Thanks for the lend of your dust magnet
April 27, 2016 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Please help settle a wee debate about how to go about returning something that I borrowed from a friend, but didn't actually care enough about to watch.

About 2 years ago a friend lent me a box set of a show she loved. She had been raving about it and kept telling me I'd love it - I never asked to borrow it but she kept offering and I agreed. But at the time I was really not in the form for watching it for various reasons (one of which was that it didn't really seem like my kind of show anyway) and I just kind of put it aside and forgot about it. Now and then she'd ask me if I'd watched it yet and I'd say "Not yet but I will". Then she obviously forgot about it too and stopped asking. But we were texting last night about something else and I suddenly remembered that I still have it.

Partner reckons at this point it's been forgotten about. He thinks it would be kind of stupid and a bit embarassing to return something and say the equivalent of "here you go thanks I know I've had it for literally years but I couldn't be arsed finding the time to watch this thing that meant a lot to you". He also thinks that if you lend something to someone it's better to assume that you're never going to see it again so she won't be expecting it back even if she remembers about it. So he pretty much thinks just never speak of it again.

While that is tempting and would save me a conversation, I think that it's hers and no matter how much later it is I should still return it. I know I still remember things I've lent and never seen again, and while it doesn't bother me I certainly wouldn't mind if someone gave them back. However what do I say to her especially since I kept promising to watch it? Should I lie and pretend I did? What if she wants to talk about it given her love for it? Do I have to watch it now just so I can tell her I did and because I told her I would? I really, really do not want to watch it - my life is short enough and my list of Things To Watch is already too long. Do I basically say "yeah I couldn't be bothered sorry" (I mean not literally but whatever I say is going to boil down to that) but would this disappoint you if you pressed something you loved on someone and they just didn't care enough to check it out? He said if I must give it back I could watch one episode and just say I didn't like it - is that even worse? Like "well I gave it a go but it turns out I'm not indifferent to your thing I actively disliked it and you have terrible taste".

So basically: do I give it back, and if so what do I say? If it was your thing would you want it back anyway or would you assume it was gone forever? And would you care that I thought your must-see wasn't worth my time or just pity my ignorance? (She's a nice woman and there will be no drama or anything, I'd just like to take the least insulting, faux pas-y path.)
posted by billiebee to Human Relations (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bring it with you next time you see her. "Can you believe I still have this kicking around my house? I could have sworn I returned it years ago, I'm so sorry!" Then talk about how you really should clean more often, how while you were at it you found a stack of old clothes from high school--high school, can you imagine?!

If you deflect well enough she may not even ask, but if she does ask how you liked it, just be like "I watched the first few episodes a while ago and just couldn't get into it." Add a sheepish shrug and then start talking about other things as quickly as possible.
posted by phunniemee at 4:02 AM on April 27, 2016 [48 favorites]

Yes, give it back. It's the right thing to do. And its going to bother you sitting at your place.
Here's what you say: Thanks for lending me this. I still haven't got around to seeing it. I don't think its really my thing but it was lovely of you to think of me with it. Sorry I have had it so long. And move on to other talk...
posted by Thella at 4:03 AM on April 27, 2016 [14 favorites]

Thirding just give it back in undramatic forms.

(It was more difficult with the box of "Lost" we had borrowed from a friend and returned too late, basically because some in the house didn't want to let go of it. But that's different)
posted by Namlit at 4:04 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd want my thing back, definitely. Loaning someone something doesn't mean I assume I'll never see it again. Why would it mean that? Especially if they don't even want it!

I think that in matters like this, honesty is best. "Hey, I was doing some spring cleaning and ran across this. I should give if back. I'm not going to have time to get to it, so it's time to give it back to you!"

If I knew someone was faced with the choice of lying to me and throwing my favorite DVD box set away or being honest with me and giving me back my thing, I'd always go with the latter option. That would definitely disappoint me less. Mature people realize that not everyone likes the things they like, and that not everyone has time to watch their favorite thing. If she is disappointed - she likely won't be - that's on her.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 4:06 AM on April 27, 2016 [20 favorites]

Give it back, don't overthink it. Say something like 'gee I'm an idiot I found this while I was cleaning, I figure you want it back because hey box set probably cost a few bucks, sorry. Want a drink?'
posted by fixedgear at 4:06 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Holy overthinking! Return the thing that was hers with a laugh about how the two of you totally forgot its existence for all those years, but then the other day I unearthed it unexpectedly, how droll! If she asks, say you never got round to watching it. It's been years. If she cares, she's the person making it weird. She didn't create this show, right? It's not like she gave you her first draft of her novel to read and you just couldn't be arsed, right? Right. Go forth and rid yourself of this weird burden you've created for yourself.
posted by mymbleth at 4:07 AM on April 27, 2016 [14 favorites]

this is a bit culture dependent. not giving it back is he kind of conflict-avoiding approach i'd consider for some latin american friends in some circumstances. but never for someone english speaking. especially if it was a favourite.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:15 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I returned a box set after having it for 4 years. We laughed because the kicker was that I never watched it. It's not a big deal. Give it back today and feel that burden lift off of you.
posted by kimberussell at 4:25 AM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

IMO, this is not such a big problem.

Return it with your thanks, and tell your friend you tried several times to get into it over the years, but it just never clicked with you.

This kind of thing happens between friends/relatives all the time. For example, I lent the complete set of "One Foot In The Grave" (on tape!) to my friend/cousin. I loved that show (still do), thought it was the best thing ever put on TV. He thought it was stupid, vapid, jejune etc etc etc. I just laughingly told him he didn't know shite. The world didn't end because we didn't like the same show, nor did it harm our friendship.

But what box set did she lend you?? My curiosity has been piqued.
posted by james33 at 4:31 AM on April 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Yes, give it back and just say you didn't watch it. I like to wrap this sort of thing up as a Christmas or birthday gift because the expression on people's faces when they open a gift and it slowly dawns on them that it's something they already own, not just another copy but the exact thing with the same scratches and dents, is priceless. (And I follow it up with an actual gift, of course!)
posted by XMLicious at 4:34 AM on April 27, 2016

I think after having kept her favourite box set for two years the least you can do is watch the bloody thing.
posted by Segundus at 4:54 AM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you could just watch it. You don't have to watch it with intense focus, though - just pop it in and have it going while you putter around the house. If it grabs you, great - if it doesn't, you can honestly say the you watched it (or at least started it) and it just wasn't your thing.
posted by bunderful at 4:59 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ah, watch the first episode at least! You never know, you might love it (and spend the weekend in your pajamas watching the entire series back-to-back). You might also hate it. But at least when you give it back, you can tell your friend that you took the time to try it, and that you appreciate their thoughtfulness.
posted by finding.perdita at 5:08 AM on April 27, 2016 [20 favorites]

Box sets are (or at least, were) expensive - and if this was her favorite show, I bet she'd enjoy seeing it again now that it's been a few years. Even if that weren't the case, I would vote for giving it back. Respectfully, I don't think the reasons for keeping it amount to much more than "sparing yourself the embarrassment," and that isn't really a kind reason to keep someone else's thing. Plus, if you're anything like me, if you decide to "forget" you have it, then every time you do a big clean-up you're going to come across the damn thing and angst over what to do with it (personally I'd end up stuck with it the rest of my life because I'd feel too bad to donate/pitch it but too embarrassed to give it back).

As far as whether or not you should watch it first: box sets ALSO (often) represent a pretty big time investment (so much so that I'm surprised your friend would foist the whole blasted thing on you - I'd think a single DVD would have been more reasonable to start with, given you hadn't asked in the first place). I really don't think you need to watch the whole thing, and honestly, what good is that going to do her anyway? By this point her drive to talk about it with someone has probably cooled, so even if you loved the show it probably won't lead to much other than a moment of satisfaction on her part. And you sound pretty sure you won't like it - if I were your friend, I'd prefer to hear either "I just don't think it's my thing but thanks so much for trying to civilize me" or "I watched the first episode and just couldn't get into it" instead of "I sat through the entire thing and it never clicked."

Watching the whole thing isn't going to do your friend any good at this point, but giving back her DVDs might. Rip that Band-Aid off and be free of that dust magnet!
posted by DingoMutt at 5:11 AM on April 27, 2016

Another vote for returning the set with a "spring cleaning" excuse. If she really is your friend, she'll just laugh about it with you. Really it won't be awkward. I see no need for you to watch any of it.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:20 AM on April 27, 2016

It's 100% okay to return it and to admit you never watched it. That's what real friends do: they return friends' things even if it's super late, they understand and forgive when their friends return things super late, they recommend their favorite things to their favorite people and those people don't always share the same interests but hey, you tried.

I get where your partner's coming from, but I don't think his idea is better. You pretend to forget about it and... keep the boxed set in your closet and feel awkward and uncomfortable whenever you see it? Throw it away even though it doesn't belong to you? Returning it will get rid of both the physical object and your feelings of embarrassment.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:30 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd give it back, and if you really feel it's necessary, watch the first five minutes of the first episode or some clips on youtube and say "I watched some, but it really isn't my thing". But you don't have to do that at all, you can use one of the many scripts here.

Give her the DVDs and maybe be careful if you know partner has been lent something important to someone else, because "better to throw it out than return it" is a weird stance and, unfair though it might be, a brush you'll get tarred with if he consistently doesn't return things he borrowed.
posted by jeather at 5:43 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Now and then she'd ask me if I'd watched it yet
This is often a polite way of indirectly asking when the item will be returned, so yes you need to return it or risk being quietly judged as 'that unreliable friend'.
posted by Lanark at 5:50 AM on April 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

It wouldn't kill you to watch one episode. Play it in the background while you're cleaning if you want. Then you can have a clear conscience and say you watched one, wasn't into it and now you're returning it (and there's a miniscule chance you might like it!)

But of course you return someone else's possessions.
posted by like_neon at 6:00 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another vote to return it with apologies. That's the great thing about friends; they get it most of the time. Just apologize for holding onto it for so long and don't worry so much.
posted by GilvearSt at 6:04 AM on April 27, 2016

Watch at least one episode and talk to her about it when you return it. Focus on whatever you do like about it. If she asks you about plot points you didn't see, just say vaguely "oooh right... I watched it a while ago!" (Even if you watched it that morning, that statement is still literally true).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:11 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Return it. You don't need to make a big deal out of it--just say you had totally forgotten you had it but came across it while cleaning, thought you'd want it back. A certain correspondent at the Financial Times still has my box set of Twin Peaks from seven years ago. If he returned it, I'd be quite pleased, even if he never watched it.
posted by whitewall at 6:15 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with watch one episode or at least read up on the first few episodes on fanfare (surely some mefite liked it too?) and talk about the episodes as if you had watched before saying - I didn't fully get into it.

(Courtesy of high school days when friends and I would lie and say we were going to a movie but then get some sort of summary from a friend who had seen it so that we could talk about tbe movie we had 'seen')
posted by biggreenplant at 6:21 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

No need to watch anything, just return it, and if asked, say, "I lost track of it, and wasn't able to watch it, but I wanted to make sure I got it back to you."
posted by xingcat at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2016

You're wrong that she "obviously forgot about it too and stopped asking." She stopped asking because she accepted that you weren't going to watch the show.

But you are right that you should return it. phunniemie's "I watched the first few episodes a while ago and just couldn't get into it" is fine framing, with a quick add-on about a series you did get into, to deflect further discussion of this one.
posted by headnsouth at 6:27 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I lose track of things I loan out and then drive myself crazy wondering where I put it. Give it back please and maybe save your friend from feeling like they misplaced it.
posted by cecic at 6:29 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

White lie, say you lost them and only just found them again or some spin on that and return them. Box sets aren't cheap and a white lie is better than keeping something she loved so much. Is it wrong I'm curious what the show is?
posted by wwax at 6:39 AM on April 27, 2016

I recently returned a book that someone had lent me, without my really wanting it lent, 10 years ago. It was something they loved, and hadn't asked about in probably at least 6 years. I was just like, "Sorry I didn't get this back to you sooner! Thanks for lending it to me!"

Wasn't a big deal.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:40 AM on April 27, 2016

First off: yes, of course you return it.

Second: it sounds to me like you've thoroughly talked yourself out of any interest in watching the series. I'd like to suggest that you make the time to watch at least the pilot episode. If, to your surprise, the pilot turns out to be not bad - watch a second episode.

At this point, you can either pack it up and return it, or maybe you'll find yourself getting into the show and binge-watching it. You could even call your friend and invite them over to watch a few episodes.

Here's the thing: is this friend a person who is worth keeping as a friend? And: has this friend ever spent at least an hour helping you out? If so - then just watch an episode.

To be sure, when a friend lends you a book or some other media, it is a somewhat presumptuous move on their part. To the friend's credit - especially if this is a first-time incident - it might help to keep in mind that as annoying as it may be to be on the receiving end, your friend is making a gesture - sharing something with you - that is intended to bring you closer together.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:40 AM on April 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Give it back. When you do, just apologize for holding on to it for so long, and completely don't bring up the fact that you mentioned that you were going to watch it. I think at this point, both you and she know that you didn't really want to watch it, and you're both okay with that.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:40 AM on April 27, 2016

way tl;dr

What 23skidoo said. It's not yours, so return it.

How can this even be an issue between two adults?
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:53 AM on April 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had a friend in high school who borrowed some of my movies and either forgot how they came to be in her possession or didn't care that they were mine, because I didn't get them back until I saw them on a table at her yard sale. "Why are you selling my tapes at your yard sale?" was a pretty awkward conversation.

But this conversation doesn't have to be awkward. Your friend will be much happier to have her favorite show back whether you watched it or not, so I'd follow some of the advice above and just make it a non-issue. "Thanks for letting me borrow it, but it's just not for me" might be a good line.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:02 AM on April 27, 2016

Return it.
Do yourselves both a favor and watch the first episode. Then you can honestly tell her that it just wasn't your thing, and can actually have a conversation about it instead of just feeling lice a schmuck about it.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:13 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! The show was Nashville - apologies if you're a fan. She thought it was great and so well-written and she really identified with someone in it or something, I can't even remember why she loved it so much. I see from imdb that there have been more seasons since the loan so I guess it wasn't the whole set, just the first 2 or 3 seasons maybe (I mean I don't think I even read the cover - just put it in a drawer in my Mum's house where I was staying at the time and it's still there, which is also why I forgot about it). I'm seeing her in a few weeks so I'll retrieve it and if I have time I'll maybe watch one and if I can't I shall feel no guilt because at least she's getting it back. She's cool so I know it'll be grand, I was just curious about how y'all would handle it. (Also Partner doesn't automatically refuse to return things or anything, just if it was him and he never saw it again he would accept it as par for the course. A view apparently shared by all the people who borrowed my stuff over the years...) Cheers!
posted by billiebee at 7:20 AM on April 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Ah, Nashville. First season was pretty good, every one since has been awful. You haven't missed out!
posted by cecic at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2016

billiebee can I just step in at this point and say that the soundtrack has Gillian Welch and Elvis Costello writing for it in the first season. just in case that snags you like it snagged me.

I mean, I'd agree with cecic - I held out for the second season waiting for improvement and gave up on the third. But the first season actually just has these awesome songs on it and it's really just a silly but enjoyable soap-opera vehicle for those.
posted by greenish at 9:34 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, T Bone Burnett was the music producer for the first season and his absence is definitely glaring in subsequent seasons. Of course if you just want the music you can buy the soundtrack and skip the many cheeseball scenes of the characters gazing adoringly at each other as they perform. Otherwise it's pretty typical prime-time-soap-opera fare, so it's a fun, easy show to watch but not a can't-miss by any means.
posted by mama casserole at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2016

He also thinks that if you lend something to someone it's better to assume that you're never going to see it again so she won't be expecting it back even if she remembers about it.

Just as an aside this is a thing that has bitterly divided humanity since the dawn of lending things (and he is wrong, so wrong, the wrongest, but anyway) so definitely don't assume that one side or the other side of this argument is the default setting.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:16 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Considering it's Nashville, if you don't find the time to watch the pilot at least (though I agree that watching one episode before returning it would be good if you're trying to show effort for the friend) then there's a number of places where you can browse some brief recaps of the show and get a feel for the characters and actors involved.

It also means that you can honestly say you checked it out and it wasn't really your thing without lying at all.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:34 AM on April 29, 2016

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