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 }

Just Laura April 21, 2011 at 8:36 am

“maybe the OP was that poor schmuck!”
The poor schmuck who said she was in college and needed to work two MINIMUM WAGE jobs. I don’t know about the minimum wage jobs you’ve worked, but the ones I’ve worked typically do not allow for the lowly employee to have an opinion. As soon as the employee does, the employee is fired. There is no room for a polite spine in these sorts of situations, if one prefers to keep one’s job.

As a cashier in highschool, I was fired for refusing to listen to a man berate me any long for the price of a candy bar.

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Alanna April 21, 2011 at 8:41 am

That poor little boy :(

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Michelle April 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

I feel the OP’s pain. I work at a museum and we did not allow birthday parties until approximately 6 months ago. In that time we have run into many parents similiar to the mother in this story. We have adopted an official policy that all birthday parties must be scheduled a minimum of 2 weeks in advance with a 50% deposit. The parent is responsible for the remainder of the balance at *check-in* as well as making sure that only the people she invited attends. If more kids show up, then she has to pay for them as well or she is responsible for telling them and/or their parents that they can not attend. We also require an adult guardian to be with the group *at all times*.
I wonder if the mother stated that only the twin sister was invited to the party? If she sent invitations and put only the sister’s name on the invitation, then the child’s parents were responible for sending along the uninvited brother. If there were no invitations or if it was not properly addressed, I can understand if the parents thought the brother was invited since they were all in the same class.

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ferretrick April 21, 2011 at 9:00 am

Apparently, admin missed the opening paragraphs where OP wrote that 1) she is a college student 2) she works part time jobs at minimum wage and 3) her BOSS booked the tour ON HER AFTERNOON OFF despite the mother’s language. Working such jobs often means you don’t have the power to tell jerks to get lost, much as you’d like to. I don’t know why admin thinks the OP is somehow at fault for this situation, or why she feels the need to call her a “poor schmuck” for trying to earn money honestly.

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admin April 21, 2011 at 10:12 am

Ferrickrick, I think you are missing the OP’s statement that she, “… had that afternoon off and could
do the tour, so my boss went ahead and booked it.” Being that it was her afternoon off from work, all she needed was to tell her boss, “I’m sorry I cannot accommodate your request that I work on my afternoon off.”

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Ripple April 21, 2011 at 9:01 am

Although the woman was beyond rude and I think the OP handled things very well under the circumstances, I also think it is time for the center to set up some guidelines for parties. “The center closes at 5:00, everyone has to leave by then. We have a guide to take the children on the tour and boat ride, but you will be responsible for the cake and food service. We prefer to have a parent along on the tour as an additional adult. Payment will be made beforehand, with the exact number of children going on the tour decided before the tour and boat ride starts. There will be an extra fee for extreme cleanup of the party room.” Something of that nature. From what I’ve read on this and other sites, most places that host parties do have specific parameters that are clearly spelled out.

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Shannon April 21, 2011 at 9:02 am

I agree with the admin that once someone uses profanity, their business probably isn’t worth it. But I don’t think the OP had the authority to turn down private parties…it sounds like the boss saw dollar signs, overruled the OP, and took the booking. In which case calling the OP a “schmuck” seems a little unfair.

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LovleAnjel April 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

I agree with the admin, but the spinelessness starts with the person who scheduled the party after poor treatment over the phone. She should never have been allowed to schedule on such short notice. Perhaps they are worried she would poison the well from which their other parties originate.

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Elizabeth April 21, 2011 at 9:49 am

While I agree with refusing to accommodate demands accompanied by foul language, it isn’t at all clear that the letter writer is empowered by the Park to respond to a customer with this level of authority – so I’m unsure if advising “I’m unable to accommodate that request” is at all helpful. Too often, customers are demanding and management allows and enables this behavior. I can’t tell if the victim in this situation could even influence the outcome. But the management of guests is the party sponsor’s responsibility – ‘no, I’m not telling the 8-yr old to go somewhere else … that is your problem.’

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Twik April 21, 2011 at 9:51 am

Oh, yes. As soon as the abusive swearing started in the first phone call, the letter-writer should have given up any hope of tips, thank yous, or any sort of decent treatment. Perhaps her boss insisted on her doing the party, but at least she shouldn’t have had any expectations from this woman, who might as well have been wearing an “I am a Special Snowflake – bow down before me!” t-shirt.

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Caper April 21, 2011 at 9:56 am

I don’t know if I would have been able to keep my cool after the woman decides that grabbing and dragging the arm of an adult is acceptable. I wouldn’t have cursed her out in front of the children but given a loud “Please do NOT touch me again” accompanied by shoving her off of me.

OT ? No . Strangers touching me, never ever is acceptable. The only time it’s a little okay is when it’s a small child who doesn’t understand the concept of not touching strangers.

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Allie April 21, 2011 at 10:09 am

It’s unfortunate but understandable that it always seems to be the young who are forced to suffer the boors of this world. I’m too old to take this kind of s#@! anymore, and I think the polite spine comes, to a certain extent, with age and experience. That said, it sounds like the poster didn’t allow herself to be completely walked over. She did put her foot down when it came to serving the cake. In future, I would suggest making guests pay in advance. The saddest part of the story is the 8-year-old who was excluded from the party for no sane-person reason I can think of. Who does that? If I was throwing a party at a nature centre and there were a few random kids around, I would invite them along.

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AS April 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

I don’t know how the hierarchy works, but I don’t think the OP asked for any trouble. As other commentators said too, the boss rather than the OP needs to grow a spine, and not accommodate such request. Also the OP was in college apparently in desperate need for money. It was nice that he/she agreed to do the party.
Sorry about your experience. I hope you can take it as a learning experience that when you are at a managerial position, you’ll not accommodate any such requests from rude customers. They will not become polite overnight just because you accepted their request. Also, by accommodating their request, they are encouraged to continue behaving rudely because it gets them what they want.

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Phoebe161 April 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

One, I take issue at Admin referring to the OP as a “poor shmuck” — whether OP deserves the label or not does not mean we can call her names.

Second, IMO, part of these problems could have been avoided if Management had done their job — providing clear,written guidelines for these parties & sticking to them. As other posters said, management bent the rules by scheduling this party without the two weeks notice–mistake #1. Mistake #2 was allowing the mother to use foul language to get the rules bent. I also feel that many, many businesses do their employees a disfavor by not training them to handle customers like this mother, then backing their employees up. The maxim “The Customer Is Always Right” should never be used for customers who are totally out of line.

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1st-Time Mommy April 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

When I worked in retail management, I had a phrase I taught my employees to use when a customer cursed at them. “Since you have chosen to speak abusively towards me, I am electing to end this conversation.” They were then free to hang up the phone, or, if the customer was in the store, come get me so I could tell the customer to leave. Crappy managers are often willing to sacrifice good employees for bad customers, which makes money in the short-run, but loses it in the long-run. Having been in that position as an employee, I always tried to be a fair and protective manager.

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PhDeath April 21, 2011 at 10:45 am

Slightly confusing wording from the letter-writer, to be sure. I read it as, “I had the afternoon off when Rude Mother called. Rude Mother spoke to my boss, who booked the tour for a few days later, when I was scheduled to work.” I’m presuming that Rude Mother’s language on the phone call was reported to the LW by her boss.

That said, I do pity the LW. Many of us have been in a position in which financial necessity dictates that we take jobs where others are permitted to treat us disrespectfully. It’s a difficult situation to negotiate.

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Stace April 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

Telling your boss you cannot accommodate a request is a fast way to unemployment, especially when we are talking about the typical college work. Been there, done that. I lost three jobs because I was unwilling to have my good nature trod upon, and at no time was I anything less than completely polite.

Some folks are lucky enough to have never worked in these environments and thus often don’t realize just how, quite frankly, dehumanizing it can be. But if your choice is take it or be fired and you’ve got bills to pay, you take it. The bosses know this, and they also know how easily they can replace you.

I’ve been assaulted by a customer and been threatened with firing if I didn’t drop the charges. My sister was sexually harassed by a customer and when she protested him touching her, he complained to her manager who comped him a hefty portion of the bill and lectured her for making a fuss. She was 17 years old.

It’s nice to have enough resources that when you are treated this way, you can say ‘I’m not going to take this’ and walk away. A lot of us don’t. That doesn’t make us schmucks. It makes us folks trying to do the best we can in a bad situation and we should not be derided further. If we had another option, trust and believe, we would be all over it.

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Kat April 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

Admin, you’re not wrong, but there are a number of factors at play here. The OP was hard up for money, so maybe she agreed to come in on her afternoon off to pick up some extra cash. Or maybe she was trying to get in good with the boss. I think it’s harsh to call her an etiquettely ignorant schmuck. Yes, she could have said no, but she could have had a valid reason for choosing not to do so. It’s not her fault this mother was so entitled.

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Elizabeth April 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

@admin- But then the boss could have held it against OP and then might start scheduling OP less. I’ve had bosses that would do something like this. They know you need the job and the money, so you have to be able to drop everything when they call or your hours will drop, among other things. It was an unspoken rule at my last job.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson April 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

Workers–minimum wage or otherwise–are not required to tolerate verbal abuse from customers. Or any other kind of abuse. An employer who tells you to just put up with it is, in most states, breaking the law. And there are simple ways to stop it. At the first instance, you say “I *beg* your pardon?” It’s an unusual enough phase that most people will stop ranting long enough to say say “Huh?” At which point you say “My job does not require me to subject myself to profanity (or ‘to being man-handled’.) If you do it again I will have to hang up (or walk away.)” It almost always gets an apology and a conversation that continues not only in a more polite tone of voice but a more rational frame of mind. And if it doesn’t, you hang up or walk away.

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ferretrick April 21, 2011 at 11:11 am

Admin, I don’t read the sentence as the OP had the power to decline and keep her job. I read it as “My boss took the booking and put me on the schedule when I was supposed to have the day off.” Or perhaps boss asked if she had specific plans that afternoon, and when she, perhaps naively, said she didn’t, he put her on the schedule. That’s generally how it works with these kinds of jobs. Even if she did have the power to say no, no guarantee the boss wouldn’t make her suffer far worse in the long term. I’m not sure how many minimum wage jobs you’ve worked, but all of that is quite common.

Whatever the case, even if she had the power to say no with no adverse consequences whatsoever, which I doubt, that still does not justify calling her a “poor shmuck.” You owe the OP an apology.

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Chocobo April 21, 2011 at 11:13 am

Ugh, so awkward. Agreed with other above — the problem is definitely managerial. I worked through college too and I probably would have said “yes” to some extra pay on a free afternoon too. It’s not clear whether the OP knew ahead of time what a cad this woman was. But if so, lesson learned! Declined to do it next time if the customer seems like they are going to make your life difficult. Perhaps even have a talk with the managerial staff (if they are receptive to you) to talk about how you need better backup in these situations. If the managers aren’t receptive, well… probably time for a new job in that case. If enough peons quit with bad management and refuse to be mistreated, someday the administration will get the point.

I used to work in an office where if the person sounded unpleasant/like a troublemaker in their communications we were authorized by the boss invent appointments and put people off for weeks or months to discourage them even if the time was free. That might be dishonest, but he really cared about the atmosphere of the workplace, and succeeded in making the workplace more pleasant not only for us, but for the rest of the customers too. Who wants to visit the museum watching a scene like that? There was more than one occasion where customers were sternly told by the boss never to return if they mistreated us. I think a lot of businesses like this would be better off in the long run if they adopted more of a Disney-World-like “SMILE OR YOU LEAVE” policy for staff AND for patrons.

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Marlene April 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

I wish the OP could clarify on whether she was the one who took the call or not. If the OP wasn’t the one who was on the phone with the woman (and only heard the swearing secondhand), and was asked by boss if she wanted to rake in some extra money, I’m sure most working college students would be willing to give up a free afternoon.

So, I’m sorry admin, I have to respectfully disagree with your calling the OP a schmuck. It’s uncalled for. There are plenty of other lessons to be learned from this story.

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kingshearte April 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

With all due respect, Admin, that’s not so easy when you need all the money you can get. Particularly if she wasn’t informed at the time that the party mom was so rude. If all you know is that you’ve been asked to come into work, you don’t have anything else planned and you need the money, why not agree to it?

I think that, aside from the majority of the blame, which obviously belongs on the incredibly rude woman, any remaining blame belongs with the OP’s boss, not the OP.

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Erin April 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I feel bad for the boy who was kicked out of the party. On top of being horrible to the OP, she was mean to a little kid.

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Snowy April 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I’m still reading it as the boss having booked on her behalf, but even if he did it with her knowledge, there’s nothing to indicate she knew how rude the woman had been. But last minute or a year in advance, there is no excuse for her being treated that way–backbone or not.

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A April 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I think the boss still bears some responsibility for the party being booked in the first place. He knew the woman was beligerant and he should have had enough spine to uphold the policy-he’s the manager after all. Sometimes employees will feel pressured to do favors when their boss asks and it’s very possible that the OP didn’t know the attitude from the customer and she just wanted the extra money.

All the other stuff…wow, if she’d had a decent manager I’d suggest bringing him in to help with the situation, but it doesn’t sound like she did. How a group of adults just lets a person stay TWO HOURS after closing time is beyond me.

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ashley April 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm

There are some cloudy details here in this story. I assume that the mother in this story was there when the children attending her party were dropped off by their parents, so when some uninvited siblings also showed up then why didn’t the mother address that issue right then and there before the parents left? Unless of course some of their parents also attended the party and activities, but if this was so then where were they during the cake and presents? And why did she refuse to pay for 3 kids that rode on the boat trip? If they were uninvited then why did she allow them to get on the boat in the first place? I guess that point could be chalked up to confusion with 7 other little ones to keep track of which may have caused a few mix ups but still O.o
Another thing is if the park was closing at five and they were just waiting on her to complete her transaction for the day only to have her decide she fancied a walk around the park for an hour afterwards? Did the park just let her do that or did she kind of sneak off? o.o I can see if most of her behavior was due to simply being overwhelmed by being the only one with a bunch of kids to keep track of (which doesn’t excuse her behavior in the first place) but if so then wouldn’t she want to get the kids home and be done with as soon as possible?

Kudos to the OP for handeling this mess so well, and whether or not she was forced to work (because lets face it…some bosses dont take no for an answer or you get fired from a much needed job) or volunteered to work on her afternoon off, I think the OP really could’ve used the time off.

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Kitty Lizard April 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Being touched and/or sworn at by strangers are my two BIG no-nos. Fortunately, I have never had a job and/or boss that required me to allow this and this poor girl was alone with this witch and a group of kids. This poor kid is not a shmuck and there’s no excuse for calling her one.

Bad moderator!!!

Kitty in a huff

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PsychoKitten April 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Perhaps she needed the extra money (being a college student and all). Managers of part-time minimum wage employees do occasionally offer them extra hours on their days off when they could use the extra help.

I really don’t think it’s fair to blame the OP for agreeing to do the tour in this case.

I really feel bad for that poor kid though. :(

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Shiksagoddess April 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm

“Being that it was her afternoon off from work, all she needed was to tell her boss, “I’m sorry I cannot accommodate your request that I work on my afternoon off.”

You’re kidding, right?

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Xtina April 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I’m not clear on who exactly made the decision to allow the woman to hold the party–the OP says that he or she talked to the woman, but it reads as though the boss booked the party *after* that conversation, indicating that the OP was able to decide whether or not he or she wanted to work at the party? If that’s the case, then the OP should have known what was coming if that was the introduction, being cursed at and made demands of. I would have stood firm on the two-week advance rule to someone who was that rude to begin with.

This does not excuse the woman, of course–just pointing out that my take on it is that the OP had an idea of what to expect from this particular customer, although I am sorry that giving her the benefit of the doubt didn’t pan out in the OP’s favor. The woman’s behavior was appalling and self-centered!

The lesson learned should be that when you allow people to act like this, it not only hurts you, but it reinforces to them that they can get away with that kind of behavior, and they will continue to do it.

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gramma dishes April 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

If the eight year old boy’s mother really honestly had reason to think he too had been invited to this party, and if I were that mother, I’d be really REALLY ticked off at his being left out!

I think if I were the OP or her boss, I’d have told the party mother that any guest who showed up was HER responsibility. If she didn’t want him at the party, she should have made that clear to his mother at the time the two of them were dropped off and if she couldn’t for some reason, he should have been included anyway and the matter discussed privately with his mother later.

What a cruel thing to do to a child! It was either a faulty invitation or a horrible misunderstanding on the part of his Mom, but it most certainly wasn’t HIS fault and he shouldn’t be ‘punished’ for it!

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June April 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I agree, clear guidelines really empower employees when dealing with unreasonable customers.

I managed a women’s health club and quickly learned that you don’t allow exceptions to your rules. The person who booked the party should have told the parent the two-week rule is there for a reason. If they allow an exception several days before the party, then they’d have to allow an exception for someone who wanted to book a day in advance. (You know, slippery slope and all.) I dealt with people who wanted exceptions to rules, but it’s easiest to just say, “I’m sorry. Those are our rules and you’ll need to abide by them.”

When the ‘uninvited twin’ was sent to color, was there adult supervision at that location? If I was in that situation, I hope I would have had the polite spine to tell the woman that he is a part of their group, and therefore needs to stay with the group. It’s hard, though, being in college and dealing with someone like that.

Lastly, one of my bosses recently said to me, “So & so is off next week. I might need you to work part of their shift in addition to your normal hours.” I said, “I’m sorry, but I have plans.” Granted, it was a completely different situation. But it felt really good to say that. He went on to find another employee willing to fill in (for free). If it had included overtime, that would be a completely different situation.

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MD April 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I have to agree with previous posters about the OP not being a ‘poor schmuck’. When it comes to college aged, minimum wage paying jobs there often isn’t much focus on a worker’s rights. Yes, the OP could have argued, but it very well may have hurt them in the long run. If anything, the boss should be blamed– or, more rationally, the SS.

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Michelle P April 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I agree in theory with admin; unfortunately it’s not that simple when you need a job, especially right now. I’m 31, in college as a single mom, and take verbal abuse from my boss at my job because I don’t have a choice.

When I was 18, I worked the drive through at a fast food place. Long story short, a man spit on me and drove off because he was mad he couldn’t see the menu at the window. (We ordered face to face). SPIT in my face and drove off. My manager thought it was funny.

Not easy to have a polite spine when you depend on your income.

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Louise April 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm

“I would have stood firm on the two-week advance rule to someone who was that rude to begin with.”

As the boss, I would have. As the boss, I would never book a party for someone who cursed at my staff. As a minimum-wage worker trying to pay for college? Unlikely. I’m all for people taking a stand, but you’ve got to pay the bills somehow.

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karma April 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Actually, the moment she asked, “How the **** can you not be available?”, I’d have ended the phone call. Most reputable, family-centered places of employment will back an employee who refuses service to a person who has begun swearing.

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Xeno April 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

A number of people here seem to be blaming the Boss, but there’s nothing in this story to indicate that he knew anything was amiss. Consider:

(1) If the employee hadn’t told him about Party Mom’s obscene language, he would have had no reason to expect that she would be a problematic customer. And if there’s an opening on the schedule which a customer can fill, you fill it, even if you usually book farther in advance!

(2) The way the story is worded, it looks to me like the employee was perfectly willing to work on what was originally an afternoon off.

(3) I have to ask – in what universe is someone allowed to drop off a dozen kids somewhere and then leave without even providing a cell phone number? Apparently, this mom did exactly that. Did anyone at this facility bother to ask where she was going while her child’s party was in progress? Were there other parents who might have been able to contact her? Suppose one of the kids had been injured? There’s blame to spread around on that one.

(4) During the course of the party, as things went from bad to worse, I see no mention of the employee informing her boss about what was happening.

Even the best managers can’t do anything about a situation they don’t know about. Speaking as someone who has managed min-wage employees before, I can say that I would rather have a whiner as an employee than someone who FAILED to inform me of situations that I needed to get involved in, and this would certainly qualify. In the case of the mom running off for 90 minutes, that created a situation where there could have been serious legal liabilities.

I wish I knew where this place was, so I could ensure my kids never went to a party there. Apparently, they have no idea what they are doing, management and employees alike. One can get away with that as long as the customers are sufficiently accommodating, but when they’re not, a situation like this is exactly what one can expect.

The Party Mom’s behavior was absolutely reprehensible, especially her treatment of children at the party. But the worst of it could have been avoided if the employees and management at this nature center had their act together.

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Aje April 21, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Michelle P@ My gosh, that’s horrible. What a complete moron.

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Shayna April 21, 2011 at 7:11 pm

If the OP is American, the “I’m sorry, I can’t accommodate your request that I work on my afternoon off” comment could be job and/or educational suicide. With the economy as slow as it is at the moment, she could be hard pressed to find another job.

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Powers April 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm

I read the OP as saying he/she had the day off *from classes* and thus was available to work the party. Not the day off *from work*.

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Jays April 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I agree with the others that the OP should NOT have been called a “poor schmuck.” And that it’s not always so simple to say you can’t work. In many cases, no matter how politely you say it, it’s a short step to being labeled “not a team player” and getting shown the door. (Trust me. I know this.)

And even if she could … that certainly doesn’t mean she deserves anything that happened here. Yes, a manager should have told the woman no. But no one did, and the OP did the best she could.

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Rug Pilot April 22, 2011 at 12:13 am

There is a very fine book titled “The Customer Comes Second” by Hal Rosenthal. In it he explains that if you treat your staff exceptionally well they will treat the customers well too. Everybody benefits.

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MeganAmy April 22, 2011 at 4:48 am

I keep thinking of the poor twin who wasn’t invited and had to hang out in the visitors’ center for several hours. This story has made me think that, as a parent, when I drop my kid off for a party, I’ll just park my car in the parking lot and read a book, in case it turns out that my kid wasn’t invited, or the adult left all the kids alone, or something else happens. That way, my kid can come find me immediately.

Poor OP. I can’t think of a good way to have handled this and still kept your job.

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karma April 22, 2011 at 5:41 am

In regards to the “I’m sorry, I cannot accommodate that request” reply, the only person who could get away with speaking to others like that is a concierge in a movie. Makes me think of the movie “French Kiss” with Meg Ryan. The concierge in that movie was overly done to be snotty on purpose. I hear his voice in my head every time someone brings up that phrase here……lol.

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Megan April 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

I am just sick over the thought of telling a little unescorted 8 year old boy, “you’re not invited, go keep yourself busy alone over there while your twin sister attends the party.” Poor child.

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Wink-n-Smile April 22, 2011 at 10:43 am

The boss needs to protect his subordinates from this sort of abuse. As eHellDame said, as soon as she got demanding and used the foul language, she should have been cut off. That is a harbinger of ill-treatment to come.

I blame the boss in this, for taking the booking in the first place. And if there *was* a foodfight, then the boss should have charged an extra cleaning fee. Plus the fee for staying past closing. If it were a daycare center, they’d be charging $15 per minute of overtime. Parents are almost never late, then, and if they are late, it’s for very good reason.

Overtime is much less onerous at $15 per minute.

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Kristen April 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

Agree with other posters–Admin is totally right, but only if that lecture is delivered to the boss. There’s no way a low-level employee would be able to have that kind of power! The suggestion that the employee calmly reply, “I cannot accommodate that request” when asked to work the afternoon? I have to say, that actually made me laugh out loud. Sure, she could say it, but not if she ever wanted to work there again!

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Samantha April 22, 2011 at 11:11 am

Yep, for a min wage worker in a service industry, telling your boss “I’m sorry but I can’t do that” without a damn good reason why not is liable to get your hours reduced, if not having you written off the roster entirely. I was fired from a job as a barista when I requested two weeks in advance to be given one evening off for a seminar for one of my classes that had only just been scheduled. Despite the fact that I was willing to work the entire Thanksgiving weekend in exchange for that one night free.

The way I read the post was that the employee took the call, then passed it off to her boss when the customer was demanding things against the rules. She was supposed to work Saturday and didn’t have any other events to handle, so the boss booked the party for that day. The employee would not have been able to refuse without risking her job because she was supposed to work that day and it was just what she was doing that was changed. Then she was stuck having to supervise a bunch of kids and didn’t really have any chance to leave them safely alone to report to a manager. She probably could have been more firm with the woman, but after her boss gave in on the party, she likely thought that any complaint would get her fired. She’s only a poor schmuk in that she couldn’t know what would or wouldn’t get her fired or her hours reduced and thus had to play it safe.

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Snowy April 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I keep thinking about the “uninvited twin,” too. I would’ve told the mom that the boy was there, and it would be horribly insensitive, even cruel, to suddenly remove him from the party when he’d done nothing wrong. It’d be one thing if he was a crasher who was there alone and a parent picked him up, but his sister was invited and was allowed to stay, and he was forced to sit in a nearby room where doubtlessly he could hear or even see the festivities he was being so carefully excluded from. If the party mom balked about the money, I’d've told her that it would be covered out of respect for the highly unusual situation and the boy’s feelings.

I’m saddened that not one adult there stood up for that boy.

Then again, if I was the boss, that woman would never have gotten booked. What an entitled you know what. I wonder if her “walk” wasn’t really her going off and hoping that the staff would be gone before she got back, so she could avoid paying.

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