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What do I do when parent cancels verbal agreement for tutoring?

A parent recently hired me to tutor her stepson. She and I had a summer schedule set up, a first day meeting planned, I purchased nonrefundable teaching materials, I spent hours building a curriculum and planning activities. Then less than 24 hours before the first tutoring session she cancelled. I believe it is because she found someone who charges less than I do. Is it possible to get reimbursed by her for the money I spent? Do I have any rights when an agreement has been made? I have 20 years special education teaching experience with countless happy parents and families. Now I feel burned by this parent.

Answers
User in Renton, WA
June 13, 2015

There's not much you can do for this parent. In the future, I would suggest a "registration fee" or First session payment in advance, especially if any preplanning is expected by the family. Also, definitely always have families pay for their own materials or have them sign a reimbursement agreement.

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Jake in Saratoga, CA
July 6, 2018

Nothing is legal or formal in this process. So although I'm not an expert, I wouldn't expect many 'rights'. That said, there is a certain code of mannered behavior. For instance, if you had discussed with the person the lengths you will be going to prepare for the lesson beforehand, then I would bring up the question of reimbursement, politely, When they suddenly cancel.

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Unless you had something in writing, chances are you're out of luck. You could always explain and ask for reimbursement for materials purchased. The worst they could do is say no. At least you have materials for next time.

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Jean in Houston, TX
June 27, 2018

Don't feel burnt by one family. Just keep it as a reference so you can use it for another student. Or you can sell the teaching material and curriculum. You can also lower your costs a bit to make it all worthwhile.

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Technically, it is really hard to have a verbal agreement with tutoring because the client has no obligation on this matter. I preferred to be with any agency that could assure me that I have a sure client-tutor agreement. On this way, I am rest assured that I am covered whenever the client will cancelled the agreemtn.

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An agreement or reconciliation with the family would be first. If the employee has spent a considerable amount of money, it could be reconciled in small claims court.

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I believe it was your choice to purchase the teaching materials, not the parent. You can save them for another family who may necessitate them!

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I definitely say make a complaint to care.com! That's just awful.

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You only have rights if the two of you signed a contract unfortunately...so sorry! Angela Mann

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Sandra in Briggs, TX
Oct. 31, 2017

Make sure you have a contract with the parent, signed and all the details spelled out regarding cancellations, materials, payment, etc. Signed contracts are more likely to be upheld in small claims court.

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Hey Stephanie,

This happened to me from other website (2 of them).  I got hired to tutor Alg 2 for each student and she (parent) never returned my messages (web & phone) (both of them).  One of them never return my messages and one of them hired me (for 2nd time) few months later: Never have worked for the other one.  Weird, right?I finally worked for her but it didn't feel good about it because of previous experience with her and I was really skeptical.  I had to contact the website's  representative to send a message to her because she didn't reply to all my messages in timely manner.  It was 2x a week at first by meeting in the middle and it became once a week for final 2 sessions (in her neighborhood) (about 22 miles away from me).She has her right to cancel and she must have reason.  I hope she told you why.  It could be anything: financial situation, family emergency, found someone else (cost or location or age or etc), or something else.My tutoring sessions with few employers got stopped because of financial situation (1 for flood and 1 for medical treatment, schedule conflict (child's sport), and one for achieving high grade on first test for 1st semester (92%).  They all gave me good/excellent reviews at the end.    My point is, you don't have to worry about it (working for her) and move on to next student.  Keep those materials and use it for next student.  I'm sure he/she will appreciated.  And those past employers (families and parents) love you for what you've done for them.Your money will be well spent.  I'm sure you will get your student because you are loving and worth it.
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Marie in Katy, TX
Oct. 3, 2017

I think that the first couple of visits shouldn't be "tutoring" related. There should be a period of connecting with the child. Kind of like a formal introduction to your tutoring style etc. You should also have a separate meeting with the child to get to know her or him. This will give you some feedback as well. Don't purchase materials. Parents should do that. You can bring your own tutoring materials for your own use. It was a lesson. We all go thru lessons in life but we learn. Best to you!

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You will get other students where those materials and lesson plans will be used. The money spent on your teaching materials are tax deductible, so you can claim the money on your income tax. Since you did not have a written contract it may be difficult to file a breach of contract. Anyway, I do not think you should ask for reimbursement since it was your decision to buy those materials.

User in Soquel, CA
May 24, 2016

She bought it for the job. I think they should pay for them. The job entailed needing tutoring materials, so she got them. The family is responsible. Like many things you pay a deposit, don't use it, and the deposit night not be refundable.

User in Las Vegas, NV
Sept. 22, 2017

I disagree with Natalie in this. As an educator, you are the one should have materials ready for that student (that includes parents). Have you seen any teacher or professor ask for reimbursement toward students or parents? of course not. Use those materials for next student.

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User in New York, NY
Sept. 21, 2017

Keep communication open with families beforehand and let them know if you have a cancellation fee due to preparation material, and remember that there are many jobs out there for tutors with experience like yours.

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John in Pottstown, PA
Sept. 17, 2017

That is most unfortunate,however sometimes we may end up investing in a potential job opportunity and it falls thru.Try not to view it as a loss, but as a good faith measure.YOUR good intention is not in noticed!

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Keghina in Primos, PA
Aug. 18, 2017

Since you did make an agreement, assuming both sides have promised, there are actions you can take if you contact staff.

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Do you have a contract outlining what you stated above? Or a law firm to ask such questions of? I have a legal plan that covers me personally and my business. If you'd like any contacts for this, message me on here.

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User in Fordland, MO
May 20, 2017

This is unfortunate, but avoidable. Take solace in the fact that the materials and time you spent developing activities could be used for future students. In the future, you might avoid investing time and money in activities, etc., until you have actually met with the parent and child. Suggest some fairly inexpensive materials that the parent purchase, rather than that taking more money out of your pocket. If you still plan to purchase materials, please let parents know this in advance so that they know you plan to invest in his/her child, and that this expense should be considered before cancelling your tutoring services.

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It happens all the time. If there is no verbal agreement, you cannot enforce it by threatening any action. If there is a written agreement, there is not enough in it for you to spend the money in small claims court. Don't purchase non-refundable materials in the first place. Are these materials for you or for the student? Is it teacher supplies like pens and markers, or student supplies like books? It is too bad you cannot be compensated for your time preparing for the lessons. However, have the parents purchase books. Let them know they can borrow books, but it is most effective if the child has their own book. You aren't a public school, they should invest in that themselves. Is this tutoring to help with homework to help them get ahead? Why do you have a curriculum. If it is to get ahead-- then you need a curriculum. If it is just for school. Why? The school has its own curriculum. My experience is the first week or so, you just gauge the student's level, and you write the curriculum around that. So don't waste your time anymore. Legally, you have no rights to an agreement you cannot prove exists in the first place. I am sorry to say, your 20-years of special education experience means absolutely nothing in this situation. You may have messages online or on your phone-- but nothing can be enforced with no written and signed agreement. It is good to remember that you have had countless happy parents and families, but there are many people out there who are just looking for a "good deal" figuring that paying less for someone with less experience is just as good, because they already have "real school," they don't need to pay for a "real tutor."

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User in Pembroke, MA
Nov. 21, 2016

Unfortunately, it sounds like this will be a learning situation. From this point on, set up a schedule with the family, which includes your prep time, travel time, consultation time, and any other time that the family requires to meet the child's needs. Use a pay in advance system - this way, the commitment is there and if the family bows out, then, they lose out on the money as well. Best of luck!

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User in Dallas, TX
Sept. 8, 2016

Hi. I feel badly for you as "similar" things have happened to me, and honestly I doubt there is a thing you can do about such matters. Without a written legal contract, we don't really have any rights unless this person is extremely nice and wishes to pay some of your expenses. In reality, she didn't request that you incur such costs, nor aware that you needed these materials to work with her stepson. Based on many recent experiences, I feel certain she re thought your rate, perhaps discussed it with the father, and there went your job. so sorry.

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User in Houston, TX
Aug. 23, 2016

Nothing. I can wait other chance. That not was for me.

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Give her a message about how upset you are, then see if you can keep or sell the materials for a slightly discounted price. It's a rude thing to do, cancelling so soon, but it's not something that someone should do out of blatant disagreement. I can understand, I work with people online and they don't follow through, not in this tense, but similar charges.

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User in Yulee, FL
July 28, 2016

Honestly, you could ask for reimbursement, but because it was a verbal agreement there really isnt anything you can do. You could always use those supplies for another student or sell your hard work. Many teachers/tutors are looking for curriculum already done for them. Sorry you had to go through that.

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STAY COOL. Watch LAW AND ORDER episodes until you're over it. Lesson learned: GET IT IN WRITING (politely). Keep alert because someone else is desperate for your special skills. How about this: Nonchalantly go to local schools and offer your VOLUNTEER services. Have plenty of business cards in your pocket. SMILE!!!

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User in Bronx, NY
June 24, 2016

Well right now, all you can do is use the materials you used for your next tutoring experience. You can also update your profile and choose how much time in advance you would prefer someone give you when cancelling.

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I don't know if you want to make this into a legal matter, but is it possible? Sure. One can always negotiate. You can call her and tell her that you had already put time and money into this job and if it would be possible for her to reimburse you? But here is the thing. I personally would not do that. I would just let this go as a bad experience and move on. The fact that you stated that you have countless happy parents and families and stated your experience makes me feel like this is not really a money issue. It makes it seem that the real problem is that you feel hurt. You're a qualified individual. You did your best to show her you were the person for this job and last minute she chose someone else. That would hurt anyone's self esteem. Look at it as an anomaly. Remind yourself of what you are able to do and give to families and what you have done in the past. Maybe you will be able to use all that you did for this family for someone else or maybe you can return some of the materials? The very least maybe sell it on ebay? I am sorry this happened to you.

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User in Haughton, LA
July 16, 2016

The materials bought are an investment that can still be used with someone else someday - especially with your years of experience... Of course it seems you should know the answer if you are that experienced and that this should not be a first time experience. It is very disappointing. That is one of the hardships about this way of finding work. Perhaps there needs to be contractual effort on the part of the business for the sake of the hired, that short of failing in quality of work the person needs to be able to expect some compensation for a level of agreement, success, investment. Again, however, if this is a great plan you should be able to use it elsewhere and are more prepared for another student that is similar in needs/level. Perhaps you could even advertise your program planned specifically. None of these individuals are required explanations and that is some of the risk here. Again, perhaps there needs to be more expected of them to 'hire' people in a contract that qualifies something they offer in backing out in some types of circumstances specifically set. I don't know about the legalities though.

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Verbal agreements are hard to prove and dispute. A contract should have been used. If you had such an agreement, and the terms are right, you can approach her with it and work something out. I agree it is unfair and an incredible inconvenience for you to spend time and money, only for her to cancel last-minute. Perhaps you can approach her about it, or keep the materials for future use since you tutor often.

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Frances in Bronx, NY
July 13, 2018

I don't think you can get reimbursed, you're going to have to cut your losses.

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User in Soquel, CA
June 13, 2015

Always use a contract.

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