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Flakes need friends, too...right?
December 23, 2010 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Loaned a friend a smart phone and very soon afterward he dropped it in water. Help me to beanplate how to get over feeling irritated at my friend.

So my friend had an iPhone for a couple years. He lived and died by it. It was a first gen and got more and more beaten up over time until it finally gave up the ghost. He has an iPhone 4 given to him by a relative, but due to poor credit he would have to pay a ginormous activation deposit, which he didn't have. He started going through some rough times and complained about the lack of iPhone, so I offered him temporary use of my unlocked smart phone as I had gotten a new one. It was my back up for the new phone, as it functioned perfectly being only just over a year old. It was a good phone, just not an iPhone. He took it happily, but later complained about how it was hard to understand how to use. There wasn't much gratitude expressed at any point, but he is kind of a flakey, distracted person.

Fast forward two weeks and he im's me that he accidentally knocked it into water and that it's now dead. No apology, just "Can you believe it?" sort of thing. He is currently trying to dry it out but just signed up for a different carrier/phone. I am currently harboring feelings of irritation but I would like a different perspective. I know that I shouldn't have lent it if I didn't want to part with it forever, and that I should not be surprised when a deeply flakey friend exhibits flakey behavior. The perspective I require is one for looking at the future of this relationship. The blithe, "oh well!" way he shared the news and the lack of updates about the phone's status or offer of returning are things that make me feel as though his flakey nature goes to his core. And this makes me want to extricate myself from the previously close relationship. But I am very conflicted because I may just be being harsh. The only standard by which I can measure his behavior is my own, and I would not have approached the destruction of a $300 piece of property so blithely.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like you learned the hard way not to loan things out that you may not get back. If he's not going to pony up a replacement, your option is just to move on with the lesson learned.
posted by timpanogos at 8:22 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


If he's a good friend of yours (and I can't imagine lending him the phone if he weren't), I would probably say something to him about it. "It" being his need to take responsibility for things which have been entrusted to him, otherwise he hurts trust as a whole in the friendship.
posted by bardophile at 8:24 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Listen, I know you didn't mean to splash the phone and I know you cannot afford to rectify the situation right now, but someday when you can, it would be a nice surprise. Also, can I have the phone back? I would like to see if I can pheonix it. Thanks."

I too would be pissed at my friend and myself for lending it. Lesson learned. Good friend but a flake. Never lend anything to him you expect back in same condition. He does not treat his possessions with the same care you and I would ours. I think time will tell if you can get over it. For now, it will fester. If the feeling does not go away in a few months, slowly stop hanging out with him.
posted by AugustWest at 8:31 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


And that's probably part of why he has bad credit to begin with. I'd keep this in mind the next time he asks you for something... "Hey, remember when I loaned you my phone and you ruined it in under a month? When you pay be back for that we'll talk about me trusting you with my stuff again."
posted by Menthol at 8:34 AM on December 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


You are being harsh on yourself.

Shrug and move on. This person can still be your friend, but not a friend you trust with . . . things.
posted by General Tonic at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


I applaud you for being a good friend to someone who may be a bit difficult at times. Yes, flakes need friends too.

But good friends can express their feelings to one another, have conflict, and come out stronger afterward. He needs to understand your feelings as well as the idea that it's not so much the phone as it is what his cavalier attitude about it implies about his regard for you.

Focus on the facts and your feelings about them. Only use the word "you" as you are describing the facts of the situation as you see them. Do not impute intentions or motives to his actions, only give your feelings about the loss and his reaction (XYZ statements are useful here). Let him know that your friendship is ultimately safe, but you're still hurt.

Then, silence. Give him a little space to respond. If he needs a little help in the social skills area, you may even think ahead of time about what a proper response from him might be -- how he might make up for the loss and for the damage to your friendship -- and prompt him.
posted by cross_impact at 8:38 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


He sounds like he might be a jerk. You should probably let him know how his behaviour has bothered you (and be sure to emphasize that it is not the dropping of the phone into water that bothered you, but his lack of concern about it), and then let his reaction be your guide as to the future of your relationship. This may well be a 300$ fee you are paying for the information that he is a crap friend that you are better off without.
posted by joelhunt at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2010


Don't fall into the "all-or-nothing" thinking trap. Take the good parts of him, leave the rest.
posted by Melismata at 8:47 AM on December 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I believe he handled it in the manner that he did because he is scared he just fucked up a $300 piece of equipment and worried you will not want to be his friend anymore. I think a "dude, it's alright, it's just a thing" is in order, and then you just add this guy to the list of people you can't lend expensive physical stuff to.

I doubt he doesn't know he owes recompense in some way, but the reason he is handling it like this is because he has no way to provide it -- like you said, no cash, shitty credit, etc. What's he going to do outside of try to play it down? Assuming he is frightened, even apologizing would be outwardly acknowledging it too far into the "I owe my friend something I can in no way provide" front.

"I know you cannot afford to rectify the situation right now, but someday when you can, it would be a nice surprise."

Assuming you wish to keep him as a friend, don't do this; this is the kind of talk that will make him avoid you because he knows you are looking at him knowing he owes you something. That's not the kind of friend people want to hang out with.
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


You already replaced the phone. It was gonna sit in a drawer on the off chance you "might" need it again.
I'd put it out of my mind.
posted by JohnE at 8:54 AM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fast forward two weeks and he im's me that he accidentally knocked it into water and that it's now dead. No apology, just "Can you believe it?" sort of thing.

Some people can't apologize. It's a character flaw.
posted by jayder at 8:55 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you knew that he couldn't afford that kind of phone. If you didn't know that, you wouldn't have loaned it to him.

This is like being annoyed with a rattlesnake because it tries to bite you.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. You lend him a phone, he doesn't thank you; he ruins it, but doesn't offer to replace it. This guy isn't a flake, he's an inconsiderate jerk, and he's taking advantage of your friendship.
posted by Dasein at 9:06 AM on December 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Flakes need friends, too...right?

If I treat my friend poorly and he no longer wishes to be my friend or do nice things for me, it's my own fault. Personally, when someone lets me down in a way that confirms the worst in his personality (flakiness, jealousy, whatever), I seriously reassess whether it's worth being friends with that person.

This guy was in need--not even in need, he was complaining that he no longer had a luxury item (smartphone) and couldn't afford the cost of activating a new one, so you lent him a phone. He wasn't appreciative and in fact complained about the phone not being good enough. Then, he ruined the phone and told you via IM with zero expression of remorse. Seriously? You're totally justified in being annoyed with him.

Not everyone is going to take good care of expensive items they borrow. And I think there's some wiggle room in a friendship for a flakey person to borrow something, break/lose it, apologize profusely and replace it, and continue being friends with the understanding that Flakey McGee probably can't be trusted with possessions you don't want to lose. I certainly know which of my friends I'd lend an iPhone to, and which ones I'd be more likely to tell, "Hey, that's too bad your phone broke. I heard Sprint is having a sale on Android phones if you want a replacement." But the key difference between my flakey friends and your friend is that the people I choose to be around are people who say "thank you" if I do something nice, and "sorry" if they screw up. There's flakey and there's rude. Unless this incident is way out of character for him, I think your friend is the latter.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:13 AM on December 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


If he's still cavalier about it the next time you see him, just be like, "Dude, STFU. I'm kind of pissed off that you effed up my phone. Don't go near any more water any time soon, alright? You owe me that much." And just be playful-stern.

And honestly, you describe someone I personally wouldn't want to be friends with, so maybe it's time you reconsider what good parts outweigh this dude's bad ones and start drifting away.
posted by patronuscharms at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It might be a good idea to send a short email seeing how you feel, and what you want him to do to resolve the situation. It's probably a good idea to send an email first, and then follow-up over the phone.

"I felt confused and irritated about what happened to my phone. Accidents happen, but I kind of hoped you would take more responsibility for the loss of my phone. I would feel a lot better if you simply apologized. You could maybe take me out for a drink to patch things up so we can move on. What do you think? I'll try connecting with you by phone in the next day or two to say the same thing."

Basically, if this is a real friend, it's important to express (carefully and tactfully) how you feel.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:19 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not just flakeyness. DTMFA.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:34 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


You already replaced the phone. It was gonna sit in a drawer on the off chance you "might" need it again. I'd put it out of my mind.

Worth noting that a lot of people fund their next mobile phone on the basis that they'll get some money back from the previous phone on eBay. This chap has essentially increased the cost of his new phone by at least $150 through carelessness.

Not much you can do unless you want to try an extract some money out of him for it. However that might be more hassle than it is worth.
posted by mr_silver at 9:37 AM on December 23, 2010


He's a whiner, he's irresponsible, ungrateful and lacking in even basic courtesy. Yeah, we all need more friends like that...

This is an easy one for me. Tell him, hey, give me the phone back, I don't care if you can't get it working, it's mine, and I want it. And then... well, then I'd move on. If you want to be friends with him still, go for it, but you automatically forfeit the right to complain the next time he screws you over.
posted by lemniskate at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, tell him to give you the phone back. I call BS that it's broken.
posted by parmanparman at 10:03 AM on December 23, 2010


Do you have insurance on the phone or would your home owners policy cover this or renter's?
posted by AugustWest at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2010


If you really do need to get over this - and I, along with a lot of other posters seem to think you have a reasonable beef - I often remind myself of someone who is acting ridiculous (fictional or real, living or dead) and I try to imagine myself behaving the same way. There's a great scene from the movie "Pieces of April" where Sean Hayes plays this tightly wound gay man allowing her to use his convection oven. She get's exasperated with his idiosyncrasies and makes fun of him not knowing that he's watching. He gets angry and storms out, declaring "Do you know that good feeling that often comes from helping people? Well, I'm not having that feeling. I ask myself, It's very clear what you are doing for her, but what are you getting out of this?"

And once I've imagined myself in that tight-lipped personality of his, I can usually let go of whatever it is that is bugging me - because I really don't want to be "that guy."

That said, I think your friend is being a total dorkbutt and you should call him on it. The fact that his first message didn't include an apology and an offer to replace the item means he doesn't plan on doing so, and you should - at the very least - tell him that's customary among friends who borrow and break. You don't have to do this in any nasty or shaming way. "Hey dude, about the phone, in retrospect I realize you may just not have known this, but it is customary to offer to replace something when you borrow it and end up breaking it. Otherwise it leads to hard feelings." Some people will probably quibble with the passive and paternalistic tone, but I think showing concern for the health and wellbeing of your friendship is a better way than to throw a fit a la Wayne above.
posted by jph at 10:23 AM on December 23, 2010


Let's try to see things from what might be his point of view. Maybe he sees this not as "expensive item of equipment" but as "second phone that friend wasn't using and didn't need". Are you sure you were clear that you were lending it to him, not giving it to him?

Maybe he feels that you're the kind of person for whom $300 isn't a significant amount of money. If that's the case, then are other examples of him behaving in this way?

For me, it's important that friends care about/respect me and my things, when it is not convenient for them to do so, or when they are having problems of your own. In as much as it sounds like your friend isn't doing that, it's a problem.
posted by squishles at 10:49 AM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


This incident may not matter right now to some folks, but as you get older, this friend you describe is not the type of person you want around your important job/kids/spouse/better friends. In the bigger scheme of things, this incident is a big deal because it's a Giant Red Flag about trust.

Getting angry is a little useless here, but recognizing this is not the sort of person you want to remain close with and giving this guy (and anyone like him) The Fade? Hell's YES!

Go ahead and ask for your phone back. Then fade.

You're OK.
posted by jbenben at 11:13 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, ask yourself what kinds of things your friend does for you, and how he would react if you'd damaged something of his
posted by squishles at 11:19 AM on December 23, 2010


It was worth $300 to you, it was worth $0 to him and he treated it as such.
posted by outsider at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2010


I believe he handled it in the manner that he did because he is scared he just fucked up a $300 piece of equipment and worried you will not want to be his friend anymore. I think a "dude, it's alright, it's just a thing" is in order, and then you just add this guy to the list of people you can't lend expensive physical stuff to.

I doubt he doesn't know he owes recompense in some way, but the reason he is handling it like this is because he has no way to provide it -- like you said, no cash, shitty credit, etc. What's he going to do outside of try to play it down? Assuming he is frightened, even apologizing would be outwardly acknowledging it too far into the "I owe my friend something I can in no way provide" front.


This is a really good explanation of what goes on in the mind of someone who just can't apologize, but it shows them up for the big jerk that they are. "I can't apologize; that would be admitting I did something wrong! I won't do it, noooo!" That's the cowardly, inconsiderate behavior of an overgrown spoiled child.

You expected to get the phone back in working condition eventually, and now you're not only not getting that, you're not getting an apology either? You're right to be miffed. If you let it slide, you will only reinforce your friend's spoiled-child behavior. On the other hand, if you demand an apology, the best you'll probably get a resentful one, and Mr. Spoiled-Manchild may continue to resent you. If take a hurt/pleading approach and simply ask why he didn't even feel the need to apologize, maybe you'll get somewhere, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Some people are just jerks.
posted by Marla Singer at 11:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would have a hard time not saying something snippy like "If you can't afford to replace the smartphone I loaned you, then maybe you shouldn't have one. What else could you be doing with that extra $40/month you're paying for a smartphone data plan, on top of your regular cell phone plan?"

But in a broader sense: never loan something out that you're not willing to lose forever. Basically when I loan someone something, if it actually comes back, it's like a bonus from the universe. 80% of the time, you never see that thing again.

My guess as to the specific situation is that he didn't understand that it was a LOAN and not a GIFT. You may not have made it clear enough that you expected the item back. Or maybe you did make it clear, but he just wasn't listening.
posted by ErikaB at 12:05 PM on December 23, 2010


Assuming he is frightened, even apologizing would be outwardly acknowledging it too far into the "I owe my friend something I can in no way provide" front.

I believe this is at least part of the reason why they call it "a debt of gratitude."
posted by rhizome at 12:37 PM on December 23, 2010


We are all flakes in our own ways. Just tell yourself this is your fault because you know the firend's flakiness is about destroying things.

But you can call him on it and get the phone back.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2010


"Dude, I know you can't afford it right now, but you totally owe me an iphone. Don't think I'm letting you get away with it."
posted by Neekee at 2:04 PM on December 23, 2010


It depends on what you mean by "close" friend. If it's just someone you enjoy hanging out with rather often, but not someone you share close confidences with or someone that you feel an abiding kinship with - he's replaceable. And you know what? If he were the sort of person that you felt a depth of kinship with, you wouldn't be struggling with this. You would be feeling forgiveness for him already, because it's just a thing and he's a really important friend. He's just a guy you hang out with. You can find someone you have just as much fun with who will also respect you and your things. You can even find someone who isn't going to drive you nuts with his flakiness. Give yourself a week. If you're still pissed, he's not worth it.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:02 PM on December 23, 2010


How would you feel about sitting down with him and saying, "Look, I know you can't buy me new phone because of your financial situation right now. And I accept that. I knew I was taking that risk when I lent you the phone. But it bothers me how you responded to what happened. I don't understand why you didn't apologize. I felt like something that's important to me was disregarded."?
posted by overglow at 3:06 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree with those who said it's possible he saw the phone as something you no longer needed and didn't want back. If that's true, it could explain his lack of apology (though I'm going way out on a limb here because I think anyone with manners would've apologized regardless). However, there's no way to explain his lack of "thank you" when you gave him the phone. And he actually complained about it?! He sounds pretty rude to me. I would probably tell him that I thought his lack of manners was really rude, because getting it off my chest would make me feel better. That's just me, though. Regardless, I wouldn't expect him to understand where I was coming from or say/do anything to make it better. If he were the sort of person who said "thank you" at appropriate times, he would've done it already.
posted by whitelily at 3:26 PM on December 23, 2010


Are you sure he knew you wanted it back? And are you sure he understood that it was of value to you? Obviously it totally depends on how you express things but, I could easily see this situation being interpreted as "Hey, I've got an old phone I'm not using that's lying around doing me no good, you can have it." Was this a loan for any set period of time, or just "until you get a new phone yourself eventually?" Even if he knew it was a loan, he might have thought of it as a "loan" that really meant it was his now, if you didn't seem concerned about getting it back.

It doesn't sound like you were planning on selling it, it was your back-up phone, right? So there very well may not actually be any harm done here, as long as nothing happens to your current phone. That also may explain why he's being so casual about it. Especially if he knows you're the kind of person who takes really good care of stuff and hence it's unlikely you're going to need a backup. Obviously if he understood it to be a loan he should still apologize, though, but he may not be thinking "$300 piece of property" but instead "unlikely-to-be-needed insurance policy."
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:20 PM on December 23, 2010


It sounds like this is part of a pattern -- has this person's behavior that has had some sort of negative effect on you increased in proportion to the amount of time you've known them? Flaky people don't do that, it requires organization by the sort of person who wants to see how far they can push things. Get your phone back and get out, the impact of their behavior on you will continue to increase. Expect them to turn back up in a few months and act like they expect you to be their friend again, without any apology.

BTW, the reason he didn't thank you or apologize is because he feels entitled to the phone. He complained about not having one not only to get the phone but to see if you were the sort of person who would put up with this sort of thing so that he can escalate it. It's not that his flaky nature goes to his core, it's manipulation. You sound like you are a nice person who gives people the benefit of the doubt, and he's taking advantage of that and will continue to do so.

Something in you -- intuition, that little voice inside, whatever -- has given you the idea that it might not be the best plan to continue to be friends with this person. Listen, listen, listen to that. I've had to learn it the hard way a few times.

I'd expect that he'll turn up again in a few months, sans apology, acting like you are friends again. Don't fall for it.
posted by yohko at 1:54 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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