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Cancelling lessons as punishment for grades-

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  • Cancelling lessons as punishment for grades-

    Hi all-I'm looking for some thoughts/advice.

    I own a training/boarding/lesson facility and I am lucky to have generally wonderful students/parents that I enjoy thoroughly. However occasionally I will get calls from parents leaving me a message that "Susie" can't come to her lesson tonight because of her poor grades/performance in school and not riding is her punishment. More times than I care to count the parents have cancelled their childs lessons to punish them for poor grades, or even poor attitude. While I fully understand and can sympathize with the parents and I obviously agree that school comes first, it really affects my bottom line. I don't like being used this way, especially since it affects my income. I do this full-time and every lesson counts. Is there something that I can do or do I just suck it up?

  • #2
    Charge a fee - or full lesson price - if a lesson is canceled without 24 hr notice.
    Nevertheless, she persisted.


    • #3
      This happens to me as well. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it--the parents have to deal with their children as they see fit, adn as much as this is our livelihood, it's the kids' priviledge, and priviledges get taken away for bad behaviour.

      However, I have firm rules on no cancellations the day of--unless its first thing in the AM and the kid has woken up suddenly very sick. If you can't be organized enough to call the night before, you have to pay the full lesson price. This has helped some.


      • #4
        Maybe charge a fee for not canceling 24 hours in advance? That might put a dent in it, or at least keep people from canceling at the last minute. If you had more notice, would you be in a better position to fill that slot?

        I think my dr's office has a sign saying appt's need to be canceled 24 hours ahead of time or there is a 25$ charge or something. Don't know if anyone's paid it.

        Originally posted by fargonefarm View Post
        Hi all-I'm looking for some thoughts/advice.

        I own a training/boarding/lesson facility and I am lucky to have generally wonderful students/parents that I enjoy thoroughly. However occasionally I will get calls from parents leaving me a message that "Susie" can't come to her lesson tonight because of her poor grades/performance in school and not riding is her punishment. More times than I care to count the parents have cancelled their childs lessons to punish them for poor grades, or even poor attitude. While I fully understand and can sympathize with the parents and I obviously agree that school comes first, it really affects my bottom line. I don't like being used this way, especially since it affects my income. I do this full-time and every lesson counts. Is there something that I can do or do I just suck it up?
        Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
        Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
        -Rudyard Kipling


        • #5
          At the place I work, there is a policy that helps with that sort of thing. Parents buy lessons in at least monthly increments (so a set of 4 weekly lessons) up to a maximum of 12 weeks at a time. These are paid in advance. Makeups will be scheduled for lessons missed due to illness or family emergency. No other reasons. So parents are free to withhold riding lessons as punishment, but not to "punish" us by removing part of our income. There is also a time limit on when makeups can be done.

          That's not to say a parent couln't lie and say their kid was sick when they are in fact withholding lessons for some reason. But it doesn't seem to be a problem (knock wood).
          Equinox Equine Massage

          In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
          -Albert Camus


          • #6
            Originally posted by fargonefarm View Post
            I do this full-time and every lesson counts. Is there something that I can do or do I just suck it up?
            Sell them their lessons in a package, paid in advance. They get one make up lesson per package. They don't ride, you are still compensated.
            Ridge Farm Inc.-full care retirement


            • #7
              Well, my BO/Trainer requires that lessons be cancelled at least 24 hours in advance. The only exceptions are medical issues or bad weather (i.e. uhh tornados, blizzards, extreme cold or horrible ice). We have a nice, heated indoor so no reason to not ride due to bad weather.

              If you do cancel due to a medical issue - you should know well before 24 hours that you can't make it. I've riden a few times when I really shouldn't have, but it didn't kill me .

              It's just common curtisy (spelling?) to give as much notice as possible. Parents should understand this. You don't just not show up at a doctor's appointment.

              Anyways, if you cancel a lesson for anything other then what's stated above, you owe her the full fee, regardless. She has it stated in writing as part of the policy. I don't have any issues with being charged a lesson and not riding. Yea, I'd like to keep my money - but unfortunately this is how my BO breaks even... boarding doesn't do anything, the lessons and training she does helps immensely.

              Hope this helps.

              ETA: I've always cancelled before my 24 hours were up - or rode. I've never not showed.
              Proud owner of Gus & Gringo.
              See G2's blog


              • #8
                I work as a receptionist for the ballroom studio I dance at and it's a policy written in our contract--if you do not cancel a lesson with at least 24 hours' notice, we will charge you for that lesson. The argument is, with such short notice, the instructor doesn't have time to book a replacement lesson and they lose income. If they chose to make it up to you later for some reason, it's up to them, but as far as the management's concerned, that empty slot is costing us and the teacher money.

                This works best when people pay in advance for lessons, obviously, and it's why we try very hard to not let them run up defecits--people tend to be more responsible about things when they've already paid!
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                • #9
                  I have been at barns that have that same "lesson package" situation Coloredhorse describes. Worked very well. Instructor got paid no matter what, and offered some flexibility to the riders as well, for instance if you got sick, or were out of town, etc.

                  ETA: My current barn is just pay-as-you go, but I wouldn't mind if they switched to that kind of plan.
                  I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


                  • #10
                    I was one of those children. My parents LOVED to hold my riding privileges over my head. It forced me to do really well in school.

                    I remember being in the 4th grade and not taking lessons for 8 weeks because I got a "C" on my report card. It broke my heart, but I pulled it up to a "B" and was allowed to start lessons again at the next report card.

                    I understand this is your livelihood so you need to make a cancellation policy and stick with it. As a future parent, I will certainly hold my children accountable for their grades in the format my parents did. However, I would be fully prepared to pay a cancellation fee if I canceled last minute. Of course, it would then come out of the kid's allowance.

                    There is nothing wrong with making your lessons prepaid... at least this way you are guaranteed your money should they do cancel last minute.
                    Dreaming in Color


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by appychik View Post
                      If you do cancel due to a medical issue - you should know well before 24 hours that you can't make it. I've riden a few times when I really shouldn't have, but it didn't kill me
                      That reminds me of a funny story.

                      I used to get weekly allergy shots before my riding lesson. One time, I had an adverse reaction and began wheezing severely soon after I left the clinic. Mindful of my pre-paid lesson package and the 24 hour cancellation rule, I called my instructor's cell. The message I left went something like this: "I...can't breathe. *wheeze* Allergy shots *wheeze* I'm...driving *wheeze* myself to...*wheeze* ER."

                      I came back the next week, ready to ride. My instructor said, "It was really hard to figure out what you were saying on the phone, so I had to play the message for everyone in the office. We decided collectively not to charge you for that lesson Next time you go to the ER, don't bother calling us first!"

                      We never figured out what exactly caused me to go into pseudo-anaphylactic shock. But considering the shots I was taking consisted of allergens of horse, grass, pollen, and cat (yes, I'm allergic to my favorite things!), it's likely that riding that day COULD have killed me
                      Snobbington Hunt clique - Whoopee Wagon Fieldmaster
                      Bostonians, join us at- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Boston_Equestrian
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                      • #12
                        Try the prepaid package a month at a time, full charge, NO make ups for less then 24 hour cancellation and put a time limit on any make ups for those cancelled with the 24 hours (like must be made up by the 15th of the following month).

                        That still allows some flexibilty for the parent to discipline their kids while allowing you to stay on track budget wise.

                        And you can always make exceptions for the seriously ill or bona fide family emergency. Otherwise, this is not something you can be "nice" about or everybody's buddy. It is a business.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                        • #13
                          1) Charge for lessons in advance. No rainchecks/make-ups if they don't cancel within the 24 hours period. You could even offer a discount for months paid in advance ($40 lesson or buy 4 lessons for $150).

                          2) If not prepaid, cancellations must be made within 24 hours, or charge a fee. Why charge a fee? Because you've already set aside that time for that rider to come for lessons. When they cancel, you lose money and that time spot when someone else could have ridden - seems fair.
                          If wishes were horses then beggars would ride...
                          DLA: Draft Lovers Anonymous
                          Originally posted by talkofthetown
                          As in, the majikal butterfly-fahting gypsy vanners.


                          • #14
                            Agree w/ the package advice above, but I'd also recommend specifying how quickly the package needs to be used up. Otherwise, you just end up with a new way for parents to "defer" paying for a lesson. Let's say you sell them 4 lessons at a package rate of $150 with the stipulation that they can cancel without paying if they give 24 hours' notice. This will just get parents in the habit of canceling 25 hours ahead of time but still screwing you over financially.

                            When I was a kid, I rode at a barn that sold packages of 4 lessons that had to be used up within 5 weeks and packages of 8 lessons that had to be used up in 10 weeks. Exceptions were made for illnesses that required doctor's visits or family emergencies, but otherwise you were SOL if you didn't use them all up. That lesson barn is still in business over 15 years later.
                            Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by drmgncolor View Post
                              I was one of those children. My parents LOVED to hold my riding privileges over my head. It forced me to do really well in school.
                              Err ok... we are alike and very different!
                              I lost riding for grades and other school related performance.
                              It did the complete opposite of what my parents thought it would though, it demotivated.

                              My lessons where what I lived for, and cared about.
                              Some of the school issues were social, and the one big one was a course I fell behind in and then was told to 'catch up or lose Pony Club this summer'.
                              Yeah, 'cause 'catching up' on your own in a cumulative subject is soooooooo easy.

                              Sometimes the kid is already being punished enough by their lack of performance [like most kids who are doing poorly don't know that they are?]. Why add insult to injury?

                              Maybe I'm a butt-in-sky but I would ask the parents what they think losing riding will accomplish, and if they're being realistic.
                              Then I would sell lessons in packages- X# of lessons per month must be used that month or cost is forfeited. You can even incl a small discount for more lessons or multiple months purchased ahead of time.
                              Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014



                              • #16
                                Ditto others. You're being too nice.

                                Prepaid packages at the beginning of the month. If canceled with less than 24 hours notice, they forfeit the lesson fee.

                                You of course can use your discretion: ie: if student wakes up in the morning with a terrible flu and is sick as a dog? Reschedule. But you don't have to tell the parents that up front.

                                It's a business. It's your livlihood.

                                The place where I took lessons this summer started requiring lessons paid up front at the beginning of the month. Aside from illness of horse or rider, you forfeited your lesson fee if you missed without notice.
                                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                                • #17
                                  I have it in my boarding agreement that there will be no make-ups or refunds for disciplinary actions.
                                  "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


                                  • #18
                                    Both sides

                                    I have been on both sides of this issue. I was teaching a lot a couple years ago when I only had one child. Now have three! I was blessed that I did not have to rely on my lesson money to live so a cancellation here and there did not make much of a difference. But had I been completely dependent on the lesson income I absolutely would have pre paid packages and a cancellation payment/policy. That being said I am now on the flip side of things and my daughter is taking lessons with another trainer. The ONLY thing that makes a difference in her behavior/actions is threatening her riding lesson. I hate to do it but her father is a stickler that if she does not behave, help, be nice, whatever.. she does not ride. It really bothers me to cancel (as trainer is single, does this full time) but I have to maintain family harmony as well.
                                    I guess my point is yes- pre-paid and cancellation policy might be a great idea for you.


                                    • #19
                                      As one of those children that was frequently banned from the barn, and who only got found real trouble while away from the barn, I can say that it would have been more affective if I had been sent to the barn to do chores and watch other people ride as punishment rather than a complete ban. I was at a barn for a while that had a policy that if you didn't keep atleast a B average, you were only allowed to come out for a couple hours a day to do barn chorse and take care of your horse. No playing, riding, etc. Just work. If you were really unlucky, other people got to ride your horse. I graduated with a 4.0, so it must have worked
                                      "...through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
                                      Fanning the hairs, who wave like feathered wings." William Shakespeare


                                      • #20
                                        Uhh, you know, bad grades don't happen overnight. Yes, if you happen to have a lesson scheduled less than 24 hrs after a bad report card comes out, then parents might have to cancel on short notice (in which case the lesson comes out of child's horse show fund, allowance, etc.). Otherwise, this simply should not be an issue.

                                        If you, as instructor, have difficulty filling the lesson spot, even with sufficient notice, then you might suggest allowing the lesson ONLY, no barn time, and promise it will be w/o stirrups the whole time, and on the roughest schoolie you have . Or suggest that in exchange for being allowed the lesson, child has to clean all of the schoolie tack, organize the hay loft, clean out the tack room or feed room, muck some number of stalls (all of this on an early weekend morning, mind you, when everyone else is at a show, and no help from barn buddies. And then straight home to hit the books!).

                                        In any event, child's failure to perform academically should NOT affect your bottom line. There are other ways to get the point across to the child--school comes first, but responsibility for horse care cannot be disregarded.
                                        "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                                        Spay and neuter. Please.