Friday, March 15, 2019

When the Dog Walker Doesn't Walk the Dog

The highly estimable national treasure called Miss Manners does it again. She offers a perfect response to a woman whose dog walker is taking advantage of her. What do you do when your dog walker is not walking your dog? What do you do when said dog walker, hired for this simple task as a favor, abuses the privilege and does not walk the dog?

Many advice columnists would tell you to confront her, to get in her face, to lean in, to accuse her of dereliction. Not Miss Manners. Our national treasure gets it right, by showing how to raise the issue, not by confronting and accusing the derelict dog walker, but by shaming her. As you know, shame is bad, but it is only so to those who do not have a clue about how it works. That includes most of those who pretend to be experts in the field.

Anyway, here is the letter:

I have one of those camera doorbells on my front door. Consequently, I can see the comings and goings of a good friend of mine who walks my dogs a few times a week while I'm at work (she has a key to my house; the camera detects motion and begins to record and sends a live feed to my phone).

The trouble is that she doesn't always walk my dogs. I know this because the doorbell camera doesn't show her doing so. She comes over but just hangs out. Sometimes she does homework, using my printer and WiFi for assignments, and sometimes she does laundry (I've freely offered these things to her).

I am paying her to walk my dogs when she does come over, as she's going through a rough patch financially. I trust her in my home; I just think she gets a little lazy and I feel taken advantage of.

I know it sounds sheepish, but I don't know how to say anything to her about this. I don't want her to think I'm spying on her with the camera, but I also don't want to pay her to come over for an hour for her own purposes.

Now, Miss Manners finds the perfect solution. She does not raise the issue of dog walking but advises the letter writer to raise the issue of the doorbell camera. And to presuppose that the friend has really been walking the dog. Thus, not accusing her of anything.

She writes:

Your doorbell camera may be the perfection of safety, convenience and reliability, but your friend does not know this. You can therefore express to her your frustration with your new gadget: It must be broken because it did not capture her walking the dogs all last week — and you’re confident that she must have.

Having said this, it is time to beat a hasty retreat — to a different topic or a different room — as the purpose is to warn your friend what you know, not to put her on the spot for a defense. Etiquette calls this technique “the dog ate my video.”

This leaves the derelict dog walker knowing that her failures have been noticed. And it allows her to change her ways, by making her own free choice, one that is based on what we suppose is her functioning sense of shame. She is not responding to pressure or to an assault. She is allowed to know that her trick has been duly noted. And she can then change her ways without having to answer for her failings or even doing penance.

Score one for Miss Manners.


UbuMaccabee said...

I'd just fire her and move on with plan B.

Ares Olympus said...

I agree confrontation isn't always needed. Modern spying is rather sneaky, and okay if it's just outdoor cameras. I had to break some privacy boundaries with my brother over illegal drugs being used in my house before evicting him, no security cameras, but I did search his room and took pictures of his paraphernalia if I needed to challenge his denial. The advantage of hard evidence is you don't need to confront someone, don't have to force them to lie or offer lame excuses to cover up their misdeeds. You just say whatever appropriate equivelance to "It's time for you to move on", and take back the key. OTOH, if your underachiever comes clean after calling for an end, you could give them a second chance. And if they ask why, I believe you can tell the truth because they asked for it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that finesse solves the problem neatly. I wonder what the dog-walker will think should she read this M.M. column.

autothreads said...

Since she spends time in the writer's house, if it was me, I'd simply inform her of the security system and show her that there's a camera in use.