Should a Kid Have Gotten a Bill for Missing a Birthday Party?

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5-year-old Alex Nash RSVP'd to a classmate's party, but after he didn't show, the party hosts sent a bill to his parents. Yes, this is a true story. ( photo)
5-year-old Alex Nash RSVP’d to a classmate’s party, but after he didn’t show, the party hosts sent a bill to his parents. Yes, this is a true story. ( photo)

Most of the time, I like to help the Earthlings. Every once in a while, though, some blithering idiot does something that makes me start warming to the smallpox virus. Recently, a 5-year-old boy was invited to a classmate’s kiddie party, and his parents RSVPed in the affirmative. However, little Alex Nash was a no-show because there was a previously scheduled family event, a visit to see grandparents. Soon thereafter, his dad Derek found an invoice in his son’s book bag for £15.95 (USD $24, more or less) from the party hosts for the price of a ticket to a dry ski park near Plymouth, England.

The Tory-backing Daily Telegraph (by way of Huffington Post because the Telegraph has most of its stuff behind a paywall these days) offered this Facebook exchange between Tanya Walsh (Alex’s mother) and Julie Lawrence (the mother of the birthday boy).

“If I had known that I would have to pay if Alex did not go, then I would have paid you the money, no problem,” Walsh wrote. “I do not like fighting with people, and would prefer to settle this amicably.”

To which Lawrence replied, “I don’t like fighting with people either, and was not best impressed when Derek turned up on my doorstep, and said you won’t get any money out of me, rather rudely, I do admit it rattled me. The amicable way round this I believe would be to pay me the money and let a lesson be learnt, I hope this is agreeable?”

Walsh has decided it isn’t agreeable, and a court case looms.

As a veteran parent, I have some very strong views on this whole thing — basically, everyone is in the wrong to one degree or another.

Let’s start with Lawrence, the hostess. When hosting a party, you’re on the hook for whatever is spent. End of discussion. If this is going to impose a financial hardship, don’t have quite so many children or do something less extravagant. No one made her spend £15.95 on a faux winter ski faux holiday. These kids are 5, and they would be quite happy with parlor games, cake and ice cream. Parents who use kiddie parties as status symbols should be banned from breeding.

That said, if you do have an issue with another parent over money, sending an invoice in the kid’s book-bag is just not done. A simple face-to-face chat or a phone call is vastly more human, and it is much more likely to get you your money. “Hi, um, hate to bring this up, gosh, it’s embarrassing, but we’re out £15.95 because Alex didn’t show …”

I will ignore her rather condescending “let a lesson be learnt” statement because she was on Facebook at the time and therefore hasn’t a clue how to address matters.

That said, Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh did something that I find horribly rude. They said Alex was coming, and then he didn’t. Now, I know all about 5-year-old fickleness, and I know all about grandparents and visits. When they found out there was a conflict, they should have moved heaven and earth (or at very least, picked up the phone — or in a desperate moment used Facebook) to back out. Or they could have decided to go to the party and put the grandparents off (which I don’t recommend, but it was an option). I don’t know what their financial situation is, but coughing up a few quid for the sake of interfamily harmony ought to be seriously considered, even if invoiced in such a tacky way.

Instead, we have two families in an international media story involving an amount of money that might get you a couple of pizzas in at Pizza King — 6 Alexandra Road, Plymouth, if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, the Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre issued a statement that read, “We would like all our customers to know that this invoice has nothing to do with Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre. No invoices are ever sent out from the centre to private individuals. This is a disagreement between the two parents involved and the fact that the centre has been named on the invoice is fraudulent. When booking a party there is a small deposit to pay on booking, confirmation of numbers and final balance are due 48 hours before the party. On the extremely rare occasion that people don’t attend parents are generally offered other activities in compensation.”

Now, what would a shrewd marketing manager do in this case? First, refund the money. Second, invite both families to a free event. Third, call the press. You can’t buy this kind of publicity.

Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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