\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Cheated by a student's parents (Read 5864 times)

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Cheated by a student's parents
« on: October 09, 2013, 03:21:04 PM »
Last friday I taught my student as usual, it was 4 days into the month and I hadn't been paid (again). I saw the mother who was on the way out, I forgot to mention it, and she obviously forgot as well. She is separated but the father lives not too far away, he pays for everything.

This particular family is probably the wealthiest of all my students, trips to Europe on the holidays, own several condos in rich areas, servants, houses in other countries, etc etc.
I have been in touch with the father via sms but never met him.

Anyways, during the lesson, I remembered about payment, and decided that I would just sms the dad afterwards and let him know, since he is the one who pays anyways, the mother always forwards the fee for the month to him. I also indicated that from next month on wards I was raising my fee from 32USD to 38USD, and I would send out an sms invoice a week before the end of each month. He replied 'ok thx'.

Next morning I get an email from the mother breaking down the payment for the month, saying there will be only 2 lessons this month, and five in Nov and she would pay for both months at once. This was a bit strange because obviously the father had messaged her to verify the payment but she didn't say anything about that, nor about the fee increase next month. Ok, great, so I replied, said thanks, and and reiterated exactly what I had sent the father the night before.

And here we go, no reply.

Four days later, I sent another email to her, and said I had not yet received payment and if this could be done before Friday that would be much appreciated. All professional.

No reply.

Today I sms'ed the father, and said that I had no reply from his x-wife, and so there would be just the one lesson that I taught last week, 32USD, and if he could make that transfer today it would be appreciated. 

No reply.

And that's was it!

So I think the invoice by email system will help for the future, while it is infuriating to have parents pay late, I always say that it doesn't matter, I will get paid anyways. But I think anyone in their right mind would be pretty pissed off if every month their pay day was a 3 week open window of time where they may or may not get paid. How would parents like it if their boss said to them every month, 'Damn we forgot about pay day again this month, can we pay you next week?' But I get this every single month!

Experience has shown that it is very often the people you least expect who try to screw you over for the littlest things.

I come on time, I never cancel, I bend over backwards to rearrange lessons if needed, I give extra time, I helped these people find a piano - 2 days of my time on a weekend - I teach to the best of my ability, I answer all of their inquiries promptly, find music and do research for them, and this is how they thank me?

Whether or not they choose to continue lessons, they should at the very least reply to say they don't want to continue for whatever reason. Pay me promptly for the lesson I taught, and move on.

The way they behave looks like I have done some terrible deed to offend them, so much so that they can't bring themselves to even reply to my disgraceful behavior!

Um, folks, this is serious BS. And another case of people who of all of my students were the last ones I would have expected to pull a stunt like this.

End of transmission, thanks for reading!

edit** Just as I finished this rant, I checked my phone to see a message from the father, so he made the transfer for last weeks lesson, good for him, and good luck finding a new teacher! **

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #1 on: October 09, 2013, 03:45:07 PM »
Charge them by the quarter (3 months), with a late fee.

Uh, you charge $38 per month?  or about $9 a lesson?  Seems low to me.

You have contributed to this with your reminder SMSs.  They are now conditioned not to pay until they hear from you. 
Tim

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #2 on: October 09, 2013, 05:41:11 PM »
38/hour. I think its about control and ego, control freak, this mother couldn't stand the fact that she would have to pay me when I wanted, not when she wanted. That's all.

Yes having them pay in three month payments was an idea. Not sure it would work. But definitely invoice 1 week before end of month to be paid by end of month for the following month, this whole situation would NOT have happened if they had just payed me on time! Do they not realize that if everyone payed on time there would be no need for invoices or constant reminders for payment?

And in the new year what I will do is ask to have the schedules for 3-6 months or maybe just the whole school year, let me know any known absences/holidays in advance.

I only teach about 7-8 months of the year due to all the holidays and absences for one reason or another. Late payment is just an infuriating additional stress that doesn't need to be there.


Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #3 on: October 09, 2013, 07:56:28 PM »
38/hour. I think its about control and ego, control freak, this mother couldn't stand the fact that she would have to pay me when I wanted, not when she wanted. That's all.


Whoa, you're not sounding very professional with that value judgment.  Try to get the emotion out of it and you'll be more likely to solve it. 
Tim

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #4 on: October 09, 2013, 09:12:46 PM »
And be the brunt of a value judgement? What do you think she is doing to me, where is my value here? Clearly she does not, and never did value what I do for a living, nor the contribution I have made to her son's future life.

This professional has emotions, this is not unlike going through a relationship break up, this is to me as much about a complete breach of a spoken and unspoken agreement, as it is with the simple fact that you cannot be an effective teacher unless you genuinely care about the students that you teach.

This is certainly not about money, this mother does not even pay for lessons, she 'orders' her x-husband to pay for things which comes directly from a personal confession the student made to me a few weeks ago. When you are working closely with students for many months or years, they do tell you things that you don't always expect.

I see this as being about ego, what else can you think of? Is she doing this for the well being and future of her son? No, she couldn't care less about a few extra bucks that aren't even hers, she cares about being in control, and not letting anyone tell her what she can and cannot do. You don't just cut someone off over a few dollars, and hide behind a no reply, now that is a serious value judgment which I find deeply insulting, if she is going to act like spineless coward, then so be it, what have I done to deserve this?

I informed them that I would not be accepting further late payments, and that next month the fee would be increased. If they valued my service, do you think they would behave like this? So is that not a serious value judgement?

So good riddance, and one further reason why increasing rates every once in a while is not such a bad idea.

Offline iansinclair

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1472
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 12:44:22 AM »
I have found in many areas of my life, for many years, that it is often those who have the most toys are the most difficult about such trivia as paying their bills, or contributing to things.
Ian

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #6 on: October 10, 2013, 12:16:13 PM »
And be the brunt of a value judgement? What do you think she is doing to me, where is my value here?

You are massively overreacting, and that will be seen as unprofessional by any observer.

She's a slow pay.  There's nothing personal about it, she does the same for her plumber, her rent, her credit cards, her power bill. 

They don't get upset.  They just tack on a 5% late charge. 

It's not personal for her.  She's not stalking you or doing this on purpose to irritate you.  She just doesn't cope with some of life's challenges. 

But you HAVE chosen to make it personal.  You would rather have revenge than the money that's owed you. 

You might need to consider dropping this student, if you are at the point where your emotions will prevent giving him the level of instruction he deserves. 
Tim

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #7 on: October 11, 2013, 04:33:37 PM »
Mother called me at about the lesson time today, I see now what her plan was.

She didn't know that her x had already paid me for last week, and so I'm guessing she thought I would turn up, she didn't apologize, and blamed her x saying he can be so difficult some times.

Actually he paid me for the one lesson the same day I asked him for it. So if she really had sent him the fees to be paid to me, I think he would have paid it.

Now here's the clincher, last thing she says to me is, she 'wants to talk to me about the fee increase'. Well, why didn't she email me back a week ago when I sent the email? She says, "I don't think its fair, because we live really close to the skytrain, so it's not expensive to travel here".

I guess I should have justified it in the email as simply 'the cost of living' or not justified it at all. Surely what parents are going to be asking themselves, is about the service, the quality and experience, etc etc. And are they willing to sacrifice that for 6USD?

I suspect that most parents wouldn't really think it's about 'travel and time' anyways, but never the less, that is a factor. I explained to her that what I did was calculate my time and travel expenses over the whole year, then arrived at a fee to cover that which would be the same for everyone regardless of the different distances. She just repeated herself.

Also, most of my students are from Europe, N america, and Australia, so they (might) be aware that lessons are usually double what I am charging.

I told her that I really don't intend to impose a new fee that might be beyond the budget of parents, and if you really feel it's unfair, then let's just keep it as is. No problem.

There was a lot of awkward silence at this point, and really this did nothing but confirm what I had felt all along, it's just an ego trip.

So, while this has certainly tarnished the relationship, I will continue as is for the sake of my student who is preparing for an exam next month. They are traveling for 2 weeks from next week, which I guess is completely fair to me, as I lose my pay for two weeks while they are on holidays at great expense.

I was thinking when raising the fee that it would also help to cover those many unexpected absences, and reduce the number of students that I would need to take on. That's not something you can say to parents though. And the accusation of being 'not fair' seems if nothing else, just a bit hypocritical.   

Offline momopi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 281
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #8 on: October 11, 2013, 04:44:59 PM »
Make them pay in advance. That's what they do in studios, iirc.  :D

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #9 on: October 11, 2013, 05:25:48 PM »
They are traveling for 2 weeks from next week, which I guess is completely fair to me, as I lose my pay for two weeks while they are on holidays at great expense.
  

Perhaps you don't intend it, but you are coming across as resenting the fact they can afford an expensive vacation. 

There is no reason for you to lose pay.  Most studio policies cover the month, not per lesson.  If the student misses, he misses.  You still get paid, unless you are able to put another student into that slot.  I think most teachers are nice enough to try to work out a makeup lesson or two, but it isn't strictly necessary. 
Tim

Offline 1piano4joe

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 330
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #10 on: October 11, 2013, 06:01:28 PM »
Hi green,

I replied to a previous post of yours about fee increases. I mentioned that this scenario has played out for me many, many times in my 30+ years of teaching. Yes, some parents balk, question and/or complain about fee increases. Many just want to discuss it. Some will drop you and resent you. This is just how it is.

I have some other teaching related posts which you might find useful about coping with difficult students, parents and situations.

Anyway, I found it helpful to look at the big picture. I make so much money a year, period, from teaching. Cancellations, nonpayment, disrespect or whatever grief/stress/aggravation comes my way is ultimately about human interaction and a certain amount is to be expected and tolerated. What am I supposed to do? Confront people, drop students, bicker at the drop of a hat? (That's my girlfriend's job! LOL.) Besides, that is so not my style. So I don't sweat the small stuff and pick my battles.

Only you can decide how much pain and inconvenience you can endure. Only you can decide What is acceptable to you and what is not.

It's your studio. You set the policies. Do what's right for you. When I was younger, I listened to others telling me what to do, what to think, and how to react which was actually a good thing considering many people today aren't listening at all. BUT there's a big difference between listening and following. I wish I had learned that a lot sooner because some advice will be good for you and some will be bad for you. Again, use what works for you.

Bernhard often has said two very important general things:

1. Try it.
2. It depends.

This applied to piano but I think this works great for ideas or advice received.

So "TRY IT"! If it works, problem solved. If it doesn't (in that specific instance) then discard it and try something else.

Hope I have been helpful, Joe.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #11 on: October 11, 2013, 06:16:45 PM »
Bernhard often has said two very important general things:

1. Try it.
2. It depends.

This applied to piano but I think this works great for ideas or advice received.

Bernhard was a genius.  I miss him - not just his knowledge but his courtesy and professionalism. 

This reminded me that another forum occasionally reiterates the Four Rules of Anything.

1.  Relax
2.  Pay attention
3.  Accept what has gone before
4.  Do what must be done

None of them are easy but they work.  Don't skip any though. 
Tim

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #12 on: October 11, 2013, 07:51:15 PM »
Thanks so much for that feedback! What happened to Bernard anyways?

You really can not assume that everyone has the same level of commitment, integrity, or that they should treat you in the same way as you expect, and so I should take responsibility for not having a better system in place for taking payment - such as post dated checks (but no one has them here) - I hadn't really thought of taking payment for each month even when they are away, good idea but I doubt many parents, even the good ones, would be too impressed with that!

There are two families that I really should let go, this one, and one other that has basically done the same thing - withheld payment without explicit reason, and then after I ask for it, start to haggle and say they need a makeup from last month; or in this case today, the mother had clearly intended to let me have it about the whole 'fairness' thing after I came to pick up my pay which should have been made two weeks ago. And she's telling me about whats fair!

The big picture, yes, at the moment that has really been about saving money (unfortunately), and building up a bit of savings, and I guess then that means putting up with a lot more BS; I can see it will be better, easier to navigate, when in the new year I ask parents for a full year schedule, a general outline, so I can more accurately calculate what I can expect to save, and who I can afford to let go of. Because at the moment I'm struggling to hold onto everything, which is like scrambling in the water for something to hold onto while all the while sinking and drowning in the small things, the things that don't really matter in the larger scheme of things, so having a larger scheme is my next step. It's still too small a view finder, creating nothing but month to month aggravations!

BTW, what do people use to manage payments and all, PowerPoint?

Something has to be said about the continuity and momentum that builds between lessons, maintaining a regular structure that allows for that, because I certainly feel those interruptions and breaks literally retard progress and potential for break throughs. Another reason to be a bit stricter with payments and makeups because we know about this, but parents don't; a more rigid payment structure is going to reflect these attitudes because in fact you really do want to repel the parents who aren't going to respect and honor that level of commitment to lessons, and attract the ones who do. 

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #13 on: October 11, 2013, 08:15:34 PM »
I was just imagining sending these two mothers an email right now saying:

"Hello ..., I've given this some thought, and I've decided not to go ahead with lessons at this time, my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. Best regards and good luck."

What a relief! Funny how it opens yourself to taking charge for more things in your life (or at least it feels that way now). Not letting anyone walk on you, just to make a few extra bucks.

The amazing thing I have found, and it's quite uncanny how this happens, and it always seems to happen this way, it's only when you let go of some stress, that something new and better walks in.

On Wednesday, the day I sent that message to that father to pay me, I got a call from 2 new students, brother and sister, who will be starting next month. It also seems to happen in relationships of any kind, very odd...

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 7876
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #14 on: October 12, 2013, 05:42:05 AM »

I told her that I really don't intend to impose a new fee that might be beyond the budget of parents, and if you really feel it's unfair, then let's just keep it as is. No problem.

  

I think this is your problem, you do not take a stand and hold it. Certain people are very good at spotting such weakness and happily exploit it. It might be easier for you to communicate professionally by e-mail, so it was a good idea to to that. But I think you should have given them a specific reason instead of "I have given this some thought...". The reason was recurring problems with payments and you really don't need to apologize. This is something that is taking your time and your time is worth money. There's no reason to put up with it. It would be good for you to practice communicating in a more confident way. People respect that and will treat you better. And if you give them the right reason to discontinue lessons, in case they manage to change your mind, they might be more careful with payments.
 

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #15 on: October 12, 2013, 06:49:09 AM »
Thanks outin thats good advice.

Well I woke up, wrote an sms to 'the mother', mulled over the fact that I was compromising my integrity for money, and finally sent it:

"Hi... my apologies for any inconvenience but Ive decided to not continue with lessons at this point. Best regards."

I can't say it feels better, but it felt like the right thing to do. I tried to imagine if I went to teach how would I feel? Future lessons with this student would always be marred.

Also I think its true that rants of various kinds are really a call for help, for someone (a parent) to tell us what to do maybe. It may be a sign of irresponsibility, weakness, of not taking charge of our own lives, or maybe of not listening to what we really want, and thus blaming others for the way we feel; so thank you for the feedback, I think I've learned a great lesson today.

Immediately two simple platitudes came to mind, "you can never really 'give' until you are prepared to let it all go" and "you can never really fully live until you are prepared to die!"




Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #16 on: October 12, 2013, 07:07:25 AM »

Only you can decide how much pain and inconvenience you can endure. Only you can decide What is acceptable to you and what is not.

It's your studio. You set the policies. Do what's right for you.

When I was younger, I listened to others telling me what to do, what to think, and how to react which was actually a good thing considering many people today aren't listening at all. BUT there's a big difference between listening and following. I wish I had learned that a lot sooner because some advice will be good for you and some will be bad for you. Again, use what works for you.

Hope I have been helpful, Joe.

This is superb advice, and yes indeed it was helpful! Thanks Joe :)

Offline dinulip

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 80
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #17 on: October 18, 2013, 02:55:40 AM »
Why not ask postdated cheques for your entire musical year?  This is what I have started to do this year -- and everything is sooooo much easier this way.  :D The deal is that, if the child drops out, all cheques that have not been cashed are remitted to the parents - or destroyed. 

In addition, the parents are warned that *only one* missed lesson per semester will be rescheduled - an offer which I find extremely generous, considering that I have 40 students.

I feel that I am much more 'respected' since I have tightened my rules.  In the past, I wasted a lot of time and energy, trying to accomodate each and every one's specific needs.  (Quite a headache, if you want my opinion!)  Now, with a straightforward policy, everyone knows where he/she stands, and there is never a 'Yes, but...'.  Everything is clear and simple.

Here is a single piece of advice to you :

This is YOUR business : take charge and don't let the parents run it for you!

Good luck!  :)


Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #18 on: October 19, 2013, 05:49:38 PM »
Yes and my advice now would be that holding onto a student to maintain income is NEVER worth the stress and days lost in anger and frustration. It poisons your whole life and your effectiveness to teach other students.

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #19 on: October 19, 2013, 11:30:18 PM »
Now here's the clincher, last thing she says to me is, she 'wants to talk to me about the fee increase'. Well, why didn't she email me back a week ago when I sent the email? She says, "I don't think its fair, because we live really close to the skytrain, so it's not expensive to travel here".

I guess I should have justified it in the email as simply 'the cost of living' or not justified it at all. Surely what parents are going to be asking themselves, is about the service, the quality and experience, etc etc. And are they willing to sacrifice that for 6USD?

I suspect that most parents wouldn't really think it's about 'travel and time' anyways, but never the less, that is a factor. I explained to her that what I did was calculate my time and travel expenses over the whole year, then arrived at a fee to cover that which would be the same for everyone regardless of the different distances. She just repeated herself.    

I must say that this is a very strange argument to attempt to make to the parent. What it says is as good as:

"Many of my other students cost a great deal more time and money for me to get to, but I like to charge you more in order to subsidise them".

Even if your rationale is to average things out, remember that this serves you (in terms of convenience of keeping a single cost) and it serves those who are harder to get to. It doesn't serve those who are easy and cheaper to get to (yet who subsidise the cost of tricky ones) one bit and it's a real mistake to try to convey a self-serving rationale to someone who loses out from it. Why would she do anything other than repeat herself- after you as good as told her that you are charging her for other student's expenses that are nothing to do with her? With this explanation you've actively provided her with a cause upon which to feel cheated. You need to see it from their point of view before trying to persuade them with an explanation that is merely better for you (and which tells them that they are not getting the same value for money that others are).

If you take that kind of decision for your own convenience, you'll want to keep it to yourself rather than expect to persuade those who do worst. Don't tell those who actually lose out from it what is going on and expect them to be sympathetic. Just tell them that's your rate and be done with it. The explanation would do as much good as telling a starving farmer who slaves over his fields all year but has to turn over his entire crop to the government, that it's fair on everyone. Only from your point of view is that system a "fair" average, so don't make the mistake of effectively telling students that you are charging them more than their personal due in order to cover expenses incurred by other students.

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #20 on: October 20, 2013, 12:01:57 AM »
PS. In my opinion by far the fairest system would be to have a standard rate for students who you can access easily and then consider raising that rate slightly for students who take up more time and money for you to get to. But if you want to charge everyone the same, don't even think about expecting anyone to understand if you try to detail your rationale. It's shooting yourself if in the foot if you try to pacify a parent by explaining that, not only are you putting the rates up, but the specific reason you won't go cheaper is because they have to help you out with paying expenses incurred on visiting more distant students.

Offline senanserat

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 672
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #21 on: October 20, 2013, 03:24:13 AM »
Whoa, you're not sounding very professional with that value judgment.  Try to get the emotion out of it and you'll be more likely to solve it. 

He/She is human and thus should vent over from time to time.

On another note screw em tbh you think Chopin would have tolerated that kind of sh*t? HA.
"The thousand years of raindrops summoned by my song are my tears, the thunder that strikes the earth is my anger!"

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #22 on: October 20, 2013, 05:37:36 PM »
He/She is human and thus should vent over from time to time.

On another note screw em tbh you think Chopin would have tolerated that kind of sh*t? HA.

There's rather a lot of evidence that venting perpetuates negative emotions, rather than that it might cleanse you of them- as is often supposed. Blaming parents for not getting money, when you have entered into no formal arrangement is not healthy (particularly not if you're also expressing jealous sentiments). Teachers make their own destiny and should always start by being accountable to themselves. If a person isn't happy because their students do something as regular as go on holiday, from time time, it's absurd to start blaming parents. If going on holiday without paying is supposedly out of order, it's down to the teacher to put a system in place in order to make that clear.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #23 on: October 21, 2013, 12:27:21 PM »
There's rather a lot of evidence that venting perpetuates negative emotions,

Venting in public means you're likely to get some responses that don't agree with your perception.

What you do with those of course depends on you.  You're free to reject, ignore, or just become angry.

What you can't do (though many try) is demand it not happen. 
Tim

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #24 on: October 21, 2013, 06:03:32 PM »
well just to be fair i did say travel/time, so that increase also included time, about 30min, which then is not completely covered by the increase.

I would guess as a parent you first ask yourself whether you really do value this teacher, not whether its fair or not. This particular mother was just being difficult for the sake of it, and for the last time, wouldn't even have been paying it herself anyways.

The irony is they were ready to drop 16,000. USD on a new piano, but begrudge me a 6 dollar increase because 'it isn't fair', which amounts to about 1500USD/year based on 32 lessons (1.5h each, for 8 months, the other 4 months are holidays and absences).

so go figure, I happen to know my area pretty well, they aren't going to find anything like what I was offering any time soon. 

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #25 on: October 21, 2013, 08:29:31 PM »
.

The irony is they were ready to drop 16,000. USD on a new piano, but begrudge me a 6 dollar increase because 'it isn't fair', which amounts to about 1500USD/year based on 32 lessons (1.5h each, for 8 months, the other 4 months are holidays and absences).


This should be a useful learning experience for you, then.

First lets check the math:  32 lessons times 32 $/hr, $1536.  32 lessons times 38 $/hr, $1824.  Difference, $288. 

This family is okay with making a significant investment, but not with doing something unfair.

That means that money is yours for the asking, BUT you must not present your case as unfair.

And that's exactly what you did.  Unfortunately.  And then when they resisted you backed down, which convinced them they were right. 

Here's the lesson:  the family didn't decide on their own that your rate was unfair.  (I think it's quite reasonable, myself, provided you're a decent teacher)  They decided based on what you told them.


 
Tim

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #26 on: October 21, 2013, 11:00:38 PM »
well just to be fair i did say travel/time, so that increase also included time, about 30min, which then is not completely covered by the increase.

I would guess as a parent you first ask yourself whether you really do value this teacher, not whether its fair or not. This particular mother was just being difficult for the sake of it, and for the last time, wouldn't even have been paying it herself anyways.

The irony is they were ready to drop 16,000. USD on a new piano, but begrudge me a 6 dollar increase because 'it isn't fair', which amounts to about 1500USD/year based on 32 lessons (1.5h each, for 8 months, the other 4 months are holidays and absences).

so go figure, I happen to know my area pretty well, they aren't going to find anything like what I was offering any time soon.  

Unless the travel time has CHANGED, then its no use expecting to factor that in. If it was no different to before, what you've done is casually drop in a price hike of approx 20 percent with no new benefits to support such an abrupt rise. I'm surprised that nobody else has commented on the specific percentage here, as it's HUGE!!! Sorry, but you can't expect to casually increase by quite so much as that at what your description suggests was at very short notice and delivered with a casual sense of expected compliance. Your tone implies that you see the parents as an open wallet who should be expected to pay whatever rate you ask them for in the instant you decide you fancy changing it. If you made a radical miscalculation in the past, it doesn't entitle you to make a large increase at the drop of a hat. When you've previously been giving a cheap price, no matter how fair your new price is in absolute terms, it will look expensive in relative terms. Accept responsibility for the fact that you were asking for a lot and learn from the mistake. Drug dealers might be able to suddenly hike their prices at massively beyond inflation, but a piano teacher cannot typically expect to do so. Least of all can they rightfully have a go at anyone who is not happy about that.

If a piano teacher feels they have devalued themself and gone too cheap, they need to offer advance warnings and introduce rises gradually enough not to cause a raised eyebrow.
.

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #27 on: October 21, 2013, 11:09:17 PM »
Well, possibly. I gave them 5 weeks notice of the rate increase. Not to split hairs here, but I did already mention that I sms'ed the father about this the day before, and he said, 'ok, thx'.  Mother in this case represents herself, not the family.

But I still contend that with holding pay and not contacting me after two emails for a week with the expectation that I would just show up to the next lesson at which time she would let me have it with the 'its not fair' BS suggests that I was dealing with someone not all together in control of their wits.

She should have replied to my first email immediately stating her point, I did say to do so if there was any concerns. As it was, I didn't back down, I told her to get lost (politely of course). What she did was completely unacceptable.

The only lesson I take from this is let them go sooner. None of my other students so much as batted an eye at the rate change.

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #28 on: October 21, 2013, 11:15:17 PM »
Well, possibly. I gave them 5 weeks notice of the rate increase. Not to split hairs here, but I did already mention that I sms'ed the father about this the day before, and he said, 'ok, thx'.  Mother in this case represents herself, not the family.

But I still contend that with holding pay and not contacting me after two emails for a week with the expectation that I would just show up to the next lesson at which time she would let me have it with the 'its not fair' BS suggests that I was dealing with someone not all together in control of their wits.


Your side comes across much more reasonably here, but the father and mother are not a couple, remember. The father said thanks (for the info), not thanks- we discussed it together and that price rise is fine.

There are clearly aspects where they were in the wrong but if you are not prepared to hold your hand up to your mistakes then you won't learn a thing to help you in the future. The fact that you still call it BS for someone to have a problem with a huge 20 percent price rise suggests that you are still only prepared to see this emotively rather than to take objective responsibility for your own mistakes here. The bitterness you display takes away any high ground that you could have had here. You gave away any possible chance for it to look like a simple case of them being wrong and you being right, with that attitude.


Quite sincerely, if only one parent had a problem with the huge percentage increase I'd say that you've been remarkably lucky here overall, not hard done by. Be grateful for those who were willing to comply with such a huge raise.

Offline green

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 292
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #29 on: October 21, 2013, 11:46:36 PM »
I should have said it was a 'cost of living' raise, or not justified it at all. I believe I already mentioned that in a previous post.

I'm very sensitive to the way people treat me, this mother has shown disrespect before, and my only point with this one is that I think people like this just try to mess with you if they think they can. Not having paid me, then not contacting me back, was a nasty thing to do, a manipulative, controlling gesture, that is why I call it BS.

She is right, it's unfair given that they live so close to the skytrain (all of my students live close to the skytrain), had she made the point a week before and not tried to control the situation, and manipulate me by with-holding pay, then we might have been able to clear this up. 

I don't actually feel so 'lucky' as you say with my other students, I believe the issue is about value, do they value the service, and I suspect coming from mostly big cities in Europe, Australia, and N America, they didn't see the original fee as all that expensive to start with, so there were no issues. Just a few students, the others came in at the new rate already.

Thanks for that level headed practical feedback folks, it let's me see things from a whole new perspective. I see your points, and will definitely be more careful and exacting about these things in the future!

Offline Bob

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 15647
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #30 on: October 22, 2013, 01:24:59 AM »
I wouldn't put much effort into it.  Decide how much crap you'll put up with.  It sounds like they're wasting a chunk of your time outside of lessons. 

I'd do the x-amount by x-date.  x+y% amount if paying by a later date.  Framed as a discount for paying early.  If they don't pay by a certain, they don't get a lesson.

It doesn't matter what your reasons are for increasing lesson fees.  Cost of living is fine.  You set the price.  They decide if they want to pay it.  If they don't like it, they don't take lessons.  If they really want to hear justification, you could mention cost of living, insurance, gas prices, student loans, professional development, saving for retirement, etc.  And that that's the going rate for the area, on par/reasonable with other teachers in the area with your experience/background.

I'd really do the pay upfront idea.  And stick to it.  If they get burned, they get burned.  Have them agree to it in advance -- Pay by x date or no lesson -- Then follow through when there's no payment.  It really isn't your problem who's paying, etc.  Just that someone pays.  No payment, no lesson.  Payment by x-date, then it's a lesson.

I skimmed the thread, but I'd be careful with someone dictating lesson scheduling back to you -- If they said they're only taking two lessons instead of four this month, every other week.  If they didn't ok it with you first.  If you offer lessons by the month, a lesson a week, that's how it is.  Don't let them change it to every other week.  Unless you're ok with that.  Advance notice is good.  If they're losing money for you, I wouldn't give them priority for lesson time.  You're probably losing money on the other week of 'every other week' if you can't schedule someone in at that time.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3093
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #31 on: October 22, 2013, 02:03:05 AM »
If they really want to hear justification, you could mention cost of living, insurance, gas prices, student loans, professional development, saving for retirement, etc. 

I really recommend not going there.

"my answer is no.  And to let you know my answer is final, I'm not going to give you any reasons."  famous quote, but I don't know the author.

The point is, your rate is fair, and comparable to others in the area, or it is not.  If you attempt to justify it you encourage them to argue and you look whiney and defensive.  And, maybe, like you're not sure you're worth your rate. 

Are you worth your rate?  Then stick to it.

Are you going to lose students you can't replace?  Then you have a hard decision to make.

The emotion and resentment you've invested in this conflict comes from you, not the parents, no matter how much you blame it on them. 

Tim

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #32 on: October 22, 2013, 02:38:12 AM »
I should have said it was a 'cost of living' raise, or not justified it at all. I believe I already mentioned that in a previous post.

I'm very sensitive to the way people treat me, this mother has shown disrespect before, and my only point with this one is that I think people like this just try to mess with you if they think they can. Not having paid me, then not contacting me back, was a nasty thing to do, a manipulative, controlling gesture, that is why I call it BS.

She is right, it's unfair given that they live so close to the skytrain (all of my students live close to the skytrain), had she made the point a week before and not tried to control the situation, and manipulate me by with-holding pay, then we might have been able to clear this up.  

I don't actually feel so 'lucky' as you say with my other students, I believe the issue is about value, do they value the service, and I suspect coming from mostly big cities in Europe, Australia, and N America, they didn't see the original fee as all that expensive to start with, so there were no issues. Just a few students, the others came in at the new rate already.

Thanks for that level headed practical feedback folks, it let's me see things from a whole new perspective. I see your points, and will definitely be more careful and exacting about these things in the future!


Cost of living went up by twenty percent? Sorry, but that will do more harm than good to try that. You can say that if you make a raise that is close to inflation each year. But not for a sudden twenty percent rise. If these things are done in small increments then you're fine. But to attribute a sudden twenty percent rise to living costs would simply imply desire to live more extravagantly and to pass the cost on to your students. If you want universally positive responses, you need to pace price rises sensibly and gradually. With a huge increase in just one go, expect people to complain and/or drop out unless they're overwhelmingly happy with what they're getting.

Offline nyiregyhazi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #33 on: October 22, 2013, 02:53:39 AM »
I skimmed the thread, but I'd be careful with someone dictating lesson scheduling back to you -- If they said they're only taking two lessons instead of four this month, every other week.  If they didn't ok it with you first.  If you offer lessons by the month, a lesson a week, that's how it is.  Don't let them change it to every other week.  Unless you're ok with that.  Advance notice is good.  If they're losing money for you, I wouldn't give them priority for lesson time.  You're probably losing money on the other week of 'every other week' if you can't schedule someone in at that time.

That's fine if you require a contractual agreement of such terms before commencing ongoing lessons. If the teacher has not done so, they have neither a legal nor a moral right to complain. It's not on to be bitching about people supposedly cheating you out of money by going on holiday if you never arranged such terms. Any frustration should be channeled at yourself for not organising things in a way that would produce the desired out come. Being resentful at people taking a holiday is extremely low-value behaviour. Breach of contract would be a whole separate issue.

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 7876
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #34 on: October 22, 2013, 04:20:07 AM »
This shouldn't be so difficult...Teaching piano is a service. The one offering the service will price it the way that fits them best, usually taking into account both the cost efficiency for the teacher and the estimated value that people will be willing to spend.

But for the system to work, the price should be either the same for everybody, or it should include a specific part for travelling costs/time that can be separately agreed on. One could also use zones for the pricing according to distance. It's a different thing if one makes an exception on helping someone who is not wealthy enough to pay, but one wants to teach anyway.

Whether to raise the price should be a decision by the teacher, accepting the risk of losing students. A system where individual students can negotiate the price would not be efficient and could easily lead to awkward situations between students.

I would definitely announce any price changes at the end of a term and set a date for the old students to inform if they will continue. Then just see how many drop out and use marketing to fill the gaps. In business one should be able to budget and plan ahead, at least a year. Taking risks is also part of it: One sets the new price according to the calculations and if one will not find enough students with a cost efficient price, then it is time to figure out why and do something about it.

Offline nosilla

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #35 on: October 23, 2013, 04:47:44 AM »
Thank you Green for writing.  Thank you for all who responded.  Wish I had this forum 8 years ago.  Great topic discussion... I've resonated with a lot of things in this post.

Offline leahcim

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1376
Re: Cheated by a student's parents
«Reply #36 on: November 01, 2013, 12:12:48 AM »
I should have said it was a 'cost of living' raise, or not justified it at all. I believe I already mentioned that in a previous post.

Yeah, you don't really need to justify your fees.

On the other hand you have to accept that they might find another teacher or stop having lessons.

So you need to decide how many students you have time to teach and how much money you need and work out how much you need to charge - and then find n students willing to pay that amount.

If you can find enough students you win. If you can't, you'll have to change something.

Really you should ask for the money in advance. So long as

(a) that period isn't too extensive. e.g if someone has weekly lessons asking for a month in advance seems reasonable. If they have a lesson once a month, ask for 3. Tell them you won't refund if they cancel unless they give you a few days notice (decide for yourself how long)

If they haven't paid then don't give them a lesson.

(b) You make sure if you have to cancel that you reschedule / take less the next period. After all, you've been paid.

Next, don't deal with x different people. The specific details of this woman's relationships and who gives her money is really not your concern. It seems to me that half the confusion over who had paid what and who hadn't paid was caused by you emailing or texting her ex.

Don't be nice about people not paying and let it slide. If you do then you cannot complain about tardy payers. You don't have to be rude, just polite and firm. If you get the money in advance then it's never an issue that you've given a lesson and are stood waiting for money or forgetting about it as you leave (how can you possibly forget? That's unbelievable. And then complain about them? Really you are your own worst enemy. That said, are you any good at gardening?)

The oldest profession in the world will literally bend over backwards to please their customers but they always take the money first.