Managing the Financial Costs of Rematch: Getting an Agency Refund

by cv harquail on June 16, 2016

What’s a fair way to manage the costs to the Host Family of a rematch situation that they did not request themselves?

10870850604_63e61fa0e3_mDear AuPairMom,

We are currently in a re-match situation and I’m struggling with the agency’s rematch policy.

We are only 2 weeks into a 12 month extension with our Au Pair, and she has decided she wants to re-match because I am pregnant. My pregnancy isn’t new news, she’s known this for a while, and has concluded that she doesn’t want to take care of 3 kids this winter.

The agency agrees that this is not our fault since it is the Au Pair who’s changed her mind. However, the Agency is still maintaining that it gets to keep $1,375 of the money we paid for the extension. All we are asking for is a credit of the amount we paid, minus a pro-rated amount for the 4 weeks she will be with us this year, so that we can put that towards another Au Pair (either in-country or not).

The Agency wants to deduct the $1,375 from the credit amount we will receive to use towards another Au Pair. Plus, the Agency will be charging us the full cost of another Au Pair, which would include additional processing fees that would be non-refundable in the event the next Au Pair decides to bail.

I’m considering switching agencies because of this since the amount of credit we will receive is very close to the cash amount that we get back if we walk away.

I’d like to hear about other people’s re-match experiences.

Did they lose a substantial amount of money during the process, or did they find their agency’s policies to be fair?

Has anyone had a really great experience they would be willing to share?

Image by Kate Ter Haar on FLickr

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Multitasking Host Mom June 16, 2016 at 10:22 pm

We just went through a rematch and were really not happy with the way our agency handled a few things involved in the process. The only reason we are staying with this agency is because they made the credit towards the next AP more favorable than if we just got a refund from them and switched to another agency. All of this is spelled out in the financial agreement we sign every year when we match with an AP. (I have worked with two agencies now over the many years we have hosted, and both of them had rematch/refund information in their contracts… I assume all do but obviously don’t know for sure.) Also, with my current agency it didn’t matter one way or another who had asked for a rematch…or who’s “fault” it is. The financial rematch policy is the same either way. Is what the OP’s agency is offering for their refund what the signed contract states? If not point it out to them. But if they are following the contract you signed then you might not really have any leg to stand on legally.

I also wonder if it is looking like a lot more money needs to be paid for a new AP since the OP just paid extension fees which are often less (at least a little bit) and don’t include some extra processing fees/transportation fees.

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Miata Mom June 17, 2016 at 9:16 am

Hi, I’m the OP – thanks for your comment! Since this was our first AP, we read the contract very thoroughly before signing. It’s amazing to me how two people can interpret the same document so completely differently! There are $1,200 in fees that are listed as “non-refundable” in the contract and a refund schedule is given for what you get back if you withdraw from the program. I was so taken aback by the high penalty to the credit because I interpreted these to be an actual refund for if you withdraw from the program. Since we were asking for a new AP, and not to withdraw from the program I was not expecting these fees to apply, and even reading the contract back again that part is still not clear. This is the only amount I’ve found questionable (and I still don’t see where they are getting $1,375 when the contract only says $1,200). I believe it IS fair for us to pay for the 4 weeks that she is in our house, and I understand that there is a cost difference between bringing someone in from out of country vs. an extension. When we originally talked to our LAR about the rematch he didn’t know about the fees either. He told us that if we found an in-country AP with the same amount of time left that it would be an even swap. Not true according to the agency, we would owe them $1,375 more.

I’m just really second guessing starting fresh with a new AP after losing so much money. What’s to say the same thing doesn’t happen again? If the new AP decides to leave soon after arriving we stand to lose even more money. I’m just finding this policy to be a little more risk than I am willing to take. I was hoping for happy stories from people about how great their rematches turned out to cheer me up – LOL.

I did talk on the phone with another agency (APIA), and they told me that their contract states that if the AP decides to leave then they would not charge an extra fee, and of course they’re sales people so they acted like the fees we’re being charged by our current agency were totally unreasonable and they would never do something like that (of course).

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NoVA Twin Mom June 17, 2016 at 6:57 am

We rematched after three and a half days once, after determining our au pair was so unhappy and unprepared for a year with small twins that we couldn’t leave her with our girls. We wound up with a nearly complete credit toward our next au pair (minus the three weeks she was in our house – that’s another story altogether and the best I was interested in negotiating at the time).

I’d keep going “up the chain” until you can find someone that sees reason, though agree that if this is what is laid out in their contract you may be out of luck. This type of situation is the secondary reason we use APIA’s “payment plan” – if something goes south in the first few weeks, they don’t have a year’s worth of money.

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Miata Mom June 17, 2016 at 9:22 am

Thank you for your comment! I’m so glad to hear that your experience turned out relatively well. I did notice that APIA had a payment plan, which is nice because of the reason you pointed – that would make me feel a little more secure not having to front a whole year’s worth of money all at once. That is not the agency we are currently using, but I have been taking a close look at them for our next placement.

I currently am working on going up the chain, and our agency has said that they will “work with us”. I’m still waiting to find out what that means.

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TexasHM June 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

Miata Mom I think the problem here lies in that you paid a reduced rate for the extension year so there is a delta between what you paid and the normal agency fees for an AP. Normally your LAR would be correct – if she had rematched on you in the first year and you had found a rematch AP with the same time it probably would have been an even swap (at most of the major agencies). The problem here is you paid a discounted rate and now are going to a not discounted rate. I’m sure I am making this more convoluted so let me try this:

Say a normal first year AP is $8k in agency fees (all other fees set aside in this illustration). You paid that year one but then year two you paid $6500 in agency fees. Now, if you select an out of country or a rematch AP there is a delta of $1500. (Or in your case $1375.) This stinks for big time but the extension year is discounted because essentially your AP has already been there long enough to recoop her flight fees, orientation etc. But if you get a new AP the agency has not recovered that money so they can’t give an extra $1375 off on a new AP because the margin is not there (I will spare you the tangent rant about agency margins and how they would all be more profitable if they screened better! ;) )

So, I think this is less an agency policy issue honestly in my humble opinion and more that you got a deal on your current APs second year and now you are getting doubly screwed by your AP (she is leaving and you thought you had your budget done for this year but now you are going to have to pay as if you got a new AP for year two like she never extended). I am sorry the agency isn’t doing a good job of explaining it but that doesn’t surprise me and honestly, I am pretty disillusioned by all agencies (we have used 3 – APIA was one and we will never use again) so I think you will find horror stories for every agency and ultimately yes, this is a risky program in more ways than refund policies!!

On a happier note, the AP program when you have the right match and it works is 100x better than any other childcare option in my humble opinion. Yes, when things go sideways it sucks worse too but as long as you are getting a lot more good than bad I think the program more than pays for itself in many ways.

If you want to talk ad nauseum about agencies and policies I am happy to tell you what I know and what I don’t. You can ping me at texashostmom at gmail.com

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Miata Mom June 17, 2016 at 11:18 am

TexasHM,

Thank you for your comment!

What you are saying makes total sense and was what I was expecting as well, but it is not what our agency is asking for. Yes, there is a significant price difference between the 2nd year extension and a new AP from another country. That will be IN ADDITION to the $1,375 in fees they are taking out of what we’ve already paid for the extension. I’ve come to terms with the price difference between APs, and I totally understand why it costs more to start from scratch with a fresh match from out of country than it does to extend with your current AP for another year. I agree that those costs are justified (they were obviously not worked into our budget this year since we thought we had already taken care of the agency fees, but we are willing to cough up the extra cash for hopefully a more reliable AP). I’m having a really hard time shallowing losing the $1,375 in penalty fees from what we’ve already paid though.

The agency has said that they are going to “work with us” on the fees, but I’m not sure what that means yet – but I’m hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel!

I would like to know more about your experiences with the agencies you have worked with, thanks so much for the offer to connect. I’m the first in my circle of friends to ever try an AP, so this is all totally unchartered waters for me!

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TexasHM June 17, 2016 at 10:55 am

Oh PS – on payment plans. Yes, most agencies have them but honestly you pay through the nose in fees for those plans and most you still end up having paid everything in by 6 months so read the fine print and I bet it is less appealing to you! ;)

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TexasHM June 17, 2016 at 11:06 am

To answer CVs original questions ;) we have had two term end scenarios with two different agencies. We had an AP have a family emergency 2 months into her second year with APIA and we got a full refund of the remainder but the AD “froze our profile” and refused to let us look at new candidates so I think we might have been an exception to the rule because she wanted to get rid of us!

A couple of years later we got a burnout AP from Interexchange and they offered us a full refund of the remainder but I think it was largely due to the extent of the damage (multiple instances of child endangerment, $2k in car damages, AP lied and trashed us to agency and community and I had the messages to prove it was all lies – she wasn’t the brightest) and that our LC was not only completely unsupportive but actually fanned the flames and majorly contributed to the problems!

In both scenarios though we went up the chain until we could have a rational conversation with someone that had the authority to help us. If its not a second year/first year price difference issue then I would keep going up the chain until you get someone that can use their brain and help you move on with getting a full credit of what is left to put toward your next AP with them. Good luck!

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Miata Mom June 17, 2016 at 11:48 am

Thanks for the encouragement! I was starting to think that this is how all agencies operated, but since you’ve had some success I think I will keep trying. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Should be working June 17, 2016 at 1:55 pm

There must be some detail somewhere about what precisely those non-refundable fees are? Like a “selection fee” at CCAP which I think is $350 is nonrefundable (I think) even if the AP flames out quickly after arrival. Or the transportation fee if you aren’t in NYC area (e.g. $600). If you haven’t already, you might ask for a very specific breakdown of everything you have paid to this agency.

In my experience they do sometimes reduce liability ‘up the chain’, I would emphasize how otherwise happy you were with this agency and plan to stay with them. Maybe that would help grease the wheels.

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HRHM June 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm

But of course, transportation and selection fees wouldn’t even count in this scenerio since she was an extension in their home already. I can’t think of any expense to the agency from an in home extension that they should need to keep if it goes south. They really should just subtract the pro rated amount for the weeks she was in the home and then credit the remainder towards their next match.

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Miata Mom June 20, 2016 at 9:12 am

I had the same thought, HRHM. As it was explained to me the expenses lied in filing the paperwork for the visa extension and verifying her completion of the education requirement, etc. I get that these administrative costs are real, however, I felt like our losses were much more severe (expensive backup childcare, missed time off work for lining up backup childcare, stress to the kids and family, having to line up and pay for a more expensive out-of-country AP). I’m glad that the agency had a heart and decided to help us out by absorbing their administrative fees!

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Miata Mom June 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and suggestions. It looks like this story is going to have a happy ending after all (at least from an agency-fee-standpoint)! I spoke with the agency today and they have agreed to credit everything that we’ve paid minus the 4 weeks worth of service that we’ll have received after our AP leaves next week (to be used towards our next AP) – which I think is totally fair. I’ve got a couple of good leads on summer childcare, so my plan is to start interviewing out of country APs to start this fall. I’m feeling lucky that our agency has a heart and is doing the right thing. As someone pointed out to me, all agencies are going to have clauses in their contracts to protect them and push the financial burden onto host families, it’s what they do in practice that really matters.

Thanks again everyone, and have a great weekend!

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Jennc June 17, 2016 at 8:26 pm

I just sent through acre match Aupair was here 4 months , emergencias at home had to leave . I paid half fees upfront and had paid 2 large payments . Newxaupair had been in country 2 months so we would have an Aupair one month past our original. At first I was told a much larger amount I would have to pay to rematch losing all my discounts “early matching, repeat family, etc” so I talked to a financial person at agency talked up the fact I was a multi year host family and seemed like I was getting screwed at no fault of my own. She spoke with manager and made the financial deal much better and allowed us to continue finance instead of paying all of the rest upfront . So I think it pays to complain and ask for some help and decreased pricing etc. I felt like we got an even deal . Jen

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Taking a Computer Lunch June 21, 2016 at 7:16 am

While it is much easier to persuade companies to work with you if you have hosted multiple APs using one company, it is important to gently remind them that they work for you, not the other way around. You are the one paying for them to follow State Department regulations, to vet applicants, to run an orientation, and give them guidance on continuing to follow State Department requirements during the year they live in your home.

OP – remind your agency that you’re not looking for a bad guy/good guy, but you do feel like the AP used you – instead of being honest about not wanting to care for a newborn in a 3-child house, she extended with you and then jumped ship. You would have been better off having had that four-month window to interview new candidates while she was wrapping up her year with you, then trying to find her successor in an emergency situation. Pressure them on that basis, and remind them that they are working for you as they present likely successors. Hint that if they treat you well, with three young children, you are likely to host APs for years to come with them, but since there are so many agencies from which to choose…

Bottom line – if you are polite, but mentally in charge, you are more likely to get what you want. That’s just my experience.

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