Q: We just found out that a costume we had chosen for a class won’t get here in time, so we quickly picked a different one. Now parents are furious. How should I handle this? The situation was beyond our studio’s control.
A: Parents and students often become invested and attached to a costume once you show them the picture from the catalog. Those new to dance or unfamiliar with the costume process may perceive this switch as poor handling of the ordering process and blame you for their child’s distress. Because social media, texting and waiting-room chatter make it easier than ever for negativity to spread, we suggest you acknowledge their disappointment and explain what happened as soon as possible—in writing.
Consider writing: “Although your children’s costume was chosen in November and ordered in January, with a confirmed ship date in April, the company representatives just informed us that the costume is back-ordered due to unexpected problems with their material supplier. This means they are now unable to meet our deadline. Fortunately, we were able to find a costume with a lovely flowing skirt, similar to the original’s, from another company—with all sizes in stock. This costume is of equal value and quality and meets our artistic requirements. We thank you for understanding. We know that our dancers will look beautiful onstage.”
In rare cases, we have had to take additional customer service measures by applying a small credit to each dancer’s account when the replacement costume falls far below the class’ expectations. In the future, you might benefit from adding a disclaimer at the bottom of your costume order form that states: “Costumes are subject to change, depending on vendor availability and/or delivery time.”
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety