my client refuses to pay my cancellation fee

A reader writes:

I have a friend, Frank, who I met because we both enjoy certain sports. I only see Frank when I am involved in this sport, but it’s a small community so everyone knows each other. Because my business caters to this sport, Frank decided he would like to use my service. And because he is a friend, I gave him a discounted price. My business is appointment-based and I can only see one client at a time, so we have a strict 24-hour rescheduling policy. He has cancelled his appointment many times without proper notice, leaving me in a lurch. I explained that I am unable to see other clients when he does this. When I confront him about this, he gets very angry and says he is not a “client” (he is “more than that”) and I should not treat him as such. He refuses to pay the cancellation fee.

Meanwhile, an ex-employee who was fired for insubordination and stealing clients is siding up to Frank — disparaging my name and my company, all the while trying to steal him as a client. Because of Frank’s flaky nature, I’m not too sure this wouldn’t be a bad thing.

The problem is that Frank is very good at certain athletics and is a featured client on our advertising campaign. He also knows many people in the sporting community and word gets around. Should I suck it up? Or set a boundary, change my campaign, and let the chips fall as they may?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My vendor fired my son unfairly
  • Will my new hire feel uncomfortable being the only team member without a graduate degree?
  • A friend interrupted my job interview in a coffee shop

{ 100 comments… read them below }

    1. Paris Rhino*

      I also realized that I didn’t want ‘friends’ like Frank in my personal life, but because of optics and the mutual friends we shared, I needed to be the adult in the situation.

      OP shows a high level of social awareness and emotional regulation. A lot of people get hung up on what’s fair, but sometimes you gotta let go of what’s fair and think about how to gracefully set the situation to bed.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s a real negative I’ve seen in the past few years with the rise of Am I The Asshole as a framing device: In a whole lot of contexts, “technically my behavior did not rise to the level of Asshole” is not the same as “So I am right, and there can be no awkwardness in any of the relationships touched by my behavior here.”

        1. Rainy*

          The specific framing is maybe newer, but it’s a kissing cousin of the “my behaviour is not illegal and so it cannot be objected to on any legitimate grounds” framing that people have been using forever.

            1. MBK*

              People who use that as an excuse for bad behavior often conveniently forget that freedom cuts both ways – everyone else has the freedom to stop putting up with them.

          1. bebemochi*

            Oh my gosh this exact thing happened to me. I stopped hanging out with a group because several members were openly racist. The mutual friend who introduced me to the group tried to sway me to return, which included stating, “Being racist isn’t illegal.” I pointed out that disassociating myself with racists was also not illegal. I’m not friends with that guy anymore either.

            1. Rainy*

              Your mutual ex-friend needs to hear the story about the bartender who chases the guy with the WP tattoos out in addition to the maxim about how if there’s a Nazi at the table and 9 other people are talking with him, it’s just a table full of Nazis.

        2. Tiger Snake*

          When I’m on those reddits, I’ve often made a point of pointing out “Am I allowed to do something, legally”, “Is this the best choice FOR ME” and “Does this make me be an AH to someone else” are in no way mutually exclusive. Funnily enough, those comments don’t get a lot of upvotes XD

          1. Frank Doyle*

            Yeah I usually don’t even bother contributing to the discussions, I mostly read, but I often think to myself “you can be right and still be an a**hole.”

        3. Bruce*

          I’ve realized that I was spending too much time reading “AITA” stories, thinking about it I feel like they are appeal to negative aspects of my personality. So I’m no longer reading them… in spite of the algorithms really trying to bait me =8-0 The difference to me between Alison’s column and AITA content is that Alison aims for a humane and kind response, even when someone is clearly in the wrong. Many of the commenters offer helpful advice too! So I don’t feel like reading and commenting here is indulging my negative side…

          1. MK*

            To be fair, the purpose is very different. People who write to Alison, a professional, aren’t (usually) after just validation, they want a solution to a problem; and being right doesn’t actually solve anything. The comments also have a more professional point of view; I know I try to give my perspective as a professional, not as a human, when I comment.

            AITA is asking the general population for an opinion on who is right and wrong. Except as a wakeup call to people who seem oblivious and are surprised by the negative response, it’s not 0fferign helpful advice.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I have had a few life experiences where I have had an unpleasant experience with someone and have distanced myself from them or taken a break from them, and then that person later reveals himself to be the type of person I don’t want in my life at all. I’m usually very glad that I have already done 2/3 of the work of cutting them off. LW had exactly that with Frank.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      Holy hell, what a nightmare. Thanks for the link. I’m glad OP got that guy out of their life.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Thank you.

      Like others I am not surprised at his later behavior. It seems that the trash took itself out. If OP had kept Frank as a poster child, then they would have been scrambling after the disqualification and fight. Seems like a win-win in the end.

    5. Wilbur*

      “text him for any last minute openings on days that would be convenient for him”

      So nice of him to offer to let you manage his schedule. Every person I’ve met that’s claimed to be flexible is always saying “Maintain availability for me so I can decide if I feel like it or not”.

  1. Enginerd*

    This is why it’s always a good idea to require the cancellation fee as a deposit ahead of time instead of expecting a no-show to pay up.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Reasonable point, though not necessarily legal everywhere, so make sure to check local regs before going that route.

    2. Antilles*

      It might be a good idea, but from what I’ve seen, it’s definitely NOT the norm for small but regular services like sports lessons, personal training, or even stuff like hair cuts or dentist appointments. Requiring upfront deposits on small regular services is, in my experience, just not the way it’s usually handled.

      Which honestly works just fine for the vast majority of clients. The service provider enforces their cancellation fee the very first time and stops it in their tracks or maybe lets it off as “everybody gets one so I’ll waive it but only once”. You just don’t need any sort of blanket policy on deposits because nearly everybody won’t have issues.

      When you occasionally have a Frank who constantly no-shows and makes an issue of paying the cancellation fee? Then you handle that individually by requiring Frank to pre-pay, raising the rate you charge Frank to cover his no-shows, or just politely dropping him as a client.

    3. Zach*

      You don’t even need to collect a deposit. My wife is a massage therapist and when she had problems with this in the past, she just started requiring that people submit a credit card number to book. Then if they cancel past the cancellation window, she just charges the account.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Our vet had to start doing this for new clients. Too many people would make an appointment and not show up. If you don’t call/show, you lose your fee. If you do show, then it’s rolled into your bill. People who balk at the fee are welcome to go somewhere else.

  2. Double A*

    Why are you letting him book another appointment when he hasn’t paid the cancellation fee from the last appointment? When he wants to rebook, let him know he can once he pays you what he owes.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Because Frank is a friend? Because Frank is ultra-persuasive? Because LW is trying to be a nice?

      This is an excellent question with a lot of potential answers. But this entire situation is a good example of why it’s probably not a good idea to do work for/with friends.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Because the LW thinks, correctly or not, that Frank has influence that will affect other business.

  3. Restricted Clause*

    I was self-employed for years and it was a real eye-opener to discover how many friends did not pay bills…even with a discounted price. They felt I’d understand, for some reason. I didn’t want to lose them as friends, so it got to the point where I would charge them full price/collect per my usual practices or do it free (family only). Less stressful to be 100% business-like…some people just don’t appreciate discounts.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Some people also want you to suspend all the rules of your business for your friendship. A lot of people would be better off suspending the rules of friendship for their business.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      One thing I’ve learned: give people a discount and their first reaction may be “thanks,” but right after that comes “why isn’t it more?”

      When we do stuff like Free Slice on Pi Day we have some* people just lose their entire minds. The only thing they want is more–more slices free, different kinds, drinks, you name it. What is being offered is seen as either a negotiation point or some kind of insult.

      *Not all, by any means, of course! 99.9% 0f our customers are delights.

  4. Dust Bunny*

    OP3 Nobody cares about your graduate degrees unless you Make Them A Thing. I’m the only one in my close family and one of the few in my department with no graduate degree and I care far more about being heckled about it or having it lorded over me than I do about the lack of degree. If she can do the work, let her do the work.

    Also, I went to a really fancy college and I assume that nobody gives a naked rat’s patootie. You mostly get out of college what you put into it so millions of people from theoretically less-prestigious schools can do anything I can do and more, and at my age I’ve been acquiring skills on the job so long that whatever I learned back then is no longer relevant, anyway.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I have no idea if any of my coworkers finished college, have graduate degrees, or anything like that. I realize it may come up in casual conversation but it’s not like people wear signs indicating how educated they are. As long as the new hire can do the job, there should be no problems.

    2. Sara*

      Degrees get your foot in the door. What you do on the job determines how valuable you actually are.

      I’m the only one in my friend group (male and female) without an MBA. I could care less, and I don’t think any of them care. It would have made no difference for me professionally and I’m no martyr.

      1. Jelly*

        But for some fields it does matter. A Master’s degree is a requirement for my role, so “graduate degree doesn’t matter; no one cares” isn’t applicable everywhere.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, but in this field it’s apparently not a deal-breaker so there is no reason to make it an issue.

          I work in libraries/archives so, yes, I pretty much would have to have an MLIS to be a full librarian, but I don’t want to be and don’t need extra certification to do what I do at this level. Nobody cares.

    3. Orange_Erin*

      Yup. I know it varies based on the field you are in, but in my field, a graduate degree is nice but ultimately doesn’t mean anything when compared to experience. Even my friends with Ph.D.s tend to downplay their degree(s) in their professional lives.

    4. not nice, don't care*

      I work in academia, with no degree at all. Any shade thrown my way (which has been nearly none) just highlights the bigotry of the thrower.
      Most folks are understanding that me buying a house at age 20 was also a smart move, rather than taking on debt for a future possible career that I was unprepared to choose as a young adult.

    5. ;asdlfjlllllll*

      Sometimes people care and it can be surprising (to me). The LW is one example of such person.

      From my personal life, I have a friend who obtained a Doctorate from Prestigious University. My family member earned a a Bachelor’s from Prestigious University decades ago, a few years before I was born.* I told this to my friend who couldn’t believe I didn’t know family member’s degree and that family member wasn’t interested in alum or alum activities. I was surprised she cared so much.

      * I found this out when we were discussing where I wanted to go college. I remember saying “You never mention it.?” Family member responded “It’s just a place. I got my degree and moved on.” Family member has not had any affiliation with Prestigious University since probably graduation. He says he doesn’t care about that.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Degree disparity can serve has a handy way to identify self-absorbed assholes: Anyone who lords their degree, outside of very narrow circumstances where it is directly relevant, qualifies.

    7. bmorepm*

      I realize this is an old post but my experience has been so drastically different, I really had to comment. Lots of people WILL care, it may keep you from getting taken seriously or being promoted, but this varies wildly and can’t be attributed widely or without lived experience.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        100% this. I’m in the legal field so all of my peers basically have the same JD degree I do. Even then, people make a Big Deal about where people went to school and rank them by tiers, with associated implications for your ability/skill level and intelligence. It’s unbelievably gross, but it’s the reality I live in. I don’t disagree with the advice given in the article even slightly, but were I in that employee’s shoes and realized everyone else had a thing I didn’t have, I would immediately feel as insecure as if I had gone to a T4 law school and found out all my coworkers were T14 grads.

      2. whingedrinking*

        A friend of mine briefly lived in the UK and had a partner who was in academia. When she met his friends and acquaintances, apparently they’d be a bit superior when it came out that she wasn’t pursuing a PhD or doing research, but, ugh, working; they also had a tendency to speak in worshipful tones of anyone further up the hierarchy. This wasn’t even at Cambridge or Oxford; it was a large town in the north of England and plenty of people there weren’t connected to the university at all, so it wasn’t like these people never met anyone with an office job. My friend found it pretty weird.

    8. Caramel & Cheddar*

      And if you Make Them A Thing, people often have the opposite reaction you want them to!

    9. Tiger Snake*

      The one exception; I do a very specialised role. I am very good at that specialised role. I have a lot of world recognised certifications directly related to that role – not a general degree but to my very specific type of job. There’s a couple of organisations that are recognised as Having Oversight of that type of function, so the fact I have certifications from them is clout that my type of role specifically recognises and respects.

      There comes a point where I am giving people the Correct Answer instead of the answer they want to hear, where they start to demand why they think I have the ability to make that decision. Or, more positively, newbies asking in awe how I was able to do all that I just showed them.
      At that point, when I no longer want to argue with people who want to bully me into changing my mind, I point them at The Wall.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, I have a hard time believing the manager would have fired the son for an innocuous comment knowing that they were the child of a client (and there was a risk of losing that client’s business). I also am having a hard time thinking of a reason to refer to someone by their country of origin when the person you’re speaking to already knows that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It can be a habit someone never thought about, where you have to indicate which neighbor you mean so rather than say “the guy on the left, if I’m facing your apartment door” you say “the Indian neighbor.” Oldest with some irritation trained her dad to say “the annoying neighbor” to specify this person–but I’m pretty sure before getting into diversity training in college she didn’t think about it.

        If it’s your own habit, it’s worth thinking about how this can land as othering when your opinion of the person is good to neutral, and will land as skirting some insult when you are clearly upset with them. And if those are not your intention, then change how you speak because other people are not judging you solely on your intent.

        (In this case, “our boss” was sitting right there as an option, along with his name, so going this route does land weirdly. And I can see how if you are having a lot of “land weirdlys” with one new employee, there might come one when you decide that you don’t want him pulling this with a different audience.)

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, my dad has a cousin who grew up casually using a word that is definitely a slur as a basic adjective. She didn’t realize it was a problem until she asked coworkers if they wanted to order [slur] food for lunch and the whole room when silent and awkward. But it was still racist.

          2. Silver Robin*

            I read Diphthong as basically pointing out that even the most innocuous interpretation of the son’s behavior still means the son should change the habit. Because impact>intent. Unexamined, not explicitly ill intentioned comments can still be bad (racist, in this case), because that is how racism works.

          3. doreen*

            It depends – saying “the Indian neighbor” to distinguish him from other neighbors might not be ill-intended or racist if that’s the only simple way you have to distinguish that neighbor from the others. But that’s not what was described – the son referred to the boss as ” a Chinese man” when that wasn’t either necessary or relevant. He could have referred to “the boss” or “the owner” or used his name. That’s what make it kinda racist, the reference t o race when it’s irrelevant. I mean, if I say “a Chinese man cut me off today” , I didn’t use a slur – but it also doesn’t matter that he was Chinese so why am I mentioning it?

          4. Heffalump*

            It doesn’t mean that it ill-intended or racist, either. I’ve never had direct contact with any Inuit, but I said “Eskimo” for decades, and then I read that it was considered derogatory and “Inuit” is correct.

            Back story: The Inuit’s Indian neighbors, with whom they’ve been on poor terms for several centuries, gave them the name “Eskimo.” It means “eaters of raw meat” and isn’t meant as a compliment.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Racism is not limited to ill-intent is the point that people are making. I was raised where the E slur was commonly used to refer to Inuit folks. I’m pretty sure if I had my old children’s books I could find it used casually. It doesn’t make it less racist that I didn’t know it was a slur.

              Doesn’t mean you or I are bad people for not knowing better and then changing our language when we learned, but you know, if someone calls me the N word (I’m Black), I really don’t care if they have hate in their heart for people like me. I’m still going to be hurt and the use of that word is still racist. Does that kind of make sense? Like lack of ill intent does not absolve us of our obligation to have done better, nor to receive appropriate repercussions for what we did.

              1. Heffalump*

                It would be pretty implausible for a person to claim they didn’t know any better re the N-word. The E slur would have been another matter, at least in my youth.

                1. amoeba*

                  I mean, not now or on the last 30 years or so. We had a history textbook in school in Germany (in the 2000s!) that was some decades old (because schools, funding, etc.) and referred to the Black population of Germany using the N-word. That book was from the 80s or so, so I’m sure there are people alive now who grew up when that was, in fact, what was considered normal and “correct” to use.

                  Now, I grew up too late for that so I was shocked – but “Eskimo”, for instance, was still very normal when I was younger, as was “gipsy” and “Indian” referring to native Americans. Some of them are still way too common hereabouts!

                  Does it make the words less racist? Of course not. But there’s still a big difference in what I think of a person who uses them now vs. a person who used them in the 2000s or 80. Or a person who uses the N-word now vs. in the 60s. I mean, doing something on purpose when you *know* it hurts people is much worse than committing a mistake!

      2. Heffalump*

        Anything is possible. Some people can be astoundingly irrational.

        To ABC (upthread): If you’d heard the story first from the offended party, would you suspect that they weren’t accurately relaying what the son said?

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah I would be way more inclined to say “Why were you talking about his ethnicity at all?” than to just say “Oh since that isn’t always a slur, definitely never question your random and irrelevant descriptions of people who aren’t white”. I say that in full knowledge that there may have been a genuine reason for the usage (even if I can’t think of one right now). But even if the boss wrongly took offence at something innocent, what is talking to an employee’s mother going to do about it? I got fired unjustly from my first job – no one was able to do anything about it, that’s just how that stuff works.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      And as noted in the answer, that could be from a sincere misunderstanding rather than deliberate deceit of the parent who spent capital to get him this job. (Though deceit is on the table.)

      OP, as with the person upset that people were sympathizing with her brother’s now-ex, because her brother was the one who had the screaming meltdown at work but really ex made him and he’s a good guy: You are not a neutral observer. No one thinks you are a neutral observer. You were not there to see what was said, in what tone, and what was the context that led up to it. (This feels like an “…. and there’s the last straw, you’re out” thing, in which the person piling up straws is completely unaware that they are shaving the ice under themselves very thin.)

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      I took it that while the son may have intended “Chinese man” the supervisor heard it as one word, beginning with “China…” Which was it? It can be really hard to say, even with recordings. Linguists have computer tools to analyze this sort of thing. Often the conclusion is “somewhere in between.”

      1. Sky Dancer*

        That was my first thought, too! Did the son say “Chinaman” instead of “Chinese man”? The first is a slur, the second is no more insulting than “American man” or “English man”.

        Whatever happened, Alison was spot-on; the LW should stay out of their son’s empl0yment issues. Sticking their oar in will do nothing other than convince their son’s employer that the LW advocates racist language and, if their son has any backbone at all, will embarrass him. As difficult as it will be to do so, LW should stay out of this.

    4. hbc*

      He can be accurately relaying all that he truly thinks is relevant. My brother thinks “So-and-so is the funniest [ethnicity] guy I know” is a perfectly reasonable, accurate statement that carries with it no implication of relative hilarity of [ethnicity] to others, even when he would never put in the “white” qualifier.

      So Son (or my brother) could have easily said, “It’s not fair that I have to be yelled at just because he’s angry at a Chinese man” with zero intention to imply that it’s the Chinese-ness that makes the situation intolerable, and be reporting that accurately. But replace that with something even more neutral, and I still don’t think it’s outrageous to fire the new guy for unnecessarily bringing up race or country of origin.

    5. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      That’s for sure a possibility, but stuff like that really does happen too. When I was in college, I worked at a local deli; I was well-liked and had received Employee of the Month and other awards in the few years I was there. I got written up because a man claimed that I had refused to serve him because he was Asian. That was absolutely not true. I would never do such a thing! I had no idea whatsoever who that person was or what I had done, but I had never refused to serve *anyone*. I distinctly remember saying to my manager, “You know me! Do you really think that I would do that??” She said, “No, of course not,” and still proceeded to give me the write-up saying it wasn’t her decision.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I agree. I remember one time I watched someone who I worked closely with get accused in open court of specifically asking the judge for a trial date of 9/11 as a personal insult to opposing counsel, who apparently is Muslim (which is not something he’d brought up prior to that moment, nor would it have been a relevant factor in the scheduling consideration had we known). I still do not know why he felt his religion was being attacked or why he chose to get in my white colleague’s face and scream at her in open court about how bigoted she must be. So I do believe you.

        That being said, even if the son did not say anything offensive and it really is somehow a misunderstanding on the boss’s part, I don’t believe the advice should be any different. Son is an adult who can and should manage their own career and if anyone lied or misconstrued what was said, (1) it doesn’t sound like the LW was in a position to stop doing business with that company and (2) it doesn’t sound like there is any definitive proof the LW had of something so egregious that it should be taken to a person with the power to say “hey this person is unethical, let’s not work with them anymore.” Stuff happens and it sucks but son is better off either learning now how to be more careful about his language so that people don’t perceive him as racist or not working for someone who would lie about him using racist language.

    6. Pizza Rat*

      It’s likely. Most of the time, people are not the villains in their own stories. Regardless, I firmly support no parental discussion of it beyond what Allison suggested.

    7. Acey*

      I’m guessing he actually said “Chinaman” (a slur, though not on the level of the N-word) rather than “Chinese man” (not a slur), and it was the doubling down that got him fired, not the original mistake. LW might not have realized there’s a distinction between the two terms and thus not relayed it accurately to AAM, or the son might not have told the story accurately to LW in an attempt to make himself look better.

  5. Wintermute*

    it’s possible, on the other hand people have odd hangups too.

    Though personally I can’t tell if this guy is an employee of a large business just using this vendor or the one running the show (the fact he felt it ethically okay to get his son a job with a vendor probably indicates more of the latter as it would be wildly unethical and grounds for firing in the former case), and it’s entirely reasonable if you’re the boss to not to want to do business with someone that fired your son, regardless of why.

  6. Rainy*

    Oh man, the son who was “fired unfairly”–I wish there were an update for that, because I am incredibly curious about what it was the parent didn’t know. (I suspect it is that their Large Adult Son is in fact openly racist at work, which would explain his employment issues, but I am cynical like that.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      I share your suspicion – it’s hard to imagine it being benign, especially in the context of complaining about his decision.

      1. Rainy*

        I also feel like there’s some minimizing happening from the parent as they only once mention that the son was an unemployed adult rather than a teenager or college student, which I think is often the default assumption when someone says “I asked a professional contact/friend to employ my kid”. The two situations present very differently, I think.

    2. Marvin's Garden*

      He was not described as a “Large Adult Son” but as “my young-adult son”. LW said that “my young-adult son needed a job”.

      Funny that when we’re talking about books, we use “young adult” to mean “teenagers” but when we are talking about potential racism we use “young adult” to mean “Large Adult” who is presumably still living in their parents’ basement.

      I’m not saying that the LW or their son was in the right here, but I do think we need to check our own assumptions, especially when we’re going to recast these characters in the worst possible light.

      1. Rainy*

        Whoopsie, guess I should have put sarcasm tags on the internet meme phrase to avoid misunderstandings.

  7. Prefer my pets*

    The graduate degree letter irritates me every time. I can count on one hand in my entire career (I’m 9 yrs from retirement) the people I’ve met with graduate degrees who were actually more competent than their colleagues without them. I’d run out of digits trying to count the number of people who erroneously thought they were better than their colleagues because of an extra piece of paper from decades ago or where their old piece of paper came from.

    1. Jelly*

      It really depends on the field. I mean, yeah, bragging about a graduate degree is terrible and useless. But to suggest that overall, graduate degrees have little relevance with competence is a bit short-sighted. In fact, graduate degrees are required in a variety of field specializations.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I’m in science and suggesting that graduate degrees are irrelevant here would be… absurd. I mean, I learned like 95% of what I know about my field in my PhD and postdoc, which is all extremely relevant to the work I do every day.

        Now, also, nobody uses the title at all, because virtually everybody has the same degree. And if somebody manages to pick up all the necessary skills by a different route, kudos! That’s actually really impressive (I think it happens, but it’s very rare). But it’s really, really not like that education is useless or irrelevant for us.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I have a graduate degree in my field, and I’ve told interns (who were considering doing the same) that about 90% of the knowledge and skills I bring to my position are things I learned either in internships or on the job. Unless you’re looking at a really specialized area (like law or medicine) I think most graduate degrees aren’t necessary.

    3. Enough*

      The receptionist at an old job asked about the PhD one of the owners had. I told her it only meant he knew a lot about one thing.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        That reminds me of when I was working for an academic institution. We had an event where many of the attendees were folks with expansive academic backgrounds and we had name tags for everyone. This was one of my first events, and I guess that they had recently changed from the pin-on ones to the ones with magnetic backs. The number of people who were absolutely flummoxed about how to work them was astounding (this was 2014 and I had been seeing these since at least 1998).

        After the attendees had gone off to one of the presentations, our events manager walked up to me and my co-worker and said, “You know, some of those people have two PhDs, but they can’t figure out a magnetic name tag.”

        1. amoeba*

          Ha, I guess they were not from empirical fields then, were they? That’s how you tell the difference between a theoretician and an experimentalist… (Joking. Mostly…)

        2. whingedrinking*

          One time my parents and my aunt came to visit me and my partner and got stuck in a particular area of my apartment building*. They were a bit snippy about it, and I said, “Forgive me for thinking that three adults with four graduate degrees between them could figure out a parking garage.”

          *You need to fob/buzz in to get into the underground parking area, then do the same to get into the elevator. I was expecting the first buzz, when I would have told them I’d buzz them again at the elevator, but it didn’t come because someone else let them into the garage (bad neighbour!). There’s a sign with a big red arrow saying ELEVATOR, but somehow they didn’t see that and wandered over the first door without a fob lock on it, which happens to lead to a fenced park behind the building…which you can get into without a fob but not out of, not even onto the street. Imagine my surprise when the first I know of them being in the building at all is a text saying “help help we are stuck in the back yard”.

    4. Rose*

      So basically the smartest people you know with graduate degrees are less smart than the dumbest without? This seems… highly unlikely.

      In most fields it won’t matter very much one way or another.

  8. ParseThePotatoes*

    When buying things or services from friends, I tell them that I’m getting the ‘friends and family rate’ by paying full price – because your friends and family know what your skills and time are worth.

    1. jtr*

      Right?!?! Jeez, a “friend” should realize you have to work for a living and feed your family and pay your rent/mortgage…

    2. FriendOfTheArts*

      This. I have a lot of artists, writers, and filmmakers in my circles although I am none of those. Often, they offer me a screener or e-manuscript or the like. But I say no and buy it from their preferred method (aka the one they get the most of a cut from). I value their time and work and want to ensure they get paid for it.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    Don’t make it an issue about who has and doesn’t have a graduate degree, and it won’t be one. And don’t let anyone else make it an issue either – that includes team members who might have “opinions” and also the employee themselves (who might or might not feel like they are less than without the graduate degree). Reinforce to your team that what matters is getting the work done and doing it well, and having a mindset that values continuous learning (in whatever form – whether on the job, through certification/association membership, keeping current by reading industry news and publications, formal education, etc. etc.)

    I’m coming at this from the opposite side – I have had people take it personally that I have a graduate degree. Many years ago, a team lead made it perfectly clear that the fact that I did have a graduate degree was an issue for her (including saying something to me while drunk at a company event). She couldn’t quite grasp that I in no way wanted her job (which seemed to be her worry). Personally, I would have preferred it if she had just focused on the work and kept her insecurities to herself. (I couldn’t help her knowing about the degree – it was on my resume when I was hired.)

  10. Office Plant Queen*

    LW3, I had a similar situation my freshman year of college where I had a professor assume that I was insecure because I was in a 300 level course and a year younger than everyone else in that classroom. He assumed this because I was fairly quiet in class until the he told me I needed to talk more for the sake of my grade, at which point I forced myself to talk more. When I discovered this, I felt pretty insulted. I was actually extremely confident in my abilities! After all, I had tested into a higher level course as a freshman.

    Never assume someone’s internal state unless they tell you. You can validate someone’s competence without reference to their supposed deficiencies. Talking about how they have fewer qualifications on paper is more likely to undermine that message than support it

    1. Treena*

      What other conclusion would you expect? Since it was stated you needed to speak up more for your grade, I presume you knew verbal participation was a part of the grade, right? You were in class to witness other students participating significantly more than you?

      Whether or not someone isn’t confident in their mastery of the subject, or their public speaking skills, or aren’t confrontational in a debate setting or whatever, certainly it’s not a ridiculous thing to bring up to an 18-year-old who is currently not doing as well in the course due to a lack of participation.

      That professor taught you an important life lesson about perception.

  11. Indolent Libertine*

    A decent person who was doing business with a friend would realize that the obligations of friendship go both ways, and bend over backwards to avoid presuming on their friendship to the financial detriment of the friend who is offering the professional service. Frank was nobody’s friend, just a giant jackass moocher.

    1. dawbs*

      Right, this just seems obvious to me.
      I work in education and I have a kid–my kid gets a discount on the stuff we do. Kid also knows “If you go as a student to mom’s workplace, you have to be on your best behavior–because this is mom’s workplace”.
      It’s like an extension of that–I (and by extension my kid) get a ‘perk’ because of my connection. I (and by extension my kid) have an obligation to not abuse that and to be extra understanding of the needs of my organization and not reflect badly on me/us.

  12. Raida*

    Tell Frank the business arrangement isn’t working out, he should go with the other ex-employee who seems keen for his business.

    Don’t take another appointment with him.

    And in the future, when a Client doesn’t pay the fee the first time, don’t book them again.

  13. Peanut Hamper*

    When I was self-employed, I always made a point of telling customers I was not going to charge them the “friends and family” rate, which was roughly 150% of my usual rates. They laughed, I laughed, my friends and family never asked me to work for them. It made everyone happy in the end.

    tl;dr: Charge friends and family more. A lot more.

  14. Katz*

    #3: Trust your instincts as you have them for reasons not yet known. You are not over reacting but gathering information on how and when to move forward.

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