Imagine this. Your kid is invited to a birthday party by another child at school. The kid's mom asks if you're coming to the party and you say yes. But at the last moment something comes up and you can't make it.
So the other kid's mom sends you an invoice billing you for not showing up.
That's exactly what happened to five-year-old Alex Nash of Cornwall, England. When little Alex was invited to a party by a school chum right before Christmas, his parents agreed to let him go. But soon they realized that the party, held at Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre, would interfere with time Alex was scheduled to spend with grandparents who were about to leave town, so they offered him the choice: party or grandparents. He chose the latter.
The mom in charge of the party, Julie Lawrence, says that the Nashes had her contact information to notify her that Alex wouldn't be coming. Alex's father Derek Nash and mother Tanya Walsh say nuh-uh, they did not have Lawrence's contact info at all.
Look. Anyone with small children knows that kids get invited to birthday parties all the time. Some parties are little more than glorified play dates, while others are more elaborate affairs. (This can create quite the bitter little game in the hierarchy of soccer mom politics. It's a game where she who can throw the most expensive party at the coolest location wins.) Lawrence's party appears to have been one of the latter, because when Alex didn't show up, she was miffed to have wasted the money spent on his attendance.
Lawrence soon had a brown envelope placed in Alex's school bag for his parents to find. Inside the envelope was an invoice for £15.95, which equates to a little more than $24. It listed a "Party No Show Fee" as what the Nash family is being billed for. A dumbstruck Mr. Nash told BBC News that it was "a proper invoice with full official details and even her bank details on it." He thought it was a joke at first.
Nash is now refusing to pay the money, because, as he put it, Lawrence treated him "like a child and that I should do what she says." In response, Lawrence is threatening to take the Nashes to small claims court.
Alex's mother, Tonya Walsh, contacted Lawrence on Facebook to attempt to settle the matter amicably. Here's a full transcript of that exchange, if you're curious. (And no, it didn't end amicably.)
After this story was picked up by British media, each party commented on the sordid events that led them to this situation. Derek Nash's sentiments are documented above and have been reported across several British news outlets.
Julie Lawrence issued a short statement that simply said, "All details were on the party invite. They had every detail needed to contact me."
The head teacher at Torpoint Nursery and Infant School, which passed on the invoice from Lawrence to Nash through Alex's school bag, "couldn't apologise enough [to Nash] that one of the teachers had passed this on," according to The Telegraph. "She said she would remind all staff that this was a breach of protocol."
Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre, eager to distance itself from the dispute, issued a public statement that reads, "We would like all our customers to know that this invoice has nothing to do with Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre. No invoices are ever sent out from the centre to private individuals. This is a disagreement between the two parents involved and the fact that the centre has been named on the invoice is fraudulent."