Helped friend A help his friend B, then B paid me unexpectedly
August 2, 2020 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I helped my friend A do a favor for his friend B. Later, B sent to me (via A) a check which was unexpected and way way too much for the work I did. I don't feel right accepting B's money. How would you handle this?

I've known A for decades and he lives nearby. He has a friend B who used to live here but now lives several states away. I've met B but we're not close.

B left behind a bunch of stuff in storage. A couple of weeks ago, B needed to move his stuff to a new storage location but was unable to fly in, so he asked A to do it. A asked me to lend a hand, and I said sure, happy to help (there was no talk of money). It ended up taking most of a day, but the work was easy even with masks on; only a couple of things needed two persons to lift.

So that was fine. Then a week later, A brings me a check from B for US$500(!). The idea of cashing the check makes me uncomfortable, though I'm not sure why. I guess I'm wondering how other people might feel in this situation and what they might do.
posted by mpark to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Best answer: Did you ask A about the amount and why and what B’s circumstances are?
posted by amanda at 7:44 PM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, checking with A is the way to go here. It's possible B had already set aside money to hire professionals to do this job, and when you and A stepped up, he decided to send the money to you anyway as a thank-you.
posted by mekily at 7:47 PM on August 2, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Agree about asking, and if it is sincere and still feels uncomfortable you can cash it and pay all or most of it forward with a donation to a good cause.
posted by meinvt at 7:54 PM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Professional movers are $25-50 per person per hour; with a 20% tip common. B wanting to pay something in that range with maybe some extra as a thank you for doing a huge favor in the middle of a pandemic seems pretty reasonable to me - I could see doing that myself.

I guess I am curious about your discomfort. Why not enjoy the money?
posted by medusa at 8:14 PM on August 2, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: This seems a little bit high to me, but not out of the ordinary and does not seem to be a burden for B. This is a normal day rate for skilled labor. Your skill in this case was that B trusts A and A trusts you. If B would have come it would have cost airline ticket, hotel, car rental/taxis, plus the added risk of flying right now. You helped them and they were grateful. Cash the check, put a little aside and if B is ever back in town offer to take A and B out for lunch.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 8:29 PM on August 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'd say that B is grateful that this particular chore is finished without a lot of hassle, and he expressed his gratitude with this gift. If I were B, I'd be grateful even further if you spared me the awkwardness of turning down the gift, trying to return it, not cashing the check, delaying cashing the check, etc. Just enjoy the money, or donate it to a worthy cause.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:10 PM on August 2, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: It’s totally fine for B to pay you without talking to you about money first. A lot of people would see it as the default to pay you, rather than not to. It could have easily been too low, $100 or something, but it was $500.

And A knows about it because A brought the check over. So A also thinks it’s fine.
posted by michaelh at 9:23 PM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Consider his position — a minimum of two plane flights and probably a hotel in the middle of a pandemic. Ever do a favor for someone and have them say "Thanks, you’re a life saver”? There’s a distinct possibility you have been.

You have given him a substantial gift and I suspect the check is not so much pay as a gift in return.

I think saying it’s too generous and you can’t accept it is reasonable. I think redirecting it to a charity is reasonable. I also think blowing it on wine, women, and song is reasonable because hey, good karma paid off immediately and you should celebrate. All sorts of flexibility here.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:41 PM on August 2, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Did A also get paid, or just you because A, being the closer friend to B, could have been expected to do the work without pay while it was unexpected for you to put so much labor in? I don’t think it’s inappropriate for only you to get money under those circumstances, but you might feel better about it if you give A half, or buy A a case of good beer, or whatever A’s thing would be.
posted by lakeroon at 9:59 PM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A did get paid. I guess I feel funny about this because in my mind I was just doing A a favor, not so much B, and basically getting to hang out with him for the day. But thanks to all for helping me see things from a different angle.

Anyway, I will discuss with A and figure something out. Thanks again.
posted by mpark at 10:16 PM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Thanks, B, that's very gracious of you. I was glad to help! Best of luck in your new home."

You could keep the money in a "helping friends" fund for the future, if you like.
posted by trig at 11:01 PM on August 2, 2020 [13 favorites]

Best answer: B is signaling how much they valued your help. It's worth exploring why you are uncomfortable accepting that value (not all the reasons for this are "bad" but we all have weird stuff about money and value and ourselves, so when these uncomfortable moments arise, they're always an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly).

In your shoes, I'd accept the money and donate it.
posted by spindrifter at 4:30 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ask A what B's favorite charity or non-profit is (ACLU, BLM, etc.) Cash the check. Get yourself and your significant other (if relevant) some good take out; donate the rest.
Write B a thank-you note: "I wasn't expecting to get paid; we're all in this cluster$%^& together. I got [SO] and myself some great biryani from the Afghani place here in town, and donated the rest to the ACLU. Next time you're in town, all of us should go to [the Afghani place]."
posted by notsnot at 5:03 AM on August 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Pay it forward, and that doesn't need to be taken literally. You helped someone out, and they showed their gratitude in a not inappropriate, if maybe surprising to you way.

Buy yourself a nice X, and help out the next friend of yours in need (monetarily or otherwise) with a smile.
posted by so fucking future at 7:40 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If A got paid and accept the money then it would send a really weird message if you refused to be paid. If you refuse, does that make A look bad for accepting it?

Cash the check. If you have a way to be in contact with B, send a note to express your thanks, if not relay it through A. Then do whatever feels right to you with the money.
posted by metahawk at 12:08 PM on August 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Wow, thanks, that was supremely generous. I'll pay it forward at the next opportunity after I buy some beers.
posted by theora55 at 1:16 PM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Things like this can sometimes not seem like a big deal if you're the one doing the favor and it's a task you happen not to mind (like, for example, dogsitting for a dog you like in a house nicer than your own) and it all went well, but if you've ever run across horror stories of how similar situations have gone terribly wrong, it's easier to understand why the person you're helping out wants to pay you and to accept the money they're offering.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:32 PM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cash the check, and send a thank you note. A clearly has resources to share and it feels good to share them with people who help you! Even more when they help you without expecting it.
posted by amaire at 10:56 AM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

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