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Housesitting gone awry. Advice, please.


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[size=1][color=#b0000b][b]So there's this couple for whom I babysit[/b]; I know them through my mom. Early this summer, the husband gave me a list of weekends (including start and end times) for which he and his wife would like me to house-sit and take care of the dogs.

I agreed, and after the last time I babysat for them, they gave me one hundred dollars cash (for the night of babysitting) and a four hundred dollar check "for the summer." I was a little uncomfortable with accepting the check because it meant I was obligated to dogsit for all of the remaining weekends, but didn't think too much of it.

The first two weekends of housesitting went smoothly. [b]Last weekend, however, was a problem.[/b]

The wife called me Thursday night to inform me that they were leaving at eight that evening, and that I "could just come over early." (They expect me to spend each night at their house.) I was pretty taken aback; the schedule said that they were not leaving until the next morning. I expressed my surprise, but she didn't really answer my questions except to explain that they were leaving early and planning to drive all night. (Which doesn't help the fact that they just assumed I would be able to come over that evening. When she called, I was trying to get some friends together to hang out for the night; I ended up canceling my plans before they were made.)

I guess it wasn't really a problem, but I was uncomfortable with the fact that they seemed to assume that I was simply an "on call" petsitter, because that isn't what we agreed on. (I would be willing to [i]be[/i] said "on-call" petsitter if we had agreed on that, but we [i]didn't[/i], and I wasn't operating under that assumption.)

Giving myself some time to think about things and sort things out, I wrote them a note Sunday afternoon before they got back. As near as I can remember, it went like this:

[indent][i][Name] and [Name],

I was a little suprised when you called Thursday night asking me to come over early. The schedule you gave me earlier this summer said that you would not be leaving until Friday morning, and I was not expecting to spend an extra night at your house. If you are planning to leave early next time, please give me some advance notice.


Today my mom came up to me with a printed-out email from the couple. Apparently they were pretty angry, saying that I had left them a "nasty note" and claiming that they had previously told me they might leave early (they didn't). They also said that I left dirty dishes in the sink (true, but there were four of them, neatly rinsed and stacked, and this has never been an issue before), that I left the television on (I don't think this is true, but it is possible), and that I "closed the blinds by the plants." (This is true, and probably my fault. We don't have plants at our house, and it didn't occur to me to leave the front blinds open for them; however, they have never mentioned this as a problem before.)

Anyway, the long and short of it is that they are cancelling the final weekend and want some of their advance money back. They say that they paid $500 dollars for twelve days and they are cancelling the final two days, and that I should give them "whatever I think is fair."

They closed the email with the comment "I thought we were helping her out with summer money, but I guess time is more valuable."

My thoughts are this:

[list][*]They gave me $400 dollars for the summer.
[*]They [i]should[/i] have given me advance notice, and it is not unreasonable of me to ask that of them.
[*]Regardless of how they felt about my performance, writing my [i]mom[/i] an email about how they "are dissapointed" in me is an unprofessional and underhanded way of doing things. They know how to contact me.
[*]Yes, time [i]is[/i] more valuable.[/list]

And my question is: [b]How much money should I return?[/b][/color][/size]
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[COLOR=maroon]I thought about it, and at first figured 400 divided by 12 would be fair. However, after thinking about how mail works (just got my violin back today), that "express" night you did pretty much covers the rest of the 66.666(666...) amount for the last two days you didn't do. If anything, he should have given you extra for even doing so much in such a little time, not less.

If that fart wants his money back, tell him to do his own dishes.[/COLOR]
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[font=Verdana][color=blue]I'm not sure why there's even a question here. Assuming your note was indeed as polite as this one (and I have no reason to assume otherwise), they just got mad because you called them on something they were hoping you wouldn't call them on. Asking you that night to come early wasn't fair and as you said, wasn't something you agreed upon. So considering the extra night you had to spend there with no advance notice, I'd say [b]you're entitled to the last two day's pay.[/b][/color][/font]
[font=Verdana][color=blue]And just because I'm curious, and you don't have to answer this obviously, but what was your mom's initial reaction to the email?[/color][/font]
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[color=#b0000b][size=1]She came into my room with it, said she was embarrassed that they would be underhanded enough to bring her into the situation, and (on hearing my story) that she completely believed and supported me.

She said I should think about how much money I wanted to give them, and give it to them along with the precise formulas and equations that led me to the decission.[/size][/color]
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:cussing: :bash: Stupid old couple! If I were you, I'd give them nothing back! For what you said, I don't care what they say, sure you were a bit irresponsible for a few faults, but they're actions back to you were worse! I'd say they just shut up and feel some gratitude for the help you gave them!

[QUOTE]If that fart wants his money back, tell him to do his own dishes.[/QUOTE]

Right on Azure wolf! :smirk:
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[quote name='Sara][color=#b0000b][size=1]She said I should think about how much money I wanted to give them, and give it to them along with the precise formulas and equations that led me to the decission.[/size'][/color][/quote][font=Verdana][color=blue]Well, Extra Night + No Advance Notice = $0 back in my book. Of course, the final decision is up to you but really, they're just trying to turn their mistake into yours so they don't look like idiots in the end (at least that's the way I'm seeing it from what you've said).[/color][/font]
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In my opinion, this couple have no right to demand money back. as petie said before: [QUOTE]Well, Extra Night + No Advance Notice = $0 back in my book.[/QUOTE].

However, it may be best to return a token amount, and take the moral highground. you know that you were not in the wrong, and I think you should take solace in this. And yeah, I reckon the guy should do his own dishes ;)
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[quote name='Lord Dante']However, it may be best to return a token amount, and take the moral highground.[/quote][font=Verdana][color=blue]I was actually thinking this towards the beginning but what defines a token amount? She earned the money she was paid providing a service. If they choose to change the details of that service and then cancel the last two days, they are not entitled to any of that money back. While giving something back does look better for her, how much is enough to be fair?[/color][/font]
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[quote name='Sara][size=1][color=#b0000b][b]And my question is: [b]How much money should I return?[/b][/color'][/size][/quote]Short answer: giving back 1/6 of the $500 sounds fair, but there's a hell of a lot of room for interpretation here.

Long answer: I'd hate to sound like the cynical old bastard here, but it's a [i]very[/i] good idea to get things like this in writing. The point not being to drag the "contract" to court one day, or even to fish it out a few months down the line to point at what was agreed to - rather, more just so that beforehand everyone knows [i]what is going on[/i] and can address discrepancies before they become problems and everyone gets pissed at each other because the two sides thought they were "agreeing" to different things.

On the one hand, if they did give you $500 in advance "for the summer," this implies that the total amount was for however much work they called you in to do - hence whether it's two cancelled days or ten, you should get to keep the whole pot. On the other, if they say that they "paid $500 dollars for twelve days," that implies a certain amount for each night and that it's within their rights to renege on money for time you didn't actually work. If they're saying both things, obviously there's a difficulty here. And even better, on hand 2.5 they intended to contract you for 12 nights but only did 10; do you get any kind of "severance pay"?

My advice: put off the money question for right now, and don't get pissed. In terms of strategy alone, probably the best thing you can do as an [i]immediate[/i] response is to go and talk to them in a civil manner. Apologize if they thought the note was "nasty" (because you really didn't mean it that way), if necessary explain in detail the reasons for the note (i.e. the situation on Thursday night), apologize for the minor errors in your housekeeping (which, again, obviously you didn't intend), and tell them (firmly but politely) that any problems they have with your work should go directly to YOU rather than through your mother. Add your own points to this list if needed, obviously. The intent here is not to suck up, but to clear the air; unless you or them are going to be leaving the area soon, keeping the relationship relatively open and honest is more important than the sixty bucks (or whatever) you may end up giving back.

Given the vagueries of your original deal, god only knows how much (if any) you should be returning. However, discussing the amount with them directly would be more diplomatic than just unilaterally handing over however much and an equation showing how you got the amount (even if they did only request "whatever you think is fair").
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She said I should think about how much money I wanted to give them, and give it to them along with the precise formulas and equations that led me to the decission.[/size][/color][/QUOTE]

You should definately attach something that explains the final amount you decide to give them back. I think the main problem is proving that they wrote you a check for $400. That's an extra big chunk you might be obligated to cough up. This might sound harsh, but if they insist that they paid you $500, and the amount you came up with to return to them should be out of $500, then you should in turn insist that they show you evidence that you'd taken $500 out of their account. Instead of you proving the $400 amount, let them prove the $500 amount.

If you deposited the check into your bank account then, it'll be easy for you to get proof, but if you cashed the check it'll be a little harder. You might have kept a cashing receipt for proof. The banks that I know of the popular banks, and even the small town bank I use.. they usually send out [B]copies or have online copies of checks that people have cashed.[/B] You could ask the couple to show a statement that may have a copy of the check that they wrote for you. They could also choose not to show it, and it'll look like their fault.

If your situation gets complicated, then I hope my advice will help... and not make it more complicated. =D
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I would say giving nothing back. For the reason that they didn't give you the whole $500. Thats going on what Visualkei noted. If you could prove that they didn't give you the whole $500 then you are good. If you can't, then let me ask this, Do you still have the $400? As in, have you been saving your money? If you have then you have some proof even though you are going on your word and the money.

If they choose not to believe you word, tell them you have desided to give you $0 back since you gave me the choice. That would just be fair. I'm guess they trust you to leave you with their pets (and plants). Then I'm guessing that they would believe your word. Even if they don't, as I have said before, you have to choice of the amount. If you feel any guilt (Which it doesn't sound like you do) Then give them the amount that you think one day would be worth. Since you did one night and one morning.

Hope I have help, thanks for your time, and Jesus is Lord!

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[COLOR=maroon]Remember, she was paid $100 for sitting for the first day, the rest of the $400 is what's in question. That's the only amount that was paid in advance, so 400/12 or 6 is what everyone should be using in their calculations, IMO.

I'm dead serious when I say that my new idea is as such: tell them that you have determined that they are entitled to none of the money back. However, if they say they are entittled to some, either tell him you are entitled to kick him in the balls then if he wants money back, or surprise him when you give said money back. That way, you'll know he earned the money by entertaining you.

Only fair, you entertained his kid, afterall.

([i]Unfortunately, we all know Sara is a good person, so this is an unlikely solution, but KNOW it's there if you need it, Sara! At the least, consider it! When have I ever steered you wrong?-don't answer that.[/i])[/COLOR]
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[size=1]The question, Sara, is if you want to anger them or placate them.

If you want to take the 'lower road', as it were, send them a dollar in check form. In the memo portion, write 'refund for housesitting'. It's just ridiculous enough to be terribly insulting. This would completely negate any further employment by them, but like DeadSeraphim said, do you reallly want to work for them anymore?

If you're buying into their total bull**** guilt trip, then send them $25. Explain how you believe this is fair because of the plans you were forced to cancel. A kind of collateral damage they caused.[/size]
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I would agree to sending them no money. Not only were you ordered to be there an extra night and informed of such inapropriately, you were also under the assumption that the last two days would consist of you working, so you lose those 2 days to any real plans. Extra, unavoidable, spur of the moment time at any other workplace is in the neighborhood of double, and you are entitled to such.
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[size=1]OK I'm kinda confused (what's different there?) but here's what I think, if I'm understanding the situation correctly..

[u]The original contract:[/u]
[i]1st night = $100
Summer = $400, where summer is 12 days' pay[/i]
^If that's right, then the original $100 shouldnt even come into play when considering how much to give back to the fam.

So we're really only considering the summer pay. But then your summerwork changes to:
[i]Summer + extra night, with final 2 days cancelled[/i], right?
^$400 for 11 days' work? That works out to be a little over $36/night.

[u]AJ suggestion:[/u]
I say calculate your hours in a house-sitting day and work out what you're getting paid per hour, for summer days. Then give yourself a realistic hourly wage for that work.

[*]If your made-up wage is less than what they're paying you, calculate how much extra they're 'unnecessarily' paying you (even though they agreed to it) over the 11 days and give that back, along with your conclusive calculations.
[*]If your made-up wage is more than what they're paying you, calculate how much they should owe you for your services. Then leave them a note explaining that your time [i]is[/i] worth more, along with your calculations showing how much they owe. Also mention in the note that maybe next time they should stick to the what was outlined within the original contract. You could imply that when they altered the contract, the price of your services was altered too.[/list]
This way, what you owe depends on your worth to them lol. Oh, and don't pay for the plants or whatever other little inconveniences you may have caused them. It's not like you damaged anything.

[spoiler]If all else fails, anonymously toiletpaper and egg their house in the night, mhm.[/spoiler][/size]
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[size=1]To be honest, I think paying you the $400 up front there was very unproffesional. That's not how life works. Wages allow for a way to get out of a job without being trapped whereas getting the money before means your trapped and you can't really quit without giving up money they already gave you. You've probably come to this by now.
So there is that, and it was very irresponsible of them to do that. There's also the fact that they ruined your plans for that night. Again, irresponsible.
If you honestly can say that they gave you no advanced warning, that they might leave early on some weekends, than by all means, tell them and try to recall as much of the conversation leading to the deal as possible.
As for the money, I think you need to judge how valuable your time is. Be reasonable. Add what you think that night with your friends was really worth to extra time spent house-sitting for them to the total money you earned. Whatever your left with is what you should give them. Obviously explain how you came to this conclusion.
I think confronting them up front would be highly effective. It'll take some courage but you need a chance to redeem yourself and doing this is perfect. Explain the basics of the situation but enclose the money in an envelope with your calculations. Along with that explain that your time is valuable and you can't just assume people will be free all the time. That's just a basic idea of working. Even in a real workplace, unless you're notified early on or you volunteer, employers can't always use you whenever they need. That's selfish.[/size]
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[QUOTE=Boo][size=1]You made over-hours. You should always get paid extra for them.

I wonder what would happen if you'd ask for another 33,33$ 'because [i]your[/i] over-hours are 3 times your normal wage'. :P[/size][/QUOTE]
Where do you work where overtime is 3x?
I want to move there.[/size]
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[COLOR=RoyalBlue]In all honesty it sounds like they are assuming that their time is more important than your time. If they were using a professional service to take care of their dogs and home, there would have been no question of coming over early. It would have all been agreed to from the very beginning as to what days they required assistance. If they had done to a service what they did to you, they would have been charged for an extra night of care that was not in the original plan.

The fact that they went through your mom instead of coming directly to you is an underhanded method implying that you are an irresponsible and that by sending it to your mother she will in turn lecture you for not living up to your agreement. A way of making sure you know you didn?t do a good job. Even the mention of the plants, dishes and the possibility of the TV being left on are nothing more than a way for them to feel justified over their actions.

In short they needed an extra night and either one do not remember that they never said anything about you coming over early, or two they feel that since they are helping you with summer money you should feel grateful for the job and doing an extra night is owed to them for being so generous in giving you a job. In other words, your time was not as valuable as their time.

When they asked you to come over early, I am assuming that they did not offer to pay you for the extra night as they claimed that they had said it might be necessary. In other words they were too cheap to pay you for your extra time. So if you do give them any money back I would calculate what it would have been for each day based on the original twelve days and then only give them back for one day since you stayed an extra day that was not part of the original twelve. Which is really the whole problem here as I see it. They were taking advantage of you by getting in extra work without paying you for your time.

As for the returning it, you might want to do it in person and try to find out why they are being so nasty about the whole deal, especially if they are neighbors you have to deal with on a regular basis. You can always have the money in an unsealed envelope with the explanation of why you gave them that much so that if your discussion goes well you can simply give them the money with out the note. Or if they are unwilling to admit or even discuss how unfair it was to expect you to work another night for free, simply give them the envelope with the note inside.

In all honesty, based on what you have said, I think they have already burned their bridges and taken the moral high ground of having done nothing wrong and that regardless of what you do, any relationship you had is pretty much over with them. Though if that really is the case, they don?t sound like anyone I?d like to be neighbors with anyway.

Anyway, best of luck and I hope you let us know how it went. [/COLOR]
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There's wrong on both sides here. On one hand the couple violated the schedule, putting you at a disadvantage. On the other hand, you were somewhat of a slob and instead of leaving a note you should have spoken with them personally. It's easy for a note like that to sound cold. I would pay them back one-hundred dollars.

If you do not pay them back anything, then talk will get out about you. Once you go to personally give them the money, there is a good chance that cooler heads will prevail and things will be cleared up.

By the way, I like how you bolded "Last weekend, however, was a problem." That was an awesome touch.

Edit: Also, couldn't you have invited your friends over while you were at the house? Sounds like a free party house.
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[color=#b0000b][size=1]Thanks for your input, everyone. I appreciate it, and I'm taking it into account.

[quote name='Charles']Edit: Also, couldn't you have invited your friends over while you were at the house? Sounds like a free party house.[/quote]They actually told me at the beginning of the summer that I was welcome to invite friends over to hang out. Thank goodness I didn't; I don't want to think about how that might have gotten turned against me here. :p

I admit that I didn't leave the house spic and span--yes, there were dirty dishes in the sink: a plate, a bowl, and two cups, [i]neatly rinsed and stacked[/i] and placed in the sink with a couple things they had left there themselves.

The TV might have been on. One of their TVs doesn't always turn [i]off[/i]; it just shows a blank screen. If it was like that, I'm sure I didn't turn it the rest of the way off. (Honestly, I'm not even sure which button I need to press to kill the power to that thing.)

And the blinds, yes, were closed. (They implied in their email that I maliciously closed the curtains by their plants in order to deprive them of sunlight and kill them.) It's my habit to close the curtains when I leave a house empty, and I don't deal much with plants--it didn't occur to me to leave the window clear for them.

What bothers me is that [i]each of these things[/i] must have happened before. I've closed the curtains before, left the TV on for the dogs (intentionally, in the room where the dogs stay), and left dishes (again, rinsed of any food) in the sink. (As far as that goes, it's a long story, but when I have babysat for them in the past, they've told me not to worry about dishes.)

If they had a problem with any of these things on the other occasions, they should have told me so that I could avoid doing them in the future. If they didn't have a problem in the past, they shouldn't bring them up now.

DaSilva: I'm home for the summer, but I go to college in the Twin Cities, so I'll be back in MN in about a month. =][/color][/size]
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I still say you give them nothing back, like you said, when you babysat for them, they said the dishes didn't matter, so you obviously thought dishes didn't need to be washed. They might as well say the carpet was dusty so they could blame it on you, or perhaps they should've said there was dog fur on the floor. They're adults and feel as if they're right, ignorant as always, like Azure Wolf said, you should kick him in the balls. Like some of the others said, the couples should pay [I]extra[/I] for your extra time and sometimes even triple the pay. And 1 day they pay $100, pretty generous, then they pay $400 for 12 days? You should ask them for the $1200 for the 12 days, and $300 for triple the normal wage on the day they were gone, so:

[U]1 night: $100
Summer: $1200
Extra Time: $300[/U]

If I did the calculation right, they should've payed you $1600 instead of $500 and asking for a refund.

If they don't give it to you, tell them they're just a cheap couple of idiots who don't follow they're agreement and too scared to loose some pride. :animeangr
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[size=1]I must admit, the note sounded cold when I got to the "If you are planning to leave early next time, please give me some advance notice." I think you could've added in more padding and passive language when you got to that part of the letter, perhaps a "Respectfully yours," in there to cushion the blow.

However, I urge you to be mathematic in your money division (I think $66.66 is the common agreement here). But since they screwed you over, a nice one-up to them would be including a $15 service-charge just like a store's restocking fee.

Of course, if you'd like to take the moral high-ground, just give them their $66.66 and leave a guilt tripping letter.[/size]
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