The above periodicals published my article in their February 2003 issue.
I hope you find it helpful in making your party a happy event.
Party planning requires consumer awareness
The Party Rental Business is a serious service industry. Serious because childrens happiness is at stake. Being in the business I see the good , the bad and the ugly. It saddens me everytime I hear of another child’s birthday party gone wrong because someone in the business simply did not care. If the plumber doesn’t show up or does a bad job, we may curse but we get over it. A childs party is not a leaking pipe. There are ways to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you. Organizing a party can be simple and stress free. The following 10 steps may help!
1)Decide where you are going to have your party. At home can be a good place, you know your limitations. Parks or other locations may save some hassle but will increase your costs. Most County parks charge $100 or more for a pavilion and guests often have to pay a small admission fee. City and Town parks are usually much smaller and very often overlooked. Pavilions are around $50 with no admission fee. State parks are few in number, mainly Bill Baggs on Key Biscayne, Oleta River in N.Miami Beach and Hugh Taylor Birch in Ft Lauderdale. Important ! View the pavilion before booking – some are located better than others. Check if water and electricity are included. Ask if they have any restrictions that may affect your party. Call 411 or look in your white pages under City, Town, County, State, thenParks and Recreation. You’ll be amazed how many parks there are in your neighborhood. Local community halls or your local church may be another alternative.
2)Decide how much you want to spend. Break it down into categories i.e. food, drinks, decorations, entertainment, equipment etc. There are several specialist party stores for decorations, plates, cups napkins, party favors, piñatas and all your accessories. Big stores like Target and K-mart offer a reasonable range too. Or you can shop online.
3)Spend your money on what you think your child will enjoy the most, not what you think is cute. This event is about your child. Let them be a part of it, helping you decide which theme, games, decorations, etc.
4)Entertainment – clowns, costumed characters, magicians, puppeteers, games masters etc. First choice, always go with a good professional act you have seen perform. If the performer works for a party company or agency, specify that performer only. Second choice, ask your friends if they have had a good performer. Third choice, call around advertised artists, do not be afraid to ask important questions.Always speak direct with the performer before booking, you want a performer, not somebody from the labor pool put in a costume. Ask for a recent photo, appearance is important. Insist upon an “on time agreement” with agreed price reductions if the performer is late. Ask for a written contract. Some performers have known to be late or not show because the address/directions were incorrect. Cover all your bases ! Some people take pride in their work preferring a compliment or recommendation to a tip. Some people are out for a quick buck, filling in time until they become rich and famous. I am sure you know, it matters little how much you are spending. It could be thousands renovating your home or a few dollars at the local diner, you either get a good deal or you do not. Try to be an educated customer. Go with a good deal, not the cheapest price. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is ! Similar rules apply to the next category.
5)Play equipment – rides, slides, bounce houses etc. The market has exploded in the last 5 years, especially inflatables. There are over 50 manufacturers in the USA. Some good, some not so good.A slide may seem great, but is it slippery, do the kids have a fast safe ride or do they stick and have to shimmy ? There are many questions to ask. You may call 3 different party companies and receive prices varying by more than $100 ! It’s not like renting a car where you know the difference between a Pontiac and a Porsche. Don't forget, you will be relying upon the quality of that company’s service. Quality isn't cheap - but it does pay!Rule #1. Do not rent it if you have not seen it. At the very least, ask for a real picture, not a manufacturers computer generated look a like of a fully loaded model,( you don’t want to end up with the stripped model in drab gray) . Better still ask for a pre rental inspection.Rule #2. Ask for fixed price reductions if the delivery is late, if you do not get exactly what you ordered, if it is dirty or smelly (check by wiping with a wet paper towel). Rule #3. Insist upon a written contract and expect to pay a small deposit. Without it you have nothing. If you are willing to commit, so should they. The last thing you want, is to find out the unit you thought was reserved for you, was sold to somebody else at a higher price ! If they cannot fulfill all of the above, be prepared to receive what ever they bring.
6)Rent the right equipment for the numbers and ages attending your party. A good company will help you with your decision. E.g. dunk tanks are fun, however only two people participate at any one time, so you’ll need something else to keep the other kids busy. Trackless trains are great, but a couple of rides around the block and they are done. Rock climbing walls are very popular, but mainly for older kids and teenagers. The above work very well at company picnics, fundraisers and big parties where several activities are running simultaneously.
7)Equipment needing special care and attention. Ball Crawls, dirty balls. Slides with a pool at the bottom. The landing is hard, not inflated, the water gets dirty very quickly, and kids can drown in a couple of inches of water, especially if run into from behind by another child. You will need experienced staff at both the top and bottom of the slide to supervise at all times. Bungee runs, great fun for two opposing contestants but not recommended for young kids, whiplash can be a problem. Velcro fly walls again are not for the little ones, better left to the older teenagers or adults. Bouncy Boxing, one participant always loses with more than hurt pride. Great at a company picnic if you want to sock one on the boss, but not for kids.
8)Food machines. Popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, hot dogs. A lot of companies offer a good service. Hygiene is of course a major concern. If the machine arrives saran wrapped you are off to a good start. If it’s not clean, return it unused for a full refund. The average rate for a machine with servings delivered but not manned, is $75. If in doubt, save money and do it yourself. You can buy pre packed cotton candy, microwave popcorn and fill a cooler with frozen real fruit popsicles instead of snow cones. Spend the money saved on better entertainment or equipment ?
9)Tents tables and chairs. Some are new some are old. Some are clean some are……? Do not be afraid to insist upon standards. Follow previously mentioned steps to guarantee getting what you want, where and when !
10)Sub-contracting. Some companies offer everything and have very little. Your order gets sub-contracted.One call one company saves time but can create a monster. No matter what you are renting……
Do not rent anything sight unseen.
Insist upon a contract.
Insist upon deductions for non-compliance in writing.
Ask questions, expect the answers you want to hear.
Try these websites for hundreds of ideas, from invitations to games, decorations,cakes, themes and more: