Sunday, July 13, 2008

Business Rules or the Golden Rule?

One of my student called 30 minutes before her scheduled lesson time and canceled her lesson yesterday. According to the rules of the referral agency that collects fees from students, I'm allowed to charge any student for any lesson canceled on the same day, though they ask that the teacher make allowances if there is a natural disaster like a typhoon or earthquake that prevents a student from making it to the lesson.

In the past, I was lauded by both a student and the agency for having the decency to allow a student whose sister died not to pay for a late cancellation. I guess they expect teachers to be utterly mercenary, but I think it'd be pretty awful to rub a few grains of salt in an emotional wound by charging for a canceled lesson due to a family tragedy.

I am presented with a little bit of a quandary in terms of deciding to charge my student or not. As the phone was ringing, I was hearing thunder loudly roll outside, but it never rained here. She said that she canceled because it was raining where she was and the trains weren't running. That means that she couldn't get to my apartment unless she sought an alternate form of transport like a taxi (if she was telling the truth, and I'm inclined to believe she was).

While her "excuse" for canceling is quite reasonable, I've gotten burned in the past for acting in accord with my ethics (that is, treating people as I'd like to be treated) rather than in line with what business guidelines allow. I'm guessing I'll come down on the side of not charging her because, if I were in her shoes, that's a courtesy I'd appreciate being extended to me. I just have to shush the nagging voice which says I'll be taken advantage of later if I take the high road.


Wally Wood said...

Dear Shari, I'm from the "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" school of human relations. Someone can always take advantage of your good nature/kindness/generosity once; it comes with being a good natured, kind, generous person and I, for one, would like to be that kind of person.

Take advantage of me more than once, however, and I feel no guilt in being unreachable, abrupt, stingy. If the student who canceled does so more than once every six months (every year? you set the limit), even with a good excuse, I would charge her.

Good luck.

Orchid64 said...

Hi Wally, and thanks for your comment. :-) I'm pleased to see you started a blog of your own and am adding you to my list (if you don't mind).

I'm pleased to say this particular student has never taken advantage of me. In fact, she's never done a late cancellation before. I'm just slightly wary that giving her this one might set a precedent for other weather-related cancellations. So, she gets the benefit of the doubt this time. But, as you say, setting a time limit (once a year or every 6 months) is a good idea.

Liz Stone Abraham said...

I'm a full-time tutor for a local learning center. The students' parents sign an agreement acknowledging that they must give 24 hours notice to avoid being charged for a cancellation. Of course, we do make exceptions for dire illness, extreme weather, or personal tragedy. But most often, there are a handful of people who consistently cancel or don't show up. We have them figured out pretty quickly and charge them in good conscience. The offenders either fix their behavior, or decide to stop working with us. Either way is fine.

Oh, and I found your engaging blog through Wally Wood. We live in the same town and I assist him in fiction workshops for kids at the library.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Liz, and thank you for taking the time to comment and to read. I appreciate it!

The same rule applies to my students as does to yours (24 hour notice), but sometimes, it is unavoidable. This was just an odd case because it was such an isolated weather issue.