My Failed Negotiation

I am writing this, from the High Tea on the Sea, on the Carnival Inspiration. We’re on a three-day cruise to Ensenada. So while I have little room to complain about the surroundings while others are wrapping up a week in the office, I do have a story to recount from this week and how miserably I failed.

I planned this trip for my wife’s birthday. I planned it months in advance and asked a young lady to oversee my children in our absence. We had used this young lady prior on our trip to Italy this year, so my obvious first effort rested in her court. As I said, this was months in advance and she replied readily with a “Yeah sure”. Over the next couple of weeks, we exchanged the dates and confirmed her fee had increased. Earlier in the year, she watched our kids for one week at the low low fee of just $200.00. As a token of appreciation – my wife left her an extra $100.00.

Our trip was scheduled to leave Friday afternoon and return on the following Monday morning – early. She would basically leave the house at 7:00 am after the kids went to school. She stated that she was now charging $60.00 per day and would count the trip as four days… $240.00. On a per day basis, she is nearly doubling her fee, but I just want this surprise for my wife to be well-planned so I agree. I remember thinking “Man, this 19-year old is pretty shrewd”.

Well, two weeks prior to the trip I received a text message from this young lady. She wanted to confirm her rate for the trip that was just days away at this point. She said the rate was $150.00 per day. All the sudden I am doing math in my head and hitting $600.00 to babysit the kids for a weekend. As much as I wanted some “Couple’s Time” with my queen, it may have been cheaper to buy them an adjoining cabin!?! I respond with a request for a whole number that meets her needs – not a day rate, not an hourly rate. For a co-volunteer at church, I am kind of surprised I am even in this conversation. Then again, sadly – I am not really surprised.

I was given explicit orders NOT TO PAY HER

The discounted sail rate that I paid for Heidi and I is no longer valid, so I see that it would be more expensive to bring the kids. I stick with the plan and gain the texted rate of $500.00 for the weekend to watch the kids. By the way, my kids are eleven and fourteen. They cook. They clean. They are generally well-mannered but being siblings they need a referee occasionally.

With a week to go before the trip, I tell Heidi. Romantically, I wanted to truly surprise her and drive up to the pier. Realistically, I am not kidnapping my wife to another country without some warning. As a sidebar, you probably need to know that at least twice a week I get a Facebook tag or message that says “We should go here” or “We’re doing this”. With my failure to properly source an affordable alternative to watch my children I said: “Well, enjoy this coming trip because I don’t think we’ll be doing anything like this for a long time”. To answer the bewildered look, I just said that the rate to watch the kids had gone up a lot.

Without even giving her a full rate, the night before the trip, Heidi was through the roof. “I’ll replace her!”, “I’m gonna call all the parents I can” (meaning to farm the kids out for sleepovers). I had to leave the house to meet my church obligation with the Mid-school group, where I had been planning on pre-paying our childcare provider. However, I was given explicit orders NOT TO PAY HER. Heidi was on a mission. Two and one-half hours later, I was home. No alternative settled upon, Heidi asked: “How much is she charging?”. When I told her, she literally had to hold back a little spit-up. She was enraged. I also believe fairly hurt. “Why would a 19-year old from church charge $500.00 a weekend to watch our angels?”.

This is when the mommy gene kicks in and she goes direct. Heidi called the sitter and told her she had just found out how much I was being charged for the sitting. She asked directly “Why are you charging more than double to watch the kids this time? Were they terrible on the last visit?”. Then it all starts to come into sight. Turns out on the last visit, she didn’t use the food that was provided in the home… nope – the extra money we left her the first time, and my guess part of the fee… was used to buy restaurant food. She said it was more work than she thought it would be.

“If I am going to do this again, I have to be sure to get mine”

Yep. We paid her more than she asked for the first time, but somehow in the mix, the perception on her part was we took advantage of her and now she was going to finally get paid. Well, Heidi apologized for the misunderstanding and then basically said she’d cancel the trip because she wasn’t going to pay $500.00 for basically a weekend of sitting.

Thanks to our California Government, the babysitter now thinks that $15.00 per hour is a standard rate. The two ladies spent another ten minutes on the phone clarifying expectations. Things were discussed like “hey, we went food shopping and there is easy stuff to make”, “The kids know how to cook what we got”. In the end, they settled back on $250.00 which is bizarrely similar to the original quote. Tensions were high, but in the end – Heidi negotiated what I failed.

For those that are still saying “What?” you would be correct. We are paying a “friend” from church $250.00 to hang out at our house for the weekend while our kids cook for her. But hey, we’re on our way to Mexico for the weekend.

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