Proms and Broken Promises

Jim Luff
Posted on March 30, 2011
Teen Dreams: Hoping to arrive at the prom in style but money is always the problem.
Another prom season is upon us. That season brings financial concerns to parents, students, and of course, limousine operators. There are so many perspectives to look at.
From the student point of view, they just want a limousine for prom; the biggest, baddest, fanciest vehicle available.  Most want it for the whole night from the time they leave their home, through dinner, through the prom, and hours after. I mean, seriously, Cinderella had her carriage most of the night. The only stipulation was to be home before midnight before the carriage turned into a pumpkin. However, in reality, these kids get the price of what that fancy carriage ride will cost and nearly die from “sticker price shock.”
But of course, trying to find anyway to make it happen, they begin pooling resources and trying to figure out how much each person will pay to ride with them. This is where broken promises and heartbreak begin to happen. It all sounds so good in the beginning. Each person agrees to pay about $100 or whatever it works out to be. Perhaps they have a part-time job or think their parents will fork over the cash. The intention is always good and the dream continues.
One student usually acts as the ringleader. That person must involve a parent to negotiate the contract and pay the deposit. Sometimes parents unwittingly end up financing the limousine because as time goes by and the date gets closer, some of the kids bow out realizing they will never come up with $100. The poor parent that has advanced the money in full to the limousine service soon may find that while eight kids planned to split the cost, now only six are going and that may dwindle down to four.
Most operators are wise to all this drama and impose non-refundable deposits and require payment in full a week in advance with no refunds. There are good reasons for this. While it may seem unfair to the kids, it is really unfair to an operator that places faith in the kids that a vehicle is booked. When it falls through, the operator could end up with a vehicle sitting in the garage all night on one of the busiest nights of the year because of a lack of a policy to address the issue. You cannot assume because a teenager promises to bring you money the night before the prom that they will actually follow through with such a promise.
On Monday, I was made aware of a situation where a young lady paid a deposit over the phone using a credit card. She later called back to cancel and our reservationist reminded her the deposit was non-refundable. The reservationist later received a call from the teen’s mother who was angry that we would not give her money back since the mom had booked with another limousine service and her daughter was unaware. The mother demanded a refund and said, “She is just a kid.” Well, the “kid” stated she was 18 years old and had her own debit card. This makes her legal to enter into a contract. However, knowing that the young lady had not signed anything and ultimately would dispute the charge, I intervened and refunded her deposit as it would just cause more work for me in the long run and I strive for zero credit card chargebacks.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to have policies and procedures in place such as the NLA Prom Pledge and a clearly defined policy on accepting orders from students and what the financial arrangements will be. Make sure you know who is legally responsible for the activities of the teens on the night of prom as well.

Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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