Disrespectful/uncaring acquaintances
December 5, 2011 9:14 PM   Subscribe

A classmate/mutual friend of my friend (read: no friend of mine!) ruined 2 of my college textbooks and does not seem to care to do much about it. What should I do? More details inside.

I'm in an odd situation and I'm going to try to make a long story as short and concise as possible.

So there's a woman that I knew through mutual friends a few years ago. We only occasionally hung out with said mutual friends and never on our own. She seemed alright to me, and besides, she was best friends with one of my friends and I always gave her the benefit of a doubt because of this. I will say that some of her actions back then were...questionable. She was very into drinking at the time and she had a boyfriend that seemed to be treating her horribly.

Fast forward to a few months ago, at the start of this semester. She happens to be in one of my classes and we begin talking together during our breaks. I'll admit, I've been very busy the past 6 months and in those 6 months, I've lost contact with a few people so I've been taking an active interest to be sociable and make new or forge old connections with friends-- and I gave her my number during class and told her we should hang out sometime. She's been texting me here and there since I gave her my number.

About a week ago, she calls me and asks me if I could help her with a paper in our mutual class. Thinking she means asking me questions over the phone, I say sure and she says she'll call back in 5 minutes. 5 minutes later, she says she's at my apartment building and she needs to know what number I live in. Even though I'm a little unsure why she's at my apartment building, I tell her and she comes up. I had been watching a movie and spending some time with my (live-in) boyfriend.... and we were both confused. She comes in and starts complaining about her boyfriend issues and then proceeds to drink a decent amount of alcohol...my boyfriend's response to this is to say he's going to bed and thus leaving me alone with a rambling tipsy chick I hardly know anymore. I have a glass of wine myself, shake it off, and begin on homework for another class and for awhile, things are going fine.

About 20 or 30 minutes pass and all of a sudden, she's super sloshed and she gets a wine bottle and starts to pour....only she misses and she pours wine all over my (note: expensive obviously, $450 worth to be more exact) college textbooks. I freak and automatically take them off the table and begin wiping them with paper towels like crazy. She seems embarrassed and she goes outside. She says she'd be happy to exchange our mutual class textbook and she asks how much I would like for the other textbook. Knowing it's worth much more, I say $50 (I was going to sell it back to Amazon for $100). She says she doesn't have any money because of her boyfriend and I say "Well, I do need something for it, but we can talk about it tomorrow."

She's still apparently embarrassed and says I should just kick her ass, to which I respond "I've never been a violent person and I'm not mad, I just want money to replace my books." She just smiles at me and that's pretty much it... she leaves shortly thereafter and I say we'll get a hold of each other later on in the week to figure it all out. (I know. It's totally not kosher to let a sloshed person drive themselves home so please try to refrain from the judgement on this call.)

So a couple days later, she calls and says she's left a folder at my house. I mention the textbook she needs to exchange and she says "Why are we exchanging textbooks?!"... I remind her of what happened and she's like "Oh. I forgot." ... she does come over for her folder and she gives me her textbook. I tell her thanks and again remind her that the other book is screwed and that I really need the money from it. Her response? "Oh...that sucks..." and she basically says she needs to leave.
So then yesterday she asks via text if I want to hang out. I had class so I declined, but I casually mention that I really did want to work something out with the textbook situation. I say "I know we're both broke, but I did plan on using that money for Christmas gifts for my family and it's the only time of the year I can really get them something nice...perhaps you could trade me one of your non-ruined textbooks so I can trade it in for cash?" ....to which she never responded. It's been a day. I know she got the text.

So the question is, how do I approach this situation? Do I keep hounding her about it? I tried to fix the textbook for Amazon....and while the stain is only on the top of the last 2 pages and it's not warped, it is noticeable enough to where I can't do the buyback. I asked our mutual friend about the situation and she basically said that she thought I'd never get the money back and that I'd probably get avoided like the black plague. I can't help but think I'm pushing this too hard but my book was PRISTINE before this incident and the book is really worth a lot of money.... I have maybe $70 for Christmas gifts for my boyfriend, his family and my family combined because I can't return this book (which is worth $100 in buyback funds). We are very broke right now. I'm thinking if she does avoid me, I will hound her until it's uncomfortable and then never talk to her again and honestly, I'm so pissed about this situation that I don't care how insensitive that sounds. Also, please be kind and avoid the "shrug and move on" statements as I know in the end, that's all I can really do.

Any suggestions or experiences like this?

Side questions: Any good ways to get a stain off a page in a textbook? Any other places to sell back a textbook with a problem like this?
posted by camylanded to Human Relations (22 answers total)
It does not sound like you are going to get the money back. The woman obviously has problems with alcohol, and more likely than not her financial situation is the same as yours. It was an unfortunate accident.

Not a good person to hang out with, not a good person to text with, not a good person to let into your apartment. There's nothing much you can do.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:26 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm really sorry about your situation. You could sue her in small claims court. But come on, you know you aren't getting that money back.
posted by grouse at 9:27 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chalk it up to experience.
posted by facetious at 9:29 PM on December 5, 2011

How big a course is it? If it's a course particular to your major, could you guess a few people who might be taking it next semester, and sell the book to them for 75$ (if buyback is 100$, they'd have to pay more than that for a used copy, and they might not care about the stain).

Are there any email lists for resale that your campus uses? What about craigslist?
posted by nat at 9:32 PM on December 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

Ask the department secretary if it's okay for you to post an ad in the office to sell the book for a good price (probably $75 or less), although your prof might not be impressed that you're selling it before the end of the semester...you'll have more luck early next year.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:32 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can probably sell it on Amazon or eBay, directly to the next buyer. I am in grad school and I can assure you that if the stain is as you say, I would jump at the chance to buy a used book in the condition you've described (at a minor discount).

Your question is quite long, where a two or three sentence description would have sufficed. That is not a criticism. It just leads me to guess that you're feeling a lot of frustration over the injustice of the situation. Totally understandable, but try to separate your anger and frustration from the ostensible question. You're justified in feeling upset, but it may be making you feel like the problem relating to money/resale of the book is bigger than it is.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:51 PM on December 5, 2011 [13 favorites]

There's nothing you can or should do here.

I know you said you don't want to hear shrug and move on, and that you know it's the right answer here, but it is the answer to your question.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:06 PM on December 5, 2011

Blackouts, she has them. Write a letter summarizing what happened and ask her how she plans to fix this -- will she be able to get the money from her parents or a relative, or should you proceed with the campus ombudsman/mediation program (if there is one). You need to maker her own the problem. Keep stressing that it is her problem to resolve.
posted by mlis at 10:11 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

So let me get this straight. Some girl accidentally spilled some wine on your textbooks, and you're upset. Is that the gist of it?

First of all, they're not worth $450. That's what you paid for them, but they're worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them. You hoped to get $100 from Amazon. You think this is no longer possible, but I'm pretty sure you can get exactly that, or close to that from someone else taking that course. They're not by any reasonable definition "ruined".

Secondly, this is seriously not that big of a deal. Let's be generous here, and say you're out $25 (because you'll easily find someone thrilled to pay $75 for the text, probably right through Amazon marketplace). Is the $25 difference worth the amount of negative emotion you're filling yourself with?

But seriously, you could probably sell it for MORE than $100.

And finally, imagine what it would be like to be in this other person's shoes. You start a new friendship with someone, begin to open up a little, and then accidentally spill some wine on their textbook. A few days later, you've forgotten about it--it was a minor incident, and you had a few glasses of wine so exactly what you talked about that night is a little fuzzy. Your new friend freaks the fuck out. You exchange your set with hers, but she is still demanding that you pay $50 for some wine stains, on two pages of the other book, and is calling and texting you about it.

Shit, I'd avoid you too.

Let it go. It's not a big deal. Sell the book directly. Accept that you won't be able to give much in the way of gifts this year. Even if you don't sell it, the difference between $70 and $170 for that many people, really isn't meaningful anyway. Your loved ones won't care. You're a poor student, they understand.
posted by danny the boy at 12:08 AM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

Sell it online to a website like bigwords is my best recommendation or someone who is taking the class the next semester and doesn't mind the stain.

I strongly doubt you're going to get anything from her. She'll probably telephone you repeatedly to hang out or something like that though, continuously with alcohol (making you wonder where she got the money for alcohol and why she's not giving you your textbook money).
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:14 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

She really has bigger problems - like that she seems to be blacking out while drinking.

I don't see how you're not going to be able to sell the book somewhere other than Amazon, though - I would suggest pursuing other avenues.
posted by mleigh at 2:02 AM on December 6, 2011

You should have no problem selling the book at the beginning of next semester. Just go to the class when it starts, announce you have the book for sale, and write your name and email address on the blackboard. Your prof might even do that for you, and if Amazon pays 100 for a book they sell new for 250, you should be okay to get 75-100 for the book, especially if it's in reasonably good shape, despite a water stain.

Now your problem is not that you are out maybe 25$, it's that you won't get that money until January. Make everyone cookies, buy your boyfriend who knows the story a gift in January. No one expects expensive gifts from broke students.
posted by jeather at 4:44 AM on December 6, 2011

Are you trying to go through the official Amazon buyback? Because I've sold used books (text and non) through Amazon Marketplace before with some success. Just look at what the cheapest used book is selling for and undercut that price by a dollar or so. Maybe by $20 if the damage is really bad, which it doesn't sound like it is. Last 2 pages of a textbook tend to be index anyway.
posted by coppermoss at 5:06 AM on December 6, 2011

People who damage other people's belongings, accidentally or not, and make no effort to set things right, are assholes. This girl is an asshole. Because she is an asshole, she will never set things right. I'm sorry you tried to be nice to an asshole and got burned, but that's what happens.
posted by Dolley at 5:56 AM on December 6, 2011

My college had a giant bulletin board up every semester with notes from students selling boks directly to other students. Do you have one of those? I really wouldn't care about buying a textbook with some wine stains if I knew I was getting it for a lot cheaper than the bookstore.
posted by griphus at 6:16 AM on December 6, 2011

(PS: I can almost assure you this young woman will never show up at your door again, which, considering she was so eager to the first time, should be worth something in itself.)
posted by griphus at 6:19 AM on December 6, 2011

It would be worth eating the $100 to never have to think about this or talk to her again.
posted by hermitosis at 6:58 AM on December 6, 2011

Definitely sell the book to a student taking the course next semester. You will easily be able to find someone who would rather pay $100 or $150 even for a stained book than $300 or $400 for a new one.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:22 AM on December 6, 2011

Have you contacted Amazon about the buyback? I had a similar issue a while back and found that they are much more lenient about the buyback quality of books then the website might lead you to believe.

Call customer service and explain the situation. You may also want to ask to email them a picture of the damage so that they can asses your options.

Or, just do what my friend did and send the book back and say nothing about it. Like I said, they are not as stringent as you think they are (the book does not need to be pristine, it is used after all). If it is a small stain and not warped then they may not even notice it.
posted by Shouraku at 10:01 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like there are some boundary issues here and you are maybe giving too much attention to what resulted from a problem, rather than to the problem itself. She asked you for help with schoolwork and took advantage of your willingness to help by intruding on your personal space, making your boyfriend uncomfortable in his own living room, getting drunk and bitching about her personal life and spilling wine all over your stuff ... and all you had agreed to was helping her with a paper.

Now you are expressing a lot of anger about what sounds like relatively minor damage to a textbook, but I wonder if what you're really angry about is that she bulldozed her way into your personal space and private time with a clear disregard for you or your feelings or your stuff. I certainly would be!

You might want to consider where in your narrative of events you had options and didn't take them

When she showed up at your apartment you could have said "Oh, I didn't realize you meant now! This isn't a good time, but I can help you at 2pm tomorrow in the library."

When she came in and started bitching about her personal life, you could have said "I'm sorry things are crummy and I'd love to help but I only have an hour so we need to focus on the paper right now."

When she was drinking while supposedly doing schoolwork, you could have refrained from drinking yourself and instead offered to make a pot of coffee (if it was going to be an all-nighter) or a glass of water (if it wasn't).

posted by headnsouth at 10:32 AM on December 6, 2011 [7 favorites]

Stuff like this used to happen to me all the time. You aren't going to get the money back from this girl without taking extreme measures (contacting family, public shaming, small claims court, etc.) -- it just isn't worth it in terms of stress to you, and the fact that it will make you look like a total asshole to a lot of people on campus.

And in the end, at least for me, it isn't the $50 or the $100 -- it's the annoyance that you suffer from not being able to do the things you'd planned on because some asshole won't own their own problems. Especially because you were trying to be nice to that asshole! Double especially because money is tight for you -- a lot of these posters are being all "hurr durr durr it's only a tiny bit of money", but I remember years when that was the difference between coming home for Christmas or not, let alone buying gifts for people. When you have so little money that $50 really matters, losing $50 because of someone else's fuckwittery is completely enraging and disheartening.

But I'm going to echo headnsouth, griphus, and hermitosis -- it completely sucks that you're short the money you wanted for Christmas presents. However, consider it a useful investment in getting rid of an annoying person, and a lesson in setting boundaries around problem people. Nobody can come into your house, drink your alcohol, and ruin your possessions unless you let them. All you have to do is tell them no.
posted by kataclysm at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Thank you for the kind words, and to headnsouth and kataclysm for saying it more eloquently than I could have myself when I wrote this last night. That was truly exactly why I was angry, and at the same time, you're both right. I should have stuck up for myself and held my boundaries. The situation sucks all around, but like everything else, this too shall pass-- and I'll be able to sniff out assholes more quickly because of things like this.

I know that socially, this is a problem area of mine. That's what happens when you live with someone and also go to school and don't have much of a social life-- you let down your guards with people who may turn into friends. Anyway, that's a whole other problem for a different day. Consider the case closed!
posted by camylanded at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2011

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