What do you do with a student whose Dad drops her off and doesn't pay?

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You are all so great...just had to ask one more question. I know the topic of non paying parents of students has been addressed and I agree that you don't teach if they are not paid. But I have one student in particular (her Dad owns three local IGA grocery stores, so money is not a problem for them!) whose Dad drops her off, and speeds away on the first lesson of each month. What do others do in this situation...make the child sit for 1/2 hour with no lesson? It seems cruel to punish the child for this lack of conscience! She is the child of a broken home and the mother has let me know flat out that SHE's not paying for lessons...that is the Dad's responsibility. Occasionally I have asked her for payment on the 1st lesson of the month and get a sarcastic reply as above. Any suggestions on how to handle this family. I am about ready to drop this student, but a) only have 6 students at present anyway and b) I really enjoy teaching this little girl and she LOVES piano! Thanks in advance for any advice! Marianne Ashton

-- Marianne Ashton (ashtonrg@netzero.net), February 23, 2005


Marianne, I had this problem with one student so I sent a nice little "Your Payment is Overdue" notice to the parents in the mail. I think they were emabarrassed --most people are so busy that they just aren't thinking (I Know, WE suffer for it!) but they brought in the payment at the next lesson and it hasn't been a problem since. Good Luck!

-- Rose (babenpansryrose@aol.com), February 23, 2005.

I've got one answer for you: $25 late fee.

Put it in your policy statement; you can choose to show leniency if you want to, for other families who are generally responsible about paying. But don't let this guy keep doing this.

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), February 23, 2005.

Thanks to you both for your replies...however, I HAVE a $10.00 late fee and also have sent this man notices. I suppose because money is no problem for him he keeps just paying the late fee. I have sent him notices the week BEFORE the account is due (the last week of the month) with a self=addressed envelope for him to put the payment in the mail and he STILL ignores it! He is driving me crazy. His daughter calls me 1-2 times a week for questions on her practicing which is fine and she is really progressing. If she wasn't such a good student I would drop her in a minute. I am thinking of possibly raising the late fee to a more hefty $25.00 and maybe this would solve the problem. Anyway...thanks again for your responses to my question!

-- Marianne Ashton (ashtonrg@netzero.net), February 24, 2005.

With whom did you originally contract for the lessons--you mention Mom, but the person whose name is on the contract is the one responsible for payment, period, especially if they were divorced prior to the student's starting with you. If Mom contracted with you, and the payment is not being made, take her to small claims court, and when she whines about Dad (maybe even having a divorce agreement to show the judge saying he's to pay for lessons), well, his name was not on the contract, and when you win the judgement (unless she pays right then), she will have no choice but to go after him in court.

Now, if Dad contracted with you, then go after Dad directly in court, and you shouldn't be bothering the Mom.

What concerned me much more was your "dump and speeds away" comment. Do you mean whether or not you appear to be home, as in abandoning? That is an issue possibly for CPS. You are not a babysitter or childcare provider. I would talk to my lawyer (every business person should have one, and there are decent pre-pay legal groups out there, you just have to look) about sending a strongly worded letter to that effect to the Dad.

What also might work with the cheapskate is jack up your rates, but offer a "discount" for advance payment. And of course, do raise your late fee until it hurts the person to be late in the pocketbook.

Remember the old Ann Landers saying: "No one can take advantage of you without your permission". You are a businessperson and a professional and deserve to be paid just as others do.

Good luck.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), February 24, 2005.

I was curious, have you tried to be outside where they pull up their car to confront the Dad? It's hard to ignore someone who is looking straight at you and is speaking directly to you. Tell him that you cannot teach his daughter without payment for lessons in advance. He has his checkbook with him, he has cash; he just doesn't want to get it out. Be firm!

I know teachers shouldn't have to put up with this but sometimes to keep the peace and the needed income teachers feel compelled to suffer. We all do this in one way or another.

Is this the only student that you have trouble getting payment from? Have this in your policy, that if a student is habitual in being late with payment that the late fee is equal to the amount you charge for lessons. You can chose to enact this policy to whomever you wish. If this is your only problem payers' and they don't mind paying the fee, you get the rate for 2 students just for getting paid a few days late. When you have only 6 students it is hard to sell the idea that this is your living and you must be paid on time because you have bills too. However, he doesn't know that. Use that to your advantage.

Don't give up on this girl. In her situation, you are probably the only one who is stable and consistant in her life and she depends on that relationship. Be there for her. In my opinion, if she is progressing and enjoying piano, keep her and deal with the guff from the dad. But be assertive and firm in payment matters. If that means creating a special policy just for him, do it, but don't tell him what you're doing. You are boss. If you were never getting paid this would be a different situation.


-- Diana (dstocksd@sbcglobal.net), February 24, 2005.

I NEVER have a checkbook with me these days, or even much cash, half the time, LOL. And I doubt that many piano teachers take credit cards....

Just had another idea--unless you're teaching people back to back, arrange to be somewhere else, like at a neighbor's and see what happens (a video camera may help here, as would also a witness).... When he calls, tell him that you've booked the time for someone who pays....

I understand your concern for the little girl, but by not insisting on payment you're sending the signal that it is okay to stiff people, which I know that you don't want to do.

It's really a shame the Mom doesn't care, sounds like both parents are jerks.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), February 24, 2005.

I agree on two things mentioned here- one, take the parent to small claims for current and all back lesson payments. I would include all late fees in this as well. Second, I'd fill the time slot with a PAYING customer. Let the parent know by phone or mail what they owe to the date, attach your policy sheet and mail it. Tell them if you don't have payment IN FULL at the next lesson that they will be dropped from your teaching schedule. If they don't pay up, take em to small claims. You don't need someone taking advantage of you or your business like this. Good luck.

-- K.Penn (playsteinway@yahoo.com), February 24, 2005.

Once again...thanks to all of you for the suggestions. As the Dad does EVENTUALLY pay, I can't really take them to small claims court at present. The mom ALWAYS bring this child the first lesson of the month and then I have to chase down the father in the driveway on the second lesson of each month in order to collect the money. He always pays me late and actually one month had only a large bill which he handed me (after I went out to his car with his daughter after the lesson). At this point I was so irritated with him that I told him I didn't have change but would apply the "balance" to the next month!! :) I think he was shocked but he didn't argue about it either! I am probably letting him get to me more than I should and it's not that my family or I are going to starve without his payment...it's just the sheer gall of this man! I am seriously thinking of charging him a heftier late fee as suggested (possibly the amount of another months lessons). I will only send this new "policy" to him however and see what happens. Anyway...thanks for all the great input!

-- Marianne Ashton (ashtonrg@netzero.net), February 24, 2005.

The trick is to ask for five post-dated cheques twice per year. I still have one late-payer because I allow people to pay in cash the first week of the month. Usually you can call before the lesson to remind them.

The real question is whether you trust this man to pay sometime. If you don't trust him, you will need to enforce the post-dated thing with him.

-- Anita (anitagreenways@hotmail.com), March 03, 2005.

In this day and age, I would not leave postdated checks with anyone--someone breaks into your house, instant ID theft. No thanks.

At some point, you have to ask yourself is this student worth the hassle you have to go through with the parents. Think about this from a business point of view. this party is one/sixth of your teaching income, but apparently !00% aggravation. Every minute you spend worrying about collecting from the guy, is time that you cannot use to attract and teach more students, and make more money.

You deserve to be paid, on time and with no hassles. Period.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), March 04, 2005.

I agree that piano teachers are professionals and should be paid on time. But lets face it...people don't always.

It is important to me when looking for a solution to this problem (whether that be to dismiss the student or not) will be that it provides the opportunity for the parent to save face, I get my money, and keep a peaceful relationship with the parent and student. There is no need to burn bridges if you don't have to. Small claims court gets two things accomplished...you getting paid and the other party extremely mad. Ask yourself, is that $100 (or whatever $ amount) worth so much to me that I have to ruin my professional relationship with that student and the rest of their family, including any potential students in town that they may know?

When I first read this post, I could identify completely with the situation and dilema for a teacher. In fact, that is probably how I sound to my family when I am disgusted with how things are going. Marianne needs suggestions that will work to solve the problem, not create bigger and possibly long-lasting ones. The very idea of piano teachers taking parents to small claims court seems wrong.

Your dentist isn't going to take you small claims court because he hasn't received his $70 for your last cleaning. He will probably send you a series of notices in the mail. He might even add on an extra late fee. The point is, that this professional does not act in a drastic manner by hauling you to small claims. The right thing to do is to think things through completely as a professional before taking this kind of action. Lots of people will be affected by this, including that poor girl who only wants to play the piano.

-- Diana (dstocksd@sbcglobal.net), March 05, 2005.

Actually, your dentist, as a professional who doubtless has huge student loans to pay as well as other bills, will drop you if you don't pay. They may even turn you over to a collections agency, and will also probably make an adverse credit report.

The guy can afford to pay, see the original post, but CHOOSES to stiff the teacher, and the teacher has allowed the behavior to continue due to feeling sorry for the child.

Sure, if it goes to small claims, it might make the guy angry when he loses, and he might try going elsewhere, but, any astute teacher will find out the name of the previous teacher, and perhaps will make a "courtesy call" to find out about curriculum and so forth (i.e., whether they pay on time or not). If all the teachers in town find out that the person doesn't pay on time, well....

It's business. If you can't separate the business from the personal feelings, then you will always have these kinds of problems.

For Marianne, the problem is the parent doesn't pay on time. Period. Not all the other drama. She can go after him/her (imho the Mom could also be held accountable if she originally signed the paperwork--creditors and businesses don't have to honor divorce agreements generally) in court, or kiss the money goodbye as a learning experience, flat out drop the student and fill the spot with someone who pays on time.

A mortgage company is not going to cut you any slack when you don't pay your bills on time. Really. They will foreclose on your house. People stiff small businesses all the time because there is the feeling that they won't follow through on collecting. Sad but true. The little girl in this situation is learning that it is okay not to pay people on time, which I think is awful--do you think she's learning that maybe being a piano teacher is not such a great career after all?

Hopefully the lesson learned by all is to get the payment in advance, maybe with a little carrot like 25% off for paying say 3 month's worth in advance--discounts are always more attractive than late fees.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), March 05, 2005.

So, here's an "out of the box" suggestion.

Change the due date of his payment. Tell him you are now billing mid- month. If he's two weeks, late, he's on time with everyone else. He thinks he's still playing late (let him play his little game), you get paid at the first of the month. Everybody's happy! :)

-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), March 06, 2005.

Arlene, I actually like your idea and will try this. Am also going to be sending him a letter stating that payment is due for a quarter instead of monthly. At least I will have three months payment and don't have to be aggravated EVERY month. Taught his daughter this past Tuesday and of course Mom dropped her off...no money again for March yet. Thanks to all of you who responded, however, Ijust cannot bring myself to drop this little girl...she adores piano lessons and I think it's the one "stable" thing in her life. She can't help it if her father is a jerk! On a side note...this man owns the local IGA grocery store and when I was in pulled into his parking lot he looked right at me, didn't acknowledge me and then walked away! He KNOWS he owes me money. Well I left his parking lot steaming mad and drove 11 miles out of my way to another grocery store! I'll be darned if I'm going to spend money at his store when he owes ME! He can afford to pay for 3 months at a time so I am just going to send a letter stating payment is due for the next 3 months and add a heftier late fee so it has some impact. Thanks again to all the suggestions.

-- Marianne (ashtonrg@netzero.net), March 06, 2005.

Way to go Marianne!

-- Diana (dstocksd@sbcglobal.net), March 06, 2005.

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