The service workers and health professionals you work with regularly deserve a real goodbye – not being ghosted.
“The Rules” is a Moneyish series where we define the rules around sticky money topics like giving an allowance, who pays on a date, combining finances with your partner, and more.
Don’t just disappear on someone.
When it’s time to end a business relationship with a professional who has helped care for you and your family, he or she deserves a send-off that is more personal than just cutting off contact the way you would swipe a bad Tinder date out of your life.
“I have been ghosted by clients, and not only does it affect my livelihood as an entrepreneur, and disturb my source of income without notice — but I’m disappointed in the person,” personal trainer Darryl Whiting, who founded Bull By The Horns fitness in NYC, told Moneyish. “If money is tight, or you just don’t have time to train right now, I get it. Just let me know.”
Whiting didn’t pull any punches when it was time to give his barber the brush off. “I had a real conversation with him: You’re late way too much, so I can’t come anymore,” said Whiting. “It was fine. He understood where I was coming from.”
The problem is, too many people are terrified of confrontation, or they hold a misguided belief that it’s less hurtful to never speak to someone again than to explain why they are ending things.
Rachel, 37, from Manhattan, who declined to give her last name, admitted she ghosted a hairdresser she’d been seeing for a couple of years after he made her uncomfortable by missing appointments – and once asking her to pay him in cash versus being rung up by the salon. She also stopped seeing a personal trainer that wasn’t giving her the results she was looking for.
“I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. It’s a difficult conversation to tell someone that they gave you bad service,” she said.
She’s not alone. “People are not good at saying goodbye, and it’s easier to disappear than to deal with somebody else’s reaction,” Dr. Elizabeth Ochoa, chief psychologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel told Moneyish. “It’s also easier to avoid someone than to pick up the phone.”
But research has shown that this kind of avoidance leads to the person on the receiving end feeling more hurt, angry and rejected than they would by just being dumped directly.
Plus, it can get expensive. Freelancers are counting on your income, and need to know whether they should be making contingency plans. And a study aptly titled “Some Customers Would Rather Leave Without Saying Goodbye” published this week highlights ghosting clients, which it defines as “silent churners,” who disappear by ignoring promotional emails and not buying anything, versus the “overt churners” who clearly break off their engagement with a company by unsubscribing or notifying the business directly that they are no longer interested. But companies still spend “billions each year in expensive customer service programs, sales forces, and sophisticated discounting programs such as Groupon to lure and retain customers,” according to the report, because they don’t realize the ghosters are probably never going to buy again. And businesses won’t know that unless the customer tells them.
Breaking up is hard to do, even when the relationship isn’t romantic. And things get especially sticky in some of these business exchanges that border on personal; your housekeeper and your therapist are dealing with your dirty laundry in every sense.
“It’s a terribly gray area. There are personal relationships that develop alongside the professional relationship when you’re talking about a service that someone has provided,” Daniel Post Senning, an etiquette expert from The Emily Post Institute, told Moneyish. “And that’s when just disappearing on someone goes beyond just being rude. It can be extremely hurtful. And if someone has genuine concern for you, and they suddenly never hear from you again, they’re going to be worried about whether or not you are OK.”
So if you’re ready to move on from one (or all) of your service providers, here are a few things to keep in mind to make breaking up a little easier.
These are pros who should expect losses. You are not the first client to leave, and you won’t be the last. “These are professionals who are used to the fact that not everyone who gets their hair cut with them three or even 10 times is going to have their hair cut by them for the rest of their lives,” said Post Senning.
- Consider how long and how often you worked together. If you’re only seeing your OBGYN or dentist once a year for your annual exams, your relationship is not as intimate as the bond between you and the trainer you work out with twice a week. So you can just send an email to your doctor’s office explaining that you are switching health care providers and need your medical records transferred (or even have your new doctor’s office take care of that for you.) But if you don’t plan to buy more sessions with your trainer, you should say something in person the next time you see him. “The intensity of the relationship determines the rules of letting go,” said Dr. Ochoa.
- Do you feel guilty about not saying goodbye? “If you hear a voice in your mind that’s saying, ‘Maybe I should reach out and let this person know,’ go ahead and listen to that little voice,” said Post Senning. “It doesn’t have to be sappy and sweet, or go too deep into detail, which actually might be hurtful. Just keep it brief, to the point and nice.”
- Did they reach out to you? You didn’t think that your chiropractor would notice that you were gone – yet his office has left two phone messages and sent an email asking when you’d like to book your next appointment. The least you can do is respond by emailing thanking him for the care he provided at your last appointment, and simply stating that you won’t be returning. “Having closure keeps unfinished business from hanging over your head. Being able to say goodbye gives you a fresh start by reconciling the value of the relationship that you had, and opens the opportunity to move forward,” said Dr. Ochoa. And it lets the other party move on, too.
Moneyish also spoke with a couple of service workers to get their tips on how to break things off. Here’s what they had to say.
- Your therapist: “There are times when a patient will just disappear … they often don’t want to disappoint or maybe anger the therapist by initiating a conversation about terminating, and they just go radio silent,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ochoa, chief psychologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “But I would much rather have somebody come in and say to me, ‘I’m not going to work with you any longer because it made me really mad that you said this,’ or, ‘I just don’t think this is working.’ And if someone has disappeared, I make a tremendous effort to reach out to them and encourage them to come in, or at least talk about it on the phone, and I won’t charge for that.”
- Your personal trainer: “Honestly, most of the time I can tell when a client isn’t going to continue training,” said Bull By The Horns fitness founder Darryl Whiting, rattling off telltale signs like declining attendance, showing up late and acting awkward. “That being said, it’s just a respectful and honest thing to politely tell your trainer the situation. It’s not a confrontation; just a conversation: ‘I’m going to take a break because I can’t afford it right now. I’m moving out of town. My schedule has changed and I don’t have time.’ We understand that – but we also expect you to be upfront with us. He asks that clients notify him when they have just five training sessions left with him that they won’t be renewing. Give weekly/monthly service providers such as your babysitter, dog walker or housekeeper a few weeks’ notice that you will no longer be requiring their services, too, which gives them time to book new appointments in place of yours.
- Your hairdresser: “If you are thinking of changing your hairstylist, it of course depends on the relationship you have built over time as to whether or not you should say good-bye or explain why you are taking your business elsewhere,” Arsen Gurgov, founder of the Arsen Gurgov Salon in New York City, told Moneyish. “A common scenario is [that] a stylist has been working with a client for many years, and perhaps [the customer] is feeling bored with what they have been doing and is looking for a change. A client can say something like, ‘I’ve enjoyed working with you, however, it’s time for me to make a change.’ And I recommend you give the hairstylist the opportunity to try and fix it first, before breaking up with them for good.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved