Two summer students want a discount—am I being too tough?

Elizabeth Friedman said: Jul 10, 2011
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

A parent who takes her children to my area (Oxford, UK) to visit their grandfather during their school vacations has approached me about violin lessons during vacations. We were all set, I thought, until she suggested that I teach her children two lessons each week with a discount of $15. That would mean taking a $6/hour hit to teach her children.

I am new to the area and so am not full yet, but there is only one other Suzuki violin teacher here, and she is gone over the summer; she also is completely full during the year and has a waiting list. Even though I don’t have a full studio yet, I am approaching that mark and do not want to set a precedent.

I am willing to give discounts to students I know who are 1. facing extreme economic hardship AND 2. willing to practice, but I know that this family does not at least fit the first criteria. I have suggested that we do just one lesson each week per child, and am about to suggest that we do just one half-hour lesson each week per child (one was going to get a 45-minute lesson). This solution would meet her budget requirements and my need to keep my rates constant.

Am I being too hard on her in refusing to budge, or should I stand my ground?

Diane said: Jul 10, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

Stay strong and keep your standards!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Coutier said: Jul 10, 2011
Coutier RademakerViolin
58 posts

Yes, I agree! Don’t budge. If you would, the decision would haunt you (it would haunt ME, that I am sure of). You sum up all the right reasons for refusing this. Personally, I would find it difficult to teach these children (with mum present) after this. It is kind of hard on the Suzuki-triangle, isn’t it?


Yann-Bor Wen said: Jul 10, 2011
Yann-Bor WenViolin, Viola
Houston, TX
4 posts

You should definitely stand your ground! Not setting precedent is right, once you go easy on one student, word will spread and you are bound to have more wanting the same discounted price. I would only do it if I have been teaching that family for a while and all of a sudden, tragedy struck.

Rachel Schott said: Jul 10, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Elizabeth Friedman

We were all set, I thought, until she suggested that I teach her children two lessons each week with a discount of $15.

Your remind me of me! How did you get all set without discussing the $$? :) I’ve learned (and am re-learning as I establish my studio in a new area of the country) to get this out of the way from the get-go. It’s a very vulnerable thing to say “Here’s how much I charge” because it always feels like I’ll have to defend it, but in truth I rarely do.

Good luck and let us know please how it works out. This is one of the aspects of teaching I need help with.

Lori Bolt said: Jul 10, 2011
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

We should be matter of fact re: lesson tuition and be aware that, while there are some very genuine financial issues for some families, others have none of these issues and may want to manipulate the teacher into receiving “more for their money”. Elizabeth, it sounds like you have been fair in this situation. The offering of only one weekly lesson which fits the parent’s budget seems like a good compromise. After all, they are an unknown quantity to you and also temporary to your studio.

Lori Bolt

Brenda Lee Villard said: Jul 10, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Edina, MN
27 posts

Do not budge. You have given her several options to help her stay within a budget and if she doesn’t accept your other ideas, then her goal is to work the system. It is an insult to you as a professional….I’m willing to bet that she doesn’t receive “two for one” deals with her dentist or doctor.

Elizabeth Friedman said: Jul 11, 2011
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Thanks, everybody! It’s good to hear from all of you that I’m ok to stand my ground on this one. Also, just as a clarification—back at Easter, we had discussed my price and she had been ok with it—I’m very up-front about pricing and payment. It’s just this week, now that we were actually going to start summer lessons, that she proposed doing two lessons a week for a discount.

I really appreciate all the input! Thank you!

Wesley said: Feb 12, 2014
Wesley StevensonPiano
Williamsburg, VA
2 posts

I don’t believe it to be as simple as “budging” or “not budging”. I’ve had this come up recently as well, and I suggested they earn it! I offer a 20% referral fee at my studio, so I just politely told him, “Yes! I can offer you a discount for you and any family who refers a family to our studio.”

I do agree that if you just freely give out handouts, it will never stop. I hope this helps.

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