Dear Crabby, My kid plays sports, and we go out of town a lot on weekends for games. My child’s friend, a teammate, comes with us often because the friend’s parents are quite busy. They give their cash for food and this and that, but they don’t cough up any dough to help with gas and hotel expenses.
Should I accept this even though the friend’s parents make good money? Should I be offended? Would you suggest I let it go, make obvious hints or demand some scratch up front? It’s all so confusing. Why are some people so damn stingy?
Dear Mr. Compensation, You’re right; it is confusing. I don’t know that I’d make an issue of it myself. But, then again, I don’t have kids so I don’t really have a firm grasp on cost-sharing etiquette for out-of-town trips. There are a couple of ways to look at it. On one hand, you’re not spending more on gas and hotels than you would be already (assuming you’re not getting the kid his own room). Also, he’s your kid’s friend, so that’s worth something. On the other hand, you are basically baby-sitting this kid for free — and not at home, where you can just plop him in front of a PlayStation and go about your night of whiskey drinking and low-key bickering with your spouse, but in a foreign environment where you have to watch him like a hawk lest he slip away and join the Merchant Marine. You’re also saving the other family money by alleviating their need to take the kid themselves.
I don’t think you’d be in the wrong to bring it up, but it’s definitely awkward. It’s really the other parents’ job to bring it up and then allow you to either say, “Sure, we’d appreciate the help,” or “Oh, think nothing of it. Having little Timmy (or whatever his name is) along with us is a delight.” Instead, you’re stuck raising the issue: “Hey, um, Joe (or whatever), it’s about your kid. We, uh, like him and all, but it’d be a lot better for us if you gave us money in exchange for taking him off of your deadbeat, absentee-parent hands every weekend. Hotels aren’t cheap, you know. Especially with your kid ordering all those room-service club sandwiches and pay-per-view movies.”
That’s a tough conversation to start. So my brass-tacks advice is this: If it bugs you enough to deal with some awkwardness, then bring it up. If the other parents are reasonable, they’ll want to come to some kind of arrangement. But keep in mind, you absolutely do run the risk of offending them, on account of how you’re kind of saying that their kid ain’t worth hanging out with for free.
I’ll conclude with a note to parents whose kids are traveling with other families: It is your responsibility to make sure you’re paying enough. If you’re not paying for your kid’s share of the hotel and gas, you should ask the person on whom you’ve pawned off your kid whether they’d like some money for that.
Hope that helps.
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