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The Missed Party Invoice – Updated

Alex Nash, 5, was invited to a friend’s birthday party at a ski and snowboarding facility, according to the Plymouth Herald.

Alex’s parents responded to the invitation and indicated Alex would attend the party.

Alex’s parents later realized they already had other plans for that day and he did not attend the party. The boy’s father said he did not have contact information for the birthday boy’s mother to let her know Alex had changed his mind and would no longer be attending the party.

Several days later, Alex came home from school with an invoice from the birthday boy’s mother for a $24 “child’s party no show fee.”

So many questions left unanswered.  For starters,  how is it that the parents were able to rsvp to the invitation indicating Alex would be attending the party yet later claim to not have that same contact information to alert her of the changed plans?   And unless the school administration gave Mr. Nash the hostess’ address (something that would have *never* happened in the US), how did he know where she lived to go knock on her door to confront her about the invoice?  It seems to me that the means were there for the Nashes to get in touch with the birthday party hostess but were not utilized until it became necessary to take issue with the invoice.  Bottom line, Mr. Nash, if you rsvp in the affirmative that you or a child of yours will be attending a party, etiquette requires that you honor that rsvp unless you are on your deathbed.   Having replied that Alex would be in attendance at this ski and snowboarding party, you had an obligation to honor that rsvp to the best of your ability which, by the way, means you go the extra mile to inform the hostess ahead of time that you must rescind your rsvp.

However, Ms. Party Hostess, you are not off the hook either.   It appears you planned a birthday party that was quite expensive per guest. Anyone who has extended any kind of hospitality knows, from experience, that guests cannot be relied upon to either honor their rsvps or even bother to rsvp at all.   It’s one of the ubiquitous yet annoying aspects of entertaining these days.  However, as much as guests can annoy their kind hosts and hostesses to the point of aggravation, sending guests formal invoices for failing to show up is a guaranteed, one way, no layovers trip to Etiquette Hell.   What is next? Invoicing guests whose birthday gifts are not sufficiently expensive enough to offset the costs of the party?

The gracious host plans a party he/she can afford with no expectation that guests have any obligation to offset the cost of entertaining.   Emergencies happen and guests who you were expecting to arrive have suddenly bailed due to some unforeseen problem.   Sometimes evil guests bail simply because something better has come up.   If you cannot afford to absorb the cost of an unused meal or entertainment, you have no business planning parties that are clearly out of your league.

The answer is not to invoice the guest but rather strike them from all future guest lists thus leaving them scratching their heads and pondering why they never get invited anywhere.

Update:   Ms. Party Hostess has chimed in with her side of the story HERE.    My conclusions remain the same except that I note that the Nashes missed an opportunity to teach Alex a lesson in honoring his word when they allowed him to choose an outing with his grandparents instead of having the integrity to stay committed to his rsvp to a birthday party.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Margaret January 20, 2015, 3:35 am

    The invoice was a rude way to make a point, but why go to the media about it? It’s not as if the invoice is in any way enforceable. Either you think gee, I feel awful, here’s the fifteen pounds, or else you toss it in the trash with the rest of the junk mail.

    • Lex January 21, 2015, 3:03 am

      Actually, it is. n the UK we have ‘Small Claims court’ and she is preparing to take this man and his son to SCC to enforce her claim. Although I doubt she’d win as a childs birthday party invitation doesn’t constitute a binding legal contract.

      • just4kicks January 25, 2015, 11:25 am

        I would SO love to see this play out on Judge Judy or whatever judge show is popular now.
        I hate watching those but would tune in to see this! 🙂

  • Sarah January 20, 2015, 3:56 am

    Agree with Admin (no surprise there!) Both parties are at fault – according to the Daily Mail this morning it was not a previous engagement but a subsequent engagement (is that even a thing – should I be validating such a rude practice?) At the end of the day – they had the information they needed to contact the parents, that is a fact but it was not worth their time until the invoice arrived. They also could have asked the teacher (as Mrs Lawrence did) to pass on the letter in which they explained. As for the address – I know here in Germany parents are regularly given a page with the names, addresses (physical and email) and telephone numbers (sometimes not all if the parents opt out, but enough to contact each person) of all the families in their children´s class.

    • Kirsten January 20, 2015, 3:52 pm

      If it’s in the Daily Mail, you can bet at least 80% of it is not true. The Mail likes to distort facts to make sure we know that women/immigrants/people of colour/unemployed people/Muslims/gay people/single mothers are the source of all that is wrong in this world/give you cancer. It’s a terrible paper.

  • Squashed frog January 20, 2015, 4:02 am

    Several people didn’t turn up to our wedding after rsvp ing yes. One 19 yr old cousin got drunk with her friends the night before and was too hungover, one had a row with her husband (my cousin) on the morning and refused to come, stopped their child from coming, and refused to give him the card or present. One suffers from depression and promised he was definitely coming the day before but just didn’t show, and the last had a family death.

    Should I invoice these people the £64 it cost for their drinks package, their three course set meal and their evening meal?

    No, but I will put it down to experience. Sometimes people have genuine reasons, some people are just flakes.

    The father said he would have been happy to pay if he’d realised, but the passive aggressive way the mother went about it (getting a teacher to put an invoice in the boys bag) was the reason he’s refusing to pay.

  • Rowan January 20, 2015, 4:08 am

    I should imagine they RSVPd verbally (which I think it says on the invoice) on the school run. “Oh hi Julie! Thanks for inviting Alex to Damian’s party – he’s really looking forward to it.” And the host’s address may well have been on the invoice.

    I know it’s so easy to lose those little bits of paper cos Kid puts them in a ‘safe place’ or you pin it to the notice board then cover it up with the gas bill or whatever. Also that stuff happens and sometimes you have to bail. However, it’s really annoying to have planned and paid for a party, and then have no-shows – especially if you’ve told your kid to restrict numbers. So yeah, guest parent was careless in double-booking Alex and not letting the host parent know. But host parent was OFF THE CHART for the invoice thing. Have a glass of wine, eat the sweeties from the spare party bag and suck it up.

    • RC January 20, 2015, 3:05 pm

      Hahaha YES! I love your last line.

  • Margo January 20, 2015, 4:26 am

    The school did not give out the address. A member of staff at the school did pass the ‘invoice’ to the child and has been reprimanded as a result.

    One of the more detailed news stories makes clear that the parents realised their child was ‘double booked’ several days before the party. They left it until the morning of the party to decide whether or not he was going. The location where the party was held has a 48 hour notice period for final numbers, so had they had the courtesy to tell the hosts when they first realised that their child could not come, the host could have cancelled his place without cost, (or, I suppose, invited a different friend)

    I agree that the ‘host’s action in sending an invoice was ludicrous and inappropriate but I have been disappointed that so few of the news outlets covering the story, or the people commenting on those stories, have commented on ow rude the ‘guest’ was to have accepted the invitation and then failed either to attend, or notify the host.

  • Another Sarah January 20, 2015, 4:27 am

    Also, according to the daily mail, who interviewed them, the ski centre actually gives credit in the form of extra rides or drinks to people who book for a child that doesn’t show up

    • ergala January 21, 2015, 9:20 am

      I believe they told her this and she declined the credit. If she did use it and is still invoicing….holy smokes…

  • Another Sarah January 20, 2015, 4:30 am

    According to the article, the parents confirmed the invitation in person at the school gates on Thursday and the party was on Saturday so they couldn’t use that method to rescind the RSVP.
    The hostess included her address with the invoice for payment. However she didn’t deliver it personally, she passed it on via a school teacher, who should never have taken it. She also made it look like the invoice came from the snowboarding centre rather than herself, which is fraudulent. The company have been on Twitter to defend themselves.
    While the parents were not perfect, I think they have far less to be ashamed of than the hostess
    Full details are on the Plymouth herald website.

  • Marozia January 20, 2015, 4:53 am

    Both the Nash and the Lawrence families are to blame for this.
    Admin puts very good points forward for both of these etiquette-challenged families.

  • tasryn January 20, 2015, 5:42 am

    I think I submitted this story as well. It’s quite an entertaining one because it’s a scenario where no one looks particularly good. There is nothing more annoying than a guest not following through with a commitment especially when the only excuse is that something better came up. It’s even worse if they don’t bother to inform you and don’t turn up. But as was stated, if someone is flaky, just don’t invite them again.

    It’s interesting how expensive child’s birthday parties are getting that they need to be subsidised via an invoiced statement. £16 is essentially $30 or so and that seems very expensive for a 5 year old’s party. But if you can afford it, great, but don’t assume that everyone will turn up as things in life do happen. People get sick, emergencies happen and ,yes, peopel are flaky. I just think you should throw the party you can afford even if no one subsidises it or people don’t turn up. If all you can afford is a party at home with balloons and a sheet cake, have that. In all honesty that’s all I’m going to do for my daughter for several years. I’m not entirely certain small children need a fancy party at a ski slope.

    And if you ARE doing a more expensive event that has a set price per child (like a trip out at a ski slope) make that clear in the invite so people know that there is a cost to pay to attend. I’m not hugely a fan of charging for an event you organise but I do have friends who have organised a Christmas party at a local hotel and everyone paid their own costs for the event (a 3 course meal and dancing). The costs were known and were paid up front so people can decide whether they could afford to attend. I would imagine for a birthday party for a child not many people would expect a set cost per head especially one that was quite expensive. Perhaps that also could have been known up front instead of an unexpected surprise later.

    • ergala January 21, 2015, 9:24 am

      People are choosing to have these expensive parties. We didn’t do parties like this when I was growing up. I’m an 80’s child. Had friends over to our house, did cake, little games, opened gifts passed out treat bags. I had I think 1 birthday party when I was little and I told mom I didn’t want another one that big. I was turning 7. It was all girls from my class and I just really didn’t have a great time. IMHO these huge parties are just glorified playdates. I always feel bad when my kids are invited to these huge parties and we don’t return the invite to theirs. I’m sorry but my child never talks about yours and we don’t do massive parties. We have family, a few friends my kids only see a few times a month and then they can pick one or two from their class and I contact the parents or mail a paper invitation after I get their address. Cake, treats, playing and then gifts.

      My sister hosts her daughter’s at a local gymnastics place. It’s actually quite fun, they have a small room where it’s all set up and decorated and then the kids that are there get to do some fun gymnastics stuff while us adults chat. Most of us know each other either through my sister or through other avenues. There aren’t 30 screaming kids. I’m so glad my sister and I think alike in that regard.

  • Ant January 20, 2015, 5:58 am

    I would suspect the invite contained information of the venue not the hostess (though I’m at a loss to find the actual invite to prove this). The invoice addresses the ski slope then Mrs Lawrence account and address details, which may be how Mr Nash had the address later. Interesting side note: by referencing the ski center on the bill means she has committed fraud by implying the ski center is doing the billing. I would expect that the child had a RSVP slip with the invite that was returned and according to various websites on the Tuesday (the party was on the Saturday) Mrs Lawrence asked parents in person out side the school to confirm attendance.
    However, as Mrs Nash later found Mrs Lawrence on Facebook (again various articles on line show this) it does tell you the Nashs could have made a better effort to contact her but didn’t.
    Overall neither family are teaching their kids a good lesson. Little Alex promises to go to a party but instead wants to go see the Grandparents with his sister? Tough, you gave your word stand by it. Little Lawrence’s friend fails to show, costing you money. Unlucky, it happens, move on and except that he isn’t the friend that you thought he was and don’t invite him next time.

  • Melnick January 20, 2015, 6:17 am

    Here’s the other party’s response: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/let-lesson-learnt-angry-mum-5004545?ICID=FB_mirror_main

    I think it comes down to parenting fails all around:
    * When you get an invite you aren’t expected to attend – you RSVP. Once the host knows you intend to attend, they cater for you and you should honor your commitment.
    *You can’t rely on the confirmation of a 5 year old to a party.
    *As a parent, you RSVP and then you honor your commitment – you teach your child that from an early age. If you didn’t make it, you seek the other parent out and apologise.
    * If you’re going to a venue, it’s not rocket science – the host is paying for you. If you just change your mind, it’s your responsibility to make sure no one’s out of pockets.
    * Emergencies happen – assume that is the reason for the no-show until you know otherwise and extend graciousness. I’m fairly certain no one would ever expect to be reimbursed for an emergency. Covering that cost is compassion you show to your neighbour in a time of need
    *Even if you don’t have the number of the birthday kid or another at the party, you can still contact the venue – communication channels exist everywhere today.
    * You don’t bill someone – just never invite them to anything again
    * You don’t slip a bill into a child’s bag – you speak directly to the other parent if you have an issue.
    * These kids are mixing in the same circles and are likely to for years – you don’t take each other to court over a birthday party

    Both sets of parents are stubborn mules who have created an intensely stressful situation for all who are on the peripherals – their kids and mutual friends/acquaintances. What has been achieved? What good will come from this? I don’t think anyone can claim the moral high ground here. It is a lack of etiquette from all parties.

    • LonelyHound January 21, 2015, 10:06 am

      Having been in a situation similar, where two friends fought, what will most likely happen, regardless of how this is resolved, is that the “popular” kid will get the mutual group of friends and the other kid will be left out of that group for the rest of his school career. No good comes of things like this, and the kids get hurt the most.

  • Catherine January 20, 2015, 6:39 am

    Other outlets are reporting that the invoice came home with the child in his backpack from school, and that the original invitation had been lost by the time the parents realized Alex was double booked.

  • Katie January 20, 2015, 6:40 am

    I agree with the admin’s assessment of the situation. To answer some of her questions
    – the address may have been printed on the invoice.
    – some news sources included a transcript of a Facebook conversation between the children’s mothers, which implied the invitation was verbally accepted at school picking up time (although I think more effort could have been made to contact her once they found their child could no longer make it).

    I also think it was rather ill judged of the recipient of the invoice to bring all this to the attention of the media.


  • just4kicks January 20, 2015, 6:56 am

    Wow! They sent a BILL? Holy bad manners, Batman!!!
    Of course, the kids parents should’ve called and said he wasn’t coming (anyone with half a brain should realize a snowboarding party isn’t cheap!), but to expect them to pony up $24.00 is BEYOND rude!!!
    My step daughter is an avid skier and snowboarder, and one year for Christmas, she asked for an all inclusive season pass. My husband looked up the cost on the website and is was almost $500.o0!!!
    Um, yeah….we can give you HALF….And THAT’S pushing it!!!

  • crebj January 20, 2015, 6:58 am

    The debt could be paid….in pence.

  • liza January 20, 2015, 7:09 am

    Some other web site has stated that the parents received the invite, including info to get in touch to rsvp, but that they couldn’t find it when they realised they didn’t want to go – could have been on the morning so school was closed – and they couldn’t get in touch.

    I’m definitely not defending them. I think it is massively embarrassing for them to fly over the world as parents who cannot be bothered standing up to their commitments. Agree that the party organisers were off too invoicing them, but cannot imagine that they were serious, but just wanted to make a point!?

    (In many countries it is normal that all children get complete contact info for all children in their class, including parents names, address/es and phone number/s, but not in the UK.)

  • Ceallach January 20, 2015, 7:23 am

    Yes! Agree 100% with the admin summary. Rude guests, inappropriate reaction by host.

  • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 7:50 am

    This wasn’t an emergency, though–the parents just double-booked, and then asked Alex on THE DAY OF which he’d rather attend; the birthday party, or the day trip with his grandparents, and he decided to go on the day trip with his grandparents. I mean, I still don’t think it’s something you can invoice someone over, but it was still rude–rude for not checking the family schedule before RSVP’ing to the party, rude for not owning up to the mistake, and calling either the party parents to cancel the “yes” RSVP, or the grandparents to reschedule the day trip, and even more rude for giving Alex the choice on the morning of the party. He’s five years old, and his parents are teaching him that it’s okay not to honour a commitment if there’s something else he’d rather do. So, while it wouldn’t have been rude to miss the party for an emergency, this wasn’t an emergency, it was just rudeness and bad parenting.

    • delislice January 20, 2015, 6:08 pm

      Yes, exactly this, Anonymous. When I was Alex’s age, accepting an invitation was a commitment, and had my grandparents been local, they would have been told right away, “Oh, sorry, Delislice has something else going on that day. Can we find another time?”

      You don’t give a 5-year-old a “pick one” scenario with social outings, when an event has been accepted.

      Having said that: The party-givers behaved very passive-aggressively. And I agree you don’t invoice no-shows. We had our daughter’s 8th birthday party at the local gymnastics center. We paid for eight, but only five showed up. It never occurred to me to invoice the no-shows.

  • Kirsten January 20, 2015, 7:54 am

    I don’t understand how the parents are saying they lost money. If the skiing cost £15.95 per child, then they were paying that whether the child turned up or not. The child didn’t turn up, they paid the same as if he had turned up, and they had one less child to wrangle.

    It’s possible the parents threw the invitation away after RSVPing, so didn’t have the contact details. And it’s perfectly likely that the host parents knew where the non-attending child lived without the school giving out details.

    Everyone’s at fault in this story.

    • Margo January 21, 2015, 7:17 am

      If the guest had told them in advance that the child wasn’t coming, they would not have had to pay, The venue had a 48 hour final numbers cut off.

      So yes, they paid no more than they would if the child had turned up, but they would have paid less had they been given reasonable notice, and of course in that scenario it might also have been possible for them to invite a different child, which might have made the party more fun for their child.

      To me, however, whether they lost money or not is not the point. They were the victim of bad manners (and then , of course, lost all sympathy by being even ruder and less sensible than the first family!)

      • Another Sarah January 21, 2015, 8:32 am

        According to the ski centre manager, the cost of no show children can be recredited via extra rides for other children, bar credit etc. So the host really wasn’t losing anything.
        I’m not defending the flakes, but I do think with the various added details that have come out – the recredit, her using the ski centre’s name fraudulently on the invoice, the facebook messages (which had a very self-righteous tone), involving the school, even tangentially – the hostess has shown herself a far more unpleasant person

  • Lex January 20, 2015, 7:56 am

    I have some answers to the admins questions as this story took place in the UK:

    1) In the UK, childrens birthday party invites generally have a tear-off strip at the bottom that the invitee usually returns to the inviter. So no contact details would have been required.

    2) I presume the Invoice contained the address of the Party host which I imagine is where the irate father got it from when he sought to confront her.

    From an etiquette perspective BOTH parties here are grossly at fault. The child and his father for the no show and the host for arranging a party that costs the attendees anything at all. If the host and her child are set on an expensive skiing party then the onus is on the host to either fund it herself or arrange something different. It is poor form to put a price on your child’s friendship because I’d be willing to bet that a) the attendance cost was probably not made explicitly clear in the invite and b) THESE ARE 5 YEAR OLDS and c) you can bet your last dollar that any child that was not invited or did not attend will likely be shunned by the birthday boy and his friends – I remember bitterly the sting of childrens cruelty when I was that age. A Skiing party for a 5yo is incredibly pretentious and even worse when the invitees are expected to foot the bill. The invoice is the cherry on the cake. If I had been hosting the party I wouldn’t have dreamed of charging, but my child would have been given a choice – have a skiing party with a small number of friends, or have a birthday party in a school or church hall/other venue with a larger number. You host a party from the standpoint of paying for everything. If you cannot afford to then you should not commit to that party.

    • admin January 20, 2015, 2:36 pm

      1) There is no way I would have let any 6 year old child of mine go to a party hosted by someone whose name, address and phone number I did not have.

      • KenderJ January 20, 2015, 8:37 pm

        I’m with you on that one, admin. I think that’s what is bothering me most about the whole kerfuffle that the parents of the no show had been willing to let their 5yo go off to a ski resort with a virtual stranger. They didn’t even know her name. On the other side, the party host was willing to take responsibility for said 5yo without even having the parent’s names or contacting. What if there had been an emergency?

      • Lex January 21, 2015, 3:06 am

        It is not explicitly stated here, but in my experience of children’s parties (particularly of 5yos), it is usually the case that one or more parents of attendees ‘hangs around’. There may even have been a ‘parents area’. But since we have no visibility on the arrangements we can’t say either way.

      • Ant January 21, 2015, 6:49 am

        I agree with Lex’s comment, that the reason that information may not have been given is that the child’s attendance meant one of the parents must attend too. In the UK most parents of infants (under 7yrs old) will have parties where a parent is expected to stay with each child. Only when the child is in senior school (12 years and over) would parents normally leave the child. In between, juniors, there’s a grey area where some parents go, some stay.

    • KenderJ January 20, 2015, 8:55 pm

      I could be wrong, but I don’t think the party host was charging the party guests. The way I’m reading it, the host had to pay the ski resort based on the number of people who are attending and she had to give final numbers on the Thursday before the party. So if she had known that little boy wouldn’t be attending, then her fees would have been less because her guest list would have been lower. I think the invoice was to tell the parent’s that this is what I paid for your child who did not show up, therefore the money was wasted. I’m not saying that she was right, in fact I think the invoice thing was gauche, but I can understand the impulse. I couldn’t find anywhere that she couldn’t afford the party, or that the kids that did show up had to pay their own way. It can be very frustrating when you are throwing a party, and you are paying per person, when people who have RSVP’d yes and then don’t show up. Of course, the admin is right that the only way to really handle it is to stop it inviting boy to parties. Poor kid, it’s the parent’s fault, but he is the one who is going to be left wondering why he never gets invited anywhere.

      • ergala January 21, 2015, 9:28 am

        The venue offers credit for no-shows….at the bar for sodas and what not and in extra lessons/activities. I am guessing she didn’t accept that. Most places will have that in their contract, it’s on her if she didn’t go over the contract and use that offer.

        • WillyNilly January 25, 2015, 6:13 pm

          But accepting a credit is still paying for the no-show. If the hosts paid for a package that included everything (slope time, food & beverage) they didn’t need any extras from the bar or ski resort. A credit is not a refund. The hosts were still out of pocket the cost of the kid flaking out.

  • Mary January 20, 2015, 8:03 am

    I do agree with the administrator that both parties are responsible. While I agree that no shows are completely rude (I’m still bitter over the 30 people that did not show up to our wedding that said they would be there), one does not send an invoice either. Maybe this will get people thinking about 1) scaling back on extravagant children’s parties and 2) actually rsvp’ing when going to a party and then actually following though.

  • Mustard January 20, 2015, 8:29 am

    I agree; this story gets sillier by the day! Ms Party Hostess seems to unaware that going to the small claims court is going to cost her more than the cost of the unused place. I wonder if she would have reacted in the same way if the child had been ill and unable to attend?

    • Cat January 20, 2015, 6:52 pm

      Suppose he had been ill and had come anyway? If you are ill, please stay home. I had have so many bad colds because people just had to come to work or did not want to miss the party.
      Children pick up all sorts of things at school and spread them to everyone in sight.
      I had a lad sniffling and snorting behind me in church last Sunday. I did not turn around to give him the sign of peace. I wish him peace, but I also wish his parents had kept him home rather than having him sneezing on the back of my neck.

      • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 3:10 pm

        At some churches, you can substitute a friendly wave for the traditional handshake, for whatever reason–maybe you have a cold, maybe your hands are sweaty, maybe the other person has a cold, or maybe you just don’t like the idea of shaking hands with a sanctuary full of strangers during the height of flu season. Either way, there are ways to say, “Peace be with you, but let’s keep the germs where they are.”

        • Cat January 21, 2015, 7:21 pm

          I still vote for staying home when you are sick. It’s not just the sign of peace; it’s the door knobs, holy water fonts, pews, hymnals, missals, collection plates, communion cups, etc. that can carry the germs.
          There are five masses each Sunday at my church with several hundred people at each mass. That’s a lot of people who can be infected in one day and can then go on to infect many others. Keep the germs at home, please.

          • Cecilia January 22, 2015, 9:32 am

            I’m with you @Cat. The same thing happens at work. People are sick, but instead of using those 3 *paid* sick days, they come and spread the germs. I asked a sick coworker one day why she didn’t use her sick day instead of coming to work. She said she wanted to save them and use them at the holidays because she had family coming in. Ergh. I have been Lysol-ing and washing my hand frequently.

  • VanessaGA81 January 20, 2015, 8:49 am

    From another article I read, it sounds like the parents maybe aren’t together and the mother accepted the party that was during a time that the child’s father had visitation and he had already planned to take the boy to see his grandparents. This same situation has arisen between my husband and his ex. We’ve never gotten an invoice though.

  • mechtilde January 20, 2015, 8:50 am

    No British school would ever give out the address of a child to another parent. If they ever did they would be in very serious trouble.

    So yes, the invitee’s father must already have had the host’s address.

    Nobody comes out of this well, but after many years of hosting children’s parties my goodness I have some sympathy for the hosts. I can’t drop the culprits from the guest list either because I don’t sent my children’s party lists- they do.

  • WillyNilly January 20, 2015, 8:52 am

    Of course it’s obnoxious to invoice a guest who missed a party. But in an abstract way I’m applauding the host parents here, because it’s making this a conversation and bringing the issue to light. I have seen quite a few articles on this story, a few with actual quotes taken from a written Facebook conversation between the two mothers. Apparently the hostess mother had to pay on advance so she confirmed with each guest’s parents the Thursday before the party. Also apparently the no-show boy has been a no-show, after RSVP’ing at other events previously. So while yes the invoice is extreme, I can see the point the hostess is trying to make. I wouldn’t do it, or even encourage a friend to do it, but I will bring this up in conversation with chronic flakes to illustrate the level of frustration people can get to.

    • Jewel January 21, 2015, 10:17 am

      Agreed. After this debacle, I imagine those parents will tread VERY carefully with RSVP’s and attendance in the future, if for no other reason than they don’t want to risk a repeat of the publicity. Also, if the family has a habit of no-showing, as was alluded to in the latest article, I bet that this publicity will lead other families to pre-emptively and quietly just not invite the boy to begin with.

  • Shoegal January 20, 2015, 8:52 am

    Sorry, many guests don’t RSVP on time or at all – one of the many drawbacks to entertaining. To something as expensive as a wedding people continually fail at it. I had a number of guests who RSVPd in the affirmative and didn’t show up. It cost me quite a bit of money covering the cost of their food – but I didn’t even think of invoicing them!! You can’t do that. As angry as the mother was at incurring the cost, she just cast herself into etiquette hell by sending out an invoice.

    I don’t know what led Alex to RSVP in the first place and not attend 0r who had what contact or all the in’s and out’s of how this happened but bottom line – although etiquette bounds guests to do the right thing – it isn’t always possible. In a Utopian society it would be quite different but here in the real world life often gets in the way and a child’s birthday invitation can fall pretty low on your list of priorities if chaos ensues.

  • Michelle January 20, 2015, 8:55 am

    I saw this everywhere this morning and was so hoping the Dame would cover it!! I’m finding a comfy chair so I can watch the discussion/comments unfold.

    I agree that both sets of parents were rude, but Invoice Mom was the rudest. Would that invoice had been sent if the child had been sick or injured?

  • Thoughtful January 20, 2015, 9:03 am

    Heard this news item, and glad to have it addressed here. It seems as though there are two tests for failing to show up if you have RSVP’ed: 1. Should I expect to continue a relationship with this person after they hear my excuse. 2. Is it a matter of life-or-death if I pursue the alternative activity?

    Test #2 clearly doesn’t apply here, so we’re left with test #1.

    By sending an invoice, hostesss showed that there should be no further expectation of a relationship. By being willing to pursue legal action over 16-ish pounds, hostess shows that it’s not a terrific loss.

  • NostalgicGal January 20, 2015, 9:17 am

    I agree this has several missed points, and past over the top. I just read about this elsewhere and the invoice was for 15.95 pounds, apparently ‘from’ the place the party was hosted. In the article I read there was some forwards and back between the mother of the boy who didn’t go, and the mother who was hostess. Hostess said the phone number was on the invitation.. the school was NOT happy that this happened (the invoice was put in the backpack) and when the hostess mentioned small claims the other woman let her know it started at 60 pounds for filing and the hostess disbelieved/scoffed that it was that much.

    Getting ahold of the person or persons FIRST before the paperwork, would have been the best approach. I can understand the kid having a sudden choice crop up and not go, but. I would have looked hard for the phone number, and made the contact. Even gone over to talk to the other parent after. (if the kids are friends they probably knew where each other lived). Hostess though is the one that drove this over the top, with the invoice.

    • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 6:23 pm

      >>I can understand the kid having a sudden choice crop up and not go.<<

      I can't. An illness, injury, or other emergency is one thing, but this was just carelessness, maybe with a side of "better offer syndrome," since the family didn't realize they'd double-booked until after they'd RSVP'ed "yes" to the birthday party. It would have been more correct if they'd asked Alex which he'd rather do when they realized their mistake, but they waited until the morning of the party–so, he chose the "better offer," which is a behaviour that a lot of people here find to be egregiously rude. I think it's even ruder that the adults were teaching their son to behave this way. Oh, and another thing–I had a few birthday parties at the swimming pool at the local recreation centre when I was growing up (huge pool with diving boards and a rope to swing off of, and they decorated the childcare room for pizza and cake afterwards, so it was a fun place for a party). The only problem was, when party guests were late, all the party attendees who'd already arrived, had to wait for them, thus reducing the total swimming time. It wasn't fair, but it was necessary, because the parties happened during the normal "free swim" time at the rec centre, so if we'd all gone to the pool at the scheduled start time, the latecomers would have had a hard time finding us in the rabble of other swimmers.

      Anyway, I can see this situation playing out at the ski place. Alex's parents had RSVP'ed "yes," so the birthday boy's parents thought he was coming. I can see them doing a head count: "Sam, Susie, Sally, Sarah, Billy, Bobby, Timmy, and of course Tommy…….but where's Alex? He said he was coming, and we can't start skiing until he's here." I can see that cutting into the kids' time on the slopes, and really putting a damper on the party, for the birthday child AND the guests who'd correctly followed through on their RSVP's and showed up on time. We've seen so many people (adults!) here posting stories of friends who arrived late, or not at all, for scheduled events (movies, concerts, plays, sports games, et cetera) because a "better offer" came up, or they were just too disorganized to get to the venue on time, and of course it ruined the event for them–they missed part of the show or the game, they got fewer laps at the go-kart track, or whatever–all because of their friend or family member's flakiness. Can you imagine what that'd be like for a kindergartner, on his birthday? Even if the party only waited a few minutes for Alex before they decided he wasn't coming, I think they only had 30 minutes of ski time to begin with, so even a few minutes can really cut into that. Also, to a little kid, "waiting time" is much longer than it is to an adult, so for the birthday boy, that party might forever be "the party that got ruined." It's already "the reason why my mommy won't let me be friends with Alex anymore. Yes, the host parents were wrong to send that invoice, but Alex's parents were incredibly rude to a lot of people, and they acted as if it was nothing.

      • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 6:25 pm

        P.S., Since this party couldn’t have taken all day, I’m surprised the family didn’t work out a compromise of some kind, such as “visit with the grandparents in the morning, then take Alex to his party, have some adult time while Alex is skiing, then we meet up for some more family time afterwards.” It still wouldn’t have been ideal, but it would have been better than bailing on either the birthday party or the grandparents.

        • NostalgicGal January 21, 2015, 12:14 pm

          I’m not giving the kid or parents a pass here Anon. I can understand life gets in the way.

          I can’t understand how the parents who were willing to send their kid off for a day with someone else didn’t have ANY contact info on board; for either side apparently as the invoice was sent through the school (which never should have happened according to the school).

          I threw a birthday party for myself a few years ago, catered, with door prizes and such; all people had to do (from the club) was RSVP on a certain date. I couldn’t get that to happen. I guessed and ordered extra, had two call the afternoon of to attend at last second, and one to call they were laid out with the flu. For 14 attendees in the end. After I spent three months trying to get it across I had a cut-off date for the caterer and if you wanted to eat prime rib I had to KNOW by a certain date. (everyone had a good time, I had to serve the meal as my caterer messed up over getting a server which was supposed to happen, and everyone went home with a doorprize present plus a party favor). And we had no issues with contact info or being able to contact me throughout.

          I agree too that it may have messed up the party time some. I wasn’t there to see how the day went down on the party side, but. Louseup on louseup on louseup and I agree about the boy should have been sent to his party not given a choice, and that there should have been contact information all the way around. To me it sounded like the parents would drop the kid off at a place and the party group got chauffeured to the event, rather than making each parent drive there to drop off and pick up at the resort….

          • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 3:21 pm

            Well, those are two separate issues. Sure, it’s probably not the safest thing in the world to drop a five-year-old off at a skiing (or other “extreme sport with higher-than-average risk of injury” party), with people whose contact information you don’t have, but that doesn’t make it any ruder to RSVP yes and not show up, than if you knew the hosts well.

  • Jade January 20, 2015, 9:27 am

    They actually RSVPed in person, so they did not have any contact information for the birthday boy’s mother and they couldn’t look her up either as they didn’t know her first name. They let their son decide what he wanted to do that day once they remembered their original plans: go to a birthday party or see his grandparents. The invoice she had the school put in the invited boy’s backpack (which is against their school’s policy) had her address on it, so that’s how they found her.

    As for planning a party that costs money: if you let the guests know up front, they will be more responsible about coming or ponying up the cash if plans change at the last minute. One article has a Facebook message transcript between the parents saying just that: if they had known about the cost before RSVPing, they would have no problem paying it. And if they had any way to contact her, they would have, but they realized their mistake so last minute that there was no time to go above and beyond in finding a way to contact her. Their anger comes from being passed along an invoice against school policy and not being contacted directly.

    • Jewel January 21, 2015, 10:21 am

      I call bullocks on the idea that they couldn’t figure out how to reach her. They could have contacted other class parents they did have info for to ask if they had the birthday child’s parent’s phone number. They could have sought her out on Facebook and sent her a private message. They could have called directory assistance. They could have done a Google search. They could have even called the birthday venue and left a message with the front desk to give the other parent when she arrived for the party.

      There’s just so muc easy, quick to use technology available today to make their excuse credible.

  • Lil January 20, 2015, 9:41 am

    One of my biggest pet peeves when my kids were young was when parents were flaky about a child’s birthday party. Luckily my kids had nice friends with non-etiquette challenged parents for the most part so I rarely had no shows. The only time this happened was when there was a discipline issue–ie. the child was grounded and had to cancel. As far as I am concerned this is NOT an excuse to cancel. First and foremost, it teaches a child not to honor commitments and secondly it punishes someone else’s child–the birthday boy or girl. Pick another punishment but don’t cancel! This is kind of a hot button issue for me because I think it’s so rude. In the scheme of things I know a birthday party is not that big of a deal but young kids can really have hurt feelings if their friends don’t show up for a party. My son told me about one boy who had no one come to a party and my heart just broke for him. I always made birthday parties a priority because I didn’t want this to happen to any of my son or daughter’s friends when I could help it. Perhaps that’s why my own kid’s parties were well attended too. My kids always showed up when invited and other parents returned the favor. As far as this story goes both parents were rude but it started with the parent who couldn’t be bothered to show up or cancel. I would be annoyed too. Not sure what I would have done about it because the last thing you want is to create drama in your children’s social lives. They create enough drama on their own.

    • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 6:39 pm

      I think there’s one exception to the “discipline problem isn’t an excuse for rescinding an RSVP at the last minute,” and that’s if the child is throwing a tantrum or being awful on the day of the party, and wouldn’t be good company at said party. In that case, you still call and explain the situation (and most parents should understand), but the lesson to the non-attending child here is, “When I act unpleasant, I don’t get to do fun things. Also, sometimes my actions have consequences for others. Today was Billy’s birthday, but I missed his party because I threw a tantrum this morning at the grocery store. He’s probably sad that I couldn’t be there like I said I would. I messed up. I won’t do that again.” This will take some coaching and reinforcing from parents; for example, “No, you can’t have a chocolate bar now, because you’re having birthday cake and High Fructose Corn Syrup Punch later AT THE BIRTHDAY PARTY. If you keep making a fuss, you won’t be going to that either.”

      To put it another way, you wouldn’t attend an event if you had a cold, and were sneezing everywhere, or if you had stomach flu, and you were having tummy trouble, or if you had something visibly contagious like the chicken pox, or if you were in the throes of depression, and you couldn’t handle the event emotionally. Keeping a tantrumming child home from an event (birthday party, sports game, dance recital, Scout meeting, whatever) is sort of the same idea–Kiddo is having a tantrum. Therefore, Kiddo can’t control him-or-herself right now, and therefore, Kiddo’s presence would be detrimental to the event. The only difference is, unlike illness, this can be turned around. So, if Kiddo calms down, and says, “Sorry Mommy/Daddy. I shouldn’t have thrown that tantrum, because it’s mean and rude to you and the other shoppers,” then sure, send Kiddo to the party, but if not, I don’t see anything good coming of it.

  • Jinx January 20, 2015, 10:10 am

    I was really confused over this. The host was willing to pay the $24 as long as Alex showed up? Or would she have surprised his parents with a request for $24 when he got there? I need to know if the other children who attended were forced to pay $24 for attending, if they weren’t it makes this whole thing even more bizarre. Not that making your guests host themselves is acceptable, but why make this one child pay, and not the others?

    I agree you don’t RSVP yes and not show up, but you also don’t agree to host something and then surprise people with fees.

    Mostly, this wasn’t a legal contract anyone entered into. There was no mention of money or fees during the RSVP process (clearly). The host needs to get over herself.

  • Amber January 20, 2015, 10:14 am

    Wow. I’m with you, admin, there are no winners in this story. I have an image of invoice mom snapping and creating that invoice under fits of mad laughter, the Nash child’s lack of attendance the last straw of the insanity of planning and running of a skiing/snowboarding party for a group of five year olds. And Nash is a plain ol’ party-skipper. Don’t RSVP and then shirk the event!

  • technobabble January 20, 2015, 10:22 am

    Another article I read about this story states that Alex’s parents looked for the original invitation, but had misplaced it, so they didn’t have contact info. They knew where the invoicing mother lived because she printed her mailing address and her bank account details on the invoice for payment.

    I feel like the invoicing parent is more deserving of derision than Alex’s mom and dad. We had a few no-shows at our wedding (with varying excuses from sudden illness, to weather, to plain just forgetting there was a wedding that day). If we invoiced those guests for the meals that we had already paid for (one no-show couple had even RSVP’ed for an extra, uninvited guest that we didn’t bother fighting over at the time), I can imagine the hue and cry that would have come out of that. A child’s birthday party is no different.

  • E January 20, 2015, 10:30 am

    The invoice states the RSVP was ‘verbal’ which was given by a 5 year old child. Not exactly something that can be considered a binding contract.

  • Betty January 20, 2015, 10:31 am

    “…And unless the school administration gave Mr. Nash the hostess’ address (something that would have *never* happened in the US)…”

    Just correcting a fact: I live in the US and have printed or online directories for students at my son’s schools. They are opt-out, so not required, and parents can choose to include or not include any of the information. Most families allowed their info to be distributed in this way.

    • Betty January 20, 2015, 10:33 am

      Of course, if there was a directory, Mr Nash had even less excuse for not contacting the hostess to let her know that his child could not attend the party. I think both sides are in the wrong here.

  • Vicki January 20, 2015, 10:33 am

    In the article I read about this incident, the verbal acceptance was given in person, at the school, in the hallway while picking the kids up. He could not look up a phone number, because he only had one name for her (first or last – I don’t remember which), to notify the woman of the change in plans. He had the address of the hostess because she had included it on the invoice.

    He was wrong, she was wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • Lil January 21, 2015, 12:54 pm

      Agree. Both were wrong. The invoice is tacky. But the fact that the family couldn’t find the phone number to cancel makes it even more clear that they should not cancel. That’s the repercussion when you can’t be bothered to be organized–the family forgot about the grandparent’s invitation, they were oblivious when they RSVP’d on the Thursday before the party, and they couldn’t be bothered to hold on to the invitation. Sometimes you have to suck it up and do something you don’t want to do because you weren’t paying attention in life. Don’t make other people suffer because you’re a flake.

  • AthenaC January 20, 2015, 10:34 am

    For $24?!!! Honestly, when I first saw the headline of the story, I thought surely the mom had paid MUCH more than that per kid if she was really putting forth that much effort to collect from them. Wow.

    Anyway, hindsight is always 20/20, but if I had been in the Mom’s position I would have been upfront in the invite about when I needed a final headcount and why. Everyone knows that if you don’t show up to a wedding (for example), you stick the hosts with not only the rudeness of your non-attendance but the financial hit of an unused meal, but I’m not sure it occurs to most people that some kids’ birthday parties are that way, too, depending on what plans have been made.

  • Library Diva January 20, 2015, 10:40 am

    I saw this making the rounds on Facebook the other day, and thoroughly agree with the admin. Both sides were in the wrong here.

    While I understand wanting to give kids a special experience, I think children’s birthday parties are a tad out of hand, especially given the fact that life with young children can be chaotic. Illness, emotional turmoil, and volatile friendships are all hallmarks of childhood. Why plan things that really leave the host out for a lot of money if a child backs out? Cake, ice cream and games in the backyard are just fine. Kids love them, and if one kid no-shows (or if the parents get a panicked last-minute call from their child’s best friend’s parents stating that their babysitter has fallen through and they’re so sorry, but they’ll either have to bring Best Friend’s younger sibling or have everyone stay home), it’s not the end of the world.

  • Goldie January 20, 2015, 10:58 am

    I have seen this story elsewhere and I have answers to some of the unanswered questions above. There’s an article in Plymouth Herald that has all the information from both sides. I’ll post it below if I can find it again.

    The hostess got the Nashes’ RSVP verbally when she saw them, in a hallway apparently: “She saw me and asked if Alex was coming to the party”. They never had to call a number to RSVP, and there’s no indication that they ever saw the invite. Although in all fairness the inviting mom’s FB message does say that her phone number was on that invite.

    The Nashes had the hostess’ address, because, according to them, “it was on the invoice”. So, they didn’t have it prior to getting the invoice.

    That said, the way they backed out of the party was ridiculous. Apparently on the day of the party, at the last minute, Mr. Nash asked Alex where he’d rather go, Alex said grandparents, so off to the grandparents they went. No, you don’t do that. If you’ve committed to go to a party, and if the party is about to start and you still have not canceled your RSVP, then you show up at the party. You certainly do not ask a five-year-old at the last moment if he’d like to back out of the party. A five-year-old knows nothing about commitments and it’s your job as a parent to teach him.

    What I see here is two families with very young kids, that are both new to the whole kid-birthday-party organizing process, and who both went about it completely the wrong way. Both sides screwed up in my opinion (and yes I’ve hosted more kiddie birthday parties than I can count, both at my house and at outside venues.) But only one sent the other party an invoice, followed by a facebook message stating that they should pay so “the lesson be learnt”. First of all, who talks to another adult like that? Second, one important lesson here is not to throw an overpriced party for a five-year-old; and if you do, then be super organized about it. Have everyone’s contact info. How do you throw a skiing party on the slopes for a group of five-year-olds, who can potentially trip and fall and get injured during the ski party, yet you do not have a way to contact the parents of the kids you’ve invited?

    • Lil January 21, 2015, 1:03 pm

      There were a couple comments about the no-show mom being upset that the invoice mom was trying to “teach them a lesson.” This is definitely condescending towards another adult. But I’m willing to bet no-show family will never do this again so I’m thinking, yeah, lesson learned.

  • Goldie January 20, 2015, 11:01 am

    I cannot post the link to the article, it’s not going through as a comment. But if you google Plymouth Herald Alex Nash, it’ll come up.

  • Brooke January 20, 2015, 11:04 am

    He was able to rsvp because the Thursday before the mother talked to all invited guests to confirm rsvps. This was done at the school, when all the students were being dropped off. If you read in the Herald, it also contains a Facebook conversation between the two mothers.

  • Melissa January 20, 2015, 11:04 am

    “What is next? Invoicing guests whose birthday gifts are not sufficiently expensive enough to offset the costs of the party?”

    Now you’re just giving them ideas.

    • admin January 20, 2015, 2:28 pm

      I wish I were joking but the first report of brides and grooms sending invoices to guests whose gifts were not sufficiently expensive enough to cover the cost of the reception food occurred about 5 years ago. It’s rare by Ehell standards but it does happen.

      • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 9:35 pm

        Hey yeah, I saw that too, but actually, I thought it was a good gift. The gift was a picnic basket full of favourite childhood foods (Marshmallow Fluff, Sour Patch Kids), and some adult foods too (wine, brie, gourmet crackers, etc.), so I think the idea here was “Enjoy your first picnic as a married couple.” It’s a good idea, because picnics can go either way–you can have a fun casual picnic with other people, and throw around a Frisbee and stuff, or you can have a romantic “couple-y” picnic, with wine and cheese. It’s basically the outdoor equivalent of those ubiquitous “movie gift baskets,” except the movie in the basket usually dictates the tone of the “night in,” but the gifting couple was trying to avoid that with the picnic basket. So, in that case, I’d say that the monetary value of the gift, PLUS THE THOUGHT BEHIND IT, scaled to the gifting couple’s means, was equal to or greater than the cost of the meal that the bride and groom provided. But, since the bride and groom just used straight-up math, with no other considerations, they deemed the picnic set to be “insufficient.” Since they were rude, they made an issue of it, and now the math problem is something like Rude Couple + Greedy Tantrum = Lost Friendships. I don’t just mean the husband and wife who gave the picnic set either, because their behaviour probably caused collateral damage in their social circle.

        • ergala January 21, 2015, 9:39 am

          That couple went even further into ehell when they took a picture of only the kid type food and removed the expensive foods and posted the photo declaring how cheap that guest was. So not only did they totally go into ehell for even COMPLAINING about a gift they also misrepresented what was given to gain more sympathy.

          • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 3:29 pm

            Off-topic, but I can totally see this picnic set, with some fancy “adult” foods, and some “kid” foods, being the focal point of an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Lily and Marshall are a very loving and romantic couple, but they also love things like Robots versus Wrestlers, and riding (seated) on skateboards on their sloped floor, and of course, Slap Bet. So, I can totally see them having a classic (and hilarious) Lily and Marshall date with a picnic of Sour Patch Kids and Marshmallow Fluff, and Marshall’s favourite, Funyuns.

  • Wendy B. January 20, 2015, 11:12 am

    As for RSVP-ing, the news article I read yesterday said the mother saw the woman at school and told her the boy wanted to go and they were planning on bringing him. When they realized they had double booked, they asked the boy which he would prefer, the party or spending the day with his grandparents (the previously scheduled event). He said he wanted to spend the day with his grandparents.

    The only thing I didn’t understand (which admin points out here) is how they were able to find where the mother lived, but couldn’t figure out how to call her? I mean, we have 411 here in the states, and whitepages.com. They don’t have similar things in the UK?

    I think if this happened to me, and I was threatened with court, I’d say “go ahead and sue.” If it’s worth going to court over that amount of money, she’s terribly petty.

    • Another Sarah January 21, 2015, 8:41 am

      They only knew the woman’s surname, not her first name, so couldn’t call or facebook. But they got the name and address from the invoice later

  • B January 20, 2015, 11:15 am

    Extra Etiquette Bad from whingeing dad for plastering his child all over the newspapers and publicising his bad manners to the world.

    Hostess is deranged, but I bet more parents at that school sympathise with her than with him.

  • Inga January 20, 2015, 11:20 am

    “The answer is not to invoice the guest but rather strike them from all future guest lists thus leaving them scratching their heads and pondering why they never get invited anywhere.”

    True – for adult guests. In this case however, the parents are the guilty part, while the innocent kid would be the one to experience being excluded from all future birthday parties/festive events arranged for or by this friend for as long as they remain friends or go to school together. For this reason, a conversation with the parents of the no-show kid about the need to honour rsvp’s would be a far better option.

    • PrincessButtercup January 20, 2015, 12:27 pm

      Actually, it states that the parents asked the kid what he wanted to do. Keep his commitment to his friend, or go see his grandparents. The boy chose grandparents so that’s what they did. That means it’s not just parents fault, but also the boys. The correct action from the birthday parents would be to communicate to the other parents and their kid that “I’m sorry you chose not to honor your promise to me and I hope you’ll understand that in order to risk the same problems you incurred by not showing without word, I will be leaving you off future guests lists.”.

      • Samantha C January 20, 2015, 7:31 pm

        A kid that young doesn’t know to think of it as honoring a promise though. That needs to be taught. He just knows he had a pick of two things and picked one. And I’m of the opinion that it’s heavy overreacting to cut off contact for ANY first offense, let alone from a 5-year-old!

        • Amanda H. January 21, 2015, 3:50 pm

          This 100%. I’m the parent of a 5-year-old (as well as an older child and a younger child), and I know that I can’t ask her last-minute if she’d rather go to a party we already RSVP’d for or do something else. She’ll pick whichever seems more fun at the immediate moment, without regard of breaking promises. She just doesn’t understand. Which is why it’s my job as a parent to teach her. So I don’t tell her about the alternate option. If she finds out about the alternate option and wants to do that instead, I remind her that we already promised to be at the party and should honor that promise.

          In this instance, both sets of parents are in the wrong and need to learn from this situation.

      • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 9:50 pm

        Except, Alex is five years old. His parents, being the boors they were, probably presented the “birthday party or day trip with grandparents?” question to him at face value, and that’s probably how he took it. They never should have waited until the day of the party to raise this question; they should have asked as soon as they knew they’d double-booked, and had a proper talk about it, as in, “Alex, your mother and I are very sorry. We RSVP’ed ‘yes’ for you for Tommy’s birthday party, and we forgot that your grandparents were going to be in town that day. Now, it’s polite to honour your RSVP’s, because the hosts need an accurate head count, so they know how many tickets to buy/birthday cupcakes to make/place settings to put out/other concrete examples that a five-year-old would understand. However, it’s still before the RSVP deadline, so if you’d rather spend the day with your grandparents, please speak up now.” Or, they could have simply called and rescheduled with the grandparents (or found a compromise solution of grandparent time and then birthday party, or vice versa), and taken Alex to the birthday party. All they did was ask Alex which he’d rather do, and the answer he gave was probably what he preferred in that moment, because he’s five. Asking in that manner would be like the equivalent of taking an adult on a hike in the jungle, then coming up to a fork in the path. You know that the downhill path leads to a pond full of alligators, and the uphill path is safe, but nevertheless, you ask your hiking companion which they’d rather take, even though you know that if they choose “downhill,” they’re walking into a trap. That’s not a good thing to do to anyone. Also, since Alex is five, and the party happened before Christmas, and the invoice came after, he’s barely going to remember. To a little kid, time feels much longer. So, I don’t think he’d learn anything by being excluded from all future festive events for Birthday Kid, when all he did was make what he thought was a straightforward choice, weeks ago. That’s a lesson for his parents to teach him, before things go wrong, NOT for his friend’s parents to teach him, ages after the fact.

  • JWH January 20, 2015, 11:29 am

    A couple thoughts:

    1) Is it a faux pas if you put together a destination-type party, but ask the guests to pay their own way for some things? That is, if I host a party at a ski chalet, is it wrong to ask guests to pay for their own lift tickets? Or to foot the bill to rent skis if they don’t have skis to bring with them?

    2) I’m just ornery enough that if somebody sent me this kind of no-show invoice and threatened to take me to court over it, I’d want to play along with the farce and even escalate it.

    • Anonymous January 20, 2015, 10:31 pm


      1. Yes, it is a faux-pas to charge admission to a party, for any reason, but ESPECIALLY if you’re also expecting gifts, like at a birthday party. It’s also rude to have a potluck birthday party/wedding/baby shower/gifting event, and also expect gifts. My point is, if you’re having a party, you’re providing hospitality. If the level of hospitality you can afford is “cupcakes in the park,” then you do that. I’ve been to parties like that that were incredibly fun, even as an adult. If you tell everyone that they have to pay for their own tickets (it’ egregiously rude to drop that bombshell when they RSVP, or worse, when they arrive), then you’re not having a party; you’re organizing a group outing. If you say, “Join us for a birthday party at Mount Blahblah Ski Resort,” then it’s assumed that the hosts are paying. If it’s “Join us for a birthday OUTING at Mount Blahblah Ski Resort. Tickets are $24 each,” then it’s still etiquettely correct, because it’s straightforward, and there’s no pretense that the hosts are providing hospitality.

      2. Funny thought, but I think it’d be a lot of unnecessary hassle just for the sake of a farce.

      • JWH January 21, 2015, 12:22 pm

        1. I think I’d likely go with the birthday “outing” instead of a birthday party. I think that once you get past the age of 21, the birthday party thing is kind of immature. But using the birthday as an excuse to get a bunch of friends together …. that’s a little different. Getting back to the party thing, though … I can imagine a scenario where you have a mixed group of friends, some who ski, some who want to ski, and some who don’t ski. If somebody doesn’t bring his own skis, is it on the host to rent skis for the wannabes? To pay the pro for ski lessons?

        • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 5:15 pm

          I think renting skis for people without them (or providing spare equipment for them if you have extras) would be a nice thing to do, but not necessary, because when you do the math, it’s skis, plus boots, plus poles, plus maybe goggles, multiplied by the number of people without equipment, and that adds up fast. So, if you’re wealthy, and willing, yeah, do it, but if not, nobody’s going to send you to Etiquette Hell for not being able to completely finance a ski trip for all your friends, if you state the terms upfront.

          As for ski lessons, I think that’s another extra, but honestly, I wouldn’t include it in a group ski outing, because the point of going skiing together, is to go skiing TOGETHER, and if you went skiing with a group of friends of varying ability levels, then you’d spend a lot of time apart, because the lessons might be at the same time, but they’d be on different hills, and afterwards, well, one beginner ski lesson doesn’t magically make people able to ski with intermediate and advanced skiers, so I can see an outing like that becoming a disaster. So, if I was in that situation, I’d either plan a trip with skiers of the same ability level (I’d say I’m intermediate–I started skiing when I was six, and skied regularly from ages 6-17, but only sporadically since then). Alternatively, it could be arranged in advance that the purpose of the trip is for me to teach my beginner friends to ski, OR for me to be taught how to improve my skiing, by my advanced skier friends. I’m sure there’s at least one episode of one sitcom that’s centred around this scenario–group ski excursion, poor communication, one person is a beginner, another is a boastful expert, and the rest are somewhere in the middle. Frustration and chaos ensue, and friendships are strained, amid canned laughter from the studio audience. Around minute 18 or 20 of the 23-minute episode (30 minutes, minus commercial breaks), the show-off apologizes, the beginner gets the hang of skiing, sappy music plays, and everyone lives “happily ever after” until the next episode. But, all of that would have been avoided if First-Timer Filmore had said, “Hey, I’ve never done this before, I’ll need to start on the bunny hill,” and Expert Edward had said, “Actually, I’d really like to try Mogul Mountain,” and Intermediate Inga had said, “Hey guys, let’s compromise/get Filmore some lessons/teach Filmore together/find another activity where we’re more evenly matched,” but then there’d be no storyline. Actually, I think the lesson scenario, and the ski rental scenario, are both examples of Assertiveness Heck–the problem would never arise, if you just speak up in advance about what you want to do, what you can afford, how good a skier you are, and other variables that can make or break a group ski trip.

          • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 5:17 pm

            Also, if the plan is “ski separately or in pairs/small groups, and meet up at the lodge later,” then that’s fine, but it’s best to be clear about that, so it doesn’t become a battle between those who expect to ski together all day, and those who want to do their own thing.

      • JWH January 26, 2015, 9:48 am

        2. The host’s statement that she would pursue litigation got my hackles up. I’m an attorney myself, and I take it quite personally when bullies abuse the court system (or threaten to use it) to abet their bullying ways. If somebody were to try that with me, I would be tempted to fight back … and hard … to teach them a lesson about abusing the legal system and threatening people.

    • Anon January 21, 2015, 4:11 am

      Regarding point 1: I’m not too sure about this, but I imagine that it would be okay if you’re up front about the charges instead of springing it on guests once they’re there. Like, with the ski chalet situation, you’d be okay if you told them “I’m renting a cabin for the first weekend of February and you’re welcome to come share it with me, but be aware that there’s extra fees that you might have to pay if you plan on skiing, like lift tickets or ski rentals.”

      • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 12:43 pm

        Well, you’re fine doing that, because that’s not a party; it’s a group outing.

  • Lindenharp January 20, 2015, 11:43 am

    Some of the British newspapers went into more detail. The hostess’s address was on the invoice. As for contacting her on the day of the party, Mr. Nash said, “By this time we did not have a contact number, email or an address to let [the boy’s mother] know.” I presume that means he was claiming that he no long had the party invitation.

    I think that all sides behaved badly. (The school confirmed that it was a violation of policy for Alex’s teacher to have put the envelope with the invoice into his book-bag.)

    The article I’ve quoted is here:

    And a followup with the Facebook conversation is here:

  • JD January 20, 2015, 11:47 am

    I’m in agreement with admin. He could find the mother to tell her she wasn’t getting paid back, but not to tell her his kid wasn’t coming after all? His story doesn’t stand up, unless there is information missing here that would clear that up.
    And for the lady to hand an invoice to a child for missing a party! Was that an attempt to humiliate a child in his class? Or was she just out for her money, by golly, and didn’t care who was embarrassed? Sorry, lady, but we can’t invoice our guests who miss the event. A hostess doesn’t charge her guests. No, let me change that. We SHOULDN’T invoice our guests. As too many stories here show, some people sure do it, even though they shouldn’t!

  • MM January 20, 2015, 11:52 am

    this reminds me of the episode of New Adventures of Old Christine “Teach Your Children Well” where Christine tried to throw an old-fashioned home birthday party as a statement against the lavish parties the other families at their private school threw.

    I don’t think it’s fair to exclude the kid just because the parents are rude. I wish I knew what the other event was they had to go. I bet money the kid preferred the birthday party.

    I don’t think Party Hostess was right but I can see where she is coming from.