WHY SWITCHING GROUP LESSON TUITION
FOR PRIVATE LESSONS IS NOT PERMITTED
Last Update: September 2007
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
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
If some get it, then others
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
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:44 AM
Subject: Switching group classes to privates
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
Unfortunately, we won't be able to make it tonight either.
We're wondering if we can switch our lessons to private ones
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
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 11:40 AM
Switching group classes to
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.
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 2:13 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Switching group classes to privates
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?
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 4:09 PM
Subject: permission for two people to take Beg Salsa September
By all means. Print this out to show the Registrar. There will
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
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
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
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Subject: Private lessons instead
of group lessons
To whom it may concern,
My wife and I have signed up for
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
and what we can do to refund or transfer the paid amounts towards
private lessons. We look forward to your reply.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 6:32 AM
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
You can go to the studio and get a
refund on Wednesday or Thursday evening around 7 pm.
contact Linda Cook for your private
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
GROUP LESSON TUITION CANNOT BE SWITCHED TO PRIVATE
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
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2005 8:36 AM
Subject: Help with problem with class
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!
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2005 11:25 AM
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
I try to help when possible, but this
one is unsolvable. I don't see any place for a compromise. Please
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
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:
TWO - Getting Married
From: Nehal P
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5:06 PM
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
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.
THREE - A Situation Where I actually permitted Switching the Tuition to
a Private Lesson
From: karl greer
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:26 AM
Subject: Request for exception
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
From: karl greer
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 12:05 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Request for exception
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.
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.
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"
As I said earlier in this article, this is the most mysterious of all SSQQ rules.
people don't know about the Rule ahead of time
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
1. Asking us to give you a Refund
2. Asking us to work twice for our money.
1. Why Switching Group Tuition to
Privates is like asking for a Refund
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.
FOUR - Requesting
Switching Group Tuition to a Private Lesson
From: P B
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 11:20 AM
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
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 01:22 PM
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.
From: P B
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 08:05 AM
Subject: Re: Refund
Then teach the lesson yourself! That way you could keep the
money to yourself. What difference does it make?
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 11:45 AM
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.
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 03:29 PM
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.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 05:45 PM
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
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.
From: P B
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 10:31 PM
Subject: Re: Refund
Have it your way, buddy. I am out of here. Keep
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
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.
FIVE - WHY EVEN GO TO THE
TROUBLE OF EXPLAINING?
Sent: Saturday, August 16, 2008 6:40 PM
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.
From: Rick Archer
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
I realize this sounds cold and harsh, but these are the rules.
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:16 AM
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.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2008 1:45 PM
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
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
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
carpentry job, but after
the job started you
found you were suddenly working twice as long for no extra money
I suppose you would feel taken
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
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
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
was a precursor to Leisure Learning Unlimited, which came along a
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.
professionals struck me as
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.
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
- Annette was charming and persuasive!!
Annette explained to me they had just found out about a special
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 the 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.
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
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.
were experienced negotiators and I was a kid. They had expertly
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 lesson. I 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.
was exactly how the Three Mouseketeers looked at the situation.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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:
forbid it ahead of time.
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
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
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).
THE EDITOR RE TUITION SWITCH ISSUE
From: Christian Meyer
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 7:25 PM
Subject: stroke of a genius
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
and you run how many classes per week?? IF only HALF would
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
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
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
I would just have felt ill at ease without being able to
I just want you to know that you ordeal , and your solution
and thinking, have helped me a lot.
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!