Help Wanted?


Should You Pay for an Unsolicited Service?

Our friend Tina found herself in an awkward situation the other day.  She had asked one of her favorite and trusted sitters, Jan, to come babysit her two kids while she and her husband went out to dinner. Jan was a mom herself and Tina’s girls adored her.  So far, so good.  However, when the doorbell rang, not only was Jan there, but so was someone Tina had never met before – Jan’s cousin Julie.  Jan quickly introduced the two women and said, “Julie wanted to come along with me tonight to help me- she’s great with kids!”

Cousin Julie began to busy herself cleaning the living room, even asking if she could vacuum the house or do some laundry.  As Tina & her husband were rushing out the door to make their reservation, she told Julie it wasn’t necessary, but Julie continued to look for ways to tidy up the house.  Tina left feeling totally baffled. Was Julie just there to keep Jan company?  Was Jan planning on splitting her  money with Julie?  Or was Tina expected to pay the surprise helper? Tina certainly hadn’t asked Jan to bring along extra help, nor had Jan called her ahead to ask.  Something didn’t feel right…

On their way back from date night, Tina turned to her husband and said, “Well, I suppose we should pay Cousin Julie something for all her cleaning and help.” Tina’s husband was outraged – and said absolutely not!  He raged on about how Julie had come unannounced, and if she was assuming she could just show up and get paid that was incredibly manipulative.  When they got home, Tina’s husband paid Jan her regular rate and did not pay Julie.  He politely thanked them and said goodnight.

Although Tina was disappointed and upset to think that Jan could be so presumptuous, she was also left feeling guilty and wondered if she and her husband were cheap for not even tipping Julie?  Was the burden on Tina to have asked Jan what was going on before she left?  In not doing so, did they accept the unspoken offer or was it obvious from the beginning that they weren’t  interested?  Did Tina and her husband do the right thing?  What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Help Wanted?”

  1. Carly says:

    I think they absolutely did the right thing in not paying her and I think it’s incredibly intrusive for Jan to bring her/Julie to do all of that without being more clear on her intent. It would be one thing to invite someone along with you to babysit once you have the parents’ consent and have clarified that you don’t expect them to be paid anything. But to be vague and then overly insistent on doing jobs that are normally paid for is either very manipulative (if you do want to be paid) or naive (if you aren’t expecting compensation).

  2. NJJ says:

    I agree w/ PP Tina should have only paid the sitter she requested and hired not the sitter’s cousin too. Jan should have never brought her cousin w/ her unless the family had a large number of kids like five or more since most laws regarding child care have a limit on the number of kids a single person can watch. In fact it was rude on Jan’s part to bring her cousin unannounced and she should be the one responsible for paying her cousin not Tina and her husband. Heck, if it was me I’d find a new sitter all together especially if I had a sitter that like to surprise me w/ new people all the time

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