‘Money lent to a friend will be recovered from an enemy,’ says whoever it is who sits in the back rooms of Hallmark who composes depressing proverbs that they can’t use in the mainstream greetings cards. And two AMT listeners have lately discovered this first-hand. Elly, a first year student in London, writes:

When I first started university last September I mostly hung out with the people from my halls including a trip to the OXO Tower bar around Christmas.

I paid for the whole table on my card, so we weren’t sat there dividing it all up, and I then calculated exact amounts including service charge which everyone paid back… except one.

When I asked him for the £15 (he spent the least on the table therefore is a stingy nob anyway) he said that I claimed he didn’t have to pay me back because he did me a favour that night (can’t remember what it was, I think get my phone back from someone, anyhow).

After we discussed this I said he could pay me back half after some argument. I don’t think this is fair, I paid for him and he is refusing to pay me back, regardless of whatever cocktail-induced deal I made.

It’s now been several months and I have seen nothing of the £8 let alone £15 he actually owes me despite me mentioning it several times.

I know it’s only £15 but I’m totally skint and I don’t like the fact he hasn’t paid me. We move out of halls in early June and I know I won’t see him afterwards because I don’t really hang out with those uppity ‘let’s spend our student loan in an expensive bar to look cool’ types.

What do I do?!

What do you do? Grit your teeth, forget about it and try to move on. Although you need the money, and it is rightfully yours, he’s obviously not going to give it to you, and it’ll cost you more than you’ve already lost to take him to the small claims court. And remember, although Shylock kind of had a point, he’s not exactly the good guy in The Merchant of Venice, is he?

Readers, if you disagree, go to the comments and give Elly advice for retrieving her lost dosh. While you’re there, perhaps you could also counsel Adam in Nottingham:

I recently went to an ice hockey game with a few friends. I offered to buy the tickets in advance and was happy to get the money on the day.

After buying the tickets, one of my friends said he now couldn’t go. I offered to try to sell the ticket for him, but wasn’t able to. On the day of the game I texted him and said, ‘You owe me for the ticket.’

On arrival at the match I noticed a massive queue of people waiting to buy tickets. I choose a guy at random and he agreed to buy my ticket. I offered him a couple of quid discount as a goodwill gesture. I then texted my mate again, telling him that I had managed to sell his ticket and that he only owed me the £2 I discounted (knowing full well that I was unlikely to see this).

When the rest of my friends arrived I told them what had happened; they said that I shouldn’t have told my friend that I’d sold his ticket, I should have got the cash from him AND kept the additional money from the man in the queue.

So answer me this:

Was I right to let my friend know that he didn’t owe me the full amount or should I have kept quiet, congratulating myself on a good bit of business?

Are all my friends out to rip me off? Am I really that naive?

Or can I take the high road, knowing I did the right thing?

You didn’t exactly do the right thing, did you? You just didn’t do the worst thing. While you may have exercised goodwill towards a random stranger, but you did rather pettily ask your friend for the £2, knowing that he was unlikely to pay it and also that it would hardly make a difference to your finances if he did; so I can only believe that your motive for bothering to mention the £2 was to make him feel a little guilty. Or, more likely, pissed off.

But since £2 is not a sum worth souring a friendship over, I have to wonder what your real beef is with this friend – not to mention your other ones as well! If you ever find yourself asking, ‘Are all my friends out to rip me off?’, your immediate follow-up question should be, ‘Where shall I find some replacement friends?’

If you like, you can test them by dropping a £2 coin on the floor then seeing whether they pick it up and return it to you, or slyly pocket it. But I warn you, Adam, it’ll be a lonely life.



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