Monday, August 31, 2009

8-31-09: An Awkward Scenario

Man, what a day today turned into! It's so pleasant outside. I'm really looking forward to the nice sleeping weather.

My friend, who I will call Mike, is involved in an interesting, albeit awkward, scenario.

About 18 months ago (or thereabouts), Mike moved into a house with four friends. He was looking around for furniture. Two of his friends, a young married couple right around his age (Mike is about a year older than me at 25), were in a generous mood, and gave Mike one of their extra dressers they had bought from IKEA some time before and no longer required. Mike gladly accepted the dresser, and asked, mostly out of guilt for receiving a free item from a friend, if he could pay for it. He even offered $100, but was told it was a gift. The young couple also gave other things away, for free, to other friends, including more furniture and computer monitors.

A little over a month ago, the young couple had a going away party. They were taking the road less traveled by and moving south to live the simple farming life. They invited many of their friends, including Mike, who was unfortunately on vacation up in Vermont. At this going away party, for some odd reason, the young couple approached the friends to whom they had given "gifts" in years past, which included several people, and asked if they could be paid for the items. They weren't sure of their financial situation in the near future (they were practically retiring but had saved a lot of money) and thought they could use the cash to help pay for the move. Most of the friends obliged, though I know of at least one who wasn't thrilled at being cornered.

Mike did not, and things have gotten interesting. Today I read an e-mail the young couple, let's call them Pete and Sandra, had recently sent Mike. The crux of their e-mail, which was the third in a string of e-mails between them and Mike, was that Mike told them he would pay them $100 for the dresser and they expected full payment. Mike had offered them $40 for the dresser upon returning from his vacation last month, but they had turned it down and also said they did not want the dresser back. He then put off the problem for later, upset at how things had turned out. Mike is also having some slight budget concerns right now as he works out a problem he's having with his former landlord.

I don't really know Pete and Sandra all that well. I'd met them a couple times. They seemed nice enough, albeit a bit odd, but nothing major. They're really into the "off the grid" mentality, which explains the decision to retire in their mid 20's and take up farming. Pete comes from money, and has the reputation of not working too hard and being downright cheap when it comes to money. Sandra seemed nice. I do know Mike quite well, and I can only imagine there was a bit of a mis-communication somewhere along the line. But I can't imagine this is really any one's fault other than Pete and Sandra's.

First, Mike offered to pay them upon receiving the dresser 18+ months ago. It was out of guilt. I honestly would have done the same thing. They told him not to worry. That, in most cases, should end the transaction. Waiting 18 months to ask for money, from friends, at your going-away party, is downright sleazy. If you need the money, don't quit your job. Or, more wisely, don't give stuff away for free. I really hope, if they're decent people, they didn't count on this happening and would get more money out of friends once they moved using guilt as a tool. I'm glad Mike didn't fall for it.

They're now making Mike out to be the jerk, saying it would be the right thing to do for him to pay them the "offered price" of $100, and not the $40 he is offering (he's also offering to simply give it back). If it were me, I'd say "It's $40 or nothing." They're not being at all flexible, and I'm actually surprised at how patient Mike has been. The dresser itself is probably not even worth $40, so they should be happy with his offer ($100 was offered 18+ months ago when the dresser was almost new). I just don't get where they're coming from. But it is an interesting show. Real life drama.

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