The Vine: November 16, 2011
This is a question about a friend and money.
A coworker and I developed a friendship that was very work-based. We chatted at work, emailed throughout the day, left for staff meeting early to share a coffee, etc. We did not, however, socialize outside of work. I made overtures about getting together but she never seemed to be interested in escalating the friendship.
In June she went out on maternity leave with the expectation that her husband would find a new job elsewhere and she wouldn't be back. I made — an truly meant — an offer of any assistance that she might need, knowing that she was likely to be overwhelmed with a new infant, a still job-searching husband, and a large dog. In July she sent me an email asking me a favor. They had their new location (halfway across the country) and were prepping to move. She wanted to know if she parked her car in our work parking lot if I would hold her keys and give them to the car mover in August. I offered to instead let her park the car at my house, mentioning that I felt it would be safer there, less likely to raise the eyebrows of our work security, and said that I would run it down the road every now and then so the battery stayed charged and the brakes didn't rust. That's foreshadowing.
She and her husband dropped the car off in mid-July. I drove it once at the end of the month. I got a text from her to arrange pick-up at work the following morning. I went home early that same night to do a cat-vet run. When I finished with the cats I started her car to move it behind my car in preparation for the following morning. One of the rear wheels was frozen. I called my local tow guys who came out, removed the wheel, took off the drum, freed the brake, and put the wheel back on. It cost me $75. The mover called later that night and wanted to pick it up from my house instead of at work the following morning. That was less hassle for me, but kept me up later than I would normally stay up and involved several phone calls and running around in the rain.
Is it appropriate to ask reimbursement for the cost of having the brake freed?
This is how I see it. In the "no" camp we have: I volunteered to take the car when she wanted to leave it at work. That required her to drive about an hour round trip instead of a twenty-minute round trip. I said I would drive it, and only drive it once. In the "yes" camp we have: if the brake froze despite the one drive, it probably (?) would have frozen anyway. I stored her car for free for over a month. I dealt with the mover. Another factor that shouldn't matter but I have to admit crossed my mind is that $75 is about a third of my total monthly spending money. She made significantly more than I do, so it seems like a proportionately much more significant cost to me than it would be to her.
I would greatly appreciate hearing opinions on this question.
Did you not call her when the brake froze and ask her what you should do? When the tow guys quoted you $75, did you not call her at that point? Does she not know, as of this moment, that the brake froze and you had to have it repaired? That's a safety issue; I'd want to know about that if I were her.
Your approach to the situation and to this woman is…odd. You reached out a number of times to build an outside-of-work friendship; she wasn't interested. You offered your help during a move, and she availed herself of the offer, but despite 1) doing her a favor and 2) having to cough up $75 for a car that isn't yours, you're concerned that she had to drive 40 minutes farther, to pick up the car she left…with you? And then there's this score-keeping with how you had to stay up later…? I mean, some people are quite sensitive about their sleep patterns, but…we're not two-year-olds here.
I mean, I'm in the "yes" camp, but I mention the other things because I find it striking that this is even a question — or that this is still a question. If Mr. S leaves me in charge of his car for a long weekend and I notice it has a flat, I love the guy, but my first call is not to AAA. My first call is to him to ask how much he's willing to spend, or should I just wait for him to get back, or what. Yeah, that's a sibling, but that's kind of my point: your relationship with this favor is puzzling to me. You're not really friends, and she's moving away. Why would you put yourself out to the tune of a third of your disposable income?
You should have called her on the spot and put the repair costs on her card, but you didn't, so now it's time for the "oh hey, just checking in, hope you're getting settled — and also, I hope the frozen brake I should have mentioned weeks ago hasn't caused any further problems. And about that, since I had the tow guy out on my dime…could you? Because the economy sucks" email.
Or the "oopsie, silly me, I forgot to send you this bill for the thing I had repaired on your car" email, or whatever, but a favor doesn't imply assuming all associated costs. If what you want is the money back, you'll have to ask for it. If what you actually wanted out of this is something else, something emotional you needed to prove about being a good friend to someone who didn't appreciate that, well, now you know that that costs $75. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Something to think about, anyway.
Tags: etiquette friendships