Most clients of small businesses are astonished when they receive a charge for a missed appointment. However, depending on the type of business they are patronizing, this is a perfectly fair and reasonable practice. Some small businesses may allow you to reschedule in an emergency without charge; however, most require that you pay if you miss a scheduled time.

Why is this practice considered fair? It all has to do with how small businesses are run.

Cash Register
Credit: Public Domain

Do You Work for a Company?

Understanding the difference

When you work for a company, typically you are given a schedule. If you show up when you are supposed to, and do your work as directed, you get paid for your time.

When you schedule an appointment with a small business service provider, especially a business with only one or a few employees, they are paid for their scheduled appointment times, by the client (that's you). If you miss your time, and don't pay, that employee goes without pay for the time they have reserved for you.

Now you might be thinking, "Well, it's only fair that I didn't have to pay them. After all, they didn't do any work for me!"

To understand, what these businesses go through when you do not show up for your appointment, imagine that your company tells you that they need you to work at a specified time. You put everything else you have to do on hold, and perhaps drop the children off at daycare, or hire a babysitter, and come to work and wait around for your entire shift, only to be told, "Sorry, we don't have any work for you. You're not getting paid for today. But hey, you didn't do any work, so that's fair!" You would be pretty upset, right? For a small business, it is even worse, because another client may want the time you reserved, and that business may lose that potential sale, and may even lose the potential customer entirely.

Missed Appointments Equal Missed Opportunities, DVD
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This may seem a little expensive, but if you own a small business, you can deduct this as a business expense, and just one or two appointments that otherwise would have been missed will amply repay your investment!

When you schedule an appointment with a small business, you are really not paying for that service. We tell our clients, "What you pay for is to reserve a block of someone's time. What you do with that time is up to you: you can sleep in; you can work; you can go out with friends; you can shop; or you can come and use the service you paid for." In other words, you are paying to reserve a spot so that nobody else can use it. Unless we have enough advance notice to get someone else in that spot, or otherwise profitably reschedule that time, you pay for the reservation, whether you show up or not.