Boy Charged $25 for Skipping Friend’s Birthday Party. Did His Family Do Anything Wrong?

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Alex and Derek Nash. Photo by SWNS Group. 

The mother of a boy whose classmate skipped his birthday party was so upset by the no-show that she’s charging the boy $25 for his absence. But an etiquette expert says both parents will pay the price.

The 5-year-old named Alex from Cornwall, England, was invited to his friend’s birthday celebration, which took place on December 20 at the Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre in Devon. Alex was excited to attend, but realized last minute that the party would conflict with a scheduled visit from his grandparents. His parents, Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh, gave their son the choice of attending the party or hanging out with his grandparents and Alex choose the latter. Because the party occurred over the holiday break, Alex’s parents said they could not contact the birthday boy’s mother Julie Lawrence, so they didn’t cancel. On January 15, when Alex returned home from school, he brought with him an invoice for $24.13 titled “Child’s Party No-Show Fee.”

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Nash refused to pay the bill, Lawrence has threatened them with a lawsuit and — worst of all — Alex says his classmates are no longer speaking to him because he skipped the party.

“Unfortunately, the children are the ones who are going to ultimately pay for this,” Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Alex is 5 years old, so he didn’t do anything wrong, but receiving an invoice will make him feel as though he did.”

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According to Gottsman, both parents are guilty of wrongdoing. By sending an invoice, Lawrence has put Nash on the defensive and as a result, she likely won’t recoup her losses. She still doesn’t have $25 but she is the subject of a media firestorm — probably not what she expected. “The birthday boy’s mother could have called Alex’s parents and explained that she was disappointed, which would have resulted in an explanation or apology,” says Gottsman.

Alex’s parents also shouldn’t have blown off the party with no explanation. “With so many ways to reach people over social media, it is odd that contact information could not be found,” says Gottsman.

Yahoo Parenting couldn’t reach Nash, Walsh, or Lawrence for comment, however, Nash told the BBC, ”I can understand that she’s upset about losing money. The money isn’t the issue, it’s the way she went about trying to get the money from me.

Should Nash have to pay Lawrence? “Absolutely not,” says Gottsman. “In life, there are no guarantees. People make mistakes and miscommunication happens. In the case of a birthday party, the host should be gracious and understanding.” Also: Both parties are guilty of airing their grievances on social media. Nash unfairly thrust his son into the spotlight by having him pose for photos (see above), and Walsh and Lawrence battled it out over Facebook, which likely escalated matters. “Social media is not the place to settle conflict,” says Gottsman.

See their exchange, obtained by the U.K. newspaper the Telegraph, below.

Tanya Walsh

Hi Julie. This is Alex’s mum. I don’t know what has happened between you and my partner, Derek. I was very shocked to see the invoice in Alex’s school bag. I did not realise that you had to pay for each child, as you never mentioned anything about money when we spoke. The only reason Alex did not attend the party was because his nan and grandad were going away for christmas and the only day the kids could go see them was on the same day as the party. I did not know this. On the day Alex decided that he wanted to spend time with his nan and grandad. I apologise for not letting you know, but I did not have a phone number or an e-mail for you to let you know the situation (I also didn’t know your first name, or I would have looked you up). If I had known that I would have to pay if Alex did not go, then I would have paid you the money, no problem. I do not like fighting with people, and would prefer to settle this amicably.

Julie Lawrence

Hi Tanya, I didn’t mention the money when we spoke because it was a child’s party, it doesn’t matter if you have to pay per person or for a group if people agree to going, I confirmed that with all parents on the Thursday before the party that they were going as I had to pay that day, and Derek told me Alex was looking forward to it and would see us there, to me that is confirmation. My phone number was on the invitation that was sent out to Alex. I don’t like fighting with people either, and was not best impressed when Derek turned up on my doorstep, and said you won’t get any money out of me, rather rudely, I do admit it rattled me. This is not the first time Alex has not turned up to a party that he has been invited to, either. the amicable way round this I believe would be to pay me the money and let a lesson be learnt, I hope this is agreeable? Julie

Tanya Walsh

Hi Julie, whose party is Alex supposed to have gone to? I did speak to another mum about a party but she never got back to me with details, other than that I don’t recall any other confirmed invites. The only reason Derek was angry was because of the fact that the envelope was put into Alex’s school bag, when it has nothing to do with the school. He spoke to the headteacher about and she said that it’s against school policy to do that kind of thing. Birthday invites are fine, but not personal items. Like I said before, no money was mentioned when we spoke, and I feel it would be inappropriate to pay you the money, when I don’t know what it’s actually paying for. Alex was very excited to go to the party. I didn’t know until the day about his nan and grandad, and he decided he would rather spend the day with them. Like I said before I didn’t have your number to let you know. And exactly what lesson would I be learning. I am not a child, so please do not speak to me like I am one. So, to answer your question, unfortunately no. This is not agreeable.

Julie Lawrence

You are paying for 1 x child’s party at the ski slope including snow tubing and tobogganing and lunch, to with you said Alex was attending on the Thursday

Tanya Walsh

Just so you know, small claims court cost £60 just to start a claim. Also I’m not paying for something we didn’t use.

Julie Lawrence

It doesn’t cost that much

Tanya Walsh

It does. Also I don’t think the school are very happy with you involving them in this either. I don’t know why you are out for our blood and slandering us. I’ve told you the reasons why Alex didn’t go. I also told you why I couldn’t call. You also don’t seem to understand that I never ran away from you. I didn’t hear you calling after me. I have to get to my daughter at carbeile. So if they let Alex out last then I have to rush a bit because evie, my 2 year old, walks slow. So maybe that’s why you thought I was rushing off. I had no reason to run to run away from you. So please do not state things as truth when you do not have all the facts. Maybe if you actually spoke to me rather than making your own mind up about what happened then none of this would be happening right now. If you had come up to us the first day back and explained about the money, then I could have explained about alex, then maybe we could have sorted something out. Instead you send an invoice.

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