in a calendar I never use.  Fail.  Now, I highly doubt that my dentist took it personally when I simply didn't show up that morning, and I didn't take it personally when I received a $50 charge for wasting an appointment time that another client could have used in my place. I assume that the $50 no-show fee was somewhere in some fine print I never actually read, but even if it wasn't, a no-show fee seems fair considering the error was entirely mine.  I don't want to receive another fee for my own frivolous oversight, though, so I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen again!

Similarly, if I fail to show up for a doctor's appointment, a spa treatment, or any other service appointment that I don't cancel in sufficient time to provide another client the opportunity to have my time slot, I would expect a cancellation fee.  Using some very basic deductive reasoning (I'm only on my first cup of coffee, so bear with me), it seems logical that tutors should also have a lesson cancellation policy.  Just a thought.

Previously, we looked at instances of why students cancel tutoring lessons, and why you shouldn't take it personally. Thought not quite the bane of tutoring, one too many can affect your scheduling, the respect the parent or client has for your schedule, and your income potential.   Therefore, it is important to have a Lesson Cancellation Policy.

Let's look at an example of what a Lesson Cancellation Policy might look like:
1) Lessons Cancelled within 4 Hours: Full-price of scheduled lesson
2) Lessons Cancelled within 24-20 Hours: Half-price of scheduled lesson

Make these policies clear to your clients by including them in correspondence when setting up initial appointments, or post them with your tutoring rates when advertising your services.

Everyone deserves a second chance, though.  It bodes good will to not charge for a first cancelled lesson, as sometimes life just happens, and everyone deserves a second chance; however, it is incumbent upon you to send an email saying that you’re sorry Sally was not feeling well (or whatever the reason for the cancellation), restate the lesson cancellation rates, and then explain that you will not charge for this as it is a first cancellation, and you (the ever-understanding and patient tutor) look forward to seeing Sally in her next lesson. Knowing that you kindly chose not to charge for a first missed lesson should prevent a repeat offender from striking; however, if it does happen again, then you have plainly explained your policy, and the client will expect a charge.

Should you not charge, then what is to prevent the repeat offender from scheduling you for multiple sessions, all of which he may choose to cancel at any time?  If it still bothers you to charge for cancelled lessons, then consider this alternative: Had the student not booked the lesson with you in the first place, you could have scheduled that time for another student who did both need and want your tutoring assistance that day; therefore, the cancelled lesson represents time where you could have assisted a student in need. 

Maybe I should send this post to my dentist to ask for a second chance, too...


  1. Agree, 'Lesson Cancellation Policy' absolutely necessary; hopefully, will not be necessary.

  2. Do you have any thoughts about clients who share their price with others? As a tutor who works with a diverse set of topics and people from all rungs of the economic ladder, I find it annoying when price are discussed among parents.

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  4. hey, I just went to my tutee's house and she wasn't there... She (and the mother) forgot to tell me that she could not make it because of another engagement. The parent paid 50% of the fee, but my father is telling me that, usually, one would receive the full pay for an occasion like this. What do you think? thanks

  5. Exactly! I've been tutoring for 15+ years, but only in the past 5 years have I implemented a written policy.

    I recently had a parent sign up for lessons with me after going back and forth over e-mail, then speaking over the phone. We agreed on the time for the first lesson, and as I usually do, I followed up over e-mail, stating the time/place of the first lesson, basic policies. I attached my Lessons Policy which is one page and pretty standard IMO (24 hour cancellation policy or pay in full; if more than 24 hours notice is given will make up lesson free of charge; if 15 mins late with no notice, lesson will be cancelled and full amount is due; payment is due in advance; check bounce/late payment fee of $25 -- and that's pretty much the entire policy).

    Anyway, once I sent my lesson policies over the parent responded back saying that she couldn't work with me anymore, to cancel the lesson, and "never before" has she ever had to agree to a policy before working with a tutor, she's "very responsible" and has had "excellent relationships" with all of her tutors, she needs "more flexibility", etc. I wrote back asking which parts of the policy she needed more flexibility with and she wrote back saying she needs to think about it. Personally, I think it's crazy that none of the other tutors have ever brought up policies before -- I've hired tutors for myself and I found that good tutors always had some kind of policy in place. Would you say good riddance to working with this parent?

    In your experience, have parents/students ever refused or been upset when asked to agree to a lessons policy? And when do you find the best time to introduce the policy? Prior to the first lesson or during the first lesson?