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Anatomy of a Cancellation Policy

Jen Fleming RMT's Cancellation Policy as at the end of this post.

Cancellation policies. Those things you quickly read over when booking your massage and click the "I agree" button so you can access those "magic hands." (ironic-font.exc). Probably every single RMT in Ontario has a cancellation policy, the same cancellation policy as almost everyone else. Give 24 hours notice of a cancellation or $FEE will be applied. Some collect a credit card to book your first visit. Some will include a "first time grace" rule. Most are never actually enforced (this is unfortunate). Almost everyone seems to view them as punishment. In fact none of them are.

That doesn't properly reflect what a policy is though. They outline your RMT's expectations and statements of the actions they will take under described circumstances. They serve to protect you and your RMT and uphold their good professional conduct. In short, they are boundaries. There's this great meme that has a bunch of slides about how boundaries actually sound and they go kinda like this:

"Emails are answered on Monday's and Thursday's between 9am-12pm. You may email me at any time but I only reply during these hours."

"As legal documents in Ontario, RMT receipts must reflect the name of the person receiving the treatment. I will only use your name on your receipts for services rendered to you."

The anatomy of a policy

A policy is made of a few things:

  1. Consideration for the professional’s needs, desires, interests, methods of working, scope of practice and regulatory rules and standards, and personal limits.

  2. Consideration for the service user’s needs, desires, interests and limits.

  3. A clearly stated expectation.

  4. Clearly stated actions the professional will take in whatever circumstances arise.

They aren't about telling other people how to behave, they are about how the RMT will behave and why. They lay out a code of conduct and set a precedent of what others can expect from the RMT. For cancellation policies, this can sound like:

"You may cancel appointments you can not attend at any time. Appointments canceled with less than 24 hours notice are subject to $fee to be paid prior to or at the time of scheduling your next visit."

They can also sound like:

"Appointments may be canceled by either Susan J RMT or you if they can not be attended at any time. Appointments canceled with less than 24 hours by you will be subject to $fee to be paid prior to or at the time of scheduling your next visit. Appointments canceled with less than 24 hours by Susan J RMT are recompensed $amount at the time of your next booking."

To pick apart the anatomy of the above policy, the considerations are for the RMT's time and income, that "life happens" and sometimes things get canceled, consideration for fairness to the client, and the actions the RMT takes in the event of a cancellation.

Some cancellation policies can include a "first miss grace" or the requirement of a credit card or deposit on file. Some require full payment at time of booking with no refunds and none of them are punishments either. They all serve the same function -- to protect the RMT's time and income. Imagine if you showed up to work but your boss forgot to come to the office that day and let you in, then told you "well you know life happens so I guess you'll just have to lose a day's pay" you'd be... unhappy. You'd feel disrespected. You might even worry about your bills and, if this was a habit with your boss, you'd probably be considering a new job or a review of your contract with your employer.

A cancellation policy serves the specific purpose of protecting your RMT's limited, non-renewable resource -- TIME. When you book with an RMT you are reserving their time with the understanding they will use it to share with you the skills, knowledge, and focused attention that makes your session the quality of life improving, pain reducing, health affirming experience that it is. When you book that time it is for you and only you. No one else can take that spot because you have claimed it. Our time is a limited resource and it is the only way we can work with you in the one-to-one context you appreciate.

You can imagine that it is very valuable to us. My time matters a great deal to me. I won't get more of it, I can't replace the hour that has passed with another one. If I had a set intention for an hour and that time does not get used as I intended it, it's still gone all the same. I can still use my next hour well but that last one is gone.

My cancellation policy is as follows:

Patients may cancel their appointment at any time. Appointments canceled with less than 24 hours notice will be subject to the full appointment fee. Credit cards are collected at the time of booking the first appointment to be used as payment for late canceled or no-show appointments which will be billed at the start of the appointment time.

i. You may send someone in your place if you can not attend instead of cancelling the appointment, just let Jennifer know ahead of time who is coming. New patients are welcome!

ii. Jennifer holds herself to the same policy; if she cancels on you with less than 24 hours notice your next visit is at no charge.

iii. If someone else claims the vacant appointment a fee will not be collected from your card.

I hope this makes the purpose of a policy more clear and perhaps gives you some context for why they can be so strict. When you don't show up, or cancel with short notice it puts me in a scramble to recoop my lost income. There have been days in my career when half my schedule canceled or failed to show up with no way for me to recover that loss. I've had weeks where I've lost several hundred dollars all at once due to people not attending appointments and, frankly, I can not afford those kinds of losses. Could you? Probably not. So, my policy serves to protect my time and income and you don't know how much I appreciate your willingness to do the same.

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