An economist's opinion on make-up lessons


Platinum Member
Steve Korn just shared this with me, and I thought some of the teachers here might appreciate it. Visit my blog to read the whole thing:

Like many parents, I pay in advance for lessons each term. In my mind, what this means is that I have reserved a regular spot in the busy schedules of my sons' teachers. I understand - fully - that if I can't make it to the lesson one week (perhaps my son is sick, or we are away on holiday, or there is some other major event at school) then we will pay for the lesson, but that my teacher is under no obligation to find another spot for me that week, or to refund me for the untaught lesson. And this is the way it should be.

In my 'other life' I am an economist and teach at our local university. Students pay good money to attend classes at the university; but if they don't come to my lecture on a Monday morning, then I am not going to turn around and deliver them a private tutorial on Tuesday afternoon. When I go to the store and buy groceries, I may purchase something that doesn't get used. Days or months later, I end up throwing it out. I don't get a refund from the grocery store for the unused merchandise. If I sign my child up for swimming lessons at the local pool, and s/he refuses to return after the first lesson, I can't get my money back. So there are lots of situations in our everyday lives where we regularly pay in advance for goods or some service, and if we end up not using what we have purchased, we have to just 'swallow our losses'. On the other hand, if I purchase an item of clothing, and get home and change my mind, I can take it back and expect either a refund or a store credit.

So why do I believe that music lessons fall into the first category of 'non-returnable merchandise', rather than into the second case of 'exchange privileges unlimited' (which I think is one of the advertising slogans of an established women's clothing store!)? Speaking now as an economist, I would claim that the reason is that items like clothing are "durable goods' - meaning, they can be returned and then resold at the original price - whereas music lessons are non-durable goods - meaning, once my Monday slot at 3:30 is gone, my son's teacher can't turn around and sell it again. The only way she would be able to give him a lesson later in the week would be if she were to give up time that she had scheduled for her own private life; and that seems pretty unreasonable - I can't think of many employees who would be thrilled if their bosses were to announce that they couldn't work from 3:30 to 4:30 this afternoon, but would they please stay until 6:30 on Thursday, because there will be work for them then!


Platinum Member
I am glad you posted this because I have been wanting to get other teacher's feedback on this issue. I charge by the month. I just changed one of my clients to a monthly and her kid got sick two weeks in a row. I also have another not on a monthly and she, her kid and her husband were sick three weeks in a row.

It's a sensitive subject. The first woman then complained that I had put her on a monthly and now she was losing money. It get me so pissed off. Why does she think that I should lose the money when I have reserved that slot for her son? It comes down to who should lose the money, the teacher who is ready to teach that day, or the parent whose kid just happened to come home sick. I lost the money on the other client because I didn't brooch the subject knowing she would probably quit. they always do when you brooch that subject.

I have lost clients for charging them for last minute cancellations, and I am not only talking about a kid being sick. I am talking about a kid being over his friend's house for a school day off and the mother not wanting to disturb his "play time."

It's very simple. Just like karate, dance lessons, school or any activity, it happens on a specific hour, and you will lose that hour if your kid gets sick, if you are on vacation, if you forget, or if you just don't feel like driving.