Exception Overview
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24 Articles on SSQQ Policy
Information Guests & Watching Rudeness No Children Change Partners Crowds/Receipts
Business Policies Questions Dance Widow Same Sex Volunteers Refund Overview
House Rules Private Lessons Group Privates Electronic Trnsctns Deal is a Deal Changes
Refund Wedding Lessons Group Discount Exceptions Exception Overview Tuition Switch
Refund Struggle Refund Defeat Refund Arguments Double Charges Switching Classes New to SSQQ


Introduction

Everyone knows that Rules are made for a Reason, but What do you do when the Rule becomes Obsolete?
Rick Archer, March 2005

In March 2005, I created a brand new rule that I will call "The Exception Rule". This rule was created to contend with an overwhelming number of small requests that when added together drove me crazy.

DEATH TO TYRANTS BY EMAIL!

Surely you have heard the axiom where someone talks about how "A House United Will Stand, but a House Divided Will Fall". 

After some explanation, the speaker will pick up a branch and snap it with little effort. Then the speaker will pick up a dozen branches, tie them together, and dare you to break them as a unit. Point Made.

I have seen the same demonstration done with a phone book. By themselves, each page is easy to tear. But united in a phone book, even a very strong man has trouble ripping the book in half. Point Made.

No one has ever done the demonstration with Email, but I think a case could be made for the power of a constant flow of email requests. Here at SSQQ I get countless small, simple requests all the time. By themselves, they add up to five minutes here, three minutes there, and so on. But at the end of a day or the end of a week, I find myself exhausted from dealing with all the small problems. Once you add them all together, you realize you are looking at a mountain of headaches. Email is quickly becoming the scourge of modern civilization.

In order to give you a simple idea of what I am talking about, I have listed 11 examples of the various problems and concerns people email me about.

Please believe me when I say they amount to just the tip of the iceberg of things people ask me to do on a daily basis.

Example One
-----Original Message-----
From: SC
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 10:07 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: credit card problem

Rick,

Just got my credit card statement from January and found out I got charged twice for Beginning Cha Cha. I signed up my friend and I together ($84) and then me for Advanced Western Swing by myself ($23). I would up with 3 charges, 2 of them for $84 and 1 for $23. All the charges were on 1-4-05. The only transaction number I can find is xxxxxx.

Although I am pretty sure I followed the directions properly, running through the thing twice to get us both registered for 1 class and then me alone in another I may have screwed it up myself.

Since we're already signed up for Intermediate Cha Cha and Ghost Town for February, is there any chance of getting the extra charge applied to Advanced Cha Cha in March?


Example Two
 -----Original Message-----
From: MS
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 7:03 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: intermediate salsa missed class

I tried to call, but could not get a hold of anyone. I was just wondering if it would be possible for me to get credit for the salsa class I am in right now. I was in a car accident last weekend and am not supposed to do anything to physical for a couple of weeks. I have only been to one class and thought I might be able to start again in a couple of weeks. Let me know. Thank you.


Example Three
 -----Original Message-----
From: VH
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:35 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Beginning Salsa

Dear Sir/Madame, My name is VH and I have registered this week for beginning salsa, however I was not able to attend any of the classes. I was wondering how can I cancel my registration and receive the refund.


Example Four
-----Original Message-----
From: FJ
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2005 10:21 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Zydeco Class

To Whom It May Concern,  I registered to start your Zydeco class in January but due to unplanned circumstances I had to go out of town.  Now I have missed the first week of the March class. Will it be possible to start on the second class ? How do I make up my missed class?  Do I have to pay anything extra?


Example Five
-----Original Message-----
From: LW
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 2:41 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Some Like It Hot

Hello,  I am following up as to when my husband and I can schedule the last 2 classes since I was sick this week and we have a known conflict next week with one of our children's school events. We would like to complete the last 2 classes of this class if available in the next set of sessions. If this particular class is not offered, then another class that is beginner in nature for couples dancing would be best. The only night we would be able to take the Some Like It Hot class is if it is offered on Tuesday nights as I have a jazz class that night year-round.

Example Six
----- Original Message -----
From: LP
To: dance@ssqq.com
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 3:23 PM
Subject: Classes

I signed up for two classes in 2005, and due to DANG WORK getting in the way,.... I was only able to make one class out of the 8 nights I paid for. Can I get some type of partial credit? Especially for the Ghost Town which I never was able to make a single night of. Take pity...(the reason I'm asking is because I'm only going to spend it again signing up for April) :-) I got a new job which will allow me to actually show up for class!!

The classes were: Advanced Triple Two Step - Jan 2nd (made one class)
Ghost Town 10 (never had the chance to make any of the classes.)


Example Seven
-----Original Message-----
From: KG
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 8:54 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Missed Classes

Hi Rick,
My husband and I started a beginner swing class in February. Unfortunately I became ill during the third week and then he got sick during the fourth week. Consequently we missed two out of the four classes. Could we have permission to make up those two classes in the near future? Thanks for your consideration.

Example Eight
-----Original Message-----
From: GM
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 4:07 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Beginning 2 Step

Mr. Archer,

I am signed up for the Beginning Western 2 Step class on Wednesdays. I was out of town for the first class and was sick for the second class. Is there anyway that my payment for this month can be transferred to next month (April)?

I am also signed up for Beginning Salsa, but have not missed a class.  Regards, GM

Example Nine

-----Original Message-----
From: SM
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2005 1:42 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Salsa / Salsa & Merengue classes

Good afternoon,

I’m really interested in taking your Beginners Salsa / salsa merengue classes with my boyfriend. The only problem we are having is that he doesn’t live here in Houston and will only be in town this month from Friday 11th till Friday 18th.

Could we take several classes during that week instead of one class per week for a month?

Thank you so much for your help, SM

Example
Ten

-----Original Message-----
From: OB
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 2:15 PM
To: Dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Two left Feet Class

To Rick Archer,


I signed up for the two left feet class and was only able to attend the first class.  The second class I got tied up on a conference call until 7:30, and I was out of town this week.  Next week it looks like I am having a visitors, professionally, from California and North Carolina.

My question is, can any of the fee I paid carry over to the next class?  I understand the next class, (April) is three left feet, and is it possible I pay some difference and try to attend those 4 classes?

Just wanted to pose the question, I would like the Instructors and the fellow students to know that it was business that caused the problem, not them.  I enjoyed the first class.

Example Eleven
 -----Original Message-----
From: SM
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 4:12 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Refund question

Hello,

My fiancé and I signed up for dance lessons back in January, but once we got to the first class we realized that we didn't sign up for exactly what we expected and that the lessons might be a little to early before our wedding reception to do us much good. We talked with the woman at the front desk before class began and she said that we could schedule another class instead, using the credit that we had from the class that we decided not to take.

Our wedding is now in two weeks, and with all of the things we've had to take care of we've been unable to take a class. Can we receive a refund for the amount of the class?

Some problems take nothing more than a two-minute email to solve. Other problems require that I go into the ssqq database and make corrections, a process that generally takes ten to fifteen minutes. 

I spend at least two or three hours a week handling problems like these. Out of 1,200 registrations a month, the odds are at least 1% or 2% of the students will have something come up like the problems listed above.  As far as I am concerned, handling problems like these are just a normal part of doing business.

I don't mind at all taking care of people's concerns.  I guess my biggest frustration comes when I tell the students what the rules say, but that's not good enough. They still continue to argue with me. Now the problem grows from 5 minutes to 15 minutes. Or if they still aren't satisfied, it becomes 30 minutes. I had one problem in January that took me over three hours to solve using email (Courtney Walsh).

One day in late February I was faced with a series of very small problems involving students who wanted to switch classes. Each one nagged at me, but the third problem became the straw that broke the camel's back.

Here is the harmless email that led to the single largest SSQQ policy change in 25 years.

Request to Change a Class
-----Original Message-----
From: AB
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 1:22 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Classes and Schedules

Rick, My name is AB, I am a student of your studio of a few months. I went to class last Tuesday (Advanced Salsa 8 I believe). This week, I am sick as a dog and will be missing this class, and furthermore, next week I will be out of town on a business trip. Since Ill be missing the end of a proposed pattern, and be back for the last class in the middle of the second pattern, rather than be a goof on the floor, I want to get a credit to next month's Advanced Salsa 9 class.

I spoke with Linda today, and she mentioned this would be alright, and I would only be charged 5$ to start the Salsa 9 class. Please verify if this is correct, and what steps I need to do in order to make this happen for Salsa 9. (my numbers may be off by a class or two)


Rick Archer's Reply

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 4:45 PM
To: AB
Subject: RE: Classes and Schedules

I love Linda and I am sure she explained it the way she understood it, but it doesn't work that way. It will be $5 to take Adv Salsa 8 over again. You cannot take a class you never had before that cost $46 for $5!

AB's Reply
-----Original Message-----
From: AB
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 7:38 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Classes and Schedules

So.........I have to wait 10ish months for salsa 8 again, and then it will cost 5$?

I'm sure Linda xplained it correctly and in my NyQuil induced haze I miss interpreted.

Since I have noted you are a very fair man Rick, let me say this: I agree with the rules. I will submit to them. But since you are fair, I will explain my reasoning, and perhaps it may appeal to you. The following I am stating after reading your two credit examples.

1 - I have been coming to salsa for a while now, this is my 5th month, so I am considering myself a bit of a long term customer (I plan on continuing salsa until I am really good, not just ok)
2 - I am no requesting a credit switch from one type of class to another
3 - You are correct in that there is no real way of knowing I have not been to other salsa classes. Except of course that I did call and email before the second class - not by the end of the month.
4 - I am fairly well known to the advanced teachers as well as the long term salsa students. It would be infeasible of me to show up and say that I did not.
5 - Lastly, the nature of this situation is not something that fits in normally with the credit transfer. I planned on missing 1 class which was unavoidable. However, after falling ill on the very same day that my second salsa class was to take place, I realized I would be missing the entire core days of the 2 patterns we would be learning. This of course renders the class slightly infeasible. As you can see, since the reason for not coming on Tuesday was an illness, there is no way I could have requested credit on the first week, since at that point I was still facing only missing one class
6 - in addition, I believe up till now, I have only missed 1 class out of the 5 months I have been to your studio, so this is not an ongoing trend.


Again Rick, I am only appealing to the rules.
I am in no way trying to be difficult or circumvent them. If there is nothing that can be done, I will respect that decision. However, as explained above; in the spirit of things, I feel I do not fit the criteria mentioned on your web site. I so no malice or chance of foul play in what I am requesting. These are really the grounds for my request. Nothing more.


"Again Rick, I am only appealing to the rules.

Perhaps my fatal flaw was that I was a philosophy major in college. AB was appealing to the rules!  He said I was a fair man!  So I considered his plea with the same concentration a Supreme Court Justice gives to a challenge to the Constitution or a clemency plea for a man on Death Row.

So maybe I took it more seriously than I should have, but I am who I am. 

I read and reread AB's email four different times. I had specifically told him about the $5 rule and that wasn't good enough. He read everything I had to say on the website and that wasn't good enough either. AB still wasn't satisfied.

He wanted me to do it his way and had the sense to ask nicely and persuasively.

One part of me wanted to say yes and do him a favor but another part of me wanted to argue with him and ask why the "$5 Rule" wasn't good enough. It is $5 for crying out loud!!

In Psychology, this situation is known as a "Gestalt", i.e. a psychological conflict.
In Philosophy it is known as an "Dilemma", i.e. a philosophical conflict.
In Law it is known as an "Impasse".

But in my case, I was just plain STUCK in a bizarre little mind loop as I wrestled with this ridiculous little problem.

How had such a benign, simple issue grown to this proportion?  Why was I unable to get it out of my brain?

By coincidence AB's request had come at the tail end of a series of similar problems that had all nagged at me. I decided to spend some time and think about AB's request before giving him an answer.  Over the next few days I struggled to understand until finally I figured out what was bothering me.

25 years ago at the start of my career I had developed a simple little policy mechanism known as the "$5 Rule" to deal with practically every small complaint. However for 25 years I was perpetually astonished when students still argued about paying $5!! 

Then I saw a way out of the dilemma. I hit upon a new solution - Why not offer to make Exceptions and put a limit on them? 

The Exception Rule was born.

If you are curious, here is the story in its entirety.


The Death of the $5 Policy, the Birth of the Exception Rule and other Policy Changes made in 2005. 


The Mom and Pop Years


When I went into business for myself 25 years ago, I developed a rule known as the $5 Policy.

Back then, I knew every one of my students personally by their first and last names.  My students were also my friends. If they had a problem, it was easy to solve because I was teacher-administrator-bookkeeper-buddy-blah blah blah. My left hand always knew what my right hand was doing and since no other hands were involved, I kept my entire studio organized in my head. Did I mention I also used to have a better memory back then?

For the first 25 years of business, the SSQQ Credit Policy read like this:

CREDITS - If you are unable to complete your course, you may retake it at a later date for a $5 Retake Charge (you must also present your receipt). You may switch to another class in the same month if you ask within 7 days after your first night. We do not permit switching tuition from Group Classes to Private Lessons since this amounts to asking for a Refund.

Originally, the $5 Policy was meant to give SSQQ students who missed a couple classes during Month One a simple way to take the course over again. We had a lot complaints from students who felt that paying a Half-Price retake fee was too expensive. Their reasoning was that they only got half their course the first time; why should they have to pay extra to take it again?

My point of view was that if they paid nothing, then they were getting a free review for the two weeks they did attend. After much thought, I settled on a wrist-slap penalty of $5.  To my surprise, I had people complain about the $5 too. I found if they complained bitterly enough, it was easier to waive the $5 fee as well just to keep the peace.

The customer is always right.
Please the customer.
Bend over backwards.
The measure of an institution is the care it gives its customers...

The $5 Policy worked on the Honor System. We had no way of knowing how many times Susie Q came to her Waltz class three months earlier before she claimed to fall off her bicycle. We just took Susie's word for it.

And that's how it went for 25 years - we relied on people to tell us the truth.

Back when the place was pretty much Mom and Pop, I never felt taken advantage of because I knew most of my customers personally. I raised my eyebrows a couple of time, but the policy seemed to be working so I kept it in place even when the Modern Era began in 2000.

Overcrowding in 2000 Forces Changes - We acquire Hall Monitors and a Computerized Database

Over the years, SSQQ grew and grew and grew. By the year 2000, our studio was being visited by 1,500 people a month.  We started having fits with overcrowding. Our studio was so bloated with people it became obvious something had to be done to battle the crowding problem. (Read more: Crowds & Receipts)

Then one day an instructor was overwhelmed by 80 people in a room meant to hold 50. She took one look at the class roster and noticed only 50 names.

She brought me the roster. Who were all these people?  I frowned. It turned out that most of the people in there were people who had taken the class before and were now showing up to be volunteers. Except they hadn't been asked to volunteer - they just showed up because they knew the class was popular.  My guess is most of them were there for the first night to see if anyone cute was in this Beginner class.

I knew for a fact that our roster-keeping was very sloppy.

But it seemed like there were at least several people in there who weren't paying as well. No one likes to be cheated. I realized we obviously needed better records so we knew exactly how many people were signed up for each class.

In 2001 David Schroeder designed a complex computerized student database for SSQQ to keep track of registrations and to give us rosters for each class.  He installed it in early 2002.

Now the Rosters began to match the size of the classes. Thank you, David. 

Mrs. Atlas takes over

A year after the installation of David's system, we found the perfect person to administer his complicated creation. This person was none other than David's wife Susan Schroeder. A brilliant and creative woman who made a living as a graphics designer, Susan had some extra time on her hands. Handling SSQQ Registration and the database seemed like the perfect little part-time job for her.

In January 2003 Susan took on the job of Head Registrar.  For the next two years, Susan put the studio on her shoulders and carried the place. She handled every request for refunds, credits, transfers, missed classes, volunteers, you name it. I never had to worry about a thing. It was wonderful. 

To the outside world and to me, Susan was Atlas and Wonder Woman rolled into one.

Susan was widely credited by SSQQ students for doing a phenomenal job of maintaining the data base. However secretly Susan was getting fed up. Unbeknownst to the rest of us - me included - Susan was spending countless hours tending to the complex On-Line system. There was a lot of frustration to deal with on a daily basis. It is sad to say, but as the day-in/day-out struggle was taking its toll, no one could give Susan any sympathy because she never complained.  She just kept her problems to herself.  Instead of asking me for help to lighten the load or telling me the pressure was getting to her, Susan just kept keyboarding away.

Mrs. Atlas doesn't just shrug, she says she has had enough!

On January 4, 2005, Susan quit. There was no warning, no smoke coming out of Mt St Helens, no seismic tremors, no receding waves at the beach, no nothing.

She just snapped. One day Susan had had enough. "I quit."

There was no explanation given. She refused to talk to me on the phone or in person. We did exchange a few emails, but mostly she reiterated she was fed up and she would never come back.

Around the studio, the rumors flew that I had mistreated her.

It is true that the studio had not been much fun for some time.

Two months earlier in November 2004 Judy Archer - my former wife who was still Second in Command at SSQQ - left the studio. Susan had accepted even more duties after Judy's departure. As a result there was a lot of pressure on both Susan and on me over the next two months.

However during those tough two months, Susan was frequently the solution and never the problem. She never complained about a thing and came up with creative solutions to plug many of the holes.  Susan not only offered to tackle huge problems such as cleaning and refinishing the floors, she also embarked on an ambitious studio remodeling project. On the day she quit, the studio had never looked better. These were not the actions of a person who seemed unhappy with her job. 

The precipitating factor behind her resignation came over an email. There was a breakdown in communication between her and I during the stressful first days of the new dance semester.  Susan completely misunderstood an email I wrote, but instead of giving me the chance to explain what I meant, she quit. Susan thought I was paying her less money than she had asked for when in reality I was paying her more money than she had asked her. However in her defense the wording of my email was so vague I can understand how she came to that conclusion. Unfortunately she was so fed up with the job, once she quit she refused to give me the chance to clear the air.

The one thing I was definitely guilty of was not being able to read Susan's mind. I had no idea she was this unhappy. The problem certainly wasn't disrespect. I greatly admired Susan's work and thought of her as one of the most talented people to ever work here.

In my mind Susan was a national treasure. One moment I was sitting in my living room praising Susan's work to Marla. The next moment I walked to my computer to see the resignation email. I was stunned.  But there was nothing I could do about it. Phone calls, emails, trips to her door - it was all in vain. Every one of my attempts to talk to Susan was rebuffed. All she would say was that she was sick of this job and didn't want to have one more thing to do with it.

Picking up the Pieces.

Crestfallen and confused, I had no choice but to carry on. 

I slowly began the task of assuming many of Susan's Registration duties. Working with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that felt suspiciously like nausea, I began to review her responsibilities.  Over the next few days I was astonished by the volume of computer work Susan undertook on a daily basis. 

There is an old saying that if men had to give birth to every second child in the family, all families in the world would only have one child.

I don't know if Susan's computer work was as painful as childbirth, but it was definitely overwhelming. After just a few days of walking in the shoes of Susan Schroeder, the sheer volume of Wonder Woman's vast duties made me realize I would have to make some serious changes or drown.  I had to find a way to lighten the load. There simply weren't enough hours in the day to ever match what Susan's prodigious energy level allowed her to do.

I make some painful discoveries.

For starters, I quickly realized I didn't have enough extra time to cover all of Susan's duties. Second, I didn't have her intelligence. Third, I didn't have her persistence. Fourth, I didn't have her patience. Something would have to give.

The first responsibility to fall by the wayside was the task of updating the course histories of SSQQ students.  One thing Susan used to do was update many of the course histories of students before 2002.  This courtesy enabled an "old-time" student to register On-Line for a half-price repeat without having to stand in line. It was very convenient for our students and I am glad Susan was willing to help, but the moment I climbed on board this practice came to a fast halt. 

All it took was one incident. That's when I called a quick end to the practice of updating a student's pre-2002 Course History.

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott W
Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2005 6:29 PM
To: onlineregistration@ssqq.com
Subject: Account swxxxx

Please update my account , Per the policy on the Internet I attended these classes prior to the advent of the computerized records. If the policy extends this far I would request you to update my computerized record.  I would like to return and be able to take classes again. My account ID is swxxxx

Class List I have taken at SSQQ (All classes were taken in 1998-1999-2000-2001)

Western
BEGINNING Dec 1998
TWOSTEP/POLKA
BEGINNING Jan 99
WESTERN SWING
INTERMEDIATE Feb 99
WESTERN SWING
ADVANCED Mar 99
WESTERN SWING
GHOST TOWN June Oct 99
LEVEL 5 , 8 , 2, 10
BEG WESTERN WALTZ Feb 00

Whip
BEGINNING WHIP\WCS July 00
INTERMEDIATE WHIP\WCS Aug 00
ADVANCED WHIP\WCS September 00
MARTIAN WHIP 01 oct 00

Swing
BEGINNING SWING march 00
INTERMEDIATE SWING April 00
ADVANCED SWING may 00

Miscellaneous
BEGINNING
SALSA Feb 01
BEG SLOW DANCE & ROMANCE Mar 01

Note These do appear in my account
Aug 04, 2002 Beginning Night Club
Jan 05, 2003 Ghost Town 5
Jun 02, 2002 Ghost Town 8
Jun 01, 2003 Ghost Town 10
Jul 07, 2002 Martian Whip 7

I emailed Scott back that I would rather not update his pre-2002 records. Susan may have had the patience to do it, but I sure didn't.  I estimate a job of this nature would have taken 20 minutes of accomplish. 20 minutes one time isn't that big a deal if it is just once, but I simply did not wish to have this kind of obligation for the next person who asked.

I had a better idea. I emailed him back and said I would simply honor his email. All he had to do was print out my authorized email and bring it with him to Walk-In Registration for any class on that list and register at half-price. That email took a minute to write. Much better.

I noticed that in March 2005 Scott took Beginning Twostep and Advanced Western Swing over again. I hope my email allowed him to take both classes for half-price.

I estimate between 20,000 and 30,000 people took classes in the years before our Computer Registration System was established. There was no way I was going to allow myself to be exposed to updating anyone's pre-2002 records just so they could conveniently use Online Registration System to register online for half-price.

There are not enough hours in the day...


Electronic Refunds (read more about Electronic
Transactions)

Another kindness that Susan had performed were electronic refunds. I quickly discovered Electronic Refunds are code words for Electronic Headaches. These problems were a major pain in the butt.

Shortly after Susan quit, her husband David - the architect of the system - came over to my house to show me how to do the magic. First we had to go to an E-Processing location on the Internet. Then we had password our way through a series of checkpoints to find our account. Then we had to manually sift through 100 to 200 transactions per day manually looking for the correct amount of money charged. We would have to open up each transaction one at a time until we found the right one. 

Maybe you don't understand. SSQQ currently has 1,200 students. 75% of our our transactions are done by credit card. Now divide 800 transactions by 7 days during Registration Week and you get 100-plus transaction per day. In order to find one transaction for a refund, we had to look at each of 100 transactions one at a time.

I know what you are going to say - "Why didn't you use the "find" button?"  Well, neither of us could find a "find" button. Instead it was a 19th century needle in a haystack sifting process. David and I literally had to look at each credit card transaction one at a time.

Click and read. Nope, not that one. close. Click and read. Nope, not that one. close.  Hunt and peck/ ah what the heck.  That was the end of that.

Finding each individual electronic refund took anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. And on more than one occasion I never found the transaction at all.

You can imagine this got old very quickly. I asked David how many refunds Susan processed a month. He said maybe 30.  I blanched. 30 refunds a month??  Do the math. That's ten hours of work!

Now I know what you are thinking. "30 Refunds a Month?"

Another rude post-Susan discovery I made is that we have quite a few people who register on-line for classes, then change their minds at the last minute. 

It took our students maybe two minutes to register for a class On-Line. However if they changed their minds and asked for an electronic refund, it meant they were obligating me to a 15-30 minute digging expedition on the E-Processing page. After how hard I found out it was to process Electronic Refunds, I blew a gasket. 

EXAMPLE ONE:

To: Rick archer
From: Johnnie H
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2005 9:58 PM
Subject: Cancellation of Beginning Salsa

Per the SSQQ website, in order to cancel my registration I needed to include the information I've included below. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I cannot take part in your beginning Salsa class. If you need anything else, please let me know.

Johnnie H

RICK ARCHER'S REPLY

From: SSQQ Online Registration
To: JH
Sent: Monday, February 07, 2005 4:21 PM
Subject: Cancellation of Beginning Salsa

Here is the story. There are two ways to give refunds.

The simple way is to swipe your credit card on the terminal at the studio.

The hard way is to use the computer to delve deeply into the Internet and find the "eprocessing" transaction.

Unfortunately for both you and I, the only person who knows how to use the second technique - Susan Schroeder - quit without warning last month.

Her husband David, who was the original programmer, came by my office to help me sort through the mess her departure created. When we got to the "refund" part of our visit, he said that altering a transaction via the Internet was extremely complex and required a battery of unique codes and addresses. If this process was "easy", then hackers would make a fortune.

David promised to get me these codes next week and train me further. In the meantime, that leaves us with three choices:
1) You can bring your credit card to the studio on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday of this week and one of our Registrars will "swipe" your plastic car and clear the transaction.
2) You can turn your balance that we owe you into credit. You can print out this email and present it to the Registrar at a course in February 2005 and pay nothing.
3) You can wait until I receive my further training next week.

The simplest thing for both of us is to realize I have been in business for twenty five years and that I am not going anywhere. If you can be patient, I will be able to recover from the devastating loss of my top administrator.

I await your thoughts. Rick Archer

-----Original Message-----
From: JH
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2005 12:53 AM
To: SSQQ Online Registration
Subject: Re: Cancellation of Beginning Salsa

I appreciate the honesty and I will patiently wait until I receive my refund.

You can use this experience as practice! :)

Thanks so much, JH

(Editor's Note: As an interesting aside to this story, it took me so long to figure out how to solve this problem, Mr. JH got tired of waiting and decided to simply use his Online Credit to take the class the following month.)

EXAMPLE TWO:

From: Robbie G
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 11:20 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Wed class

Hi Rick,

I'm sorry but I need to cancel the class I signed up for last week on-line. It's the Night Club 2 step. I missed the first class and was going to start tomorrow. However I will not be able to attend any due to an unexpected circumstances.

I don't have the email confirmation so I hope you can find me in your records and find me.

Please let me know when you have credited my Master Card.

Best, Robbie

Now in the example above, Robbie probably took no more than 2 to 5 minutes to register, but like Mr. JH in Example One, by changing her mind she created twenty minutes of Internet Detective work.  I actually dug around myself to handle her refund electronically so I am very sure of what I am talking about.

Now I know Robbie personally and I know she is a sweet lady. Her smile can melt butter and she radiates warmth. I am positive she assumed that canceling an electronic transaction was no more difficult than a couple clicks here and a couple keyboard strokes there and - Poof!! - job done! 

In fact I doubt any of our customers have the slightest idea how hard it is to do electronic refunds. 

Then I made another nasty discovery - Electronic Refunds are very risky for the studio!  I came across a bizarre incident involving a lady named Courtney Walsh. She demanded a refund. I investigated her claim and it looked to me like we had already given her a refund. In my opinion, she was wrong. But electronic data is so difficult to understand that I had no idea for sure which one of us was right. All I knew was Ms. Walsh was very unhappy so I asked David Schroeder to intercede.  However David wasn't in the mood for a twenty-minute waste of time in E-Processing Land, so he just gave the woman a refund to get rid of the problem.

A couple days later to my astonishment, Ms. Walsh emailed me to say she had received two Refunds.  Not only had the original refund come through, so had David's refund. I took little satisfaction in the incident. What I was more aware of was that I had wasted two hours of my life dealing with this problem electronically and had almost given away $84 in the process. (To read more about the Courtney Walsh episode, click here)

Susan Schroeder did Electronic Refunds because she thought it was part of her job. And she never complained!  I had no idea how hard she was working until I found out the hard way by doing it myself. However I don't have her patience. There is no way I will let myself be at the mercy of people changing their minds, then obligating me to give them a refund. Don't get me wrong; I am thrilled to have their business.

But On-Line was created to be a Convenience for the students, not as a Nightmare for me.

If there is any chance you might change your mind, wait till the last minute to register On-Line.  Your email receipt usually doesn't take very long to come to you, so why register very far in advance?

After the Courtney Walsh episode, I concluded Electronic Refunds were a very bad idea. I immediately changed the Refund policy. The new policy says that if you register On-Line and want a Refund, you can come to the studio during Registration Week and ask for one. We won't do any more electronic refunds.

This move paid immediate dividends as it lightened my load of headaches considerably. Since I posted this change in policy two months ago, requests for electronic refunds have completely disappeared.

There has only been one incident I have come across since the policy switch:

EXAMPLE THREE:

 -----Original Message-----
From: Melinda O
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2005 4:20 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: unable to make Intermediate Tango-registered online

Rick, (or whoever reads this),

My business travel got pushed up a couple of weeks and I will not be able to take Intermediate Tango. I
registered online, and read on the website how to get a refund. Just wanted to give you a heads-up if you are trying to balance the class.

See you when the travelling stops!   Melinda O (one of the twins)

Sure enough, I noticed Melinda in the registration line one night. She had come in to receive a Refund for her Tango class. There were waves and smiles from both of us. Unless I am badly mistaken, I don't think she had any hard feelings. 

You're gonna miss me when I'm gone...

After encountering the Refund Problems and the Class History Problems, I was quickly growing weary of administering the SSQQ database.  Nope, it really wasn't taking much time at all to figure out why Susan had quit, was it?? 

I ruefully recalled that during Susan's two year tenure as Head Registrar, she had threatened to quit on two other occasions. I remember one statement in the second month of her job, "Who needs this s___?"  Fortunately she cooled down and decided to continue.

During our e-processing adventures I had a chance to ask David why he thought his wife had quit. David cryptically mentioned that Susan was known to spend six hours a day administering to this system on a regular basis.  He told me a story of how he would be in bed late at night reading or watching TV and Susan would be pounding away on her laptop right beside him entering more ssqq data. I was stunned. As if I don't spend enough time on the computer as it is.

After hearing David's story about Susan, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Susan had simply crashed and burned trying to keep up with all the details.  I don't think any horror movie I have ever seen shook me more than David's anecdote about his wife's six hours of data work a day.

A strange new problem surfaces.

Soon after I took over from Susan I was bombarded by a flurry of sincere but vaguely irritating requests for refunds, switching classes, missing classes, credits, accidental double charges, and challenges to our Credit Rules.

Since Susan had been the Head Registrar for two years, she had shielded me from a constant barrage of requests from our students. Now I faced the onslaught unprotected.

The next harsh reality I faced was that sometimes our customers get double-charged. Most of them do it to themselves accidentally, but even our own Registrars do it too. For example Marla accidentally double-charged a student herself in February. 

Here is an example of a double-charge incident. I usually don't print names, but this lady has one of the great names of all-time.

-----Original Message-----
From: LV
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 11:57 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Credit Card Refund

Hello!

I got charged $38.00 twice on 01/08/05; please help me process the refund as soon as possible. I can be reached at 713-xxx-xxxx, if you need any information.

Thank you for your prompt attention.

Lalita Vazinpongvanit

-----Original Message-----
From: SSQQ Online Registration
Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 12:03 PM
To: LV
Subject: RE: Credit Card Refund followup

Lalita, I took a look at 15 different $38 credit card transactions on 1-08-05. I spent 25 minutes and I am worn out. This stuff is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I am sorry to say that after all that looking I still didn't find the evidence of the double-charge. I didn’t see anything with your email address on it, etc. However I believe you.

Three ways to handle this:

1. hard way… Look up the authorization numbers on the tickets… and email them to me. It would help to know the email address you used.
2. email me a picture of your credit card statement with the two charges on it.
3. Accept a credit and simply apply it to take a class for free in February.

Let me know what works for you.

I learned the hard way that anyone who hits the "Back" button or the "Submit" button a second time while trying to use our On-Line System may get double-charged. Electronic Credit Card transactions are usually instantaneous. One click and it goes through. At other times, when the system bogs down it may take up to a minute for the transaction to get completed! 

In the meantime people get impatient and begin to think the first click didn't register. So they nervously click it again. Two weeks later their statement shows a double charge. Ohmigosh what a headache.

However I discovered the majority of our double-charge victims students did not mind accepting a credit which they would use in the following month for another class. That's how I solved Lalita's problem above. The rest patiently brought their credit cards with them to the studio and allowed us to clear the charges using a manual credit card swipe machine. 

And then other unexpected problems came along such as this:

-----Original Message-----
From: TD
Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2005 8:29 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: online credit card situation

Hi, My name is T D, I am Britney H’s cousin. She asked me to write you an email, because we can’t get anyone on the phone. She had registered online for the advanced Tuesday night salsa class for February. She paid with a credit card, but now she can’t go. She hasn't made it to either of the classes, the first night she couldn’t get off work, and this past Tuesday her little girl was running a high fever. We were just wondering if she could get her money credited back to her card. I have the number, and the information on the card. Please consider this, so we can go next month. Please let me know, either way. Thank you for your time.

The magic of an email credit solved that one nicely. However the sheer volume of requests like this and many other concerns were staggering. I found myself responding to 50 to 100 emails a day.

Some of the emails frustrated me a great deal.

-----Original Message-----
From:    VH
Sent:    Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:35 AM
To:       
dance@ssqq.com
Subject:            Beginning Salsa

Dear Sir/Madame,

My name is V H and I have registered this week for beginning salsa, however I was not able to attend any of the classes. I was wondering how can I cancel my registration and receive the refund.

Sincerely, V

My reply was to send her to the SSQQ Refund Page (Refunds). I spent hours carefully writing that page. Did it do any good?  Of course not.

I have learned the hard way that unless the page I send them to it says exactly what they want it to say, it's time to email me again and argue some more.

 -----Original Message-----
From: V H
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:52 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: Beginning Salsa

I have read carefully your rules, but I am still unclear how can I get my refund. I was wondering if you could please clarify it for me.  V

 -----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer [mailto:dance@ssqq.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 11:58 AM
To: V H
Subject: RE: Beginning Salsa

The Refund Page says you have two options: you can accept credit to take the class at a later date or you can go to the studio this week and have your credit card electronically swiped.

There were more requests.

-----Original Message-----
From: S C
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2005 1:04 PM
To: onlineregistration@ssqq.com
Subject: account id

I would like to have my account id. My full name is P S Cxxxx, date of birth 11/17. Thanks

I emailed him back and said his account ID was either PCxxxx1117 or SCxxxx1117.  Of course this process is listed on the web site, but people don't always know where to look.

About this time I started to hate Email more than I ever had before. Susan Schroeder had quit because she misinterpreted something I said in an email. This is when I discovered that it is impossible to tell whether someone is frowning or smiling when they write an email. In Susan's case, I was smiling. But when she read it, she assumed I was angry and bitter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have learned in other ways that email is often a miserable and ineffective communication tool.

After my ex-wife Judy Archer quit the studio in November, she decided she wasn't going to talk to me any more. No phone calls, no face to face meetings. Her communication would be done strictly by email. Judy had some serious concerns about her daughter's child support, her school, and proper place of residence. Over the next five months, we exchanged dozens and dozens of emails - enough to kill a tree if we ever printed them all out - but we never once came anywhere near a resolution of her concerns. So she decided to sue me instead.  $6,000 in lawyer bills and no end is in sight. 

So much for the power of email.

It isn't just the spam or the irrelevant carbon copies or all the stuff you get that you couldn't care less about. I would guess 19 emails in 20 goes straight to the Delete Box. I am used to that. Sometimes the utter uselessness of email and the time spent on it makes me sick. 


This email chain below demonstrates perfectly just how worthless email can be as a communication tool.

EMAIL ONE
-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 11:40 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Slow dance and Romance

 Can you tell me when the slow dance and romance class will be offered next?

EMAIL TWO: I emailed her the Internet address of the April schedule.

The April schedule was already posted on our web site, so obviously she had not bothered to look. I guess it was easier to just email me. No big deal. I get lots of those. MM's next email caught me off guard though.

EMAIL THREE
-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 1:41 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Slow dance and Romance

I see it on the calendar, but I thought that it was more than one class and I only see one class on the calendar.  Did I miss something?

EMAIL FOUR
-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer [mailto:dance@ssqq.com]
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 1:50 PM
To: MM
Subject: RE: Slow dance and Romance

The class runs for 4 Mondays

EMAIL FIVE
-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 1:54 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Slow dance and Romance

4 Mondays in April?  I am sorry, I guess I am not reading this calendar right.

EMAIL SIX
-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer [mailto:dance@ssqq.com]
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 1:50 PM
To: MM
Subject: RE: Slow dance and Romance

Every SSQQ class meets 4 times in the same month. If you visit the Information Page, it will explain everything.

http://ssqq.com/information/information.htm

 Ordinarily I would help more, but I have to pick up my daughter at school.

EMAIL SEVEN
-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 1:57 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Slow dance and Romance

I understand now, sorry I am little slow today. What do I need to do to sign up?

EMAIL EIGHT: I emailed her Linda Cook's phone number and told her to call. Email with this woman was clearly not working.

Long-time SSQQ instructor Linda Cook has her cell phone with her every minute of the day. Part of her job description is to answer the SSQQ phone during the day. I forward the number to her every morning. One simple phone call to SSQQ during the day would have answered all this woman's questions in a matter of minutes. 

There are some things email is good for, but this woman was not catching on very well.

I am increasingly considering the possibility that email is an evil curse upon humanity.


The First Curious Incident

I noticed I was receiving dozens of requests asking me to explain how to make up for missed classes. I consider these requests to be a good use of email, but I was still alarmed at how many people were not finishing their classes. I patiently emailed everyone back and explained the rules.

In particular I ran across three strangely similar "Class Switch" requests that frustrated me for reasons I couldn't put my finger on.

On Sunday, February 27, 2005, I received the request below. 

 -----Original Message-----
From: PG
Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2005 12:08 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: switch online class to another month

Hey Rick,

I signed up online for Lise's Zoot Suit 7 class last month but something came up and I never made it to any of the classes. This week I want to start over and take Lise's Zoot Suit 1 class tomorrow night instead. If I bring you my receipt, can I just transfer the credit from last month to this month?

PG

This request bothered me. On the surface it seemed innocent enough, but something nagged at me.  I asked the opinions of three different people on what to do.  Each person frowned, hemmed and hawed, and then finally said, "What difference does it make?  Go ahead and let her do it."  Something bothered them, but no one could put their finger on it. So that is what I did - I made an exception for Ms. PG.  Here is what I said:

 -----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2005 12:08 PM
To: RT
Subject: switch online class to another month

We honestly prefer you handle this stuff within the same month. Technically if we go by the rules I can say wait and take the same class when it rolls around again. And if you make this request again, then I will.

This time however I will make an exception. Show this email to the Registrar and she will make the switch.

The Second Curious Incident

After I wrote the reply above on Monday morning, I added this incident to my website page dealing with Missed Classes/Switching Classes.

Later that same Monday night I stood at the Registration Desk with Marla Archer. We both watched as PG from the "first curious incident" came in to take her Zoot Suit class. 

As the lady passed, I told Marla that I had written about the incident on the Switch Class page and had published it to the web to show that sometimes we make exceptions.

Then an odd coincidence occurred. One hour later during Monday Night Break, the Hall Monitor came and said Marla needed to see me.  At the Registration Desk was a man holding an orange-colored October 2004 Receipt for Beginning Salsa. Marla gave me an exasperated look. I asked what the story was.

The gentleman said he had come to only one Beginning Salsa class back in October 2004, but did not come back to finish out the rest of his course. Now he wanted to try again, but preferred we switch his class to Beginning Merengue instead.

I said no. I said he could take Beginning Salsa over again for $5 (which was the policy at the time). 

He smiled and said he had read my web site policy that very day. He then quoted what I had said about the Zoot Suit lady verbatim!!  He cited that as an example of why we should let him switch to another class. If I would make an EXCEPTION for Ms PG, why wouldn't I do it for him??

I could not believe what I was hearing. I had posted that story about PG on the Internet only five hours earlier today and already it had generated another headache.  Just one soft-hearted moment and now here comes another aggravation. This was the perfect example of the axiom: "No good deed goes unpunished."

Here is what I told the man. "First of all, you are asking for Credit FIVE MONTHS after your class ended. The Rule says: Ask in the same Month. Second of all, you are asking us to take your word that you only came to one class. That is not fair. The rule says you can take your original class over again for $5. Let's stick to that."

The Third Curious Incident

A week later I received the email that began my descent into mental anguish.

-----Original Message-----
From: AB
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 1:22 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Classes
and Schedules

Rick,

My name is AB. I am a student of your studio of a few months. I went to class last Tuesday (Advanced Salsa 8 I believe). This week, I am sick as a dog and will be missing this class, and furthermore, next week I will be out of town on a business trip. Since I will be missing the end of a proposed pattern, and be back for the last class in the middle of the second pattern, rather than be a goof on the floor, I want to get a credit to next month's Advanced Salsa 9 class.

I spoke with Linda today, and she mentioned this would be alright, and I would only be charged 5$ to start the Salsa 9 class. Please verify if this is correct, and what steps I need to do in order to make this happen for Salsa 9. (my numbers may be off by a class or two)

I thought about Alberto's request. It was practically identical to PG's request. That made three similar requests in the span of ten days. Each one nagged at me. 

One time is an incident, two times is a coincidence, but three times was a pattern. 
This issue was coming up a lot more frequently than I was happy with.

I decided I would have to give this more thought.  For the moment however, I simply recited what was policy at the time.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer [mailto:dance@ssqq.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 4:45 PM
To: AB
Subject: RE: Classes and Schedules

I love Linda Cook and I am sure she explained it the way she understood it, but it doesn't work that way. It will be $5 to take Adv Salsa 8 over again.

Here is where the reasoning is explained:
http://ssqq.com/information/refund.htm

I deliberately sent Alberto to the SSQQ Refund Page as well as the Refund Overview section on the web site. I was curious what he would think about a story I had waiting there for him.

Long ago I had written about the time I was burned for $67 on an unused lift ticket.  I was never able to use that ticket because I got sick at the wrong time. The Keystone Ski Resort refused point-blank to even consider offering a Refund or any other compensation for the lift ticket I could not use. (Keystone Ski Incident)

At the end of this story I pointed out that the SSQQ Policy is a lot more forgiving than the Keystone Policy. Here is what I had written on the web site:

"Perhaps you get sick or something unpleasant comes up that forces you to miss several classes. Basically your month is ruined. Fortunately, when you are ready to re-take your course again, you can take it for $5 if you missed 2 or more classes or for half-price otherwise."

Alberto said he had gotten sick and now a business trip was taking him out of town. He would miss 2 of the 4 classes. Therefore he wanted to switch his tuition to another month. Would he see the similarity between his problem and my lift ticket analogy and be willing to accept the $5 suggestion?

Somehow I just KNEW Alberto was going to keep pushing for what he wanted. I was not surprised when the next day, I received another letter. 

-----Original Message-----
From: AB
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 7:38 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Classes and Schedules

So.........I have to wait 10ish months for salsa 8 again, and thenit will cost 5$? I'm sure Linda explained it correctly and in my NyQuil induced haze I miss interpreted.

Since I have noted you are a very fair man Rick, let me say this: I agree with the rules. I will submit to them. But since you are fair, I will explain my reasoning, and perhaps it may appeal to you. The following I am stating after reading your two credit examples.

1 - I have been coming to salsa for a while now, this is my 5th month, so I am considering myself a bit of a long term customer (I plan on continuing salsa until I am really good, not just ok)
2 - I am no requesting a credit switch from one type of class to another
3 - You are correct in that there is no real way of knowing I have not been to other salsa classes. Except of course that I did call and email before the second class - not by the end of the month.
4 - I am fairly well known to the advanced teachers as well as the long term salsa students. It would be infeasible of me to show up and say that I did not.
5 - Lastly, the nature of this situation is not something that fits in normally with the credit transfer. I planned on missing 1 class which was unavoidable. However, after falling ill on the very same day that my second salsa class was to take place, I realized I would be missing the entire core days of the 2 patterns we would be learning. This of course renders the class slightly infeasible. As you can see, since the reason for not coming on Tuesday was an illness, there is no way I could have requested credit on the first week, since at that point I was still facing only missing one class
6 - in addition, I believe up till now, I have only missed 1 class out of the 5 months I have been to your studio, so this is not an ongoing trend.

Again Rick, I am only appealing to the rules. I am in no way trying to be difficult or circumvent them. If there is nothing that can be done, I will respect that decision. However, as explained above; in the spirit of things, I feel I do not fit the criteria mentioned on your web site. I so no malice or chance of foul play in what I am requesting. These are really the grounds for my request. Nothing more.

AB

"Again Rick, I am only appealing to the rules." Those words bounced around in my brain for days.

Alberto wanted to switch classes. He made his point gracefully and respectfully. At first I wanted to say "No" because I was sick and tired of arguing. A rule is a rule.

Then it dawned on me - I didn't really mind making an exception for him.

What worried me was the same day I made an exception for the Curious Incident One - the Zoot Suit lady - then the Curious Incident Two guy came along and wanted his exception too.  I might have given it to him except that I was worried he might come back and ask for another exception next month or the month after that!! 

I had made an exception in Ms PG's case only to have some guy overhear me and ask for his own absurd exception. Now I felt taken advantage of.

The more I thought about it, I realized I didn't mind making an exception as long as I wasn't opening myself up to doing this constantly.


Why not offer Alberto an exception, but put a limit on it?

That is when I decided to a SEARCH on all my business emails stretching back to November 2003.  I typed in the word "missed" into my FIND feature. Out of 8,000 emails, I came up with five examples. Here they are:

EXAMPLE ONE:

-----Original Message-----
From: msheler
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 7:03 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject:
intermediate salsa missed class

I tried to call, but could not get a hold of anyone. I was just wondering if it would be possible for me to get credit for the salsa class I am in right now. I was in a car accident last weekend and am not supposed to do anything to physical for a couple of weeks. I have only been to one class and thought I might be able to start again in a couple of weeks. Let me know. Thank you. M Sheler

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2005 9:24 AM
To: msheler
Subject: RE: intermediate salsa

When you are ready to take the class again, print this out and bring it with you to show to the Registrar. You are welcome to restart your intermediate salsa class at no charge. Get better!

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio

EXAMPLE TWO:

-----Original Message-----
From: batt1015
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2003 12:47 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: missed classes

I have been unable to attend (missed 2) of the Wed evening classes Beginner Two Step.

Can I retake next quarter?

Thank you, Beverly A
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2003 03:23 PM
To: Beverly A
Subject: missed classes

Absolutely not a problem. Print this out and bring it with you. There will be no charge. RA

EXAMPLE THREE:

-----Original Message-----
From: Annette A
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 8:20 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: missed classes

Rick, I signed up for the intermediate swing - and missed the first 2 classes due to illness. I am finally well and can come this monday Jan 19, - but will have missed 1/2 of the course. Can I skip the last 2 classes in Jan and then take this complete course in Feb. My account # is xxxxxxx0511, authorization TKT 015775.

Thanks, Annette A


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2004 12:39 PM
To: Annette A
Subject: RE: missed classes

Yes, skip the January classes and start over in February. If you bring this to show the registrar, there will be no charges.

Hope you feel better.  RA

EXAMPLE FOUR:

-----Original Message-----
From: Holly M
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2004 2:29 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: missed class

Hello.

My husband and I registered for Monday night beginning swing. We attended the first two classes but are unable to attend the second two (or their parallels.) How much do you charge for us to take the classes next month? Yes, I read the website info, but can't quite figure it out...

Thanks for your help.   Holly M



-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2004 2:45 PM
To: Holly McDonald
Subject: RE: missed class

If you are unable to complete your course, you may retake it at a later date no charge. Please print this out and bring it with you.  RA.

EXAMPLE FIVE:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jacob C
Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 10:58 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Missed a Month

I paid for a month of lessons back a couple of months ago and could not make it even once for the entire month. Would I have to repay if I came in this month instead?

My name is Jacob C and I think the month was around February. I signed up for beginning Western swing, but I may take the two stepping class instead.

I plan on showing up on Wednesday this week to take the lessons this month.
Thanks again,  Jacob.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 11:45 AM
To: Jacob C
Subject: RE: Missed a Month

Print this out and bring it with you to show the Registrar. There will be no charge. Just show up the night of your class and have fun!!

Rick Archer

I found it interesting to note that I never received another request of this nature from any of these people. 

I concluded that the "missed class" problem occurs so infrequently that making a one-time exception for every student I have once a year was something I didn't mind doing... (as long as they didn't come back and ask again next month!!)

Alberto's request became the catalyst that helped shaped our new Exception policy:

"Each student gets one Exception per year.

Your exception can be to let a friend come watch a class, start a class in the third week, switch a class to another month, make up some missed classes for free.

Your exception must be approved by Rick Archer in advance. He reserves the right to deny your request if it seems unreasonable. 

If you show up at the studio to ask for your exception, you will be unsuccessful. The only way to get an Exception is to email dance@ssqq.com and ask for it in writing."

Now that I had finally figured out what I wanted to, I thought, "Why not offer Alberto his one "Exception" of the year and make him happy?"  So I emailed him this reply:

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2005 2:12 PM
To: AB
Subject: RE: Classes and Schedules missed class exception

Your wish is granted. I have erased Adv Salsa 8 from your record. This email gives you permission to take Adv Salsa 9 without any charge. Show it to Marla Archer at the Registration Desk and she will handle it from there.

-----Original Message-----
From: AB
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2005 7:38 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Classes and Schedules j

Thanks Rick!!!
 

How my New Rule led to an interesting discovery...

Now I went to Marla and explained about the new "One Exception a Year" Rule. She asked what had happened to the $5 rule. I explained the "One Exception per Year" Rule had replaced it.

Marla smiled and said that was good because she hated the $5 rule. She was angry at the large number of people who registered each month for a repeat class and only paid $5 because they said they had never finished their class.

I stared at her blankly. "You're kidding, right?"  I could not conceive someone would do this on a regular basis.

"No, I am not. They know I don't like their methods one bit so now they avoid me and go register with another Registrar. It makes me pretty angry, but it's your policy so I never say anything."

I asked her to give me an example of someone who she thought abused the $5 policy. Marla smiled and rattled off several names. Then she identified one particular person who did this practically every month without fail. She said in the back of her mind she believes that every month that she has done registration, there is one individual who signs up and tells the Registrar that since they didn't finish their class the month before, they will do the $5 Repeat.

After being tipped off by Marla, I was curious to see what the student's class history looked like. So she and I looked it up on the Internet. Lo and behold, Marla was absolutely right. This was not her imagination. This student's bizarre class history stared back at me clear as day. 

The Curious Class History of the $5 Student

Below is the Class History of the $5 Student as of March 2005.  In a period of 22 months, this student took 50 classes.  This works out to an average of about 2 1/2 classes a month.

Here is how to understand this course history in a nutshell. If you look at the start of the list, you will see the student has taken Adv Salsa 1 twice and Adv Salsa 3 three times.

As you scroll down, you will see the student has taken Intermediate Salsa SEVEN TIMES.

The next most popular classes are Beg Merengue and Adv Western Swing which were taken FIVE TIMES.

In all this student has taken 19 different classes and has repeated a class 31 times for a total of 50 classes spread out over 22 months

Seven Times:
Intermediate Salsa

Five Times:
Advanced Western Swing
Beg Merengue

Four Times:
Advanced Whip/WCS Superclass
Advanced Salsa 2
Intermediate Merengue

Three Times:
Advanced Salsa 3

Two Times:
Cumbia/Tejano
Advanced Salsa 1
Advanced Salsa 4
Advanced Salsa 5
Intermediate Salsa II
Lunar Whip/WCS

One Time:
Advanced Salsa 6
Advanced Salsa 9
Beg Twostep/Polka
Intermediate Western Swing
Ghost Town 3
Ghost Town 10

Number of
Repeated classes: 30

Marla has been an SSQQ Registrar for two years. Although she can't be certain, it is her impression that this student always pays $5 to repeat classes.  This means it is possible that 30 times over the past two years, the student has avoided paying half-price by claiming they didn't finish their class. 

What are the odds of taking Intermediate Salsa 7 times and never completing the course?

Marla also told me that our $5 student now has a friend who has been doing the exact same thing for about six months. Can't beat those $5 classes!

Marla believes there are other people besides our two friends who do this same thing. She states that she has her eye on several other people, but hasn't made up her mind yet.

When you have 1,200 people registering a month, I imagine it is pretty easy to disguise what you are doing.

The $5 Policy has always been done on the "Honor System".  It was originally meant to allow people who did not finish their class an inexpensive way to take it over again. 

As you can see, the Honor System isn't working very well. This abuse of a privilege means is has to be taken away. Otherwise our $5 student and others with a similar mind-set will take advantage of the loophole.

From now on, the new rule states:

"Each student gets one Exception per year.

Your exception can be to let a friend come watch a class, start a class in the third week, switch a class to another month, make up some missed classes for free.

Your exception must be approved by Rick Archer in advance. He reserves the right to deny your request if it seems unreasonable. 

If you show up at the studio to ask for your exception, you will be unsuccessful. The only way to get an Exception is to email dance@ssqq.com and ask for it in writing."

Refund Stories

These articles deal with the ground rules, history, philosophy of the ssqq refund and credit policy.
Deal is Deal
 
Covers the reasons behind the Refund Policy and lists situations
Explains why Group Class Tuition cannot be switched to private lessons
Electronic Transactions
 
Discusses Online Registration and the difficulty of Electronic Transactions
Explains how to handle Double Charges and has the Courtney Walsh Story
Exceptions
 
Talks about our Credit Rules
 
Exceptions Overview
 
Talks about the History of our Credit Rules
 
REFUNDS
 
Home Page for Refunds. Covers the specific Refund Policy
 
Refund Arguments
 
A serious look at 5 case studies from 2005 that explains
why we will no longer even discuss Refund issues
Refund Defeat
 
Must Read for anyone frustrated with the ssqq refund policy.  At least you
can read with satisfaction about the only couple to ever win a refund argument
Refund Overview
 
How other dance studios handle the Refund problem
plus the real-life experience during a ski vacation that shaped our policy
Refund Struggle Easily the best article of the bunch. Two MBAs squared off in a battle royal over
$46 in 2005.
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ