— -- A UK family is crying party foul after their 5-year-old was billed for missing a schoolmate's birthday celebration. Now they are being threatened with legal action, should they refuse to pay.
Cornwall residents Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh said they were shocked when their son, Alex, arrived home from preschool with a brown envelope stuffed in his backpack. Inside there was a formal invoice from another mother, Julie Lawrence, for £15.95 ($24.14): monies due, apparently, for failing to RSVP to her son's fete when Alex could no longer attend.
"It was an invoice for a 'child no-show' fee for the party... and it was a proper invoice with full official details, even her bank details, and e-mail address, and name," Nash told BBC News in an earlier report.
After expressing his frustration to his son's teacher and school officials, Nash confronted Lawrence at her home, stating that he had found the invoice in his son's bag and "wasn't happy about that."
"Because I was so angry, I said she wasn't going to get a penny out of me," Nash told BBC News. But Lawrence is now threatening to take Alex's family to small claims court.
Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore recommended different courses of action for both parents.
"This is the first time I have ever heard of someone invoicing their guests for not showing up. It’s just bad etiquette," Whitmore told ABC News.
Instead, Whitmore suggested "a courtesy call saying, 'I’m sorry that your child could not attend my child’s party. I had to incur the cost of him not showing up. Therefore, I would appreciate it if you could help me out by helping me either fully or in part take care of the bill for him not showing up.'”
Whitmore went on to add that Alex's parents weren't off the hook either. The couple claimed they couldn't find the original invitation when they realized their son was double-booked and therefore couldn't connect with Lawrence.
But Whitmore, who is also the author of Poised for Success, believes Alex's father or mother could have made more of an attempt to get in touch.
"[They] could have tried to find the phone number through directory assistance," Whitmore said. "Or, these days, they should have contacted the mother through the Internet. If you Google someone, you can find out a lot of information about them. They also could have searched for her on many different social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, or contacted someone they did know, perhaps a friend of a friend, who would have been able to provide the information."
Below is more of Jacqueline Whitmore's advice when it comes to children's birthday parties:
Jacqueline Whitmore’s Pet Peeves:
- Parents who discipline other people’s children.
- Parents who don’t discipline their own children and let them run amuck.
- Parents who try to “out do” the other parent by bringing a bigger, better gift.
- Parents who say their child will show up but the child doesn’t show up.
- Parents who bring all their children when only one child is invited.
Host do's and don’ts:
- Don’t discipline someone else’s children.
- Set a spending limit so no one tries to “out-spend” someone else.
- Set a timeline for your party so your guests don’t overstay their welcome.
- Help your child write thank-you notes to all those who attended the party.
- Provide each child with a small goodie bag filled with a toy or baked goods to take home so everyone feels important.
Parent do's and don’ts:
- RSVP. If you say you’re going to attend, please attend. Reply within one week of receiving the invitation. Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Bring only who is invited on the invitation. Siblings should only attend if they are invited.
- Bring a gift or make a donation in the child’s name to the parents’ favorite charity.
- Stick to your budget on presents and don’t try to outdo other parents.
- It is not necessary to send a gift if you cannot attend the party, but a birthday card is a nice gesture.