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WHY SWITCHING GROUP LESSON TUITION FOR PRIVATE LESSONS IS NOT PERMITTED
Rick Archer
January 2006
Last Update: September 2007

FORWARD

SWITCHING GROUP TUITION TO PRIVATE LESSONS IS NOT PERMITTED

Students are entitled to receive what they pay for, nothing more.  If a student pays for a group class, they are entitled to receive a group class.  They are not entitled to turn around and demand a private lesson instead.  

Switching tuition from Group lessons to Private lessons is basically an unwanted Renegotiation that results in Time Theft. 

If carefully analyzed, converting tuition obligates the dance instructor to an additional time commitment in return for little or no extra money.

It means that not only does the instructor have to keep showing up for our Group Lessons, in addition he or she has to make extra trips to the studio to give EXTRA Private Lessons for free.

Furthermore, if I give one person the right to do so, then everybody has that same right.  

If
some get it, then others will feel entitled to the same treatment.  There is no way on earth I will allow the studio to open itself up to 1,200 potential transaction renegotiations a month!
 


Here is an example of how we handle requests to switch tuition from Group to Private

-----Original Message-----
From: Jo
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:44 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Switching group classes to privates

Hello - My husband and I are enrolled in the Beginning Salsa class that started 2 Saturdays ago.

We couldn't make the 1st class so we went to last week's Thursday class to make it up.  We weren't able to make this past Saturday's class again, so we were going to go to tonight's class.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to make it tonight either.

We're wondering if we can switch our lessons to private ones after mid-Feb.

I couldn't really tell by looking on the site. In essence, we've only been to 1 class and it was the 2nd class. We'd really like to take salsa but have conflicts right now (and we also feel we're in need of more personalized attention because of our complete lack of dance skill :)).

And is there anything else we should know about that I haven't asked?


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 11:40 AM
To: Jo
Subject: RE:
Switching group classes to privates

Group lessons cannot be exchanged for private lessons.

You are welcome to retake the Beg Salsa class at no charge. Just let me know when you are ready to do so.
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Jo
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 2:13 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Switching group classes to privates

Hello -

I just saw that you have a beg. salsa class starting on Sat. Is it too late to sign up for it and use our credit?


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 4:09 PM
To: Jo
Subject: permission for two people to take Beg Salsa September 2007

By all means. Print this out to show the Registrar. There will no charge.


Why SSQQ forbids Switching Group Tuition to Private Lessons

Of all our many rules, the "No Switching Tuition" Rule holds two distinctions: 
1) It is probably the least-known Rule
2) It is definitely the most misunderstood rule.

No one really understands why I even care. To make matters worse, it is very difficult to explain the problem.

To the casual observer, it seems like a simple trade. 

"Look here, Rick, I signed up two people for a class I am not happy with. That's $84 which is a lot of money.  I think what we need is a private lesson.  I see from your web site that private lessons are 50 bucks for an hour.  Tell you what, I will kick in another $16 and we will trade our $84 group tuition for two $50 private lessons."

No one ever understands why I object. To them, they think they are giving me even more money!

You might be surprised to find this problem crops up more often than you might think.  About twice a month, we receive emails from people who want to convert their group lesson money into private lessons.  Just to get the story started, here's a simple example :

-----Original Message-----
From: PC
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 10:07 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Private lessons instead of group lessons

To whom it may concern,

My wife and I have signed up for your
group lesson for beginning salsa classes starting this Thursday June 09 through June 30th. The purpose is for us to learn how to dance with each other and being in the group lesson, this prohibits us from doing so as we later read in detail. We would like to take private lessons but we have already paid for the group lessons.

Let us know when we could take
private lessons and what we can do to refund or transfer the paid amounts towards private lessons. We look forward to your reply.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 6:32 AM
To: PC
Subject: RE: Private lessons instead of group lessons

Group lesson money cannot be shifted to private lessons.

However since your class has not started yet, you should have no trouble getting a refund.
Refund

You can go to the studio and get a refund on Wednesday or Thursday evening around 7 pm.

Then contact Linda Cook for your private lessons. She would be happy to help you.

However, if you fail to get your Refund according to the Rules, please remember what I said: Tuition cannot be shifted from Group Lessons to Private Lessons.

I will be the first person to tell the world that Group Lessons are not for everyone. We do switch partners in Group Partners. In the situation above, the lady read our policies ahead of time and realized in advance they would rather not switch.

This incident was pleasant. No one argued about anything. But what if this woman and her husband had shown up for class and discovered "the hard way" about the partner switching rule?

Then they would have had ONE HOUR to decide if they could abide by the switching or not. If switching partners made them too uncomfortable, they could simply come back to the Registration Table and ask the Registrar for their money back.

No one seems to realize we give Refunds all the time.  My wife Marla is the Head Registrar. During the first week of classes known as "Registration Week", she told me that on average one or two people a night return for a Refund.

When I asked her, Marla estimated 12 people a week ask for Refunds during the First Week of Registration. Considering we average 1,200 students a month, that makes for simple math - 1 student in 100 asks for a Refund.

The vast majority of our students accept our rules and enjoy our classes. And if someone doesn't think it is the right class for them, we certainly don't argue with them or make them feel in any way unwelcome for their decision when they come for their Refund. 

But once that HOUR is up, a Deal is a Deal.

We are not going to give your money back no matter how hard you whine, kick, or scream. Use it or Lose it.


GROUP LESSON TUITION CANNOT BE SWITCHED TO PRIVATE LESSON TUITION

As I said earlier, about twice a month, we receive emails from people who try to convert their group lesson money into private lessons.

We have students who decide they don't like their group lessons or perhaps something has changed and privates now seem the better route to take. They know they aren't going to get their money back, so they think of some sort of excuse.  The excuses are usually pretty lame, but sometimes the reasons for requesting the switch get creative!!

Here is one of my favorites.
"There is a person in my class that has a bad odor. I want to switch my lessons from group to private."

And of course you say there is no way someone would use an excuse like that, right?

EXAMPLE ONE - The Odor Excuse

-----Original Message-----
From: JF
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2005 8:36 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Help with problem with class

Rick,

I spoke with you on the phone a few weeks ago about which classes my fiancé and I should take before our wedding. We have since signed up for the Swing class and attended last Monday's session from 7 to 9. We enjoyed learning the dance, but are not very comfortable with the hygiene of some of your patrons. We also do not feel like we are learning to dance together which is the whole reason we took the class in the first place. Do you have any couples classes that we could switch to or could we somehow apply the money we have paid to private lessons?

Thank you for your help!    JF


MY REPLY
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2005 11:25 AM
To: JF
Subject: RE: Help with problem with class

I dance with hundreds of people a week in my classes and have an issue with hygiene maybe once in a blue moon. Of course everyone has different standards.

I try to help when possible, but this one is unsolvable. I don't see any place for a compromise. Please forgive.

Rick Archer

I wonder if JF above figured we tricked him by hiding the smelly person in the back of the class during the first week. Just kidding.  

Did you notice JF suggested switching his tuition to Private Lessons?  I doubt he even knew this was against our rules.  Very few people know about our Rule that prohibits Switching Group Tuition to Private Lessons."

This is the most mysterious of all SSQQ rules.  Most people don't know about it. And when they find out about it, they usually prefer to wrangle about it rather than accept it!

Why not?   One reason people argue with the Rule is probably because no can understand the reasons behind it.

Here is one of the most famous requests for group tuition to be switched to private lessons:

EXAMPLE TWO - Getting Married

-----Original Message-----
From: Nehal P
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5:06 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Regarding Salsa Lessons! Pls read!!

Dear Mr. Archer,

My name is Nehal P. My fiancé SA and I signed up for the beginner's Salsa lessons scheduled every Saturday 4:30- 6:30 pm class starting from April 30th - May 21st. Unfortunately, we were not able to continue after the first class and I would like to explain the reason.

Our second class was on May 7th and again we started dancing with each other, but this time the instructor came to us and practically forced us to rotate. We told him that we did not want to and he informed us that if we did not rotate then we had to leave the class and ask for a refund. Which we did and were told to write to you and explain the situation and to obtain a personal e-mail from you oking the refund.

I am writing to request a refund of $63.50 for the three classes that we will not attend. The credit can be applied back to my credit card. Instead, we are interested in taking private Salsa lessons at SSQQ with a private instructor. Could you please suggest one so that we can sign up?

Please contact me either via e-mail or via phone as soon as possible. I would really appreciate your attention in this matter.

Thank you for your time.

Regards, Nehal P

Since the continued exchange between Ms. P and myself is detailed at great length in "Refund Whining", I will simply say here that I denied her request.

Now here is an example where I actually DID GIVE a private lesson in exchange for group tuition.  By coincidence, Ms. P's request and Mr. Greer's request were only about a week apart.


EXAMPLE
THREE - A Situation Where I actually permitted Switching the Tuition to a Private Lesson

-----Original Message-----
From: karl greer
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:26 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Request for exception

Hi Rick,

My fiancée and I came to SSQQ for the first time last night. We signed up for beginning two-step. Our problem is that I do not live in Houston. We did not realize how your classes were scheduled and had been thinking that we would just take a class whenever I am in town, which is once or twice a month.

I apologize in advance for not knowing the rules before we started. Do you have any suggestions for how we might be able to schedule our classes at SSQQ?

My fiancée's name is Amber.

Thanks, Karl Greer


MY REPLY:
You are welcome to ask for an exception, but I don't know what is that you want.

If you would like to stretch your class over a two-month period, that would be fine with me.

Rick Archer


-----Original Message-----
From: karl greer
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 10:55 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Request for exception

Sorry for the confusion. Yes, if we could stretch our classes over two months that would be great. This Sunday (I think) is the start of the second week and we should be able to attend. Then next month we can go during the 3rd and 4th weeks. Does that sound right?

Thanks, Karl


MY REPLY:

That is fine. Just print this email out and present it to Marla Archer, the Registrar, when you come back in June. There will be no charge to take it over again.

Rick Archer


-----Original Message-----
From: karl greer
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 12:05 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Request for exception

Rick,

I don't think that this is going to work for us because of my current schedule. We have only been able to attend the first class. Can we get a credit for the unused classes and apply it to private lessons?  That would be easier for us to schedule at this time.

Thanks, Karl


MY REPLY:
-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 9:13 PM
To: karl greer
Subject: RE: Request for exception

It is against our rules to switch tuition from group to private. However I will make an exception and give you a one-hour lesson to help you get ready for your wedding.

I always do my lessons from 6-7 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. If you choose Wednesday or Friday, you can also stay for the group lesson after and get some extra practice in.
 

I did indeed meet with Mr. Greer and his fiancée Amber on a Friday evening that week.  He was not the most talented dancer in the world and he chose a goofy Lyle Lovett song for the wedding dance, but since Amber smiled the whole lesson, it was obvious she was happy. And that is what teaching is all about.  I finished the lesson feeling that I had done the right thing.

So why you might ask was I soft with Mr. Greer and hard with Ms. Porechal?

They do have something in common after all - they both signed up for lessons to prepare for an upcoming wedding.

The difference is simple. Ms. Porechal broke several rules, then basically demanded her tuition be changed to private lessons while Mr. Greer asked as nicely as he possibly could for help. Ms. Porechal lives in Houston, but made no attempt to give the group lessons a fair try. Mr. Greer on the other hand tried to make his group lessons work, but  since he lived out of town he just couldn't make consecutive lessons. In his case, obviously private lessons were the best solution.  Since he sounded very sincere, I wanted to help him.

Despite all my tough language and occasional cynicism, you might surprised that deep down I want to help my students as long as they don't aggravate me first.

Now it is time we explore the reasons behind the arcane rule that FORBIDS switching Group Tuition to Private Lessons.


Why We Don't Wish to Allow Students to Switch Group Tuition to Private Lessons

Very few people know about our "No Tuition Switch from Groups to Private" Rule.

As I said earlier in this article, this is the most mysterious of all SSQQ rules.  Most people don't know about the Rule ahead of time and when they find out it is prohibited, they prefer to wrangle about it rather than accept it!  

In their mind, they aren't asking for any money back, so what difference does it make?  I can certainly see their point.  What they don't realize is that their request amounts to a covert Refund request or a demand that we invest extra time that we did not agree to ahead of time.  In other words, they are trying to "change the deal after the fact".


Let me explain.

If you pay SSQQ for a Group Lesson, then change your mind and prefer that your money go to a Private Lesson instead, it is the same thing as:

1. Asking us to give you a Refund
                  (or)
2. Asking us to work twice for our money.

1. Why Switching Group Tuition to Privates is like asking for a Refund

This complex issue might be better understood if we explained that the SSQQ Instructors work for the studio when they teach Group Lessons, but they work for themselves during Private Lessons. In other words, when you take a private lesson, you pay the instructors directly.

Let's say you have a complicated tax issue and you consult an attorney. He or she agrees to handle your case and you give him or her a retainer. That night you hear that another attorney in the same firm might be better qualified to handle your particular problem.

So you go to the original attorney and ask him to transfer your retainer to the other attorney.
He protests that he was hired to do the work and he has already gotten started on your case.
You reply that since it is the same firm, what difference does it make?  
He replies it means you are taking money out of his pocket and putting it in someone else's pocket even though it is the same law firm.

When you ask to switch tuition from Group Lessons to Private Lessons, this amounts to the same thing as asking for a Refund. You are expecting SSQQ Dance Studio to pay someone else to do the job you originally contracted SSQQ to do. It means we would have pay one of our own instructors to give you your private lesson. Yes, the instructor is richer, but the studio is poorer.

This is the same thing as a Refund.


2. Switching Group Tuition to Privates is like asking us to work Twice for our Money.

After we explain that we prefer not to transfer the tuition to another instructor, a common rebuttal is: "If you don't want to give the money to someone else, then why don't you just teach us yourself?  Aren't you a dance instructor too?"

We see this argument a lot more frequently than you might imagine.

 

EXAMPLE FOUR - Requesting Switching Group Tuition to a Private Lesson

-----Original Message-----
From: P B
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 11:20 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Refund

Hello,
I'm a student of the Advanced level Salsa class on Tuesdays and I was able to make it last Tuesday and joined thinking I will be able to go through the entire month. But I'm having to leave town for the rest of the month due to work and will miss the rest of the 3 classes. I was hoping to get some sort of a refund or better just give me a private lesson
. I will pay the extra money to bring it up to $46. Please advise.
Thanks, M A


MY REPLY:
-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 01:22 PM
To: PB
Subject: Re: Refund

Your request to switch tuition would obligate us to pay one of our instructors to teach you out of our own pocket. Switching your tuition to a private lesson is not an option.

Rick Archer


-----Original Message-----
From: P B
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 08:05 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Refund

Then teach the lesson yourself! That way you could keep the money to yourself. What difference does it make?

PB


MY REPLY:
-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 11:45 AM
To: PB
Subject: Re: Refund

Your solution would indeed solve the "Refund" aspect of your request, but it would also obligate us to an extra hour of work plus drive time we never agreed to do in the first place.

What would prevent half of your class from suddenly deciding they wanted private lessons instead?  It would be like a run on the bank - I would spend months giving each person a lesson I never agreed to in the first place.

Rick Archer


-----Original Message-----
From: PB
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 03:29 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Refund

Your ads clearly say you teach both group and private lessons. What if I called you up and asked for a private lesson?  You would stand to make the same $46 as you made off my group lesson money. What difference does it make?  Either way you make $46. I just don't want to throw my money away.

PB


MY REPLY:
-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 05:45 PM
To: PB
Subject: Re: Refund

I see your logic but I don't agree with it. We sold you an apple and you are trying to trade it for an orange. There is nothing that obligates me to agree to the switch, especially since it means more work for me!

While it is true the price for one hour of privates is equal to eight hours of group, if the demand for privates went up, I would have the opportunity to raise my rates to match the increased demand for private lessons.

Or I would have to right to say I was too busy to do a particular lesson. Or I could tell you that if you now wanted to switch your tuition to privates, I would have to bill your one group lesson at the "private rate" of $46 an hour which would mean you owe $92 for the two hours in addition to $46 more for the private.

You would naturally object that I have no right to change the rate after the fact.

Well, I say you don't have the right to change the deal after the fact either! The bottom line is I don't want people like you to think they have the right to obligate me to MORE SERVICE without my sayso in the matter.  I do not wish to be obligated to invest an extra hour of my life every time someone changes their mind.

Rick Archer


-----Original Message-----
From: P B
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 10:31 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Refund

Have it your way, buddy. I am out of here.  Keep your money.


Please note that despite three replies on my part, my point of view was never accepted. I often think that no matter how hard I try to explain things to people, it never does a damn bit of good.

This "No Switching Rule" is one of those "Don't Criticize Until You've Walked a Mile in Another Man's Shoes" situations. It is very difficult to understand until the day you find yourself doing the extra work!  Then it would make perfect sense.

 

EXAMPLE FIVE - WHY EVEN GO TO THE TROUBLE OF EXPLAINING?

-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Saturday, August 16, 2008 6:40 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Dissatisfied with Salsa Class

My husband and I attended our first class on Tues there were too many people and my husband is completely dissatisfied and he feels that he would learn more with private lessons.

Could we get a refund back or a credit for the private lessons so we can use it to pay for private lessons with Linda. My husband really wants to learn and so do I but we had no idea there were so many people in the regular lesson and we need extra help. So, if you can help us out we would like to set up private classes with Linda. Could you please help us out.

You can call me if you have any questions.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
To: MM
Sent: Sun, 17 Aug 2008 9:52 am
Subject: Dissatisfied with Salsa Class

I understand that classes are crowded in Salsa and while this is exciting for some, it is less enjoyable for others.

We have specific rules that cover this situation. We are past the time to ask for refunds and group tuition cannot be transferred to privates.

I realize this sounds cold and harsh, but these are the rules. Please forgive.



-----Original Message-----
From: MM
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:16 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: OK

Thanks, I understand. You are in the business of making money and you could care less if people learn or not. I am a firm believer that what goes around comes around. It all works out in the end.



-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2008 1:45 PM
To: MM
Subject: RE: OK

Your class was just as crowded last week, but you failed to ask for your refund when you had your chance.

The rules on refunds are printed on your receipt, but you ignored them.

Instead you came to two weeks of classes, and then expected a refund or a private lesson.

You paid for a group class. What makes you think you are entitled to a private lesson?

You are entitled to what you paid for, nothing more.

The sad thing is, you registered through Leisure Learning. Here you are accusing us of money grubbing when we do not receive even a single cent of your money.

Over the course of my career, I have discovered that people who have absolutely no respect for our rules rarely make good customers.  As far as I am concerned, your harsh comments simply reinforce my pre-existing attitude.

 

EXAMPLE SIX - Time Theft: The Story of the Three Mouseketeers

Experience is a Comb that Life Throws You After You Have Lost Your Hair -

If I were a Carpenter and you were a Lady...  What would you say if one day a homeowner accepted your bid on a carpentry job, but after the job started you found you were suddenly working twice as long for no extra money at all?  

I suppose you would feel taken advantage of.

This exact thing happened to me once.  Unfortunately, I had learn my lesson the hard way.  Why is it that we always have to learn things the hard way?

I have said that the idea of converting group class tuition to private lessons amounts to a form of TIME THEFT.  However I am not quite sure I have successfully explained how I came to this conclusion.

I will now write about the incident that convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that I would never again allow group lesson money to be switched to private lesson money.

My first full year as a dance instructor was in 1978.  Saturday Night Fever had come out in November of 1977. In the early days of SNF, most of the disco dancing took the form Disco Line Dances and Freestyle Dancing.  Partner Dancing such as the Latin Hustle like you used to see on the TV show Dance Fever didn't really develop until the second half of 1978.

In 1978 I taught a one-hour Disco Freestyle class on Tuesdays from 7 pm till 8 pm. The class ran for 10 weeks. I realize today everyone is used to our 2-hour/4-week lesson format, but the one-hour format was how we scheduled things in those days. The cost was $40 per person. The tuition obviously averaged out to $4 a lesson.

Since the incident I am about to describe occurred close to 30 years ago, I regret I don't recall the fine details or interesting tidbits. But I do remember enough to get the point across.

My
summer Freestyle class had about 20 people in it.

The Class Factory was the sponsor of the class. The Class Factory was an Adult Education Program that was a precursor to Leisure Learning Unlimited, which came along a year later.  

Our business agreement was simple. The Class Factory would find the students and collect tuition, then I would teach them and provide the facility.
The Class Factory and I split the tuition 50-50. 20 students times $40 = $800.

This meant the Class Factory made $400 and I made about $400. However I had to pay $15 an hour for room rental, which reduced my earnings to $250.

This meant I was making $25 an hour teaching my Freestyle class. Not a killing, but not bad either.

In the third week of class, I was in for a surprise.  Three ladies stayed after class to make an unusual request.  They said they needed private lessons.  How much were private lessons?  Without giving it much thought, I blurted out $20, which is what Mr. Stevens paid me for each lesson I did for him.

They smiled.  Not a bad price!  Then came the bombshell.  They said
they wished to convert their remaining tuition into a private lesson.

What?  This was new!  I was immediately taken aback.

I have to tell you the truth - I was intimidated by these women.  They were at least 15 years older than me and obviously much better at business negotiations than I was. 
These 40-something professionals struck me as intelligent and well-to-do. They came across as experienced businesswomen, the kind of person who commands immediate respect.  Something about their request didn't feel right, but they deserved my courtesy.  I decided to hear them out.

The leader was a woman named Annette.  She is the only one of the three I remember.  Annette was the chief negotiator.  The other two simply stood behind her and let her do all the talking.  I quickly found out why - Annette was charming and persuasive!!

Annette explained to me t
hey had just found out about a special charity disco dance event that was coming up soon. What good would my 10-week class do them after the fact?  They needed all the moves now and they would practice on their own time. They figured the special attention was just what they needed to get ready to be the stars of this benefit dance and maybe catch the eye of an available man!  The other two ladies giggled on cue at this line.

As I listened to Annette, I couldn't help but connect her unusual name to that of Annette Funicello from the Mickey Mouse Club of my youth.  On the other hand, the unity of these three women sparked another mental connection to the Three Musketeers as well.  One for all and all for one. Torn between Mouseketeers and Musketeers, I leaned towards the former due to Annette's presence.  The nickname was simply unavoidable.

It turned out t
he Three Mouseketeers were close friends who worked for the same real estate firm. They had signed up for my class together.

I initially signaled a willingness to cooperate.  The way Annette phrased her request, I thought they meant an hour alone for the three of them. I was willing to do this as a favor so I nodded okay. Big mistake.

AFTER
I sort of went along with their idea, that's when they made it clear they each wanted an HOUR alone. This way I could "critique" their style without having to embarrass them in front of their other two friends. I did a double-take when I realized they each expected to come in one at a time.  My nausea level was sharply on the rise.  I knew I did not like what was happening. I knew I was in trouble.  In my mind, I figured maybe one private lesson was no big deal, but three different trips to the studio was more than I had bargained for.

Every Mother learns to say "No" immediately to any fishy teenager request, then politely listen to the rest of the story. Then she has the right to change her mind or begin bargaining.

I should have said "No" immediately and cut them off at the pass, but I made a rookie mistake and committed to "Yes" early in the game. Uh oh.  Too late to turn back now.  This was turning into a "Learning Experience".


Are you ready for some dance math? 

The rate for private lessons in those days was $20 an hour.  While I mulled this over in my mind they said they would come to two more group classes and take the remainder of their tuition in their one-hour private lesson. They had already finished 3 group lessons and would come to two more for a total of 5 Groups and 1 private lesson each.

I could see they had done their math.  They had originally paid $40 apiece.  Now instead of 10 hours of group lessons, they had changed the deal to 5 group lessons times $4 = $20 and 1 $20 private lesson.  $20 plus $20 = $40.

In their mind, this arrangement was totally fair.  Not once did they voice even the slightest sense of exploitation.

They were experienced negotiators and I was a kid.  They had expertly cornered me.  Like I said, I was a rookie. This was my first year in the business. Something definitely didn't feel right about this request from the start, but I was unable to put my unease into words. All I knew was that these three assertive women acting as a team had me at a distinct disadvantage. At age 28 I didn't have the self-confidence to stand up to them, especially because I couldn't put my apprehension into words!   I rationalized that I was building my business.  Wouldn't they be more likely to take more lessons if I catered to my customers like I should? 

After all, Buddhism explains that each action has an equal reaction.  In a concept known as Karma, shouldn't all the good will I was creating bring me more customers? 


So despite the alarm bells in the back of my brain, I agreed to do it.  But I wasn't happy about it.

Now came the next set-back. Each woman asked to do their lessons during the day to fit their busy schedule. As I said, they were realtors.  They had free time during the day between appointments.  This meant I was expected to make three special trips from home, give them their hour lesson at say 3 pm, and then either hang around the studio for two/three hours or return home and come back again later. I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous!"  It was one of those "learning experiences" as they say. I rolled my eyes.

I was inexperienced, but I wasn't stupid.  I had a rough idea what the consequences were to what I was agreeing to right from the start.   I had agreed to an additional obligation of three hours of teaching and three hours of driving in the middle of the day.  Each of the three lessons ripped my day in half.  All told, converting group lesson money into private lesson money interrupted three different days of my life.  This was TIME THEFT.

To add insult to injury, as always no good deed goes unpunished.  One day I drove to the studio straight from my daytime job for one of the private lessons.  There was no one there. That woman had stood me up!

When I got home that night I got a message on the answering machine from the lady explaining how one of her "most valuable" clients had switched an appointment on her and "could we please re-schedule?" 

I checked the time of the message and realized she had more or less canceled several hours ahead of time, but not in time for me to find out about it.  Back in those days you couldn't retrieve your messages from another location. I dutifully called her back and re-scheduled.  I had just added a fourth trip.

Getting stood up added one more insult to this fiasco.  I was burning with anger.  I felt so taken advantage of!


I was furious at each woman.  I never said a word to them because I still couldn't explain the reasons for my anger in any logical way.  My gut feeling had warned me this was a bad move from the start, but I couldn't confront them because I had trouble understanding my frustration.  I knew I was sick in my stomach, but I couldn't seem to be able to explain my problem in any sensible way. 

One day, I tried to explain my frustration with a student who was also a friend.  She understood that I was upset, but had difficultly seeing my point.  Her closing words were, "Well, Rick, if the money is the same, what difference does it make?"


I realized I had not made my point.  She was right.  After all, the money made complete sense. Mathematically I hadn't lost a dime, but she failed to take into account that EIGHT HOURS of my free time had suddenly vanished thanks to an unwelcome obligation to these women! 

The women had made a contract with me for 10 hours of Group Lessons.  Against my judgment I allowed them to stretch my time to 18 hours.  That was Time Theft!

In my mind, I was working 8 extra hours for free!
 

Then came the final humiliating blow.  This ordeal cost me an extra $45!

When I submitted my rent check at the end of the month, Mr. Stevens pointed out I had been giving lessons during the day.  Where were those hours?

This caught me completely off-guard.  I was so new to this, my lessons with the three women were the first private lessons I had actually scheduled on my own.   My agreement with the owner of the studio, Mr. Lance Stevens, was that I could rent a room at his studio for $15 an hour.  I had been so lost in my own self-pity, it had never occurred to me I was conducting official private lessons. The going rate was the same: $15 an hour.  I wasn't trying to cheat Mr. Stevens, but I had an obvious blind spot about the entire mess.  It just hadn't crossed my mind that he would charge me for using those rooms.  I was out another $45.

I know what you are going to say next. "How can you charge $20 for private lessons when you turn around and pay $15 for rent?  That adds up to $5 an hour. You can make more money flipping hamburgers at McDonalds." 

Here is the explanation:  Private lessons were actually $35 an hour, but I didn't know this at the time.  Like I said, I was so new to the game that I had never actually scheduled a private lesson before.  What happened instead was Mr. Stevens would refer a private lesson to me and I would remind him about it at the end of the month.  He would then pay me $20 for the lesson I had done.  In other words, the students always paid their money directly to the studio, not to me.  It had never dawned on me that they were actually paying $35 directly to the studio and he was keeping the difference. I just thought private lessons were twenty bucks.  How could I be so stupid?

Like I said, I always learn things the hard way. 

Changing the deal not only added eight hours of time obligation, it had reduced my income from $250 to $205. 


Chalk it up to experience.  I felt bitter and resentful at allowing this added obligation to be thrust upon me.  I felt like someone had pulled a fast one on me.  And did any of the three women come back for more lessons?  No.

Let's Pretend

What if we changed the story a little bit?  What if we pretend none of the women had signed up for the Group Lesson?

Let's assume instead
each woman phoned me and asked for a private lessonI probably would have accepted the teaching assignment at the going rate without giving it a second thought. I had a lot of free time, I would have charged them $35 an hour and kept $20. That is $60 profit.

The Class Factory would have paid me for 17 people: $340 minus $150 rent = $190.  $190 + $60 = $250.  The money would have been the same, but it would have added three extra hours of work and three more hours drive time. 

I would have taught my 10 hours of Freestyle classes and my three private lessons on the side and not given it a second thought.
 That was exactly how the Three Mouseketeers looked at the situation.

But from my point of view given that I already had the Group Lesson money in my pocket, I did not appreciate being expected to do what amounted to six extra hours of work.

I felt just like a carpenter who finished a ten-hour job only to suddenly find that due to some loophole in the agreement he now has to work six more hours in order to get paid.  

All I can say is that sometimes your brain can't explain it, so you have to trust your gut.  The injustice may have been purely in my head, but I still felt ripped off.


What I Have Learned in
the 30 Years Since the Three Mouseketeers Story

About two years after the Mouseketeers came into my life and left, I went out on my own to form SSQQ.  From there my business grew and I added instructors.

One day during the mid 80s, a young couple came up to me after dance class. They told me they thought their Swing class was great, but they had just been invited to a barbeque featuring a live C&W band. They wanted to convert their remaining tuition into one private lesson to get ready for that event.  Waves of déjà vu heebie jeebies swept over me.

I said no

I explained
as best I could how this would obligate me to work extra time. Then they threw a curve at me - I wouldn't have to work extra at all because they wanted someone else on my Staff to give them the lesson!

I had to think about it for a moment, but finally I was able to explain that I would have to pay the instructor out of my own pocket. They said that was okay with them - go ahead and pay them out of my pocket! They just wanted their private lesson.

I said no to that idea as well and suddenly we had a fifteen-minute argument on our hands.  Back in those days, this kind of argument usually took place over the phone.  These days it happens by email.  But this argument was hand to hand combat!  These two people tag-teamed me with one jab after another for 15 excruciating minutes!

I kept saying no.  Finally they got exasperated and walked out.


I suppose I "won" - they didn't get their extra lesson - but I also lost in the sense that I never saw the couple again. They didn't understand or accept one single word I said.

I have discovered practically any time there is a disagreement my students will leave the studio unless I give in.  

"The customer is ALWAYS right!"   I don't know if the Customer is always right, but I do know the Customer always thinks he is right.

Well, it was too bad they left in a huff.  Up until our argument, I liked that couple.  Did I do the right thing?  I don't know.  I definitely lost two customers over an issue they couldn't understand.   I can at least say I felt better sticking to my guns and seeing the couple stomp off than I did when I worked eight extra hours for the Real Estate ladies.  

And what about the Buddhistic Circle of Life concept that says all good deeds return to the giver?

Well, as I mentioned earlier,
I never saw the Mousketeers again.   So much for going the extra mile and catering to my customers like I should to help build my business.  Did the Mouseketeers refer friends to me?  Maybe.  Perhaps this spiritual concept is correct, but life is so complex how do you ever really know?  I can only say I did not feel even slightly rewarded for giving up eight extra hours of my time (3 privates, 3 drives to the studio, plus one lesson where I got stood up).

I don't know if this article has fully explained why I refuse to substitute Group Lessons for Private Lessons.  To me, there is no simple explanation.  Every time I point out I have to work extra time, someone turns around and says, "What if these people had asked for a private lesson in the first place?"  I respond that if I had the time available, then maybe I would have been willing to work with them. 

But once the Deal was made, I certainly wasn't willing to renegotiate.  

I also know that based on what I felt in my heart is that I would never allow myself to be taken advantage of like this again.

What matters is I have posted my rule and refuse to discuss it further.  Group lesson tuition cannot be exchanged for private lessons.   Whether people understand it or not, that is my rule and I am going to stick to it.

   

And Here is another Reason why I am going to stick to my Rule with No Exceptions:

I have always carried a catastrophic fantasy in the back of my head.  What if one day half my students suddenly decided in the middle of the dance semester that they wanted to switch Group Tuition to Private Lessons?

You say it would never happen, but what if someone got mad at me and started the dance studio-equivalent of a run on the bank?  What's to stop them?  "Where's my private lesson!  I want a Private Lesson!"  "Me too!"  "And Me Too!" 

Many of you, few of me.  I could spend an entire month giving private lessons if I agreed to this demand. Fortunately I have a simple solution:  I will forbid it ahead of time.
Case Closed.

THE FINAL WORD - SWITCHING GROUP LESSON TUITION FOR PRIVATE LESSONS IS NOT PERMITTED.

"Experience is a Comb that Life throws you after you have lost your Hair."

Thirty years ago, the Three Mouseketeers
incident caused me to create the "No Switching Tuition" Rule.  So what if the Three Mouseketeers showed back up on my doorstep today and pulled a similar stunt.  How would I handle it?

I would smile at them and say this:

A Deal is a Deal.  

You paid for a group class.  What makes you think you are entitled to a private lesson instead?  You are entitled to what you paid for, nothing more.

You and I made a binding financial agreement and I don't wish to alter it. 

If you wish to take Private Lessons in addition to our original deal, I am open to discussion.


And then I would smile and rub my bald head.  (Actually I didn't lose all my hair, but it sure turned white at an early age).

 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR RE TUITION SWITCH ISSUE

-----Original Message-----
From: Christian Meyer
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 7:25 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: stroke of a genius

Hi Rick

some words of appreciation for you

I only had one double private lesson at SSQQ, april 2004, so I don't think I am in your database.
(but I still feel I am some kind of ex-student of SSQQ ;-) )

I wish I'd live closer (than 4000miles) - there are a lot of classes I'd like to take.

I wish I had SSQQ in my hometown.  Unfortunately, the only times I was in Houston the past couple of years was during Christmas break - no luck for me.

I still browse your website often and refer it to friends, especially the Advice to men and Secrets of Following articles.

I also read your general policies and keep wondering how often you have to explain the same, simple, reasonable rules over and over again.  I still don't understand how you can run a successful dance studio AND deal with all those entitlement - mentality idiots without going utterly bonkers.

I can only applaud you for your patience.

There is two comments I'd like to make:

1) the one exception per student per year is the true stroke of a genius.

I think its an absolutely brilliant way of honoring honest dancer's rare personal requests that still amount to a lot of work for you (many of them, few of you) in a way that cannot be abused by the cheapshots.   I am sure it helps every one, staff or serious student

2)  the tuition switch rule ...

So the students say its 46$ (or whatever) either way so the are entitled to a private lesson, bc they pay the same amount.   You say its hard to explain but it didn't feel right from the beginning.

So I did put myself in your shoes and did some math.

let say you have 20 couples or 40 individuals in a class.

They agree to pay $50 for 4 nights of classes, 8 hrs total (if I understand your system correctly.)  That adds up to $2,000.

You agree to be present 4 nights for 2 hrs each and teach them a defined syllabus. lets say 8 hrs of teaching and 2 hrs of driving to the studio, assuming you live 15 minutes away.  that is a total commitment of 10 hrs.

Now Joe wants to switch to private tuition, using the its the same amount of money argument.

If you give Joe the right to do so, the everybody has that same right. And as you have illustrated with kids, watchers, you name the issue, if some get it, others feel entitled to the same treatment - understandably.

So lets magnify the issue:
Now all 40  people are now entitled to have private tuition from you, one private $50 lesson bc its the same price as one regular class.  Lets say all 40 of them decide to do so.

Now you have to give 40 hours of work, plus probably another 10 hours of driving time, for the same amount of money.

In essence, your burden has been multiplied by a factor of 5. 

so you now work 50 hrs, i.e. 5 times as long, for the same amount of money. Plus - you already have a full schedule, so you don't have the extra hours a week required for that.

and that is only ONE class of  40 people
.....what if all 50 of your classes each week decided to do the same thing? 

Even worse, what if two people from the original group say they prefer to stick with the regularly scheduled Group class.  Now you
still have to hold the regular class with the 2 remaining people, because you have a contract.

Now you have 10 more hours on top of the 50 private lesson hours. 

that means, you work now 60 hrs instead of 10, for the same amount of money - or you have to pay a teacher out of SSQQ funds to do so.  In essence, your burden has been multiplied by a factor of 6. 


Of course it is unlikely that the whole studio would be suddenly decide to switch from groups to privates, but it is actually not inconceivable. 

For example, Let's say someone organizes a BIG DANCE COMPETITION at your studio at the end of the week and the top ten goe on National TV.  This begins a Student Stampede (similar to a run on the bank).  Everyone knows they may not be the best, but they have a real shot at Top Ten.  Without realizing the other students are doing the exact same thing, every student suddenly decide they need to improve IMMEDIATELY and cannot wait.  The phone rings constantly.  "I want to convert my group tuition to a private lesson!"

You would have more overhead because the air conditioner would run constantly and there would be all kinds of headaches because there would need to be appointments made which some would be later delayed, shifted, etc.

Now how difficult is THAT to understand?

I find that math pretty easy - and I doubt ANY of these guys would  be willing to work 6 times as long for the same amount of money if it was THEIR business.

and you run how many classes per week?? IF only HALF would do it.....
You'd be out of business the next month, if you allowed tuition switch from group to private.

If you have a big venue, you need to think in big numbers, its that simple.
Everything magnifies exponentially.

did I say that I  HATE entitlement mentality?
I am always amazed how many people actually believe that  just bc they WANT something, they are entitled to have it.

anyway - thanks for putting it out there.
The whole thing gave me food for thought, and even though I am in an entirely different business, it helped me a lot to understand why some things don't feel right in the way I have been offered work lately - I feel taken advantage off, and I deeply resent that.

The reason I put so much thought into your story is that it reminded me of a similar situation which has bothered me for some time. I offered to work as translator for 5 days a week for a given sum that was already a bit lower than my usual rate.

Normally, a seminar day is 7 hrs of teaching .

When I got to the Seminar, I discovered I was expected now I had to do 1.5 - 2 hrs ADDITIONAL work in the evening that was never mentioned - 8-9 hrs a day instead of 7.  After doing the math I have given 8-10 hours, almost a day and a half, FOR FREE.
In fact , I get payed 2000 Fr instead of 2900Fr - I get cheated off 31% of my fee.

Now why would I want to do that?

**** end ranting****

RICK , IF YOU HADN'T PUT OUT YOUR TUITION SWITCH THING........
I would just have felt ill at ease  without being able to name it.

I just want you to know that you ordeal , and your solution and thinking, have helped me a lot. 
Thank you.

I sincerely hope I can make it to Houston again outside Xmas season - I'd love to take more (private)  classes, to learn twostep and western waltz.

Both my fiancée and I dance argentine Tango, and she will start Lindy as soon as she moves into my hometown.

I'd consider myself an intermediate -advance Lindy and intermediate Tango dancer, good feel for the music but I've forgotten 80% of the steps and patterns I learned....

Expect to hear from us whenever we're in town!

kind regards
Christian Meyer,
Zurich, Switzerland

 


 

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