My friends paid me for a gift and it hurt my feelings. now what?
May 24, 2014 2:23 PM   Subscribe

At a picnic with some friends, I gave everyone ten-ish minute massages (I am a massage therapist). It was a spontaneous gesture and I really enjoyed doing it. As I was leaving, a friend slipped an envelope in my bag. When I got home and opened it, there was a card with money inside, thanking me for their "first session". I feel like this turned a spontaneous act of goodwill and friendship into a business transaction. I'm hurt, saddened, and a little offended. I didn't want money or ask for it, and I don't think that I said or did anything implying otherwise. Now I feel like I'm not their friend, I'm hired help. How do I address this?
posted by windykites to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You say thank you and accept it as the compliment as it was meant to be. Don't assign bad motives to people.
posted by xingcat at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2014 [69 favorites]

Not knowing what your friendship with these people is like its hard to guage, however I think you may be overreacting.

Why look at it the way you are rather than assuming they were just trying to ensure you didnt feel taken advantage of?

If you feel like you need to address it though, a simple "hey, about that money, thank you, but it really wasnt necessary and I enjoyed doing it for free" should get the discussion ball rolling.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

First, if it was a spontaneous gesture on your part, where did your friend get a card? And was it one friend, or everyone you gave massages to?

Second, there is an elaborate set of interpersonal dynamics when friends perform professional services for friends. You are being gracious by sharing your talents for free, because you love them and want to give them a gift; your friend(s) is/are being gracious by paying you, because they love you and don't want to impose. Moreover, this person indicates that they want to continue working with you professionally in the future--so they're establishing that your work is valued enough that they want more, and want to be clear that they're not expecting every massage to be a picnic freebie.

You aren't hired help. They're treating you well.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2014 [21 favorites]

They'd run home to use the washroom. I assume they got it then. It was one friend.
posted by windykites at 2:33 PM on May 24, 2014

Give them the benefit of the doubt. They meant well and not to insult you (they wrote a card! You only write a card if you mean well! Really.). Make a joke next time you see them, like: "Through unexpected good fortune, I came to a small amount of money that will cover all the ice cream we could possibly want today. Are you in, friend?" Then go out with them and get some ice cream.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [22 favorites]

They didn't want to take advantage of you. That's being a friend. It's like if my friend was a knitter or an graphic artist, I wouldn't expect a pair of socks or a drawing without compensating them.

Just thank them for the money, maybe buy something nice for the next get-together with it, and tell them that if you choose to share your skills with them in the future, you expect no payment.
posted by inturnaround at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

As noted by others, first and foremost recognize that your friend was trying to compliment you and has no idea at all that you are offended. Proceed from that starting point and ask yourself whether you want to return the money. If you do, that is totally valid, but make it light and never tell her that it offended you.

Keep the card. That part of it was a lovely gesture.
posted by Etrigan at 2:39 PM on May 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your friend sounds really nice. Maybe they thought you did a great job and deserved some extra spending money.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:49 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your friends have lovely manners!

Text a thank you and move on. This was in no way, shape, or form meant to offend you.

(And you've also learned this person is possibly uncomfortable with generosity they can not reciprocate, so keep that under advisement during future encounters....

Really tho, it sounds like they appreciate your effort as a professional.

Imagine if you were a professional chef at a get together, oy!)
posted by jbenben at 2:50 PM on May 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

Sounds like the consensus is that this is a kind gesture, not an insult, and I feel much better about it. Thanks, metafilter.
posted by windykites at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

You can give your friend the benefit of the doubt and assume he or she was grateful for your effort and skills, and didn't want you to feel unappreciated.

Or you can attribute it to malice and assume he or she merely sees you as hired help.

You have basically the same amount of evidence to draw either conclusion, so which one do you think will make you happier?
posted by scody at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like this turned a spontaneous act of goodwill and friendship into a business transaction.

Well, it's tough. Consider the other side: you were giving of your professional services at no charge. To them, this may have felt equally awkward.

Any of us ("Hey, you know computers, don't you?") who make our living in a way that is personally useful to our friends have faced similar situations. I think you would be gracious to simply assume they were in effect saying, "Wow, you did such a great job, I'm going to hire you" and take them on as a client.
posted by dhartung at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

They didn't want to feel indebted or like they owed you something. They probably come from a place where if Person A brings Person B a plate of cookies one day, B had better bring A a pie soon or else be looked down upon as lesser. Your friend wanted to "return the favor" as soon as possible. Them not being able to accept a gift without feeling indebted is their issue. You thinking that this makes you "hired help" is your issue. I understand your feeling but would try to view it as just the way they are.
posted by salvia at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Many people who have useful, desirable talents are constantly getting pestered by friends who ask for freebies. I think the person who slipped you the cash was trying to acknowledge that you gave them something valuable that took effort on your part, and thought you deserved to be appropriately compensated.

It does seem like an awkward move and it makes sense that it would leave a weird taste in your mouth (I wouldn't want to be paid after giving someone a gift, either), but I'm certain that your friend had good intentions and probably wanted you to feel appreciated and valued, and ended up getting it wrong.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]

I had a friend do a reiki session on me once. I took her out for lunch afterward. I didn't have to, but I wanted to. I'm sure she didn't expect it, but appreciated it. Good feelings all around.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:18 PM on May 24, 2014

Seconding metroid baby. What did your friend do fire a living? There are some occupations where people are constantly hitting you up professionally in social situations (doctors, for example) and it gets real awkward when people treat your livelihood like a hobby and your work as free.

Consider that your friend was worried that you might have felt taken advantage of for a free message (something you usually charge for), and wanted to let you know that they valued your massage and respect you as a working professional and weren't trying to take advantage of your goodwill.

Honestly it's a sensitive and considerate gesture, I would be touched my friend was aware and cared enough do something like this.
posted by smoke at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

... there was a card with money inside, thanking me for their "first session"

Agreeing that you shouldn't feel anything but complimented by your friends considerate gesture, and the fact that she mentioned the words "first session" sounds like you impressed her enough that she may become a future customer!
posted by BlueHorse at 5:35 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would just give the card and money back next time you see them and say very casually and disarmingly that it was meant as a gift.

I've been in a lot of situations where I wasn't sure if something was meant as a gift or if I should pay my way. Usually it's gone down like the above:

"I have cash for those tickets..."

"Oh, it's a present, don't worry about it!"

No harm no foul. I doubt these people thought of you as "hired help", they just weren't sure what the etiquette was.
posted by Sara C. at 5:57 PM on May 24, 2014

I would take this as a very thoughtful compliment. I often run into this situation as an artist, people ask for favors that they think are no big deal but to me is a lot of Work. If I do a favor for a friend, I make sure they know it's not business. It's either a job or it's gift, not somewhere in between. Those are my terms, and I would be thankful for someone who allowed me to set that boundary and respected it but also wanted to show their gratitude and recognize that what I did was Work on some level and more than the usual friend favor.

Your friends didn't ask for a favor, you gave a gift, but what their card is saying is "We accept your gift as a friend, but want you to know next time we do this it's business." I would be thankful for friends thoughtful enough to consider that.
posted by bradbane at 8:39 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

They put it in your bag so that you couldn't refuse. Seem like pretty decent friends.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 11:24 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

You loved them enough to give them your professional talents, impromptu and gratis. They loved you enough to recognize your professional talents as such and also to ask if you would take them as clients longer term. It doesn't sound like they meant any disrespect at all. If anything, you could return the monetary gift to the form of a nice dinner and (separately) let them know your availability for massage services.
posted by SakuraK at 1:46 AM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I didn't want money or ask for it, and I don't think that I said or did anything implying otherwise. Now I feel like I'm not their friend, I'm hired help.

OP, I get where you were coming from with your gut reaction of being hurt and offended by their gesture of giving you money, and I think all of the advice in this thread so far (a unanimous "your friends meant well, please don't be offended" from nearly every commenter here so far) is correct.

For your own personal growth and edification, maybe give some thought to why you had that initial hurt/sad/offended reaction though. What kind of relationship do you have to money? Being seen as "hired help" to these friends is something you would tend to view negatively - why? Are there some sort of economic differences between you and these friends that make you feel sensitive around being given money?

One of my best friends had a similar reaction to a similar situation as yours recently - except the act of friendship/service she provided out of the goodness of her heart was not a massage, but shoveling the snow from a sidewalk, and instead of a group of her friends it was a friendly next door neighbor acquaintance who make her feel hurt and offended when she suddenly offered my friend money to pay her back for shoveling her front sidewalk in addition to shoveling her own. (I offer this tale because it might help you to shed some light on why you felt sad and offended.)

My friend felt like the poorest person on the block already - they rent, this neighbor owns, etc. In the working class 'hood in which my friend grew up, shoveling the snow was something all the neighbors just did for each other, without being asked, and it would have been hugely offensive to offer money for such a service because they were all on the same "level" so-to-speak, and they all chipped in and worked together. Now she lives in a higher-SES area, though she herself is barely scraping by, and any sort of call-out around money is very uncomfortable for her. There was a bit of "Yikes, does my neighbor think I need this money so bad or something?" And also a bit of "We must not be real friends then, because real friends do for each other without needing to be paid for their time." Might be totally off base here, but do any of these sentiments ring true for you?
posted by hush at 8:21 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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