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Is it too much to ask clients to remember the day of their lesson?

So imagine you are a personal trainer or some kind of sports trainer (eg. swimming instructor) and clients book specific days and times for their training session. This describes me and my business, as I am both a personal trainer and a sports instructor.

And lets imagine you teach certain sports and activities outdoors, even when it is one of the hottest days of the year. Like it was Saturday with the combined temperature and humidity putting Toronto in a bake you until you die 46 degrees Celsius. So crazy hot.

So you are there in the baking heat, so hot that a friend of yours sticks unbaked cookies inside their car on the dashboard and comes back later and their cookies are baked (and their car smells like freshly baked cookies now). True story.

So you are out there in the heat and you notice your client / student is running late. You check your email and see the following:

"I am so sorry for the last minute.
I am just getting back from Prague..
an I thought this was tomorrow."

And you should be rightfully annoyed. I know I was.

At 7:30 AM that morning I sent them an email warning them about the heat that day. Recommending they bring cold drinks with them.

Did they really get back from Prague? Who knows. Maybe.

Or maybe they just realized it was going to be super hot outside and wanted to reschedule based on the weather conditions. That is normal. Would not be the first time we have rescheduled because of rain, thunderstorms, too hot, too windy, snowing, blizzard, too cold, etc. Except weather was not their excuse. Their excuse was they thought the lesson was Sunday, even though they scheduled it for Saturday.

Not even showing up however and/or last minute cancellations... those are a personal pet peeve for me.

There is a reason why dentists charge patients if you forget your dentist appointment and don't show up. They were there. Their staff was there. Everything ready for the patient to arrive. And then they don't show up. The staff and everyone still needs to get paid, even if the patient forgets they had a dental appointment.

Same goes for me. I am out there in the weather, sometimes very hot weather, with all my equipment ready to go, and if a student / client doesn't show up for their lesson...

Well then that is just a clear forfeiture.

Because I was there. Where was the student?

Relaxing after getting back from Prague supposedly.

Years ago I ended up making a Terms of Service page to remind people what happens when they miss lessons or want to reschedule lessons. Rescheduling a lesson? No problem, I just need 24 hours notice so I don't end up outside in the heat or cold waiting for a student who decided last minute to not show up. Missing a lesson because you forgot? That is a forfeiture.

I am also not your Social Secretary. It is not my job to remind clients of when their lessons are. It is the client's job to remember to show up, just like it is my job to be there on time, ready to instruct.

Not knowing or remembering the day of the lesson (if that was truly the case) is clearly the fault of the client. After all, I am not their Social Secretary. It is not my job to remind them what days and times they have lessons on.

Is it too much to ask clients to remember the day of their lesson?

So after receiving the email I was annoyed. And overheating in the heat/humidity, and being in such a state is never good time to answer emails from people who have annoyed you.

I ended up waiting 24 hours before replying and politely explaining that they had forfeited the lessons because they had failed to give me 24 hour notice. Politely. Like a true Canadian would.

I have also noticed that some clients in the past are "problem clients". The type of people who reschedule lessons frequently, show up late, forget they have lessons, and even make up funny excuses. One such "problem client" years ago claimed she had somehow misplaced her children after a series of similar times when she had failed to show up for lessons on time or at all. She did it so often she ended up forfeiting all of her lessons by supposedly getting lost, claiming to be stuck in traffic for two hours, forgetting what day the lesson was, and finally the "I misplaced my children" excuse.

I eventually Googled her name and discovered she had been fired from her workplace for a serious case of office politics coupled with being accused of fraud. So her reputation was that of a person not to be trusted, and myself and others should probably avoid having any dealings with such an untrustworthy person who clearly makes up excuses and lies all the time.

So what should a person do with problem clients?

  1. Fulfill any remaining obligations.
  2. Issue a refund or partial refund if absolutely necessary.
  3. Once 1 and 2 have been accomplished, stop answering their emails.

I once had a client whom I was teaching his son archery, and he basically treated me like a babysitter - which I am not. His son also had behavioural issues which made him unsafe to be teaching a sport like archery. Somehow (long story) I gained the impression that the client was in the mafia and was not used to being told "no". So when he asked for more archery lessons for his son, after his lessons had been exhausted and my obligations had been met, I asked him to send me an email regarding booking more lessons. I then simply never replied to his email. I also later changed my policy regarding minimum age for archery lessons to 16.

So there are more than one way for a client to be considered to be a "problem client" in my opinion. Chronic lateness/not showing up at all is certainly one way. Me becoming worried that the client is a criminal (or hires other people to commit crimes) is certainly another way. Treating me like a babysitter or having a spoiled kid who is a safety hazard, that is also another way.

Most of My Clients are Wonderful

99.7% of my clients show up on time. Or if they are running late, they let me know via text message or email.

They are a joy to teach. They don't make up lies or excuses either.

It is really the few bad eggs out of thousands of clients I have taught over the page 9 years that cause me headaches. I don't lose sleep over these people. I just point to the Terms of Service so they know what happens when they miss lessons and the proper way to reschedule a lesson.

Or at least, the proper way to lie about it. People who are sick or severely injured get a free ride when it comes to rescheduling lessons. Here is how to lie about it:

Contact me BEFORE the lesson begins and just say you are sick and unable to make it. Contacting me after the lesson has begun (or was supposed to have begun), well that still counts as a forfeiture, because you knew you were sick or injured hours before the lesson and there is no reason not to have let me know as soon as possible.

If the lesson start time comes and a client is clearly late I typically contact them after 10-15 minutes with a polite "Running late?" If they then say they are sick, that is unfortunately a forfeiture because they failed to notify me of their illness BEFORE the lesson time began.

Jetlag is not an adequate excuse because the person knew they would have jetlag when they returned from a trip, and it is neither an illness or an injury. There is no reason they should not have been able to email me 24 hours before the lesson and let me know they want to reschedule.

If a client is going to lie and make up an excuse, at least say you are sick. And do try to let me know before the lesson start time. Preferably before 8:30 AM, but definitely before the scheduled time slot.



Happy Canada Day!

On Sunday the wife, son, and I visited my mother-in-law for Canada Day. I never book archery lessons that day (or other holidays) because people have a tendency to reschedule anyway.

Monday (a holiday thanks to Canada Day being on a weekend this year) we went to the beach and it was so crazy hot we got slushies en route to the beach. Slushies are not very healthy, but I said to the wife:

"I would rather have brain-freeze than have heatstroke."


And to paraphrase myself on this true topic of this post:

"I would rather have clients who show up on time and remember their lessons than to have clients who do not."


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