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What is your refund policy?

I offer photography services. Recently, I've run into a couple scheduling conflicts where the client cancels on me last minute. Since I plan my availability far in advance, this really messes with my schedule because it is hard to fill a Saturday or Sunday day last minute. How do you handle client cancellations? I understand the answer might be different depending on your product or service offerings. Do you give a full refund?

Thanks for sharing.

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7

Consider a "save the date" non-refundable deposit. Also require full-payment X number of days before the event. Then make sure they understand your cancelation policy. For instance, how far in advance can they cancel to get 75% refund, 50% refund and 0% refund. Just make your cancelation policy known upfront.
Quick example:
If you feel that a 5 day advance notice of the cancellation allows you to fill in that date with someone else (with no loss of income) - give them a full refund less the "save the date" deposit. Or you can elect to give them 100% Credit for the next scheduled shoot.
With 2 days advance notice, perhaps give them 1/2 refund CREDIT for the next photo-shoot.
1 day notice, they don't get any refund because you don't have time to schedule anything else.

Consider giving them "% Credit" for the reschedule date - it the cancelation is their fault. Give them $$ back if the reschedule is your fault.

7

All I can speak to is a disappointing situation a few years ago. The man had prepaid everything for upcoming nuptials only to be unable to get refunds when he backed out of the wedding. He had made the decision months ahead of time, surely plenty for the country club, limo, flowers, photographer and everything else involved to "get back to even" by releasing the contracts and seeking replacements.
However, this man didn't receive a penny back from any vendor, including the cake vendor. Why?
Because they had clearly spelled out in their contracts there would be no refunds, regardless of time of cancellation.

Harsh? Maybe so, but he tried 3 different lawyers, and nada.
My point is, it begins with your contract and your conscience. Do what you feel is fair, just, moral and ethical. Obviously keeping 100% regardless of cancellation is legal, but that's about it.

Live and Learn.

5

The best policy is a deposit. People who give deposits are less apt to cancel. The second best is to share the truth with your customers: I only have time to sell. If you cancel I will try to fill up the time; if I can't you should pay me. Put that in your own words.

5

Deaver's got it IMO. Get a deposit that is enough to get the customer's attention/commitment. If they don't want to put a deposit down simply explain that you understand and that you'll book a slot with them when they are ready but do not reserve time for a customer that won't commit. Business has to be mutually beneficial.

5

I want my reputation to be one of providing value to the customer.
Cancellations don't happen often, but, when they do, I provide a full refund. My decision to do that is based on thinking about it from the customer's point of view and the commitment I've made to myself to charge based on value provided.

Questions I might ask myself in thinking about the time wasted are: is it really costing me money? Aren't I serving all the customers who want service, if not this customer on this day, the others on other days? How can I best use the time available due to a last minute cancelation, to work on the business? Or to get some R&R?

I hope this helps.

4

Sara,
This is a very interesting question.
There are a number of things you should consider and check out.
1) Consumer Law. check with the department of fair trading (or something like that.) states.
2) Industry standard. This is not a new situation check out what your professional industry association has considered as "standard practice"
3) Always get a signed agreement / acceptance, even if its in "simple" language. This should state the service you are providing, the dates, the return and cancellation policy.
Point this still needs to be within the law and general for your industry, otherwise it may still be challenged.
Hope this helps.

3

Never give full refund as a policy only in some cases if you want not to lose important client , other wise no way to refund totally -I used to practice it from time to time , as a mater of fact some vip clients can compensate you in different way at the long run or can lead to new clients .

2

The answers below are terrific..... Get a deposit .... Make sure they put some skin in your game......

2

If you get assignment (for that date) of same or more value then 100% refund otherwise no refund.

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