If you’ve read my blog long enough, you’ll know how I absolutely love party planning especially if it’s for someone I love. You’ll also know how I’m one to put together really last minute parties (the record being within a week for Liam’s 2nd birthday) albeit decent, fun and memorable ones if I may add.
So when my soon to be 3-yr-old asked when his birthday is (as he always does whenever the Disney Junior Birthday Book Song plays on telly) and told me that he wanted 2 specific things for his birthday party this year – a big big cake and a slide at his party – the party mum in me had to say YES!
I had the bright idea of re-creating his favourite scene out of one of his favourite books – the funfair…propped with slides, swings, fish-a-duck games like in the story…but no. With an active 5-month-old in tow, I knew I had to surrender my party planning ambitions and do the next best thing – outsource.
We haven’t been going to indoor playgrounds as frequently as we used to (once a week) now that we keep going to different outdoor playgrounds. But seeing how much the boy enjoyed himself at 2 of his friends birthday parties held at Kidz Amaze and Amazonia recently, I knew having his birthday party at an indoor playground (because it’s wet weather-proof!) would thrill him to bits.
And so the search began. Thanks to knowing a community of Singapore Mom Bloggers and their detailed reviews on a list of indoor playgrounds, coupled with the fact that I used to frequent these places a lot (before I became a PTWM), I came up with a shortlist rather quickly. I was really keen to have it at a newly opened playground that I’ve been meaning to check out and bring the kid to after hearing rave reviews, but was warned about how insanely crowded the place would be on weekends and so I struck that off (and will probably leave it for his next birthday on a weekday with his school friends :D). I then wrote to 3 other venues, only to be informed that my next choice of venue was 80% booked with the smallest celebration space for 10 pax still available (I have 34 kids to host). Unfortunately last minute planning, when it comes to booking party rooms at playgrounds don’t work.
Then there was this particular playground. I brought Liam there once on a playdate and while it didn’t excite him as much as the bigger playgrounds when we first got there, he had a good time eventually with the long winding slide leading to the ball pit. I also found out was that they had opened a 2nd outlet at the east side of SG, and while it wasn’t as convenient as their first outlet, I was curious to see what changes it would make.
Upon checking out their birthday packages online, I emailed them to enquire on date and time slot availability for the party. They didn’t have any bookings for the day (phew!) for both outlets and could host the number of kids that I wanted to invite. Hence after quickly corresponding on which party package to take over the next 4-5 emails, I was informed for the 2nd time that to confirm the booking, a 50% deposit had to be made. It was standard practice amongst the other party places I had enquired previously so I stated that I would make my way down to pay a deposit. And this was acknowledged in email.
That’s when things went wrong. I was about to make a deposit this afternoon when I was informed by them that there was another booking which just came in yesterday who cited they were keen in the same time slot that I was looking to book. But because theirs was going to be a private party (booking of the entire place), I was told not to come and make a deposit and instead wait for them to confirm if they wanted to proceed with the booking by tomorrow. I was appalled of course. I had expressed interest since our first correspondence almost 2 weeks back. My invites had gone out as well as tentative booking for some of the catering.
I couldn’t focus during the SMB lunch and told my table of mums what had happened. All agreed that it was unprofessional of the playground to favour a price bid activity when I wasn’t given ample notice nor time to make a deposit for my booking. I was then given the owner’s email to address this issue directly with.
The owner gave me a call shortly after my email, and in his defence he mentioned that he was under the impression that I wanted to host the party at the other outlet and that the tentative booking was actually made about 2 weeks ago (and his colleague just said “yesterday” a matter of hours ago). He went on to explain that to a 3 yr old (my son, in this case), it didn’t really matter which venue the party is held (I then explained them my son went to the newest outlet and said in ernest that he wanted his party here) and tried to sell the other venue citing that it might be more suitable for us. I had to ask if this was a price bid war because it sounded like one from what his staff hinted and he was quick to correct that even if a small party came in before a private party, they would still take the small party. Again, I asked if the other party had made any deposit and he said no while still rejecting my offer to come down and make immediate payment, asking me to wait till tomorrow. I was also asked if I could change time slots, venue or even party date – which I very kindly explained that I’ve been trying to do so to no avail.
I ended the conversation disappointed. If his claims of not giving priority to a bigger party holds true, why was I denied the chance of paying a deposit? He followed up the phone conversation with an email and apart from the reassurance that they do not practice price bidding, mentioned that his understanding of the tentative booking was actually made over the weekend, which means that they did express interest after me.
Planning a birthday party should be a happy affair. Filled with frustration over what happened, I posted this incident on my social media and was comforted by the overwhelming support and comments.
“So whatever it is, if u said u want to come down Now to put a deposit, they shouldn’t reject u since its not a price bid war. Also, tell them that he needs to relook into his policies and booking procedures if he wants happy customers…”
“Sounds like it is a price bid, but he is not admitting it.”
“Whoever is willing to make a trip down to pay the deposit should be given the booking. I feel pissed for you reading all these interactions. How about considering other indoor playgrounds? Kids are generally easy to please but I would rather give my business to someone else who appreciates my support and patronage”
“Take your money elsewhere.”
“Then no point. Go elsewhere sweety. They dun deserve ur business.”
“go somewhere else and boycott the place… thats my take, and what I will do if I’m in your shoes”
“If they can’t even get the booking right who knows what they’ll screw up for the actual event. Take your money elsewhere and tell them that, and why.”
This incident left a bad taste in my mouth and I’m currently searching for another venue. Sure, I’m only left with 3 weeks till party day but I know it will all work out. Meanwhile, a kind friend has hooked me up with another venue so I’m crossing my fingers and toes.
This event has definitely taught me a lesson of needing to tie things up with a venue as soon as you’re keen in booking/confirming them and if possible, make a deposit asap. While hosting a party at outside venues is not new to me, this sure is. I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
As parents, I’m sure we can agree how planning our kid’s birthday party is already stressful enough especially when they are of age to dictate to you what they want/like, and how getting a venue confirm actually helps facilitates everything else. I just hope I get this part sorted out really soon.
Meanwhile, got to go confirm cake!
[EDIT: I’ve edited this entry as my initial post was impulsively written when I was filled with frustration. It may have been an unpleasant experience but it is after all still a business transaction. I’ve since omitted the name and have also addressed my disappointment and difference with the company who has handled it well.]