I live in a rented house with a medium-sized lawn, and I moved here from the other side of the US only six months ago, so I don’t own a lawn mower. As such, I hired my supervisor’s fifteen year old son (we’ll call him “Aaron”) to come mow my lawn. It was a good arrangement, I thought; it was a simple mow and trim job, no complex landscaping or anything like that, and typically took about half an hour to do. I gave Aaron what I thought was a generous amount of money for less than an hour’s work.
That brings us to today.
It’s very hot and humid where I now live, and coming from a colder climate, I am not used to the heat yet, so mid-afternoon I dozed off on the couch in the living room for about an hour. I was awakened by knocking at the front door; it was Aaron, who informed me that he had just finished mowing my lawn. I was not expecting him at all, the lawn actually did not really need mowing just yet, but I respected the work he had done, so I told him I would give the money for the work to his mother, my supervisor (I didn’t have any cash on me, as I had not anticipated him coming over at all). Aaron said that was okay; we’d done that before, so everything seemed fine. He left.
One minute later there was another knock at my front door. I answered, still groggy from my impromptu nap, and found Aaron’s grandmother on my porch (she drove him to my house, as he is too young yet to drive himself). Mind you, I have never in my life met this woman before; this is the first time she has come to my house.
The first words out of her mouth were, “What is your arrangement with Aaron?”
I was shocked, so I stammered a bit before explaining that I was paying him to do a very simple mow job. That was not a good enough answer, apparently, because she asked the same question again, tacking on an inquiry as to the exact dollar amount I was giving Aaron. I hedged my answer, because I don’t know this woman from Eve, and she asked again, so I caved and told her the amount (which I consider entirely appropriate for half an hour of pushing a lawn mower back and forth; not to minimize the work involved, but that is *all* Aaron had to do).
Grandmother shook her head and informed me that it was not enough, then asked me sweetly, “Would you mow this yard for that amount?”
My jaw dropped, and I began to stammer again. Grandmother cut me off, informed me that she used to clean houses for a living so she knew what she was talking about (…what?), and told me that I was seriously underpaying her grandson. I said that he let me set the price, he had never mentioned to me that he felt I was not paying him appropriately, and one week before, after he hadn’t shown up for the job like he promised, I had to pay someone else *more* than that amount to do the job he failed to do, as I was expecting guests from out of town, the lawn was embarrassingly overgrown, and he was out of the state on vacation (I was going to fire him for that; I hadn’t had a chance to do so yet).
Grandmother again said that what I was paying him was not nearly enough and asked me *again* with a smile if *I* would mow the lawn for what I was paying him.
I was near tears from embarrassment at that point (this had been going on for almost five minutes), so I told her I was done discussing it and went back into the house. She informed me, as I was closing the door, that I needed to discuss the amount of payment with Aaron’s mother, because I was underpaying her grandson.
I can’t say I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life, but this definitely lands near the top of that list. 0604-10
If you paid a fair price to Aaron, why would this whole scenario be embarrassing for you? After telling Grandma, “I’m sorry but my financial arrangement is between Aaron, his mother and myself,” I would have gently but firmly backed out of the conversation and not felt a single twinge of embarrassment for myself.