In a story that amounts to every parent’s worst nightmare, a U.K. couple reports that while experiencing serious turbulence on a long-haul flight, their small child vomited — and it landed on another passenger’s designer handbag.
A user known as incognitoforonenight posted a thread (now deleted) on parenting website Mumsnet saying although she and her husband cleaned up the mess, a woman seated behind them said that some of their son’s vomit had travelled under the seat and pooled beneath her Louis Vuitton bag. The purse, she said, was valued at £900 (approximately C$1,500).
“We apologised and she said: ‘No, it’s on my handbag, it’s very expensive and you need to get your insurance to pay for it to be repaired/cleaned,’” the mother wrote.
The couple then agreed to have the bag cleaned and gave the woman their email address so that she could follow up. They also took several pictures of the handbag before parting ways with the woman.
Sometime later, the woman reached out to the couple to say she had brought the bag to a Louis Vuitton store to have it cleaned only to be told there was nothing that could be done. The woman reportedly said that the smell of vomit was “ingrained” in the leather and demanded the parents send her money to buy a replacement bag.
Comments on the post ranged from sympathetic suggestions to admonitions for making the price of the handbag a focus.
“It just so happens that she has a £900 bag, that’s her choice,” wrote one user. “Ask yourself if she’d said it was £10 [bag] from Primark, I bet you would have just given her the £10. This is what travel insurance is for.”
Etiquette expert and owner of Etiquette Ladies, Louise Fox, says this is a particularly sticky situation.
“I feel bad for the parents,” she says, “but if I was the woman with the purse, I’d be really upset. I hate to say it but the parents have to make some kind of restitution. They offered to get it cleaned and if that’s not successful, they have to go to the next thing which would be working out a deal of some sort.”
Fox does not, however, think that an accident involving a sick child should cost the parents $1,500.
“If you spilled a glass of red wine on someone’s white carpet, you wouldn’t be expected to replace the whole carpet,” she points out. “But you would apologize and offer to have the carpet professionally cleaned. It’s the same deal here.”
To add an extra layer of oddity to this story, parenting website Mommyish notes that Louis Vuitton does not, in fact, offer cleaning services for handbags, which indicates that this woman may just be in the market for a new purse, free of charge.
“It could be that she’s scamming them,” Fox says. “There are all kinds of solutions to get odours out of leather. Where’s the Febreeze? The parents have done their best, but it sounds like this woman is being unreasonable. It was an accident at the end of the day.”