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My manager planned a night at the ball park work event. She asked us all to reserve a ticket by putting $10 down a couple weeks ago. It was made clear to me that this reservation was not requiring me to go to the game. It was just a non-refundable payment, that if I chose not to go I had to understand I would not get this $10 back.

After talking with my wife, we decided we weren't going to be able to go. However, my manager says I am still required to pay for the ticket, even though I can't go. I believe she's organizing the entire event and paying for the tickets from our payments, or paying the company back from our payments.

The problem is, she already ordered the tickets. I never told her that we could go to the game, nor give her consent to make the order on my behalf. She followed up once before ordering and I told her I still wasn't sure if I could go. Now, she's demanding a payment and I can't even go to the game. I want to tell her gently, but clearly, I'm not paying for the tickets. How should I tell her this and is it appropriate?

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    From your question it is unclear to me: did you reserve the tickets and paid the 10$? – findusl May 2 at 12:53
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    @Snow May I suggest that when moving comments to chat, mods also edit the question to include OP's own clarifications? I see quite some comments on confusions over the circumstance around OP's reservation (whether OP paid or not etc.) – xiaomy May 2 at 14:39
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    @Matthew: I think the $10 was understood to be some sort of deposit for tickets that cost much more than that. OP paid the $10 when they weren't sure they could go. After deciding they can't go, OP was expecting to lose the $10, but wasn't expecting to lose the full price of the tickets. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 2 at 17:28
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    @Blue that makes so much more sense. That should be edited into the question. – Cullub May 2 at 21:03
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    @BetterBudget, could you update the question to clarify: Did you give her the $10? Does the Ticket cost more than $10 (i.e. is she now asking for more money for the rest of the ticket cost?) – Brondahl May 3 at 7:11

13 Answers 13

178

Your manager is not being unreasonable.

She asked you to reserve tickets, you reserved tickets, she acquired (and paid for) tickets based on that reservation, and now she expects you to pay for them. That's not an unreasonable position to take. Perhaps she should have double-checked or something, but by the same token, you should have told her once you concluded that you weren't going, preferably soon enough that she wouldn't have paid for the ticket.

So now what?

Well, you're correct that she can't force you. She doesn't really have legal recourse in this matter. On the other hand, especially if she made it clear that she was going to buy tickets for you all, you do have something of a personal obligation to follow through on the purchase that you at least strongly implied that you intended to make. You don't want to have to foot the bill for a set of tickets that you won't use, but by the same token, she doesn't want to foot the bill for a set of tickets that she only has because she was trying to do something nice for you.

If this isn't a big deal financially for you, I'd say just buy them. Possibly see if you can find any friends who would be interested in going that you can give them to. It's worth it in order to avoid the social damage, and for the "being a good person" factor. If it is a big deal for you financially, then I would suggest couching it in those terms, and then trying to find someone else who can buy them instead and save her the loss. If it's a big deal for you, it won't be trivial for her.

Regardless, start by trying to understand her perspective on things. She was trying to do something nice for you, it looked like you were interested, and now it looks like she's going to get burned financially as a result. That kind of sucks, and it deserves your sympathy.

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    If the OP is going to give the tickets to a friend, they should make sure it's okay with the manager. It might be awkward for their coworkers to be at a work event with a stranger. – Nulano May 1 at 18:52
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    Thanks for your answer, but I want to clarify. She did make clear to me that the reservation wasn't me saying I was going to the game. I added that detail to the original question. But, I agree with your answer. She does deserve the sympathy and I'll learn from this and apply it to future work events. – Better Budget May 1 at 19:30
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    I have to disagree with you, @Nulano, I think the OP is free to do what they want with a ticket they paid for, in light of the fact that this is for a large public event where there will already be thousands of attendees not associated with the company. I would agree with you if this was a private, company-only event, like if the company rented out a private box at the ballgame. A heads up to the manager might be nice, but I don't think they should get the final say in this situation. – Nuclear Wang May 1 at 20:13
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    I don't see where OP says they did reserve tickets. They say they were "asked to" reserve tickets. And that the process for reserving the tickets was to "put down" some money. But it doesn't sound like they ever gave any money, so should never have actually reserved a ticket. – The Photon May 1 at 21:53
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    You know, I really resent the notion that I'm expected to take some sort of action in scenarios like this. I didn't ask for any involvement, so why should I have to go out of my way to double-check anything? The fact that I can literally do nothing and be passive and still be socially expected to pay someone else money is ridiculous. – ESR May 2 at 11:24
58

Pay your boss for the ticket and re-sell it if you are not going to go.

By giving your boss $10 to reserve a ticket you essentially told your boss that you intended to attend the game and that it was OK for your boss to purchase a ticket for you. It is not the same as a cruise reservation as a cruise reservation is completely controlled and handled by yourself and the cabin isn't physically handed over to you like a ticket is.

Take this experience as a lesson learned

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    I do not believe that giving 10$ for a reservation is unambiguously equivalent to stating the intention to buy them. – Mom344 May 1 at 22:42
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    Yes, in general, the purpose of a deposit is so that in cases like these the buyer can decide to just forfeit the $10 and the seller gets to try to sell it to someone else. I think having a deposit in general wasn't the best idea for this case, since the manager seemed to expect the deposit to also be a reservation/commitment to pay. Having a deposit muddied the waters. – Cullub May 2 at 21:09
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    I've been in several situations like this. You either get all the money up front or you are definitely going to get burned. Manager's fault 100%. – user207421 May 3 at 10:32
  • You are ignoring the OP's stated initial conditions and/or effectively calling him a liar – Russell McMahon May 3 at 12:28
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She should have got confirmation of numbers before ordering tickets- many people can have valid excuses for not attending : medical, family commitments etc etc

If the price of the ticket is not too onerous then, just for peace, you might consider to pay... BUT if the tickets are expensive then, in reality, she cannot force you to pay.

Paying the reserve fee of $10 was fine, as some have lives that mean predicting the weekend is challenging, let alone 2 weeks in advance.

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    The need for a reserve fee was probably because lots of people say "yeah, I'll go!" to events like this, then decide not to bother, leaving the organizer out of pocket for something that people said they would go to. Asking for a reserve fee was probably to get a firmer expression of interest, the idea being that paying money up front represents a commitment and agreement to pay the rest. So to say "she should have got confirmation of numbers before ordering tickets" misses the point that in all likelihood, that's exactly what she tried to do in asking for paid reservations. – BittermanAndy May 1 at 16:58
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    @BittermanAndy - keyword there: firmer. - "It was made clear to me that this reservation was not requiring me to go to the game. It was just a non-refundable payment, that if I chose not to go I had to understand I would not get this $10 back." - why would someone say the $10 is non-refundable, if an opt-out wasn't still on the table at all times. (doesn't answer the question, but says what needed to be said, +1) – Mazura May 2 at 3:11
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She followed up once before ordering and I told her I still wasn't sure if I could go.

It looks to me as though this is where it all went wrong.

The point where she says, "I am following up now before ordering the tickets" is the point where your $10 charge for showing an interest turns into a commitment to pay her for the ticket she's buying on your behalf. Had she been trying to write a bullet-proof contract she should have been clearer on that, but I think equally you could have observed the reasonably-obvious: the point where she's buying the tickets is the point where you assume responsibility for the ticket she's buying on your behalf.

I doubt she can sue you or anything, but for future reference when someone follows up to confirm whether they should include or exclude you from a ticket purchase, "I don't know if I'm coming" doesn't really answer their question. "I don't know if I'm coming, but go ahead and buy me a ticket" does answer their question, and implies you will pay for it. "I don't know if I can come, and I don't want to pay for a ticket I can't use, so count me out" also does answer their question. It seems likely she expected that any expression of continued interest from you at that point implies that you do want her to buy you a ticket, and therefore that you're agreeing to pay for it. This is why she is surprised. She never thought she was promising to take on the risk of you changing your mind after that point.

She should not have accepted "maybe" for an answer at that point, but equally if she's herding a large group of cats who refuse to answer questions yes/no, then she's in quite a difficult position where the only way to force you to co-operate with her planning is to make it a default "no" and flat refuse to buy a ticket for anyone who doesn't confirm in writing they'll pay for it regardless of whether they show up.

In the (unlikely) event that there were a lot of people who paid the $10 and then dropped out before she bought the tickets, you might be able to persude her that those several $10 will cover the hit she took on your ticket, so she can let you off and still break even.

  • This is the best answer – WetlabStudent May 4 at 3:58
  • Wait "She followed up once before ordering and I told her I still wasn't sure if I could go." this is no longer in the question – WetlabStudent May 4 at 4:10
  • Saying "I don't know if I can go" does not mean the same as "I don't want the ticket" and would be interpreted as "I am not sure I can go but I am not cancelling the order". If the OP did not explicitly cancel the order, his reservation and failure to cancel (when asked about confirmation) is giving approval to make the order on his behalf. The OP needs to make this right and learn from the mistake, IMO. – StephenG May 4 at 7:25
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I think you should pay your manager or see if you can find someone else interested in the ticket.

The analogy to the cruise company misses the mark because your transaction with the cruise company is different than your "transaction" with your boss.

I think a better analogy would be:

Your group of friends decides to go to a ballgame. One of your friends offers to pick up the tickets after you all say you are going. After your friend has purchased the tickets, your plans change and you can no longer go.

Would you tell this friend that you aren't going to pay for the ticket purchased for you?

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    I'm not sure that is an analogy as much as it is exactly what happened. – JPhi1618 May 1 at 20:47
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    The confusing part is the situation is the $10 deposit. If the manager took full payment in advance, or like the friend, didn't obtain any deposit, then it would be clear. The problem is the deposit implies a cancellation cost of only $10. – user71659 May 1 at 21:20
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    @user71659, to me the $10 is the definite yes as opposed to the random discussions among friends that go nowhere – cdkMoose May 1 at 21:37
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    @cdkMoose - That's a definite maybe. The only thing that's a definite yes is, "How much is it? Okay, here's that much." – Mazura May 2 at 3:15
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    @cdkMoose Probably when the person either pays you, or explicitly agrees to pay you for the full price of the ticket. – JMac May 2 at 14:20
7

There are two separate matters that are semi-orthogonal.

Buying the tickets: a money commitment.

Separate from

Actually attending the game: a time commitment.

Look at any game held in SF Giants ballpark. You see a lot of empty seats speckled in the crowd. These are seats that were sold and not attended. Happens all the time, especially in technology. What is happening the is exactly your office dynamic: someone bought seats so they'd have the option to attend with coworkers, and then they did not.

Again, these things are separate. So when you told your boss you weren't sure if you were attending or not, that had no bearing whatsoever on whether you were buying tickets. There is nothing wrong or unusual about buying tickets for an event you're not sure you'll attend. It is simply an opportunity cost.

Note that you did not tell the boss that you would not be buying the ticket. You told them you would not attend. Different things. You may want to think they are the same because you want to be thrifty and not pay for tickets you don't use, but that is not your boss's job.

Your slick trick

Had this gone the other way, and you decided you wanted to go, you would have absolutely expected your boss to have fronted the cost of a ticket just for you. If the boss had said "well, you weren't sure, so I didn't buy you one", you would've objected vigorously. You would argue that Having a ticket reserved for YOU is the whole point of a non-refundable deposit -- And you'd be right.

You wanted to have the right to say that. But you also wanted the right to walk away from the whole deal, and have that work in your favor also - despite the fact that these two things are in conflict.

That's your scam - trying to work the deal both ways, so both break in your favor.

Here's another way to think about it: opportunity costs. You wanted to defer the decision past the decision point. For a normal person, that costs the price of a baseball ticket, like it did for all those people not in the empty seats at Giants park. But you manipulated the circumstances to evade the opportunity cost. Or to be more precise, you want to make your boss eat the opportunity cost.

In other words, you are stealing the opportunity cost.

This is probably too complex for the boss to successfully go to HR and report you for stealing. But certainly, it is the last time anyone will trust you - for event tickets and probably more.

Next time there's an event like that, expect them to ask a $10 deposit from everyone else, and full-boat-upfront from you. Or worse, full-boat-upfront from everyone, and you're the reason why.

Office politics tip: don't be "that guy".

3

Here is a possible way to talk to her, providing that the company actually paid for the tickets, not the manager out of her own pocket.

Hey Manager - It's too bad that you ordered the tickets before confirming with us that we could attend. I know I reserved a ticket, and that deposit is clearly my responsibility. But you ordered the tickets, and at the same time I realized I had commitments that meant I could not go.

But, this means you have an extra ticket, and someone else in the company can go!

If the manager paid for the ticket out of her own pocket, it's harder. And, since she wants reimbursement, this is probably what happened. Yes, she acted before confirming that you could attend, but, on the other hand, she likely thought that reserving the ticket was the confirmation.

In that case, you need to consider what you value more: the cost for the ticket or your relationship with your manager. You can use words similar to above if the cost of the ticket is more important. But you might need to eat the cost of the ticket (and perhaps find someone else who can go in your place), if you think your relationship with your manager is more important.

2

Your manager should have set the deposit amount in such a way that it would cover her losses if someone decides to cancel. If the deposit was meant to be a commitment to attend, she should have set the deposit amount to full ticket price.

Before refusing to pay the full amount (I assume that paying and not going is not an option), I would go around the office to check if there is someone from your company who would be interested in taking your place. Do this before talking to your boss, because otherwise you'll offer her to ask around, she'll agree and getting rid of the ticket will (at least psychologically) become your problem. Instead, you should tell her either:

I've asked around and Fred seems to be interested, is it OK if he takes my place?

or

Sorry, but I really cannot go. You can keep the deposit, but I don't think I owe you anything above that.

What I wouldn't do is paying for the ticket and selling/giving it to someone outside the company, at least not without asking your boss first. Depending on the ticket she got for you, it may not even be possible to resell it. And if you get the ticket from your boss and won't be able to sell it, it will be your loss only.

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Could not agree more with Ben Barden and many others. It looked like you were interested so she thought to buy ticket for you. IMHO, you should have clearly said NO when she asked earlier, before buying tickets even if it required consulting your wife on the phone.

As of now, she may not be able to do anything legally against you, it would be good to save your "good person" image and pay her $10. It may look like you are being forced but, on the contrary, you want to consider why didn't you say NO earlier.

  • Thanks for the contribution and welcome to The Workplace. You answer simply "agrees" with other, earlier, answers without adding any new information or thought. So it this answer really necessary? – GittingGud May 2 at 12:34
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    @GittingGud .... I understand....not everything requires my comment :) – Muzammil Saeed May 2 at 14:11
  • I believe you misunderstood the question. The OP already paid $10, and they're not getting it back. What their manager wants is that the OP pays the full price. – Dmitry Grigoryev May 3 at 8:24
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This sounds like a miscommunication to me. Your understanding was that the $10 deposit was not a commitment to pay the full amount, your manager had a different understanding. The agreement that it's not a commitment to actually go to the event still leaves room for ambiguity regarding paying the balance.

It doesn't sound like this misunderstanding is yet clear to you or your manager, so your first move is to sit down with her and explain how this misunderstanding has happened. Nobody is "wrong." There has been a miscommunication.

From there, maybe you can agree to give the ticket to someone else who wants to go, or to hold it in reserve and have the company absorb the cost if nobody uses it (I can't imagine your company can't afford to absorb the cost of a ticket with a $10 reserve fee).

If not, buy the ticket and sell it on.

  • if you really want to confront her you can ask why did she bought it if you told her you weren't sure you could go? But I would let it slide and at most just talk with her in a very friendly way that next time maybe she should ask for the full money before buying the tickets or setting a hard deadline when she is gonna buy them. Maybe see with her if there is anyone else that might want the tickets? – AlfaTeK May 2 at 10:33
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It took me a couple of reads of the question to get a (more) correct understanding.

In terms of what needs to happen for the OP, the OP would be wisest to fill his manager's expectations. The manager is trying to do right. Like almost all employees, the OP has a certain amount of social capital and this is an awfully bad place to be burning social capital.

In terms of what is appropriate for the manager, the manager would do well to take a bit of noblesse oblige and limit the employee's expense to the non-refundable deposit. He was offered a decision, consulted with his wife (N.B. checking on things with a spouse, about a social decision, specifically during working hours may or may not be viewed positively by an employer and may not be a couple's style even in the first place), and got back to his manager. Beyond that point she is needlessly burning social capital with a subordinate to ask above $10.

However, this response is addressed to the OP, not his boss. I would suggest that you, the original poster:

  1. Explain to her that you did not call your wife during working hours to discuss a decision about this matter, and that you did consult with your wife and make a joint decision that it would be better to opt out; and

  2. Explain that you are paying for the tickets this time through, and possibly also:

  3. Request that in future matters be handled so that you can get home, make a joint decision together with your wife (almost necessarily outside of work hours), and then get back to your manager and relay the joint decision.

The wording of any of these suggestions might have better alternatives suggested by commenters.

0

Here is a perfectly acceptable, respectful, PROPER and not harmful answer:

I'm not paying for an optional after work event I'm not going to.

That's it. You don't need to add anything else, there is no miscommunication there only inappropriate expectations and fear-based management.

Your manager was being completely unreasonable by even making the demand (instead of just offering it).

Advising you to capitulate to these unreasonable demands is harmful, and likely comes either from peons too afraid of their own shadow at work, or malicious managers that are only too happy to take advantage of workers that are.

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    "Any other answer is either cluelessly harmful, or malicious management." There are very good reasons why, even if you can logically deduce that you don't owe money, to still pay. Not everybody lives in an environment where they can get work easily. If this sullies the relationship with the manager, is it really worth what could very possibly be a low amount of money? – Gregory Currie May 3 at 0:56
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    Or very possibly, this is an amount of money they cannot afford to just give away. And yes, there are unfortunately exist situations where one needs to stay (temporarily) in an abusive work environment - but that doesn't mean one needs to pay an abusive manager their own cash for the benefit of normalizing the abusiveness. – AviD May 3 at 1:24
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    And yes, it is unambiguously managerial abuse of power. – AviD May 3 at 1:24
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    Calling "any other answer" "cluelessly harmful, or malicious management" is not the point of this board. There are different opinions from people with different experience so you might overthink your harsh judgment. Additionally YELLING to emphasizes YOUR opinion should be avoided. – GittingGud May 3 at 7:49
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    If you cannot afford the price of the ticket but can afford to lose your job soon and get no income, this is the answer to go to! – Josef May 3 at 9:28
-1

Your first paragraph answers it all. There was an expectation set upfront that the $10 was nonrefundable even if you weren't able to attend in the end. Why not pass the benefit on to a colleague. Is $10 really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things?

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    You have misread the question. He is not concerned about the $10. However the manager is demanding payment of the full amount. – Mark Perryman May 2 at 12:57
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    That's the reservation amount. Who knows how much the full ticket is. – Dan May 2 at 14:34

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