Ask Amy: Houseguest Turns Alpaca into Felt
In an effort to keep the place clean, a friendship may have become dirtied
Dear Amy: A friend recently returned from abroad. He is struggling to find a full-time job, so we let him stay at our place for a month and a half (rent-free) as a houseguest while we were away. We did this as a favor to him.
When we returned, we realized he had damaged a piece of furniture by using a homemade cleaning solution on it. He also turned a (very expensive) alpaca blanket into felt by washing it.
We let the furniture damage slide as a simple mistake, but when I brought up the blanket, he only offered to pay for half of the cost.
I recognize that mistakes happen. I know it’s dumb to spend an inordinate amount on a blanket. Also, I realize I could have been clearer about how to care for these things, but am I in the wrong to be frustrated by his offer to only pay half of the cost to replace it?
Since we returned, he’s traveled by plane to visit other cities, which leads me to believe he’s not completely cash strapped.
I feel like I’m being a snotty, privileged jerk, but it still rubs me the wrong way.
– Annoyed Samaritan
Dear Annoyed: While you easily categorize and forgive one piece of damage as “a mistake,” you seem to put the other item in its own special drawer.
I would categorize these incidents as “mistakes,” and yes, frustration is a proportional response. Does your friend owe you the total replacement cost? I don’t think so.
He was obviously very concerned about keeping your house and belongings clean (both of these mistakes are cleaning-related). I assume that other than these, your belongings were in acceptable condition upon your return.
I wonder if you have considered the value of having a houseguest, someone living in your house while you were away for several weeks?
While he was occupying your house, no one broke in, the pipes didn’t freeze and burst, and none of about a dozen possible catastrophes that can happen to unoccupied houses happened to yours.
According to you, this man was your guest. If you and your husband had been home when he did this, would you still expect him to pay?
Don’t beat yourself up for owning an expensive blanket but protecting your more treasured property from others’ well-meaning mistakes is your responsibility.
I think you should accept your friend’s offer and get yourself a new blanket.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson