Another Lesson On Acquiring A Polite Spine

by admin on April 21, 2011

As a college student covering all my expenses, along with being a full time student, I work 2 part time jobs at minimum wage. One of them involves being a tour guide in an educational nature center. I am the only tour guide there who is trained in doing birthday parties, so once a week or so, I get about 15 kids and their parents that I take through a couple of activities that I set up before hand (treasure hunts, boat rides, teepee building, etc) then I bring them back to the party room where the parents take over for cake and presents while I clean up the outside activities.

But last week set my record on being mistreated. First, we usually don’t schedule birthday parties less than 2 weeks in advance, but she called in Wednesday, demanding a party on Saturday. I say “demanding” because she made comments like, “You run a nature center, how the f*** can you not be available?” As it was, I had that afternoon off and could do the tour, so my boss went ahead and booked it.

I usually talk to the parents a few minutes before the party starts to introduce myself and go over the activities and timeline. But when I met this mother the first thing she said to me was, “How can I make sure that I am not paying for the the other kids who are here? Some of these kids seem to have brought their siblings and I don’t want to pay for them.” It wasn’t exactly rude, but I explained that he package only covered the kids she invited, and if other kids or the parents wanted to ride on the boat, they could purchase their own tickets.

When I rounded up the kids and started moving to the first activity, the mother grabbed my arm and dragged me back to tell me that “That boy there was not invited, his twin sister was and I don’t want him in the party” and I explained that since he was already there he could partake in the games, and just not ride the boat and she wouldn’t be charged for him. She told me that she didn’t care and she wanted him to leave, but that I had to tell him because I was running the party. Unfortunately for this boy, his parent’s had dropped him off with his sister because they were under the impression that both were invited, as they were all in the same class. He was only 8 so I pointed him in the direction of our visitors center, where there were books and markers, telling him that I was very sorry.

Most times the parents follow the kids and I around as we do the activities, and sometimes join in but this mother left while we were doing the activities, and I only had about 90 minutes of activities before cake so when I brought the kids back to the party room I was a little shocked that she wasn’t there. So I talked to the kids a little bit about the lake and the animals until she came back. Apparently she had forgotten the cake and went to buy one.

She handed me the cake and bag with candles and told me I could light them around the corner and bring it out in a couple minutes. I explained to her that I usually use this time for cleaning up the activities, so I could help with the cake, but them I had to start cleaning or else I would be here well into the night. She sniffed at me, took away the cake and rudely told me to do what I had to.

She spent about 2 hours doing cake and presents, so I was finished cleaning by the time they were sending kids home, and I went back tothe party room to say bye to the kids and help clean up. I was horrified to find the room looking as though a food fight in epic proportions had occurred. I started to clean up while the mother was moving presents to her car and reminded her to finish her transaction in the visitors center with the final count of the kids and parents.

When I finished cleaning, it was already getting dark so I checked into our visitors center to make sure she had finished paying. We usually close at 5, and they were just waiting on her to close out for the day. It appears that instead of paying after taking the presents to the car, she had decided the time was right for a hour+ walk around the park.

In the end, she paid at about 7, refused to pay for 3 kids who rodethe boat and didn’t tip me. I don’t usually resent not being tipped on public tours, but on private tours, that are specialized the way this one was, I feel as though I earned some sort of tip. Or a “thank you”. I didn’t get that either. 0418-11

At the moment the mother demanded special considerations for the availability of the birthday tour and resorted to vulgar language to get her way, there should have been an instantaneous rigidity of polite spine that responds with a simple, “I’m so sorry.  We cannot accommodate that request.”

This is another of these situations where one needs to learn where that line is that should not be crossed.  Entitled demands that are paired with the use of obscenity is one of my lines I allow no one to cross.  Whatever it was they wanted is now suddenly unavailable to them.  (And btw, I used this tactic for times during childrearing when my little FooFoos threw tantrums demanding something.  Whatever it was they were having a hissy fit about wanting, they promptly lost any hope of getting it while Mom stayed cool, calm and politely collected.)

There doesn’t need to be any further explanations other than, “I cannot accommodate that request.”   Rude aliens from Planet Booron are not owed an explanation on why you take the actions you do.   Had freaky alien mom been thwarted, politely, at the moment she cursed at the park staff, she would not been able to inflict her rudeness any further but would have been compelled to find some other poor, etiquettely ignorant schmuck to torture.  Oh, wait..maybe the OP was that poor schmuck!

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Wink-n-Smile April 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm

When I take a child to a birthday party at a public place, I stay there, amusing myself, in case I’m needed. If my child gets sick, or injured, or just has an emotional issue (they won’t let me play with them!) and wants/needs to leave, I’m available. If the parent running the party wants and needs help, I’m available.

I wish more parents behaved that way. The only time I’d drop off a child for a party is when it was a sleep-over.

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Wink-n-Smile April 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Samantha, you were fired for REQUESTING the evening off? Bad enough to get fired for actually taking it, but for simply asking?

I’ve heard of businesses that will fire their low-level employees for taking a sick day, despite the fact that 1) They shouldn’t be spreading the illness to other co-workers and customers, and 2) they are legally required to give the sick days, and 3) the employee had the unused sick days available.

Some bosses are simply not willing to treat their employees properly. I once had a boss who docked me hours on a day I worked 10 hours. Due to car trouble, I came in 2 hours late. I then worked FOUR hours late that night. Did I get paid for those 4 late hours? NO, because unpaid overtime was expected. Did he consider any of those 4 late hours to cover for the 2 hours late? No, because they weren’t during office hours. The Saturdays I came in to work (at least once a month) were never paid, either. I was “salaried,” but he’d dock me on an hourly basis. It was clearly illegal, and we all knew it. However, my work options were limited, so he knew he could get away with it. He went through employees like a hot knife through butter, and we were always training someone new.

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Bint April 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Agree with Karma on the ‘I’m sorry, I cannot accommodate that request’. Maybe it’s cultural, but to me that sounds both stilted and pompous. I’ve never heard anyone say that ever and if they did I could imagine people laughing in response at the oddity. “I’m afraid not” is all is takes. Or indeed “No”.

Poor OP. Definitely in no position to stand up to that vile woman. Poor kid too. How mean do you have to be?

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boxy April 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I don’t feel sorry for the OP. All I read was “I’m a victim because I didn’t get tipped for doing my job.”

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Wendy April 22, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I think under the circumstances OP did pretty good. Not 100% spot on, but then again, she’s young and was put upon right and left by the same person. She didn’t lose her cool, didn’t swear, argue, etc. Maybe there are some things she could have done differently, but it was certainly a learning experience. And I think the boorish mom probably (hopefully) got a set-down from the parents of the twins when they heard the story of the separation from their children.

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Calliope April 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Well then, boxy, it sounds like you didn’t read the story very carefully.

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Stace April 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm

So, Boxy, you feel that people are entitled to be obnoxious to customer service folks because it’s the ‘job’ of customer service folks to put up with such behavior?

Frankly, I think it any customer asks a service rep to go above and beyond in their duties, either by putting up with bad behavior, or jumping through hoops to get them what they need, or by expecting extremely personalized service from low-wage employees, they owe the rep a tip even if it’s just a thank you and a note to the management about that employee’s good service.

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Anonymous April 23, 2011 at 6:51 am

I agree with Stace. Also, I never would have kicked that little boy out of the birthday party–he hadn’t done anything wrong, it was an honest misunderstanding, and hell, I probably would have even comped him entirely, boat ride and all, because no amount of money is worth hurting an innocent child’s feelings. I wouldn’t have even given the mother the option of kicking him out herself, because the visitor’s centre was inside, the rest of the party would be walking around/riding in a boat outside, and I couldn’t in good conscience leave someone else’s child unsupervised, especially when his parents dropped him off under the impression that he WOULD be supervised, and included in the party activities along with his twin sister. Then there was the “indoor” part of the party, with the cake and ice cream and gifts and all, which the poor child would be able to hear and possibly see from the visitor’s centre. It’s wrong no matter what–if the festivities are taking place away from the excluded child, it becomes a safety issue, and if not, then the poor kid has to witness all the fun that he’s being excluded from.

Actually, that brings me to another point: I know this isn’t against etiquette, but if there’s a set of (let’s assume) perfectly nice twins in the same class/other group, and if I was having a birthday party for my (hypothetical future) child, then I’d invite both twins, unless there was a logical reason not to–for example, it would be fine to exclude the male twin from a girls-only sleepover. However, I think the party mom here was just being mean. I’m curious, what did the guest of honour say about all of this? I know that neither of my parents would have EVER tried to shun an “extra” kid from one of my brother’s or my birthday parties, and even if we didn’t want that kid there, they would have turned it into a lesson on graciousness–as in, “We’re not going to exclude little Mortimer, because that would be rude.”

Anyway, don’t get me wrong–the last-minute booking, the leaving the kids alone with the OP (and not returning on time with the cake), the mess in the party room, and the walking around the park for two hours after it was closed, before paying, were also horribly rude. However, I think the worst part of this story is the way the party mom treated that poor little boy. There’s a lot of “power imbalance” in this story–the boss forcing the OP to work on her day off, the little boy being kicked out of the party for no good reason, and the party mom forcing the OP and the boss cave to all those ridiculous demands, just because she was the one holding the purse strings.

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Enna April 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

The boss shouldn’t have booked the party with the rude lady anyway at such short notice. As for the boy if he wasn’t invited and that was made clear then it is the fault of the parents: of there wasn’t clear communication on the invite if there were any at all then it’s the fault of the rude woman. Sounds like she wanted to get out of paying if she could. Booking the party on the OP’s day off: maybe it allowed the OP to earn some extra money in overtime? OP doesn’t say she had booked the Saturday afternoon or that was her day off outside her contacted hours.

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Vegas Tea Room April 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

“the parents follow the kids and I around”…Oh, dear.

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Razor April 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

Regarding the little boy, I would have simply stated because of liability concerns the staff could not allow him to be on his own through the building—he would either have to join the large group or be escorted by the other adult.

At this point I would cheerfully offer as a courtesy to call the parent of the little boy for them to come pick him up, since he was apparently “not invited.”

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DeborahC April 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Boxy, it’s people with your attitude that makes working with the public so miserable at times. Next time you do a good job where you are supposed to be paid for your work think how you would feel if you were stiffed for the work you did.

Not cool.

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MOL (meow out loud) June 21, 2011 at 1:50 am

I used to take care of this young girl who was around 10 or so at the time who was a friend of my niece who I babysat regularly. The friend was over so often that I became friends with the mom and one day she took the girls and a few others to a waterpark for the friends birthday party and when she came to drop my niece off she told me she wished she thought to take me along. They had invited 4 or 5 girls the friends age and ended up with 2 extra’s. Parents of one of the girls said that child couldn’t go without taking both her older and younger sister but they would not pay for them. My friend said okay fine she didn’t want tosingle out the poor sister who had to drag along the other two. Oldest lost a cell phone (rareish to have at the time and more rare for a kid to carry them) sent along but not mentioned until it was lost. They had no manners and it was one adult hosting. Yeah I can understand asking ‘if’ a child in similar age can go along but not insisting that invited child can’t go unless other two not similar in age go. Oldest didn’t do nothing but create problems basically.

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Beat.Your.Heart.Out November 20, 2012 at 5:18 am

Reading all these workplace horror stories makes me feel so very, very grateful not to live in the US.

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