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Do you charge when tutee cancels?

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by jubileebabe, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. I currently have two private students, a brother and a sister. I teach one on Sundays and the other on a week night.
    Last Sunday, the one who was having a lesson on Sunday sent me a text message a few hours before the lesson asking if they could have the lesson the following day (which was a day off school for both me and the child.) I agreed but was a bit annoyed because I had planned my Sunday to include that lesson and was also looking forward to having a completely clear day on the Monday.
    The week night I was due to teach the other child was also a day off school but I had agreed to still give the lesson. I sent a text in the morning to be sure they still wanted the lesson and so that if they wanted to cancel I could make plans but they said they still wanted it at the normal time. Then, a couple of hours before, I got a text from the Mum saying that the child had forgotten about a school maths test the following day and needed to study for that instead of having the private lesson. This child had cancelled their lesson the previous week too but had told me three days before so at least I knew I had that time free.
    So, my questions is, do you still charge in the above situations? I do not, I guess it is just part of the job but it is pretty annoying when it keeps happening, especially when it is too late to do anything else with that time or teach one of the students I had turned down.
     
  2. I currently have two private students, a brother and a sister. I teach one on Sundays and the other on a week night.
    Last Sunday, the one who was having a lesson on Sunday sent me a text message a few hours before the lesson asking if they could have the lesson the following day (which was a day off school for both me and the child.) I agreed but was a bit annoyed because I had planned my Sunday to include that lesson and was also looking forward to having a completely clear day on the Monday.
    The week night I was due to teach the other child was also a day off school but I had agreed to still give the lesson. I sent a text in the morning to be sure they still wanted the lesson and so that if they wanted to cancel I could make plans but they said they still wanted it at the normal time. Then, a couple of hours before, I got a text from the Mum saying that the child had forgotten about a school maths test the following day and needed to study for that instead of having the private lesson. This child had cancelled their lesson the previous week too but had told me three days before so at least I knew I had that time free.
    So, my questions is, do you still charge in the above situations? I do not, I guess it is just part of the job but it is pretty annoying when it keeps happening, especially when it is too late to do anything else with that time or teach one of the students I had turned down.
     
  3. I would offer their slot to the next child on the waiting list if they do it again. Inform them that they can retain their slot at a 50% fee.
    As a rule:
    Over 24 hours notice: no penalty
    Less than 24 hours notice: 3 with no penalty, any more will result in slot being lost*
    No notice (ie. not at home for arranged tutorial): Full fee

    *slot can be retained by paying a 50% fee penalty
     
  4. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    This raises the issue of a contract before any commitment is made.
    I get a lot of this, students arriving late, not turning up at all (no notice), and some cancellations ahead of time. Like jubileebabe I have accepted it as part of the job - par for the course, as we might say. However, it is very frustrating.
    The contract I have considered would be written out, and ten sessions paid for up-front, but I guess it is horses for courses, and I might end up with no clients at all!
     
  5. Yeah, I have sometimes wondered about a contract if I was going to do this more seriously.
    As it is, a friend persuaded me to give her daughter private lessons last year and I agreed because it gave me the chance to see how I got on and if I wanted to do more private lessons. Then she asked me if I could also teacher her son this year so the arrangement has always been quite casual.
    It's quite awkward though because I don't want to lose her friendship!
     
  6. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    If you cancelled hair apt/lawyer you'd still have to pay. I would make an exception for unforseen circumstances eg illness, and it would depend on the client-are they usually reliable etc. I am also a school teacher, and know that more and more parents are becoming very inconsiderate.
    Still: poor parenting leads to poor behaviour in schools-leads-to-poor-learning-leads to those who can afford it (and those who can't really) hiring tutors................
     
  7. Typhoon

    Typhoon New commenter

    This is something I've been considering a lot of late, not least because last week I was due to teach a regular tutee, who is usually very reliable (normally dropped off early, in fact, which I find equally irritating, but that's a different matter!) Anyway, last week she was due to turn up for her lesson at 5pm, so I was sitting all set up with the computer and work for her to do etc just before 5, having really rushed around beforehand to get myself home and organised in time. She wasn't dropped off early; 5pm came and went and then at 5.05 I received a text on my mobile from her mother simply saying sorry, but her daughter wouldn't be able to make the lesson that day - no explanation or reason for the cancellation given.
    To say the least, I was very annoyed! Especially as I had organised my day around needing to be at home at 5pm to see this tutee and I could have been doing other things had I not thought I needed to be at home to give the lesson!
    I do have a loose cancellation policy in place (less than 6 hour's notice = fee of half the usual lesson fee - I'd be interested to know what others think of this as I notice some of you ask for 24 hours notice or charge a fee and I think this sounds a sensible, although I do understand that unforseen circumstances and illness etc are sometimes unavoidable). However, I only introduced the cancellation policy with fairly recent tutees which I have taken on after being messed around before. When I took on the particular tutee who didn't turn up last Tuesday, I didn't have a cancellation policy in place, so I'm not sure I could legitimately spring one upon them now and demand payment of half the usual lesson fee. However, I am still really annoyed and think I need to find a way of letting the mother know that this is not acceptable.
    I've had no contact with the mother since, although the tutee is due to come for weekly lesson again tomorrow. However, I am going to be out during the day time and although I will try, I am not going to kill myself to get back for a lesson at 5pm, which may or may not happen! So they may well find themselves getting a short-notice cancellation text from me this time

     
  8. That's the annoying part isn't it? I had organised two days around my private lesson, rushing around trying to get everything ready on the first day but thinking I then had the whole of the following day at home not needing to go anywhere and then finding that I didn't really need to rush around on that day but I'd actually have a lesson right in the middle of my "day off!"
    Maybe you could send her a text in the morning to confirm whether or not she wants the lesson (although I actually did this last week and she said yes but then cancelled right before!) At least it gives her a chance to cancel now and you the change not to have to worry about it.
     
  9. erm

    erm

    In the past I have just had an informal agreement that I reserve the right to charge full price for lessons cancelled with less than 24 hours notice. In practice I rarely went through with this because most tutees have been reliable and lessons missed at such short notice have been very few and reasonable. They are then appreciative when they are not charged. Where tutees have proved themselves to be consistently unreliable, I have charged for missed lessons. This has, without exception, had one of two outcomes, either being equally satisfactory to me. Either they buck up their ideas pretty quickly or they quit and I can fill their space with someone else who turns up regularly.
    What I struggled more with was the student who regularly cancelled with 2 or 3 (or more) days notice. To try to combat that, I now charge monthly in advance for however many lessons in that month, payable on the first lesson of the month. This makes it absolutely clear what the expectations are. When a lesson is cancelled I always assume they are going to rearrange since the lesson has already been booked and paid for. If a lesson does end up being completely cancelled then I will carry it forward with a 'refund' on their next month's invoice.
    What I would not do is fail to turn up for a tutor session just because they had previously, mainly because I think it would be totally unprofessional. How could you then expect them to show any commitment in the future?
     
  10. erm

    erm

    You should because that is what they are paying you to do. (I assume.) You do not pay them to turn up. You are not friends doing each other favours. Playing games like this is not going to do much for your reputation as a professional tutor.
     
  11. I agree.
     
  12. Typhoon

    Typhoon New commenter

    Well, at the risk of making myself rather unpopular / not seeming ery professionalon here, I cancelled the tuition session yesterday with the tutee who cancelled without notice last week as I decided to take the rare opportunity to meet up with my friend, who I haven't seen for years as she lives in Oz. The tuition session at 5pm was the only commitment I actually had in place yesterday, and to be fair, normally I would have forfeited the oppotunity to meet my friend and honour the tuition booking and always have done so in similar circumstances, but on this occasion I was so annoyed with the late cancellation last week that I decided to arrange my day around doing something I wanted to do for once, and decided to forfeit the £20 lesson fee instead.
    I did text the mother at 3.30, giving her an hour and a half's notice that I was not going to be available (when it became apparant that I would not be back in time) and I also managed to make the point by wording it in such a way as to make it appear that I had had a prior commitment and had completely slipped my mind to tell her "as I didn't see you last week"! I also offered them an alternative slot (today) if that was convenient to them.
    She texted back and said that that was absolutely fine, and asked if I had received her text last week, explaining that her daughter had been unwell when she was collected from the after-school club. I replied and said that yes, I had, and, though I kept it all quite reasonable, I politely explained that it had been a little inconvenient as I had arranged my day around being home at 5pm to give the lesson, but that I understood that children are sometimes taken ill suddenly and that it was just one of those unfortunate things. I did explain that I usually would charge a cancellation fee for a short notice cancellation, but given the circumstances, and, as they were usually very reliable, I was prepared to waive it on this occasion, but that I was going to have to implement a standard cancellation fee for all tutees (for less than 24 hours notice) policy as of January, so that she is now clear regarding the procedure. It was all quite a friendly exchange and we left it at that and have agreed to start again after Christmas.
    So in all, although I know that some of you will disapprove of me cancelling yesterday, but I am pleased with the way things worked out, and I feel that I did manage to communicate to the mother that I am offering a 'professional' service through mentioning the cancellation fee etc.
     
  13. I agree with this but I recently had th following situation with my other tutee:
    She cancelled one of her lessons an hour before because she wasn't feeling well. Fine, no problem, I was rushing around to get stuff ready anyway.
    The next week I taught her as usual.
    The following week she cancelled three days before because she had another commitment. OK. The next week I sent a text in the morning to confirm the lesson later which she said she wanted. She then cancelled at the last minute saying she had a test the next day she needed to revise for instead.
    I've accepted all these cancellations without complaining because to be honest I'd rather she cancel than call me right before and ask for the lesson the following day so I end up have to re-arrange two or more days for just one lesson.
    This week though, *I* had to cancel the lesson because of a fairly urgent medical visit I need to attend. I tried to re-arrange the appointment but the earliest date available was in February and I needed to get it sorted before that. So... I told her as soon as I found out, which was 5 days before. I had a lesson with her brother in the mean time and the Mum seemed very annoyed about the cancelled lesson because her daughter had recently failed a test at school in the subject I tutor her in.
    It is not clear if the Mum is blaming me for the failed test but she did say that her daughter had been off school so hadn't been taught everything she had been tested on. The other thing, which I didn't mention at the time but is very relevant, is that at ALL the lessons her daughter has attended since October she has forgotten to bring her school books with her so I have no idea what she has been studying at school. I have found areas she needs to work on just by talking to her and have worked with her to improve those areas so she has still benefitted from the lessons. That does mean that she is no further forward in understanding the work she is having difficulty with at school though! (She'll come to the lesson and THEN realise she has forgotten her books but she has a test in two days and doesn't understand the topic. I'll ask her to give me a basic idea and she can't remember!)
    I feel really bad for cancelling this week's lesson and I haven't even got another time I can fit one in so I sent her Mum a really nice email saying how sorry I am about cancelling the lesson and it might be a good idea of both her children would bring their school books with them to the lesson so I can ensure they fully understand the topics they are being taught before we expand on that or move on to something new. She has not responded.
     
  14. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Occasional commenter

    I find this post a very interesting read, jubileebabe. It describes accurately all that I have to put up with, on top of which Barbados is very laid back! I am retired, but have started this private tuition. As a young man, I think I could have done something very worthwhile (financially - and to the benefit of my tutees) but I would have set it up in a very professional manner.
    As trained and qualified teachers we are on a par with doctors and lawyers, or should be, I think.
     
  15. erm

    erm

    It is irrelevant whether anyone here 'approves' or not. My comments were not intended to pass judgement. It is interesting to hear how other tutors approach different situations and the outcomes achieved.
    In my book, charging for missed lessons does not, on its own, mean you are offering a professional service. Actions speak louder than words.
    Personally, if a tutee did to me what you did to your tutee, I would not think twice about charging for the lesson. I don't understand the double standards. You cancel your tutee with
    1.5hrs notice, then tell your tutee that this is not acceptable
    behaviour from them?
    By treating your tutee in this manner, you set the standard. Do not be surprised if they now don't think twice about cancelling with just your acceptable 24 hours notice, just to avoid the payment.
    I am pleased for you that the exchanges were friendly, but maybe this is because the mother does not like confrontation. I would not have been happy at all and would be quietly looking for another tutor. Unless of course she likes the idea of flexibility and lack of commitment on *both* sides.
    Personally I prefer my tutees to be rather more committed. I don't really like even 24 hours notice, especially when the reason has been known well in advance, such as school plays and trips, sporting fixtures or university interviews. The less notice, the harder it is to rearrange. But there's not a lot you can do about this other than lead by example. I go on holiday for the first week in December every year. I mention this to all my students at the beginning of term in September (before they even start if they are new). I then remind them with a note on November's invoice. Clearly I don't expect this level of notice from them, but it sets an example and I find they are more likely to offer me a similar level of courtesy.
     
  16. Typhoon

    Typhoon New commenter

    erm, thank you for your views. It is interesting to hear others' opinions and ways of doing things. Yesterday, when I explained to my friend (who is a teacher and has worked as a tutor herself in the past) how I was cancelling the lesson and why, she actually couldn't believe how the week before they had cancelled after the lesson was due to start and said that I was being too generous by giving them the hour and a half's notice! So I guess it just all depends how you look at things.
    I can also understand why it must seem as if there is a double standard at play here; my tutee cancels one week after the time the lesson is due to start, so the following week I cancel the session with an hour and a half's notice. On this occasion, I did not expect them to pay a cancellation fee, though I have made it clear that as of January it will be necessary to charge should a similar situation ever arise.
    I can also understand why this 'tit-for-tat' scenario might seem unprofessional but to be honest, we have always had a fairly informal arrangement, in the sense that there are no contracts, and the Tuesday lesson isn't set in stone; the mother understands that due to me doing supply work, which can mean that I have to travel home a fair distance, there is no guarantee that I will always be able to make a Tuesday lesson (obviously, I'm not going to turn down the offer of a full supply day's pay in favour of a £20 tuition session) so she is used to me sometimes having to alter the day from week to week and also on occasions she has asked to change the day herself, when there is nobody available to drop the tutee off to me on a certain day. On all of these occasions, I have been flexible as she has provided me with sufficient notice and as I only do pre-booked supply work, I always know by 5pm the evening before if I am working the next day, so have been able to give her 24 hours notice if I will not be able to tutor the next day and have offered an alternative. On both sides, we have always enjoyed these kind of flexible arrangements and I generally get on well with the mum and daughter and don't anticipate that the mum will be looking for another tutor. I've taught her daughter since she was in Yr 4 (now Yr 6) and recently helped her to pass her 11+ exam; in fact, I believed that she was going to stop coming for lessons after the exam, but her mum is so happy with her progess and confidence that she has asked me to continue tutoring her until the end of Yr 6.
    Actually, I would be delighted if my tutees were to give me 24 hour's notice if they want to cancel, as this gives me ample time to make other arrangements for the next day or to offer the slot to another pupil if necessary!
     
  17. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    I don't charge - most times it's because a child is sick. Sometimes they have appointments but to be fair they normally tell me in advance. It's a bit annoying when you have a vacant slot but it is a part of the job. I also have to cancel occasionally - normally give reasonable notice.
    I have a very informal relationship with my clients and it works really well.

     
  18. I don't charge - but after a recent bout of timewasting, I'm considering it. They cancelled on me week after week with 30 minutes' notice each time (thankfully it was a child 2 mins walk from my house so I hadn't set off). In the end I'd mentally prepared myself for having to drop them if they cancelled one more time - and they contacted me saying they'd decided not to continue anyway.

    Basically the kid was chucking a strop and not wanting to go to nan's where I tutored him each week I'm pretty sure.

    Mildly annoyed at that one as it meant I lost the slot in the peak time for enquiries for the year - I still like keeping things informal (sometimes I get ill and have to cancel, sometimes we get snowmageddon again), but I think I'll have to look at tightening things up for future if it starts happening more often.
     
  19. If you are not happy with this vagueness you can charge in advance - I have been tutoring for 8 years now and had only a few problem families, but the stress caused by last minute cancellation is a pain. If a child or family is consistently unreliable I simply tell them that I feel they are not ready for tuition (which often turns out to be true - a child who is often ill or forgets, can sometimes be reluctant and not happy to have lessons) and am polite but honest in saying that I cannot work like that. For some new students I have given them a written "terms of tuition" letter - basically reminding them that if they cancel at the last minute they are costing me time and depriving another student of a lesson they could have taken. I also ask for 4 lessons paid for in advance (ie;£100), which will mean they have made a committment, and if they don't turn up you are not out of pocket.
    My daughter's piano tutor used to charge a whole term at a time in advance, and boy did I make sure she turned up! Each family is different, but if you pretend it is OK for your time to be wasted and are too easy, they will simply think it is OK and that you really don't mind. I seldom do things by text with students and parents, as it is too easy for them to cancel. I do not give my mobile number to them until really well established - sounds harsh, but worth it!
     
  20. With my first clients I had no policy- they were sisters and I taught them three times a week. They were incredibly unreliable... Cancelling minutes before I left the house, sometimes not being at the house when I arrived and still expecting me to teach for the full time with no extra money (they were 45 mins late on one occasion). The final straw was arriving at their house and the dad telling me they were cancelling.... I was hormonal, pregnant and tired and I quit not long after.

    I have an informal policy with my student now- 24 hours notice, or by 9am if they are ill... They have yet to change plans. I am a bit rubbish at discussing charges though!
     

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