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‘Help! I broke the teapot’ and other stories

2021 August 27

CRASH! Silence…..Muffled swearing.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Broken something, possibly something precious? Ruined a shirt or a pair of trousers? Melted a colander? Blocked the loo?

When you’re in someone’s house for 50 hours a week accidents are almost inevitable, even without counting the added risk of small children running around. Frankly it’s amazing that there are so few accidents. But what do you do when it happens to you?

First things first you need to ‘fess up. Straight faced and apologetic, no matter how ridiculous it might sound. It’s up to your boss to laugh it off, not you. Never try to hide the evidence – your boss will feel like you’ve broken her trust. Honesty really is the best policy and accidents happen even to the best of us.

To replace or not to replace? Some bosses will ask your to replace something at your own expense. This might seem a little petty, and you might want to check your contract to see whether this is a provision they’ve made, but on the other hand they may not really be able to afford the cost of repairing or replacing certain pieces of kit. When something had sentimental value, such as pieces of wedding china, it’s a nice gesture to replace it even if you’re told not to bother. If it wasn’t your fault, maybe the pram had a manufacturing fault or a shelf gave way and dumped the plates on the floor, then it’s not reasonable to expect you to bear the cost. It could have happened at any time, just bad luck that you were there. If you really did cause the damage then try to work out a solution that satisfied everyone.

Double check the boundaries if your boss seems unreasonably cross. It may be that you weren’t supposed to be using those teacups anyway but it never crossed their mind to tell you. Always remember that you’re in their house and using their stuff, and even if it doesn’t look like much any object may have sentimental value. You probably know this already but don’t take the children’s word for it either. It’s easier to deal with a cross 7 year old who later turns out to be right than a cross boss when said 7 year old has erased all the settings on the hi-fi.

Prevention is better than cure. If it looks ridiculously expensive don’t touch it, even if you’re trying to be helpful. Wait and get detailed care instructions – the wrath of a boss who has to wait for something to be done is minimal compared to a boss who comes home to find something ruined. Supervise your charges carefully, and err on the side of caution even if they insist that they always drink hot chocolate out of bone china.

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