Submitted By Shari Harter, LMT

I have a client who has been with me for quite a few years. She is a weekly appointment, but she is always late and continually asks for more. I debated how to handle this situation as I did not want to lose such a good client. I finally decided that to handle her chronic tardiness, I would schedule her for 30 minutes earlier than when I actually wanted her there. I make sure I leave myself at least that much time between appointments just in case she is on time or early. As for the problem of her always asking for more, I try to cut certain areas in order to allow extra time to take care of her extra requests. She goes home happy and I am still on schedule. This may not work for everyone (you need to find what works for your particular situation), but I have retained a very good client and kept her happy.

If you were confronted with the same situation again, how might you handle things differently?

Response from Shari Harter, LMT

I would clarify my guidelines from the very first and stick to them unless there were extenuating circumstances. You have to remain firm on your policies or you will be taken advantage of.

Response from Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies

It can be a very difficult decision when it comes to a long term client who has been habitually late. Your feeling might be, “Well, at least she shows up!”  It would have indeed been best to clarify your policy from the start, but that is often hard to do when you are starting a new business and want to please clients.

Any client who is consistently late is making him/herself the one who is in control of the situation – and your business. You have done what you feel is right and what you can handle by rearranging your schedule to suit her bad habits. But this is unfair to you and to other clients who might have to wait. It sounds like you are adding at least an hour of time to allow for her lateness and special requests. This is time that could be given to at least one more client per week.

One suggestion I would have is to try and schedule her as your last appointment of the day. That way, if she is late, it is not inconveniencing another client, though you may have to stay later to accommodate her.

Whatever your policies are, make sure they are clear and include them in a brochure or handout given to a client prior to the first massage session. You might even create a policy form that the first-time client has to initial or sign after reading.