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not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642749 08/16/08 02:59 PM
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Dear Friends,
This week I had one appointment at which the building (a church) was locked up completely, and another one at which the customer had just had both front and back porches painted and the paint was not yet dry (the painter was just finishing up). At neither one was I able to get to the piano, of course. Do you customarily charge a cancellation fee when something like this happens? Do you mention this possibility to the customer at the first appointment -- "If the piano is inaccessible, there will be a fee?" Thanks for any suggestions.

Meanwhile, I am busy being grateful that the painter did not arrive and complete his work while my full attention was on the piano.


Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA
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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642750 08/16/08 05:14 PM
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Dorrie, some years ago, I would just let it go. But for the past few years, I send them a bill for the missed appointment. After all we do incur transportation costs, and the time could have been spent tuning another piano in many instances.

Personally I charge for a service call, plus mileage. In some cases, people ignore the bill, but in most instances they will pay it.


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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642751 08/16/08 05:42 PM
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Depends. If it was an honest mistake I don't get too excited. If was just rude disrespect I shall not darken their door again, DO NOT BOTHER TO CALL.

Several years ago I was to tune for a small Baptist Ch. The pianist said the door would be open, the one on the west side. It was summer and the west side was unshaded and over 100 degrees. She also said the door gets a little stiff sometimes so if it sticks a bit, just give a good shove.

I'm a big guy and that day I was a very hot big guy running late for the day. The door was "stiff." I gave it a push. No go. It was brutal outside that church. I gave it one more, "determined" push and the whole door frame crashed into the church. I found a phone and called the pianist. "Oh, I forgot to unlock the door? How did you get in?"

Ooops.

Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642752 08/16/08 08:01 PM
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Ooops? Ha! 'Great, Sam. I was never strong enough to get in that way. 'Kinda' serves 'em right when you think about it.

If I get no shows, I see what kind of excuse they come up with. If it's lame, I put them on the do-not-call list. If it's really lame, I pronounce a pox on their house!


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642753 08/16/08 08:59 PM
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Dorrie, did you speak to both customers the day before? I always make a reminder call the day/night before to every customer. If I get an answering machine, I leave a message for them to call me back to confirm the appointment or I'll need to reschedule. They almost always call me back. Sometimes they miss the message and I'll try them once or twice again. I don't go to those appointments I can't confirm, unless I'm already in the area. Confirming takes little time and has reduced no shows from 3 per month to a couple each year.

If a customer cancels the night before or is a no show, I note it on my customer list, and charge extra when they re-schedule to cover the cost.

I've yet to have someone pay a no-show bill, but I've only sent a couple out.



Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642754 08/17/08 09:04 AM
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I had a 4 hour appointment set for a client that he cancelled the day before.

He explained that his piano teacher insisted the he use her technician to repair and tune the piano. So basically, I lost the work and the client to a meddling teacher with an ego.

He offered to pay me for the time I spent assessing the piano the week before and invited me to send him a bill. I had spent a good hour looking at the piano and pulling debris out of the action. I had written up a detailed assessment of precisely the work I was going to do when I came back. I decided that my time and expertise was worth $95, less than what I normally charge for an hour.

Bottom line is he never sent a check. He ignored my invoice ... the one he invited me to send to him.

So ... do I let this one go, or do I resend the invoice?


Registered Piano Technician
Serving Colorado Since 1978
randy@karasikpiano.com
www.karasikpiano.com
Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642755 08/17/08 10:52 AM
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Hello Dorrie,

Yes it is fortunate that you were not inside the home when the contract painter decided to start the task at hand. However this was the responsibility of the owner to organize accessibility, not yourself.

We are business professionals. Just like doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc. The policy from my shop is the very same. If I do not receive 24hrs. notice for cancellation, I bill for the full amount. After all, in your situation there, you not only lost the fees for those jobs, but you also lost the time; time which you can never recover. If you had been given proper notice, you would have been able to re-schedule your time. However there appears to be no respect given for your time loss. This is not acceptable.

Like Bob states I always call my appointments a couple of days in advance to confirm. This way there is no argument as to who is responsible for the missed appointment.

Of course you can always kick the door in like Sam there if you really want the job …….. wink

For Randy,

Your situation there is a civil consumer problem, and falls under the civil law statute. Now I am not up on the civil consumer laws in your home state there, but up here in Canada, we have an old law on the books that is rarely used anymore but it still stands. This law states that a verbal/handshake agreement carries just as much weight as a written agreement. This law came about during the Depression when folks could not afford paper and pen………so the question here is, was this a verbal invitation, or a written one? If it was written via email or some other form, you have legal standing.

But there is a more important legal point for you. Remember these three words. Representation, Reliance, Detriment. You were represented a set of facts. Relying on that representation, you went ahead and incurred costs, and now the response has caused you a detriment.

You were represented a set of facts. (I want my piano inspected for repair). Relying on that representation you went ahead and spent your time going over the instrument (quotation and inspection for repair and re-condition.) This took some of your time, and has caused you a detriment.

( loss of money.)

Now also I am not familiar with your civil points of law in Colorado, but here in Canada this is what is called “on point”. (a point of civil law.)

This would be heard in small claims where you would spend a whole lot of time and money, everyone would walk away gritting their teeth including yourself, for $95.00? This is the problem. The guy knows it is not worth you coming after him…… consumer abuse is common. I don’t do free inspections anymore for this very reason. Someone will use your expertise to get the information, and then use another person to do the work.

I would send another invoice with a letter attachment stating if this invoice is not paid in full by such and such a date, then the invoice will go the small claims without further notice to him….( bluff)

Hope some of this helps……….

Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642756 08/17/08 11:02 AM
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Points taken. I would win a judgement, but its not worth my time or effort.

My own ego is bruised because he didn't want me to do the work. I had done other work for him in the past ... difficult action repair work that came out perfect. I assumed that I was his technician for the second go round.

I will resend the invoice with a letter. It goes out tomorrow. He will get a phone call if I don't hear from him. I just want to hear it from him why he is ignoring the invoice.

He's an ***.


Registered Piano Technician
Serving Colorado Since 1978
randy@karasikpiano.com
www.karasikpiano.com
Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642757 08/17/08 01:26 PM
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Thanks, guys -- I feel a lot better. I sent a late fee notice to the church (confirmed appointment) and I'll keep a watching brief on the lady with the beautiful porch and see what happens. I appreciate the suggestions about being systematic about reminder calls. And Sam's story made me take my own troubles back from the troubles pile! Thanks, Sam!


Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA
Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642758 08/17/08 03:43 PM
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Yes Randy,

Just a further point on this matter. Consider charging a 1.0 hr. fee for upright inspection for repair, and a 1.5 hr. fee for grand inspection. Remember, not only do you have to attend the residence to inspect, but further you will write up, or word process, the quotation and send/ deliver to the prospective client. Your time is worth money. If you do not charge for your time, people will not see your time as being worth anything at all.

After all if you don’t think you are worth it why should they? I mean within reason right? If you go to an old upright that is a basket case and you can tell in the first 2 minutes, I usually just smile and bid them good day.

(Especially the older pensioned folks who have had the instrument for years and years and want to know if it is worth the repair……or it is a wire sticker action……….bird cage. . .)

Also on the quotes for repair you could always state a disclaimer, like if the work is done by your shop, then you will discount a certain percentage of the original inspection…..
Yes of course the guy is an a s s but he probably does this to everyone not just you. I know it is hard not to take it personally, especially when you are working so hard to be a good tech all the time.

The icing will be if the other tech does work that he does not like in the end. Then you might have an opportunity to be gracious…………..and a little smug inside... wink

Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642759 08/17/08 03:57 PM
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I loved Sam's story.

Great.


Yamaha WX3 Upright
Yamaha YPG 625 keyboard
Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642760 08/17/08 09:56 PM
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I spent several decades servicing electronic organs and other musical devices. I ran into the problem of clients not paying legitimate bills (including those where I travelled a substantial distance on a service call and was unable to gain access). My travel charges were 50% of on-site labor per hour plus two-way mileage at current IRS rate.

Posters are correct, a court judgment is not worthwhile, both because of the inordinate amount of time wasted and the fact that the court will not collect the judgment. You must track down assets and convince a local sheriff to attach them (at least in NC and VA).

Sometimes, I would let it go, especially as mentioned for low income clients. For those who seemed well able to pay and did not, I turned them over to the local Merchant's Bureau. They would collect if possible, kept up with the laws on exactly how much a deadbeat could be legally annoyed, and gave me 50% of what they collected.

Most of the time they did not collect anything. However, from time to time, I'd get the 50%. Most interesting were the times that said deadbeat wanted to purchase a big-ticket item on credit, like car or especially real estate. Their credit wsa disapproved until they satisfied the debt.

One of the music dealers that I did service for collected a debt that had stood for 27 years that way (including interest for the 27 years).

Also, in the case of work that was actually performed, but not paid; if it were located within a client's home (that they owned or were paying a mortgage); a mechanic's lien can be filed. Each state has different requirements and timing on such liens.

When asked by some folks just why I did these things, I answered that it was not just for the money (sometimes not enough to justify the effort). However, it eastablished a REPUTATION for my company. Good honest work, but we will make serious collection efforts if the client doesn't pay. That kind of reputation spreads among the deadbeats. I figured it kept me from getting called by some folks.

Another thing was when a deadbeat client called for more work. This happened often with churches for some reason. I told the bishop of one large church in a neighboring town to have someone at the church with $1,000 in cash; otherwise I would turn around and not fix the organ. They wanted it fixed for some sort of regional convocation, would have been a serious loss of face to them if the organ had not been fixed. $500 was for what they already owed me, the balance was for what I would do that day. If there was any change, I'd give it to them.

At the end of the day, if service work is how one makes a living and feeds their family; collection becomes a distasteful but necessary part of the experience.

Jim


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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642761 08/17/08 10:16 PM
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If you go to small claims court and win, I believe you are entitled to collect not only the cost of the court but money for collection and your time. You can turn that $95 into $1000 claim. The judge may not award you all of that but you can certainly ask to recover costs of collection.
If a person owes you money and can make it possible to cost you more to collect than the amount of the bill, that deadbeat tactic would be tried a lot more often.


Keith Roberts
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca
Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642762 08/17/08 10:54 PM
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Belle,

I generally call them the night before too. It's extra work but, it saves me a ton of forgetful clients... Most are very appreciative.

Some are legit forgets like; deaths, illness, called into work last minute or other emergencies. I find out what happened first.. If it happens a second or 3rd time, I bill for a full tuning or for whatever time was lost and tell them to take a hike...

I wouldn't waste my time in court after this deadbeat Randy. However, I would take great pleasure and DO occasionally, by spreading this deadbeats name around to every single one of my tuner friends in town so that nobody will service for them again either or get screwed in the same manner by them. If they don't care, I don't either.


Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642763 08/18/08 11:40 AM
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While I have a no show fee listed on the bottom of my invoice--"$50.00 or a really good excuse"--I have yet to bill someone for a new show.

My logic, skewed as it may be, tells me that I wouldn't want to charge anyone that would actually reimburse me for it, and anyone that I'd really like to bill for this would never pay up.


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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642764 08/19/08 06:29 PM
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Almost nothing we do is worth small claims court. The IRS will let you write off a debt if you show a reasonable effort to collect. Call it bad debt, and write it off as a business expense. It's not worth losing sleep (or anything else) over.



Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642765 08/20/08 11:37 AM
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Good info above. I learned two things.

First, you can add the costs of collection and your time spent collecting to the small claims court claim.

Second, you can impact the deadbeat's credit rating by reporting to the local credit reporting agency.


Live Music Is Best
Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642766 08/20/08 08:19 PM
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While the two points above are true, I've found it better as have some others to avoid court and credit reporting.

Deadbeats get a free tuning, but they only get the one. Maybe I'm lucky, but in over thirty five years of tuning, I can count the memorable deadbeats on one hand, and still have two fingers left.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642767 08/20/08 08:25 PM
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I would certainly take your history with the client into account. Somebody fairly new, I'd send a bill for the tuning, absolutely. Maybe you'll get the payment, maybe not... but a message has been sent in any case. On the other hand, a faithful customer who makes one slip in a decade, yeah, you want to forgive.

[from someone who messed up an appointment time with her dentist recently--the first time in 21 years--and was very thankful when they waived the "$50 fee for missing appointment" rule. whome ]

Re: not able to get to piano -- charge a fee?
#642768 08/21/08 07:07 PM
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What customers don't realize is that one no show cuts our daily income by 25% to 33%. That's no fun. Your dentist still made 5 grand that day, even though you missed your appointment. Long time customers do get some latitude, though. That's good business, and your dentist realizes that.




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