Have you read about Alex Nash and the story of the birthday invoice? The parents of five-year-old Alex have gone to the press after they missed a birthday party they had said their child would attend.
Shortly after the Christmas break, they discovered that the parents of the birthday boy had issued them with an invoice for a 'party no-show fee', at £15.95, which is the amount the child's ticket cost the birthday parents.
The story has gone viral and social media is full of people tutting about the 'spirit of the age' and the scrooge-like behaviour of the birthday parents. But I have a lot of sympathy for them.
When I organised my wedding I had to keep the guest list down to reduce costs, meaning people I wanted to invite couldn't come. Yet at the party I had several no-shows, meaning I wasted £100 on the most expensive day of my life. I wish I had had the guts to send bill them.
My sympathy for the parents
Firstly, the press is being a bit OTT. The birthday parents didn't 'invoice a five-year-old'; they invoiced the parents who agreed to bring their child.
Secondly, organising a kids' party can be an expensive task in modern-day Britain. Build-a-bear workshops, soft play events, hiring a clown – the most popular options are far from cheap.
Maybe you think that's wrong and that parents should simply invite friends around for jelly and a game of 'who'll be first to break a limb on the trampoline', but that is a separate issue. The fact is that these parents organised an expensive and exciting day out for their child and classmates. By not bothering to let the organisers know that they weren't coming, the Nashs wasted £15.95 and, more importantly, stopped another child from celebrating with the birthday boy or girl.
Finally, it's just plain old rude. The father (pictured in the media holding his son and looking outraged) just couldn't be bovved to let the parents know. Okay, he said he didn't have their contact information, but he knew where the party was being held and could have sent a message via the company.
He could have sent a message via the school – clearly it's quite happy to pop envelopes into kids' bags or the invoice wouldn't have made it through. He could have asked another parent for their details.
Instead, he wasted money, hurt the organisers' feelings and stopped another child going. So why exactly is he looking so outraged?
Okay, so sending an invoice home in the kids' satchel is also rude, but the provocation was pretty severe. And nothing is as rude as going to the national press; it's hard to imagine what that's doing to both children's morale.
Admittedly, when I say that the parents were right I clearly don't think that they have a legal leg to stand on. An RSVP is not the same as a contract, it's a social note. That's even more so given that little Alex's parents RSVP'd in person, not in writing.
Frankly, unless the host parents printed Ts&Cs on the RSVP slip, then clearly there's little chance the invoice is enforceable. But the birthday party parents are probably not actually after the money – they could clearly afford it as they wouldn't have invoiced had Alex attended. They are simply making a point about the money they wasted.
And I have every sympathy with them for making that point. Alex's father has not said he apologised or sent a card (again, could have done so via the school). He just forgot about it, dismissed it and ignored the fact that he had snubbed a family who were kind enough to offer his son their hospitality.
He's rude AND he's in the wrong. My sympathies are with the infamous invoice issuers.
What do you think? Who's more in the wrong? Do you have sympathy for anyone in this? Have your say using the comments below.