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This Party Is Just Getting Started

, , , , , | Right | February 20, 2021

To book a kid’s party room in our indoor soft play venue, a customer has to pay a non-refundable deposit. We have a kind of script memorised — since we take face and phone bookings — which mentions it being non-refundable on three occasions, and the customers have to sign a place on the paperwork to say they acknowledge it.

The law is on our side, too, since non-refundable deposits are legal as long as our policies are clear and the amount is reasonable to cover our costs. In our case, it is set in place to secure a room in a time slot, a character costume, equipment, and so on. If a customer cancels, there is no guarantee that the time slot will be filled, etc. We aren’t totally unfair to the customers, though, as the customers can spend the deposit amounts in other ways in the playland.

A couple comes in on a Sunday morning and cancels their party. They’ve booked the biggest package, invited all their guests, and only a few kids can make it. They then demand a refund.

I politely explain the policy and tell them that they can transfer the balance to a card they can use for other services in the playland — entry tickets, food and drinks, a different type of party more suitable for the number of guests they have, a character visit, and so on.

I spend a good five minutes outlining all the options. Apparently, all they hear is, “We’re keeping your money.”

Customer: “That’s not legal! We come all the time!”

I work five-day weeks on rotating days and have never seen them before.

Customer: “We want to speak to the manager!”

Me: “I’m the manager on duty.”

Customer: “The owner, then!”

Me: “The owner isn’t here on Sundays.”

Customer: “What’s their phone number?!”

Obviously, that isn’t going to happen. I know the owner won’t answer anyway because she is away with her family for a large birthday weekend camping, so she has no reception.

It really escalates quickly, with me repeating our policies and their options and the two of them ignoring me.

Customer: “We’re going to stand in the foyer until the owner comes!”

I do explain the days that the owners will be there and suggest that they can call or visit at any of those times, but they just ignore everything I say. While they are cranky and ignoring me, they are mostly just annoying. They aren’t otherwise aggressive or abusive. I don’t want to escalate it by calling the police or creating additional drama for other customers unless necessary, and they are separated from the children playing by security walls, so I try another tactic.

I remind them of their options and that they are only hearing what they want to hear, so there is no more I can do. I cheerfully offer them each a chair, I tell them our closing time, and I walk away to do my other duties.

They sit for a bit, arms folded.

Then, they sit for a bit, arms in their laps.

They pace a bit.

They leave. 

On Monday, I am scheduled off. On Tuesday, I speak to the owner.

Owner: “They came in and asked for a refund. I explained their options. They said you never told them they could spend the money on other things here.”

They happily booked in a smaller party that I had tried to suggest. Any time I saw them in the future, they looked at me cautiously for half a second and then were super nice.

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