A new high in parenting lows: UK parents send invoice to child for not attending birthday party

I was all fired up to blog about this outrageous story about a Maryland family who were reported to police and eventually had child protective services threaten to take away their children for the egregious sin of letting their six and eight year olds walk a mile or so to a park unattended.

But then I stumbled across this even more rant-worthy story. A mother in the UK sent an invoice to the child’s family in the amount of £15.95, which is just shy of $30 Cdn, when said child failed to attend the birthday party to which he had been invited.


I have more than one problem with this. Ahem. First, if you’re sponsoring an activity for your five year old’s birthday party, does it really need to have a value of $30 per person? What the hell are we doing with these out-of-control birthday party costs?

And that doesn’t even broach the question of invoicing the parents for missing the party. Okay, so let’s back this up. What actually happened?

The parents of a five-year-old schoolboy have been invoiced for failing to attend a school friend’s birthday party and have been threatened with legal action if they do not pay.

Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh found a brown envelope with a £15.95 “no show fee” left in their son Alex’s schoolbag last week, sent by his classmate’s mother Julie Lawrence.

Lawrence claims that Alex’s failure to attend her child’s birthday party has left her out of pocket, and that his parents had her details to tell her that their son would not be attending.

Nash said he had been told he would be taken to small claims court for refusing to pay.

And I thought $25 loot bags were over the top. Yikes!

We’re right on the precipice of birthday season here, with two parties booked in the next three weeks and one more birthday following up in March. (So far, one in home party and one on location party have been scheduled.) In the past, I’ve spent upwards of $200 for a party with a dozen kids and felt we got good value for that – sometimes, no amount is too much to pay to keep the screaming, sugar-jacked eight year olds out of YOUR living room, I totally get that.

Over the years, disasters have happened. The day before Tristan’s sixth birthday party at Starr Gymnastics was the epic snow dump we received in March of 2008, with 60 cm of snow falling in about 30 hours. We shovelled frantically to get out of the driveway and made it to Starr in time for the Sunday-morning party, but only his cousin and a dear family friend managed the same effort. Oh well. I wouldn’t dream of invoicing the parents for the missed party. In other years, we’ve called family friends in at the last minute and offered paid-for spaces at a party to their older children when guests cancelled at the last minute. Stuff happens.

As far as I’m concerned, the money I pay for my kid’s birthday party is a gift to that child. In other years, we’ve bought a gift that was more extravagant than we’d usually consider (eg refurbished iPods) in lieu of a party, and the kids were on board with that. I’m not running an entertainment facility and I don’t charge kids for admission to parties — I pay for parties because my boy has looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and said, “Please can we have a party at LaserQuest again? Last year’s party was the best ever and I really had fun!”

We’ve had terrific discussions about where to host a kid’s birthday party in Ottawa (one of my more popular posts – note to self, you should update that one of these days) and the perils of loot bags (really, don’t even get me started.)

What do you think? Is this or is this not the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard of when it comes to kid parties? Or can you see a justification for this that I’m missing?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

8 thoughts on “A new high in parenting lows: UK parents send invoice to child for not attending birthday party”

  1. I do think it is outrageous to charge a no show, but I think this points to a bigger issue in birthday parties and that is people that don’t RSVP. I think it is rude not to let the other family know that you are not coming. I understand that there can be extenuating circumstances, but it sounds like this child just changed his mind. They should have let the other family know. If they didn’t have contact info for the family, they could have left a message at the venue, so the party wasn’t delayed as they waited for a child that was never going to come.

  2. I agree with Catherine that a lesson in manners, and not a bill, would be more appropriate!

    Birthday parties have gotten crazy expensive, but they don’t have to be. We always had our boys’ parties at our home and packed them with good old fashioned party games!

    my son hadn’t gone to a party like that in a while.. (always something on location the past few years( but recently attended a house party! He came home saying it was the “best party ever” as they had donut eating (w/o using your hands) contest, and a dress up as fast as you can game.. and all sorts of “old fashioned” fun!! A little effort, and a very small cost, and you can have an awesome party at home!

    as for loot bags……. I put a “ban” on those years badk……. your gift was coming to the party!! lol 🙂

  3. Yes, I have seen both problems: “no RSVP no show” and “no RSVP but kid shows up anyway”. It is rude, but as a well-intentioned but occasionally scattered parent, I’m pretty forgiving about it. Leaving a message with the venue is a smart idea, Catherine!

    Sarah, filing away your ideas for our pending 7 year old’s at-home party. Doughnut eating contest will go over BIG!!

  4. I am so hairy my kids were never big on having parties, we managed with very few over the years. Now they’re 12, even last year they didn’tnwant anything. Phew. Now they’re toomold. Phew!!

  5. HAPPY!!!! Not hairy (stupid autocorrect!) and too old, and didn’t want – teach myself a lesson for not wearing my glasses! Mind you, the hairy part made me LOL for real!!

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