Probably the 2nd most popular topic amongst massage therapists on internet forum and discussion sites is the issue of cancellation policies. Go to any forum and there will be countless posts from therapists asking what is the best cancellation policy and what is the best way to enforce it.
The breakdown of responses tends to be split into two:
(1) I have a strict cancellation policy and I will enforce it without fail.
(2) I have a cancellation policy but will take each cancellation on a case-by-case basis.
Most cancellation policies will only come in force either for same-day cancellations or with less than 24 hours notice. Some will charge the full amount, others a proportion of the fee.
Those who go for option (1) above will often respond by saying that it is essential for the professionalism of the massage industry that therapist stick to their guns and be firm.
So long as the client is fully aware of this when making a booking then this is a perfectly fair and reasonable approach. We are professionals so why should we lose out if the client has to cancel for whatever reason. If the therapist is working in a clinic or day spa then there is rent to pay. If they are unable to fill the slot then they will be out of pocket for the cancellation or no-show.
I personally adopt option (2) and prefer to be a little more flexible with cancellation policies. Sometimes circumstances are simply beyond the clients control and as a business decision then it may be better to waive charges. If, for example, someone wakes up in the morning feeling feverish, then effectively forcing them to have a massage otherwise they would be charged a full cancellation fee, could be considered as borderline unprofessional.
Formally our cancellation policy is:
We understand that life is unpredictable and personal circumstances can change at short notice. We prefer not to charge a cancellation fee if there is no impact on the time/scheduling of the therapist. However, we are professional therapists and this is how we earn our living. We reserve the right to charge up to 100% of the fee based on the amount of cancellation notice given and the impact on the therapist(s) involved (for example, travel time/ travel costs/other bookings that have been knocked back)
which is probably too woolly for the strict ‘cancellation policies must be enforced’ brigade.
For me, the overriding factor is whether the client respects my professionalism if and when they cancel within the timelines of our cancellation policy. Respect that my time is of value and this is how I make my living and I will respect that you are cancelling because you have to not because you want to.
However, one of the reasons for cancelling at short notice is that you have to stay back at work or you have been called into work unexpectedly. Whilst this is a part of life that may be unavoidable, I do have to say that it is not a reason for us not to charge you.
Very occasionally a client may say that ‘well you aren’t paying rent so if I cancel then there’s no impact to you’. However, this fails to respect that we have planned our day around seeing them at a given time and we suddenly have a huge hole in our day (appointment time + travel time). Being out on the road it is not always the case that we go to our home base or use the time effectively. Also we may have had to knock back other clients so we have also lost earning potential or had to make personal arrangements to take the booking (ie some therapists need to arrange childcare or the like).
By the way, I don’t want this post to sound like a whinge. Cancellations for our mobile massage businesses are significantly rarer than clinics and it is highly unusual for us to charge a fee. The upshot is that we don’t like charging a cancellation fee as it is never a satisfactory outcome for anybody but we will do so when circumstances dictate that it the right thing to do with respect to our business.