How would you handle this?

Posted by: catpiano

How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 03:48 PM

A woman contacted me over the summer for lessons for her 2 children starting in September. The only days she wanted were completely booked so I told her that my schedule would free up a lot in December (because the classes I was taking ended so 2 more days opened up), but that I could also refer her to another teacher. She said that no, she specifically wanted me since I came recommended by a friend of mine who teaches her kids guitar. She even asked if I could recommend a book so she could get them started while they waited to start with me.

At the beginning of December, I emailed her to set up a time. She wanted Mondays, and I said I could start on Monday December 17th for an initial lesson, and then I would be off for the next 2 weeks for the holidays. She wrote back saying that was fine and that she was so excited.

On that Monday I showed up at her house and no one was home. While I sat and waited outside I looked up her number online since we had only communicated via email, and the number that was listed was out of service. I emailed her saying there must have been some miscommunication in the emails, and that I thought we were starting today but let's just start the week after the holidays.

She never wrote back.

I have another potential student who asked for that family's time slot, Mondays at 4:45, and now I'm thinking of just offering it to them without contacting the other family. I just can't deal with people who are disrespectful and irresponsible like that. Am I being unprofessional by just writing them off? What would you do?
Posted by: chasingrainbows

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 04:09 PM

catpiano, I posted a similar experience under "suspicious reason for student disappearance" thread. I emailed the parent several times to follow up on a "one month break", and received no responses. 4 months later, she calls ready to start lessons back up again. I would fill the slot with someone who you are able to communicate with. Not being home, having an out of service phone number, and not replying to your email could indicate she is not interested. She may have forgotten, or could be away, however, I would be reluctant to pass up a sure student for this student. I've learned to confirm new students start dates to avoid situations like that.
Posted by: catpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 04:20 PM

Yeah. I just find it weird considering how interested she seemed in the first place. Also I'm not sure if she's assuming I'll just come next Monday. Very annoying.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 05:26 PM

Don't take flakers. They'll just give you one headache after another.
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 05:45 PM

Since the incident happened 2 weeks ago and she hasn't responded to your email, I'd let it go and give the time slot to someone else.
Posted by: Joyce_dup1

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 06:06 PM

It's all about the money. We are running a business. When lessons are scheduled, always get the advance payment. Especially if there is any kind of a time lag - over a vacation period for example. If you do not have their payment in hand, you do not schedule a confirmed lessons slot. This way, if they blow off the lesson, you have already been paid and you have some time to try to resolve issue. If the next payment is not forth-coming, the time slot frees up. It's very simple business.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 06:50 PM

There's nothing to handle--- you have an open slot. Fill the slot, if someone else wants it.

That flaky customer will have to do a LOT of begging and show documents that prove up her excuse, if she expects you to even speak to her again--- and it had better be good. A hospital stay, for example.
Posted by: MaggieGirl

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 07:02 PM

You have been more than generous. You have the emails showing the dates and times for back up. I'd count the family as flakes and put in the other family.
Posted by: catpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 07:09 PM

Thanks everyone! I just called the other family and let them know that the slot opened up and it's theirs of they want it.

I'm just starting out teaching privately (6 months) and so far everyone has been so reliable about payment and scheduling so this really caught me off guard. I guess I will have to start thinking about putting stricter policies in place, as some of you have mentioned.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 09:09 PM

I may also recommend that if she does contact you in the future that you again have no times available. Unless there is a great excuse and you have a good feeling about it, it sounds to me like someone who will continue to waste your time.

And if she does contact you and you want to start up lessons, I would first suggest you talk on the phone, not email, and then you arrange a meeting, not a lesson. Then after you have met you can decide if you want to teach them. You'll get a good idea if it will work once you meet them - which is why I do interviews before signing students up for lessons.
Posted by: catpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/01/13 09:19 PM

I will definitely do that. Thanks for the advice.
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/02/13 01:17 AM

Quote:
Monday December 17th for an initial lesson


So they missed their initial lesson, you only email each other and you never met them in person, is that right?
Posted by: Barb860

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/02/13 05:09 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I may also recommend that if she does contact you in the future that you again have no times available. Unless there is a great excuse and you have a good feeling about it, it sounds to me like someone who will continue to waste your time.

And if she does contact you and you want to start up lessons, I would first suggest you talk on the phone, not email, and then you arrange a meeting, not a lesson. Then after you have met you can decide if you want to teach them. You'll get a good idea if it will work once you meet them - which is why I do interviews before signing students up for lessons.


+1

Cat, you might want to consider a reminder phone call a day or 2 prior to the first lesson with future new students. I'm finding this helps me.
Posted by: riley80

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/02/13 08:51 PM

Consider the case closed. If they ever contact you again, You are 'booked solid'. End of story.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/02/13 11:54 PM

I like Morodine's technique of letting them have it with both barrels before accepting them into the studio (and it would be on 90-day parole after the interviews, if it were me). Phone interview--- if they don't seem too scary right out of hand, and if what they say they want in a teacher and for goals pretty much makes sense, then they get an in-person interview. Maybe in a Starbucks, mid-afternoon.

"...I would first suggest you talk on the phone, not email, and then you arrange a meeting, not a lesson. Then after you have met you can decide if you want to teach them. You'll get a good idea if it will work once you meet them - which is why I do interviews before signing students up..."

Yes, then the meeting. Examine teeth, breath, and personal hygiene (odors; visible grime; evidence that they wash the hands after visiting the toilet). Personality check. Does their clothing suggest they can pay the bill? Are they dragging around a pit bull with a spiked, black leather collar? Bring out the printed studio policy, go over the points, see what questions or reservations they have: [1] hourly cost, [2] proper notice of missing a lesson,(especially, if the student is ill: don't come) [3] make-ups, if you offer them, [4] the yearly schedule- holidays, etc.,[4a] the summer schedule, [5] monthly billing; advance deposit of the first month's tuition, [6] 30-day's notice for cancellation, except for cause [7] cost of books and materials, when to bring them, where to get them, [8] how you use the computer for: (a) messaging,(b) assignments,(c) sending invoices,(d) educational materials in printed form for outside the lesson time, [9] how many hours (at least) to practice weekly, [10] failure to thrive during the 90 day parole period = amicable parting, [11] recitals, if you offer them, [12] field trips to see great artists in concert (and to explore opportunities and venues in the music field, if you offer them). [13] rules regarding excessive use of scents, comfortable but modest attire, proper footgear, etc. [14] Explicit statement regarding non-tolerance for sexual harassment, or any other disrespectful, inappropriate, or illegal behavior, [15] lateness ≠ staying later: end of lesson = go home.

Ok, I'm running out of gas--- and that doesn't even address the application form and contract, including [1] student's experience, [2] interests and goals, etc (many questions), [3] available time slots, [4] name/address/phone/e-mail/emergency contact.

Despite the incompleteness of the printed materials, if it feels right, you could sign, accept the deposit and offer a receipt, and assign them a slot on parole. Or, you and they could take them home, think it over, and see what you thought.

It is a process with a couple of choke-points, if they are needed, and if it goes through, you're begun on a footing that at least doesn't give the impression that you fell off the turnip truck last week.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 08:14 AM

Quote:
I like Morodine's technique of letting them have it with both barrels before accepting them into the studio


I like her idea too. But I think it's an equal opportunity for the client to let the teacher have it with both barrels prior starting lessons.

These may occur at an initial meeting:

No show or 30 minutes late for appointment.
A call to reschedule the appointment (with flimsy excuse).
Demand for lesson time that is not available.
Parent bringing old books someone gave to her and insisting that she's not buying books you recommend.
Parent can't answer basic questions like what school does your child attend.
Find out kid has learning problems that will likely prevent success in lessons.
Find out kid has no interest in learning to play piano.
Parent shouting at teacher for any reason.

Each teacher can then decide how many or which bullets to overlook. And decide if any of the bullets just killed the potential for a relationship.

The interview in person is a time for questions and answers. It's about looking before you leap for both teacher and student/parent.

It's only reasonable to meet in person prior to accepting a new student or choosing a teacher.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 08:46 AM

Jeff, I cannot tell if you are being serious or if you are poking fun at my suggestion. Sarcasm doesn't carry very well in written form.

I see no problem with insisting on meeting a family before signing them up, however, I do meet them at the studio, and give the student a little lesson to see how we work together. I do not charge for this, but I do make it clear that we are both getting a feel for one another to see if lessons would be beneficial for all involved. I have on occasion met with a family where I knew it was not going to work out, with the child running around misbehaving and the doting mother just letting the child knock over things and pound on the piano, etc. In such instances I politely suggest the parent wait a few years before signing them up.
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 01:03 PM

In my studio, when new family inquiries for piano lessons, they usually contact me with three different paths:
1. Parents call me on the phone to find out
2. Parents email me to find out
3. Parents sign up at my http://bit.ly/EZSignUp right away.

If they call me on the phone to find out, I will chat with them a few minutes to find out how old is the kid, if they play piano before and mention that you could come for one time free appointment. Then I ask for email address then send them my policy and link to sign up.
If they email me, then I will send them my policy back and also the sign up link.

If they sign up at my link without email or call me, then I will email them back with studio policy and schedule our first free appointment.
If they sign up at my link, and also read the studio policy that I email them, they should know everything that JEFF covers in his long response (19 items)

My sign up link is very details, if a parent cannot take time to complete the form, he or she is not ready to work with me and be serious in taking piano lesson, in return, I will not offering my free time for first free consultation appointment.

At my first free consultation appointment, I do not need to go over the policy, make up lesson, how it works? Schedule, when are you free for piano lesson, no, I do not need to waste my time. I concentrate in teaching the student a tiny piece, or even a phrase, just to get the feeling of how this student work, and let the parents observes my “sample of teaching”. You know if you go to Costco, they give out sample of food just to lure you to buy the product, yes, I am giving out a “sample of my teaching” for free so that they can taste it and finally agree to commit for piano lesson.

Ten minutes to the end of the free consultation appointment, I usually ask the parents if they have questions. At that point, they usually ask question about my policy, if any part is not clear to them. They confirm the monthly tuition fee and also ask for my opening.
In conclusion, there is a lot of things to cover at the first meeting, but with the help of nowadays technology, 90% of them could be covered by emails and sign up link.

This is just me, I understand that we piano teacher run our business differently.
Posted by: trillingadventurer

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 04:13 PM

Missing the initial lesson is a biggie for me especially if you have traveled to their home. Not responding to your subsequent email is blowing you off. Even with a family emergency, she could have given you a quick call or email to let you know.

I would not under any circumstances give this family a second chance.

I have noticed also that like seem to refer like. Flaky families refer other flaky families. Consistent families refer other consistent families. Leave space in your studio for solid students.

By the way, I have experienced this too...where they are excited to start, can't wait and then backing out at the last minute. Until I have the first check in hand I have learned to not have any sort of expectation with a new student.

I really, really don't like being surprised like that. I have learned that this is unacceptable. I used to give second and third chances and it's true: they become bigger headaches down the line. EVERY TIME!
Posted by: catpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 07:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I may also recommend that if she does contact you in the future that you again have no times available. Unless there is a great excuse and you have a good feeling about it, it sounds to me like someone who will continue to waste your time.

And if she does contact you and you want to start up lessons, I would first suggest you talk on the phone, not email, and then you arrange a meeting, not a lesson. Then after you have met you can decide if you want to teach them. You'll get a good idea if it will work once you meet them - which is why I do interviews before signing students up for lessons.


I'm not sure I would do initial meetings at no charge only because I drive to people's houses and in some cases I drive pretty far. I'm on a tight budget and wouldn't want to "waste" the gas money. If I'm ever in a situation where I'm able to teach from home I'll do that with every student.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 08:27 PM

Originally Posted By: catpiano
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I may also recommend that if she does contact you in the future that you again have no times available. Unless there is a great excuse and you have a good feeling about it, it sounds to me like someone who will continue to waste your time.

And if she does contact you and you want to start up lessons, I would first suggest you talk on the phone, not email, and then you arrange a meeting, not a lesson. Then after you have met you can decide if you want to teach them. You'll get a good idea if it will work once you meet them - which is why I do interviews before signing students up for lessons.


I'm not sure I would do initial meetings at no charge only because I drive to people's houses and in some cases I drive pretty far. I'm on a tight budget and wouldn't want to "waste" the gas money. If I'm ever in a situation where I'm able to teach from home I'll do that with every student.


And yet you wasted time by going to their house expecting to get paid and did not.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/03/13 09:23 PM

Originally Posted By: trillingadventurer
I have noticed also that like seem to refer like. Flaky families refer other flaky families. Consistent families refer other consistent families. Leave space in your studio for solid students.

I actually don't see any correlations.
Posted by: catpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/11/13 10:47 AM

Ummm....

Just got a voicemail from the mom saying "Just wanted to touch base on when we're going to start lessons. I'm hoping it's this Monday!"

What on earth?

I could give her the benefit of the doubt in assuming that she never got my last email, but I don't think that's the case.
Posted by: bmbutler

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/11/13 11:01 AM

I would drop her like a hot potato.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/11/13 03:14 PM

Originally Posted By: catpiano
I could give her the benefit of the doubt in assuming that she never got my last email, but I don't think that's the case.

How desperate are you? If you are in dire need of students (for financial reasons), then go ahead and see where it leads. But be aware that parents/students like this come with a huge baggage, one that will create a lot of headache down the line.

I have some students like this who give me a lot of grief, but I can't afford to fire them, not at the moment, anyway.
Posted by: catpiano

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/11/13 09:27 PM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: catpiano
I could give her the benefit of the doubt in assuming that she never got my last email, but I don't think that's the case.

How desperate are you? If you are in dire need of students (for financial reasons), then go ahead and see where it leads. But be aware that parents/students like this come with a huge baggage, one that will create a lot of headache down the line.

I have some students like this who give me a lot of grief, but I can't afford to fire them, not at the moment, anyway.


At this point, every new student makes a huge difference in my income. I can't afford to not take a new student just to avoid future headaches, unfortunately.

As it turned out, I spoke with the mom, and she was VERY apologetic. She said the whole family had been "sick" and she just assumed that we were starting after the new year. The lesson I learned in this is to not rely so much on email when communicating with parents.

I'm starting her kids on Monday, and we'll see where it leads.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: How would you handle this? - 01/12/13 12:52 AM

During the holidays, I'd say all bets are off for schedules and especially for starting new students. This family might be prove to be just fine.