The Storm that Wasn’t-Cancelling Lessons Due to Weather/Acts of Nature

Oct 17, 2016

Seattle was expecting the worst storm in decades this weekend. A typhoon was predicted to knock out power, knock over trees, and leave the city paralyzed. Bottled water disappeared from store shelves, flashlight makers rejoiced… and lessons were cancelled. The storm changed directions, lost steam, and we got a bit of rain. In this case, a false alarm caused teachers to miss lessons, and in some cases lesson fees. Should teachers bill for cancelled lessons due to weather?

From a parent’s perspective, a storm warning is an invitation to clear calendars and take an unplanned vacation-from-life day. The promise of a snow storm,lost power, or high winds physically brings families close together…which is welcome in our culture of over-scheduling and under-connecting .

From a teacher’s perspective. Your first consideration should obviously be for you and your client’s safety. If there is truly a natural disaster occurring, you should cancel lessons and not bill your clients. In the example of a false alarm, you are ethically and professionally in the right to exert your cancellation policy built into your fons account for last minute cancellations. However, as a business owner trying to offer great customer experience, you probably want to offer another solution.

What to do when students cancel last minute due to a weather prediction.

Here’s what we think is the best business practice for last minute, weather related cancellations.

  1. Offer to teach a lesson online via Skype or FaceTime at the regular time. I offer this solution all the time. Online lessons work great,(providing the power is still on) and you’ve avoided the need to travel in weather.
  2. If a customer cancels a lesson due to inclement weather predictions. Offer a reschedule time via Fons. Perhaps you can add office hours on a day you don’t normally teach, and allow your students to pick a time then. It’s good to show that you’re working to make it work.
  3. If solutions #1 or #2 don’t work, you’ve a decision to make. If may seems reasonable to cancel a lesson due to potential dangerous driving conditions or loss of power. If so, it would make sense to cancel the lesson and not charge for it. Again, a reschedule or online lesson solves 95% of these scenarios. If not, some instructors still bill for that missed time regardless of attendance. That’s a choice you have to make.

These two scenarios… rescheduling the lesson, or giving a lesson online will cover almost all of your weather-related cancellation issues. In the event that they don’t, it’s up to you to make an ethical, professional decision as to wether you bill your client for the missed lesson. There’s an argument for both sides. I personally tend to lean towards not charging for a lesson that I can’t teach. This avoids the stress point of feeling like you owe a client for an unclaimed lesson.

A final related thought. I went to a flamenco show on the eve of the ill-predicted “storm.” The show was sold out, and there wasn’t an open seat in the theatre. How did the artist manage a sell-out with such a dire warning issued for the weather? He sent out an email mid-day stating that the show would go on regardless of weather. Sure, he knew that he could cancel in the event of a catastrophic event. However, his reaching out to patrons kept them from making other plans. Ticket holders waited to see what would happen, and it ended up being a non-issue. If you feel the “show must go on,” there’s most often a way to make it happen.


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