Saturday, March 16, 2019

When Your Dearest Friend Steals From You

Another day, another superbly intelligent column by Miss Manners. Here the theme is, how to you call out a friend for stealing from you without confronting her? It is not easy. Miss Manners strains to find a polite way to shame the woman. You can decide whether she succeeded. Even if she did not we at least have evidence of her efforts to remain polite while trying to shame people into doing the right thing.

Here is the letter:

When I hosted a large event a couple of months ago, the food was catered, but I supplied the liquor, including two very expensive bottles of brandy, with the proviso that I would take home the remaining liquor at the end of the evening. I spoke to the hired bartenders before the guests arrived to confirm this.

At the end of the evening, after most of the guests had left, I went to the bar to assist the bartenders in packing up the liquor and was surprised to find that both bottles of brandy were missing. The bartenders told me that they had not been emptied by the guests. The manager of the facility, which has excellent surveillance cameras, pulled the video of the bar area, and it showed that one of my dearest friends had taken both bottles. How do I — or should I — address this with my now soon-to-be-former "friend"?

So, her good friend pilfered the expensive brandy. Perhaps her friend thought that they were going to be tossed into the trash. Perhaps she has very sticky fingers. Perhaps this is not the first time she has stolen from a friend. 

Since the letter writer found out about the theft via a surveillance camera, she is facing a double dilemma. She ought not, according to Miss Manners, say that she was spying on her friend. It would not be polite. And yet, she can use the knowledge to shame her friend:

Commercial establishments routinely, and often understandably, install surveillance equipment, sometimes to protect their patrons and always to protect themselves. But your spying on your friends — even your guilty ones — is not polite.

How, then, to correct the problem without admitting your own, lesser, transgression? Your first option is to admit the knowledge, but obfuscate how you came by it. “The establishment tells me you saved the brandies for me. Thank you so much! When can I come by to pick them up?”

Being more confrontational, this approach is more likely to go wrong, particularly if your friend has already disposed of the incriminating evidence. A gentler approach is to talk fondly of the party to your friend at the next social event, mentioning that your only disappointment was that the bartender told you that someone helped themselves to the bottles that you were hoping to share with your guests. This is unlikely to get your brandy back, but it may ruin the thief’s day.

We agree with Miss Manners that it is best not to be confrontational. It does not work. It causes drama. It solves nothing.

So, Miss Manners recommends that the letter write shame her friend, subtly, but without hope of getting the bottles back. Fair enough. It’s the best anyone can do under the circumstances.

The remaining question is: if the bottles are not returned, ought she to remain friends with the thief? Perhaps making herself scarce will help her friend to come to her moral senses.

1 comment:

RT said...

Anyone who brazenly steals from you is not a friend.