Bribing Kids: 5 Realities Of Planning Rich Kid Birthdays
It doesn't take much to make a kid happy on their special day. Some cake, some balloons, a drunk guy in a Captain America costume suddenly regretting all of his life choices -- bada bing, bada boom, you gotta birthday. But just like with cars and prostitutes, it takes the jaded, detached ultra-rich a little extra to get off. We spoke to a party planner in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, and she told us ...
It's Not About What The Kids Want
Planning a big party anywhere from one to six months in advance is generally a good idea, but I'd cap it there. Planning a party over a year ahead of the event itself can lead to disaster. The problems usually stem from kids changing interests faster than their parents can burn a $100 bill. Mom or dad might have had a great Bar Mitzvah party idea when young Jeffrey was 8 or 9 years old. But by the time he turned 13, that stupid kid went and got himself into sports -- now his Batmantzvah party is outdated.
"You see ... Sandy Koufax struck out Batmen, and ... shit."
One time I asked a 9-year-old girl what kind of party she wanted, and her response was, I shit you not, "Bourne Identity!" It turned out that she and her dad would always watch a movie together on Saturdays, and one of his favorites (The Bourne Identity) became one of hers as well. So I started planning a spy-themed party. But her mom intervened, telling me to make it a Disney princess party instead. I asked if her daughter even liked Disney princesses, and the mom replied, "I liked princesses at her age, and she watches Disney movies. She'll like it."
I took over a Bar Mitzvah from a mom who was just too busy to plan it anymore. The boy was going to turn 13 in a few months, and she just needed me to finish it off. That was fine, until I noticed the theme: Home On The Range. When I questioned the mom, she told me that when her son was 8 years old he was super into that movie, and when she initially asked him nearly five years prior he had chosen it as the theme. When I said that maybe she should ask her son again, since there was still time to change it, she yelled, "I've been planning this for years! Of course he still wants it."
Pictured: the same faces of him and his friends.
Sure enough, on the day of the Bar Mitzvah her poor son was mortified by all of the prancing cowboys making Western puns. His mother had literally not asked him what he wanted since he was in the third grade. If there's a moral here for rich parents, let it be this: Check in with your kids at least once a year. Just swing on by the guest house you're having them stay in and ask the nanny if they have any interests.
Parties Can Cost More Than A Car
A huge change in birthday parties lately has been the goody bag: a cheap bag of candy or dinky toys that kids get at the end of a party in exchange for coming over, because your kid is so misanthropic you have to bribe other children to have fun in the same vicinity as them. For the rich, it's moved way beyond handing out some candy. I've been told to get everything from MP3 players to gift cards to watches to just straight cash. That's right, parents are literally paying other kids to hang out with theirs. I've seen these gift bags go up to a thousand dollars per kid.
When I started out, I'd try to skip over goody bags, but moms informed me that their children would not be invited to other kids' parties if they didn't offer goody bags themselves -- there's some sort of prepubescent blacklist.
"A Walmart gift certificate? I know someone's who's not getting called over during Red Rover."
The most expensive child's party I ever threw had around 300 people RSVP, but more showed up. They ordered a three-tier, gold leaf (as in edible 23-karat gold) buttercream cake from a bakery in New York that specializes in the devouring of precious metals. Add in the entertainment, over 100 of those expensive goody bags at $50 apiece, and other food, drink, and decoration costs, and the party came in at just under $18,000. All to ostensibly celebrate the birth of a 10-year-old, who probably would've been cool with some silly string and a pizza.
To be fair, gold leaf really does accentuate the cake that gets smeared on their faces and then vomited up.
Everybody Wants Superheroes; Nobody Wants Clowns
Thanks to the comic book boom, about half of the entertainers I hire are superheroes. Entertainers can cost next to nothing at $50 (people doing it for fun or just starting out) to around $500 an hour. These are the professionals who consider the gig on par with movie acting or a Vegas show. Do you want the fat guy who spray-painted himself green, didn't get legal permission from Marvel, and has to call himself The Incredulous Bulk, or do you want the dude with a 10-grand custom-built Iron Man suit? Well, you might have to pay to get what little Greyson wants.
Superguy Who Definitely Isn't Just Uncle Steve On His Lunch Break isn't going to cut it.
You know what nobody wants now, though? Clowns. Kids these days are just terrified of them, and demand for clowns is super low. A lot of parents know this, but those who don't find out the hard way when their child starts crying when Pennywise shows up.
Live Animals Can Ruin Parties
If Murphy's Law had to apply to only one thing, it would be children's parties with live animals. First things first, your lawn is going to get wrecked. Ponies and goats are effectively walking, braying rototillers, and they shit everywhere. At one princess party I ran, the birthday girl rode a Shetland pony around in the backyard. She was shrieking in delight until she hopped off the pony and into a pile of poo, at which point she just started shrieking.
"And then he kept trying to climb over a bush and peed white! Ponies are weird!"
Portable petting zoos aren't exactly the strongest structures in the world. Pigs, for one, are surprisingly good at slipping out of the pen, and goats will straight mess a kid up. Your party might start as farm-themed, but it could end as hospital-themed. This kind of fun doesn't come cheap, either. The most expensive one I've done was an Australian-themed party (are you actively trying to murder your children, parents?) with wallabies all around. A single wallaby is about $500 an hour. Companies around where I live won't hold more than a couple wallabies at a time, so I had to hire a bunch of them. The cost ended up being around $8,000 for a literal mob of wallabies.
All of which were ignored the moment the PS4 got unwrapped.
The Rich Are Ruining Their Children
The main parties I plan are birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, and confirmations. I've done a few Sweet 16 parties, though, and if you're even vaguely familiar with that MTV show, then you know the face of evil. One girl wanted every other song to be "I Love It" by Icona Pop, and when I suggested maybe spacing it out with other songs, she called her parents and had me fired. I never found out if the DJ and guests were driven to madness.
How far can you make it?
One kid really wanted a bounce house for his party. Aw, that's not so unreasonable, right? So we rented one for him. Everyone loved it -- except the birthday boy. He wanted it all for himself, and when all the guests started complaining about how selfish he was, he ran into the house, came back out and stabbed the bounce house with a pair of scissors. His parents had to pay for it, but he got his birthday wish: Nobody had fun but him.
And the repair guy. That shit ain't cheap.
When I host parties for middle-class kids, I don't get many complaints. They seem to understand that their parents are doing a lot just for them. But the wealthier kids demand more: I've learned to make things faster and more exciting for them, because their tolerance for excitement has gotten way too high, way too early. If this keeps up, they'll be hosting fight clubs for exotic animals by the time they're old enough to vote.
Evan V. Symon is the interview finder guy for Cracked. Have an awesome experience or job you would like to see as an article? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Things You Learn About Rich People Working At A Nice Hotel and 5 Things Breaking Bad Left Out About Having A Drug Lord Dad.
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