The penny pincher par excellence

Monday 26 January 2015

For such a small story the tale of five-year-old Alex Nash, whose parents were invoiced for £15.95 by the mother of a child whose birthday party Alex failed to turn up for, has received a vast amount of attention.

No wonder, since kids’ birthday parties are a total nightmare to organise.

When mine were little we tended to keep them simple, at most hiring a children’s entertainer (whom many tots found creepy, several always ended up in tears) and providing ample wine for the mums.

Of course we were a bit competitive. The birthday spread had to be perfect and home-made (mums who baked the birthday cake themselves always scored extra points. I always bought mine from M&S).

And the dreaded party bags were always as carefully filled as Christmas stockings.

But, although as the kids got older, birthday treats tended to take place at McDonald’s, TGI Friday’s or a paintballing joint, all of which involved booking and pre-payment, no parent ever had the nerve to send an invoice to no-shows, although many were the churlish grumbles about mums who didn’t reply to invites and then failed to turn up with their kids.

But some parents did have an oddly mercenary attitude towards providing treats for children, even then.

I remember one of our kids, in their early teens, was invited on holiday to New York with a schoolfriend’s family. Obviously we paid the air fare and hotel bill.

But imagine our surprise when we later received an invoice for our child’s share of taxi fares, meals and entrance fees to tourist attractions.

Especially when we had previously taken the friend on holiday ourselves and gladly included her in all our expensive jaunts. That’s what parents do, isn’t it?

I have to say we were pretty shocked and annoyed to be billed for our child’s holiday activities. It wasn’t the money – it was the killjoy attitude, the sheer lack of hospitality.

The father had asked for separate receipts for each taxi ride, meal, and event. It must have taken up a lot of his holiday time and pleasure.

The thing is, pettiness such as this does rankle. Our child’s friendship with the offspring of the penny-pinching dad quickly faded and we were glad.

If you offer kids a treat then within reason it should be free and made with generosity. It shouldn’t be sullied with reproaches or demands for money.

I feel sorry for the little boy whose mum sent the birthday no-show invoice. I hope he keeps his friends – especially Alex.

Read Richard and Judy's column for the Daily Express here.
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