whose responsibility is it anyway?
September 30, 2007 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Person A forgets to empty pockets of his/her jeans before laundry day. Person B forgets to check pockets of clothes before washing them. Item C in Person A's pockets is ruined. Who's at fault?

A few more details:

Person A does the laundry 75% of the time and is able to catch Item C because he/she knows it's there. (Person B never leaves anything in his/her pockets.)

Person B has caught Item C in Person A's pockets several times previously, but not this time. Person B does not tell Person A that Item C was left in the pockets previously.

So who's at fault?
posted by Lucinda to Human Relations (61 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I tell my children that their things are their responsibility, but I can see where the line here is blurry. Most simply, maybe both are at fault. I'd also maybe want to know what Item C was because the value of such item would make the fault seem either not so bad or really bad. A driver's license, for example, would be a pain to replace, but isn't nearly as costly as an iPhone.
posted by cooker girl at 10:49 AM on September 30, 2007

Best answer: Everybody. So both say "aw, that sucks," and Person B apologizes for not catching it, and Person A says, "no, I shouldn't have left it in there in the first place." Then Person B shares their Item C with Person A until it can be replaced, with some contribution from both people.
posted by salvia at 10:49 AM on September 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

That's easy. But, it depends upon your perspective. If you're person A, then person B clearly is at fault. And, vice versa.
posted by found missing at 10:49 AM on September 30, 2007 [5 favorites]

Person A, unless there was a previously stated agreement that Person B would always check the pockets of clothing before laundering them, or the clothing was taken by person B from a place that clothing to be laundered would never normally be (i.e. pants removed from a hanger or folded neatly on top of a dresser).
posted by davey_darling at 10:50 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

If the jeans were in a laundry hamper, then Person A is at fault. If they were just hanging over a chair, then Person B should have checked them. But, really, this is just an unfortunate situation and assigning blame doesn't really help. If cost is an issue, perhaps you could split it down the middle.
posted by acoutu at 10:51 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

It really depends on whether there was an understanding on who's responsible for checking the pockets (i.e., person who does laundry, or every man for himself). Otherwise, it's probably best to forgive and forget.
posted by kyp at 10:51 AM on September 30, 2007

My SO does the laundry 99% of the time and almost always catches things that I have left in my pockets. Recently, I left a camera memory stick in my pocket. My SO did not catch it, and it went through a wash cycle, it was ruined, and I was out $100.

I did not for one single second think that this was anything other than my fault. I am lucky enough that my SO does the laundry for me on such a regular basis. To blame her for my own error would be petulant and ungracious in the extreme.

So: Person A. Period.
posted by googly at 10:53 AM on September 30, 2007 [14 favorites]

I agree with davey and acoutu. Speaking as someone who has been person A and on many occasions accidentally washed things of mine and had them accidentally washed by people nice enough to wash my clothes.
posted by Martin E. at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2007

Nope, it doesn't depend on perspective. It is, by objective moral standards common to all civilizations, Person A's fault.

As a person discards his or her clothes each night, items in his pockets are fully within his control. It is at that time that items should be removed. Failing to do so makes the laundry-doer's job that much more difficult, by adding an unnecessary extra task.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2007

I'm with matteo. A and B both failed, but not through lack of trying in the past. You need a innocent 3rd party scapegoat in these situations. The Masons. Elmo. Those Damn Kids Today. Something like that. That might not make A feel better, but the next time it happens and something of B's gets ruined, A might sympathize while joining in the witch hunt for Elmo.
posted by dr. fresh at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2007

Assuming that Person A put the problematic clothing in a hamper, or on the floor, or in a laundry pile or whatever (ie, had a reasonable expectation that the clothing item would be laundered) then it is Person A's responsibility to prepare that item for the laundry.

If, however, Person B thought "oh, that could use a wash" and just randomly snagged it and chucked it in without checking, then fault is with Person B.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think it depends - should person A have expected person B to launder those jeans then? (Were they, for instance, in a laundry hamper on laundry day, or just dirty jeans on the ground whenever?)
If so, then person A is out of luck and if not then I would blame person B.

By the way, I feel like this question is written to bias answers to favour person B.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2007

I'm an advocate of people taking responsibility for their own crap. If you're too spacy or stupid to check your pockets when you take your clothes off or put them in a laundry basket, it's your fault. If someone else didn't catch *your* mistake, it's just more bad luck for you.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd be inclined to say Person A, but salvia has the most mature and worthwhile script for how it should go down.
posted by OmieWise at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2007

My earlier, unequivocal answer of "Person A" should be qualified with the point that Count Ziggurat and the two people with "darling" in their handles make-- if Person A reasonably did not expect the item to be washed, then the blame shifts to Person B.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:07 AM on September 30, 2007

What ibmcginty said. And salvia, except that B shouldn't be expected to contribute anything towards replacing it.
posted by equalpants at 11:13 AM on September 30, 2007

If A went to a laundromat and dropped off their clothes for wash-and-fold service, the responsibility would be on A for not including items A did not want washed.

If A knows that clothing in a certain area will be washed, A should not place items there that A does not want washed.

If B took clothing from some other area and washed it, it's B's fault.

The moral of this story is to do your own damn laundry, because other people just screw it up.
posted by yohko at 11:26 AM on September 30, 2007

I'm with DarlingBri -- if it was in the hamper and was expected to be washed, than person A. If person A didn't expect it to get washed, then it's B's fault.

If you're getting your laundry done for you then you shouldn't be complaining when it's not exactly done the way you want it -- if you're unhappy, do it yourself. Pocket-checking is a courtesy, not a requirement, of laundry.
posted by lilac girl at 11:29 AM on September 30, 2007

I've never once considered blaming the person doing the laundry when I accidentally leave something in my pockets. The fact that they usually catch it when I do so is irrelevant.

If someone ever got mad at me in that situation, I'd tell them they were doing their own laundry from now on.
posted by mjgrady at 11:36 AM on September 30, 2007

it's your responsibility to empty your own pockets. laundry, imho, doesn't routinely involve checking pockets unless something calls your attention to the possibility (i.e. it is bulging or jingling or something obvious).
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:42 AM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: By the way, I feel like this question is written to bias answers to favour person B.

Funny you should say that, since I'm Person A.

(My husband is Person B, and Item C was a $40 pedometer.)

The jeans were left in a place where dirty clothes are generally kept.

Basically, I was hoping for a "gee, I'm sorry I forgot to check the pockets this time/gee, I'm sorry I left it in the pocket" salvia-esque resolution, but instead I got a "this was totally your fault" resolution.

As for "doing [my] own damn laundry" and "if you're unhappy, do it yourself", I do the laundry most of the time. Today is laundry day, I was paying bills this morning, and my husband took it upon himself to jump in and start doing the laundry. So that, plus other situations where items of mine have been ruined by a lack of communication, has basically cemented the fact that in our house, one person should do the laundry 100% of the time, and that'll be me.
posted by Lucinda at 11:43 AM on September 30, 2007

What was person B thinking? You have to check all pockets every time. There could be a pen or crayon that'll ruin other clothes. There could be an index card or a tissue, which will shred and get stubborn lint all over everything. Since all these have affected my laundry, obviously I don't always check. But I should.

In my house, I'm always person B. I never accept blame if I let through something that doesn't cause a laundry problem. Memory stick? Credit card that gets deformed in the dryer? Bank check? Sorry. Your pocket, your fault. And if A's notecards make a big mess, I bitch about it bigtime. What am I, A's servant? What is A, a child? Maybe I should wipe A's butt for him, etc., etc. The more A blames me, the more I bitch. Goodnaturedly, but still...

Really, I should check pockets every time. and so should the A and B in your house. Get an apology from A, and apologize yourself, then make an agreement for the future. Tell A "I will pay whatever you think is fair." This will set a good precedent for a later instance in which A makes a mistake. You can bet it will happen.
posted by wryly at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2007

person A. unless A is a little kid and is not responsible for themselves, but in all indications in the OP we are talking about 2 adults.

so person A is at fault. empty your pockets or suffer the consequences
posted by seawallrunner at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2007

Best answer: but instead I got a "this was totally your fault" resolution

He need not be an ass about it and some sympathy is warranted, but it is totally the fault of whoever left the item in the pocket. The only exception is if the article of clothing was not in the hamper/on the floor/etc because the owner was going to wear it again before washing.

And yohko's got it right: each party should do their own laundry to avoid these situations.
posted by 6550 at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2007

posted by brain cloud at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2007

The jeans were left in a place where dirty clothes are generally kept.

This to me is the key. You're responsible for cleaning out your pockets before dropping it in the hamper. If you had picked them up off of the floor or a clean clothes pile, that would be different.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:04 PM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: Women are so much better at housework. Best that they just do it all, all the time. That way, we won't have any more of these annoying little foul-ups.

Not how it works in our household, sorry. If anything, I'm the lazy slacker.
posted by Lucinda at 12:05 PM on September 30, 2007

He's being an ass. This is a clear situation of systemic failure: expectations were not clear, responsibilities were not agreed upon. The two of you have been lucky up until this point but it was only a matter of time until something slipped through. He's mad because he can't fathom a blameless situation and doesn't feel like he should shoulder the burden of the lost pedometer.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:23 PM on September 30, 2007

Er, that's because he shouldn't shoulder the burden of the lost pedometer.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on September 30, 2007

Don't empty your pockets? Live with the consequences. Quit looking for blame.

You're angry because you would have caught it, if you had been doing the laundry.

The real thing here? You're resentful because you feel (even if it's true) that there's an unequal balance of work- so you're frustrated enough to post to Ask.Metafiler. You would have caught it. Your husband (or whoever person B is), didn't do the laundry the way you would have (or perhaps he has previously.)

I'd seriously suggest examining this personally: Is there an inequality in the work you feel you contribute?
posted by filmgeek at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2007

Justinian: right. The issue is that he can't imagine that nobody is to blame. Which means either he or the OP is to blame and it definitely ain't him. You see?

filmgeek: the OP explicitly said that she was not looking to assign blame, but was hoping for a gee, I'm sorry I forgot to check the pockets this time/gee, I'm sorry I left it in the pocket resolution.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:52 PM on September 30, 2007

No, that's not how it reads to me wemayfreeze. It reads to me like Lucinda was being passive aggressive about it and her husband resonded defensively to her passive aggressiveness.

If it wasn't his fault, why was she looking for an apology?
posted by Justinian at 1:02 PM on September 30, 2007

So: Person A. Period.

Yeah, since the ibmcginty exception doesn't apply, I've gotta go with "you want your clothes washed, you empty the pockets." Sure, we're all human and we forget, and it would be nice if B catches it for us, but to expect them to apologize for not doing it is... wrong.
posted by languagehat at 1:04 PM on September 30, 2007

posted by Dr.Pill at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2007

If this situation has turned into a serious argument over who's at fault, then the real issues have nothing to do with laundry.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:24 PM on September 30, 2007 [5 favorites]

When growing up, my mother always told us that whatever she found in our pockets was hers to keep when doing the laundry. Therefore, person A would be at fault in my childhood household.
posted by wile e at 1:25 PM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: languagehat and Justinian > I'll apologize for things that are accidents. I'll apologize for my part in things that end up going badly. If the situation had been reversed, I would have apologized for not checking the pockets, but I wouldn't have accepted all the blame.
posted by Lucinda at 1:28 PM on September 30, 2007

Lucinda: The fact that you would apologize for something does not mean you have the right to demand/expect that someone else apologize for that thing. Also, one factor here is probably a common male/female divide: women are brought up to apologize copiously at the drop of a hat, whereas men tend to see it as a weakness. The point is not that one is right and the other wrong, the point is that you should recognize the culture gap and not expect him to behave as you would.
posted by languagehat at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2007

I think in one of Deborah Tannen's books, or it might have been in "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," it's noted that there's a gender difference in the meaning behind the words, "I'm sorry." Many more women than men say "I'm sorry" even when they don't at all believe they're at fault. They mean "I feel bad for you that it happened." More men, on the other hand, only say it when they mean " I take responsibility for what happened." So, if you're looking for what you mean when you'd say "I'm sorry," your husband might be hearing that what you want is to assign the responsibility to him.
posted by daisyace at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oops, on preview...
posted by daisyace at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2007

Person A. Without a doubt.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:06 PM on September 30, 2007

Best answer: If person A always does laundry, person A might usually check pockets before doing laundry instead of when putting clothes in the wash (to avoid checking pockets twice).

I do the laundry most of the time. Today is laundry day, I was paying bills this morning, and my husband took it upon himself to jump in and start doing the laundry.

This is key. Person A has a laundry method, which includes checking pockets. Person B decided to do laundry without asking what the method was. If Person B had dumped in some incompatible soap that ruined Person A's clothes, Person B would be at fault. In the same way, Person B neglected to perform a safety pocket check that Person A performs every time laundry is done.

The situation changes if one person does laundry. In that case, Person A should be responsible for the contents of his/her pockets. In this case though, Person A was being responsible for the content of his/her pockets and had planned to check the pocket's contents before washing them.

However, the real issue is that Person B tried to be helpful and ended up screwing up. Being admonished after trying to be helpful is hurtful, and it sounds like Person B blamed Person A as a result of this. The dispute between Person A and B probably has little to do with who's "right" and more to do with feelings.
posted by null terminated at 2:32 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Checking pockets is part of the "taking off clothes" task, not the "putting clothes in washer" task. Your fault. And if you want to never leave things in your pockets, think of it that way. I haven't had anything ruined in years because I empty my pockets when I take things off.
posted by dame at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

A. Sucks about your pedometer! Life is hard.
posted by blacklite at 2:59 PM on September 30, 2007

expecting someone to check your pockets for items before washing is like expecting someone to zip up your pants for you.
posted by nola at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2007

You're both responsible. You're also responsible for communicating with each other to resolve your relationship problems. Airing your dirty laundry here on AskMe instead is a passive-aggressive way of ducking this responsibility.

But I got a laugh and a crappy pun out of it, so you're off the hook today.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Person A is 100% to blame for exactly the reason nola provides.
posted by winna at 3:43 PM on September 30, 2007

Sorry, but my feeling is that if you leave it in your pocket it's your fault. Checking before laundry is nice, but can't always be expected. When I do the laundry my feeling is that the job to be done is to wash the clothes. On the rare occasion something of mine gets washed when my wife does the laundry I never think to blame her.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:15 PM on September 30, 2007

Many more women than men say "I'm sorry" even when they don't at all believe they're at fault. They mean "I feel bad for you that it happened." More men, on the other hand, only say it when they mean " I take responsibility for what happened."
I've never heard that before. That's the opposite for my wife and myself, but it's uncanny how those words so accurately describe the exact conversation we have about "I'm sorry" at least once every couple weeks.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:19 PM on September 30, 2007

Huh. I am person B in our house. I actually think it is mostly person B's "fault," but person A doesn't really have the right to blame person B for it -- it's sort of a safety net/community-mindedness thing, not a sole-ownership responsibility.

It is ideal if person[s] A do their part as well so there's less chance of item C getting through.

I also have a vested interest in checking pockets, because my clothes go in the wash with those of person A, and item C is almost always a ballpoint pen or brightly colored crayon or something that makes laundry more difficult.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 4:35 PM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everyone. I can see now that it was my fault, and that I shouldn't have expected a "I feel bad for you that it happened", though it would've been nice to hear.

Anyway, we've talked it over and agree that even though I'll do the laundry exclusively now (since it is my chore), if he ever does them, we'll let each other know what needs to be done first. (And I'll check my pockets first.)

So, happy ending all around, except for the poor pedometer.
posted by Lucinda at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2007

Person B's heart was in the right place. Person A either forgot to empty the pockets, or didn't think the clothes were going to be washed. It's nobody's "fault", it's just an accident.

Having said that, if I threw a pair of jeans into the hamper without pulling out my wallet, I would have no business giving a hard time to the person who washed my wallet accidentally -- but if I threw a pair of jeans in the place I always do when I'm going to throw them back on later, and another person takes it upon themselves to grab 'em and wash 'em without checking, it would certainly be appropriate for them to apologize.
posted by davejay at 5:25 PM on September 30, 2007

The appropriate response is "Oh, bummer, your pedometer got laundered." You might have had a little hissy fit because you're mad at yourself, but also mad because you would probably have remembered to check your pockets. Since you suffered the loss, he could be gracious and let you have your (very small) hissy fit, with only a little bit of eye-rolling. Then you get over your grumpies, and offers to get you a cup of coffee, and you thank him for being kind and doing the laundry, as he was trying to be sweet.

That's why people who live with each other should try really hard to be nice to each other. Even the smallest acts can cause trouble.
posted by theora55 at 5:32 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fascinating as the responsibility discussion is, I have to point out that the device may not be dead. I have revived well laundered memory sticks, calculators and an iPod shuffle with this technique. It really works.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 8:25 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you put clothes where they are clearly ready to be washed, you should have checked them first (like dame, I think emptying pockets is an undressing activity anyway, so it should be moot). I always empty my pockets when I take any item of clothing off that has pockets and I always check every pocket before I do any washing. I do this partly because I don't think it's fair to expect others to empty their pockets fanatically just because I do and partly because I have small children and, well, there could be anything in there.

In this case, person A should have checked their pockets and person B should have checked them again. You see how that works? It allows for the fact that any clothes you wash are likely to have been worn by a human and humans sometimes forget things.
posted by dg at 8:48 PM on September 30, 2007

My family solved that problem by having each person do their own laundry. Even kids.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:55 PM on September 30, 2007

Both of you.

If one person is doing their own laundry, it's common sense that you check pockets, both to protect items and clothes. And that same person, when they take off the clothes, ought to take things out of pockets so that they're easy to find, to make sure things aren't forgotten, etc. I make lots of notes on scraps of paper, get phone numbers, web addresses...if I wash them they're lost. And taking things out of pockets ensures that keys don't get lost, cell phones get charged, wallets aren't forgotten the next day, all that good stuff. If you're one person, you do all that yourself for your own benefit. It's all part of the "task" of laundry, same as not dumping meatballs down your white tie. "Wearing" and "laundry" are not to be separated, they're the same thing, and if you're wearing the clothes, you're shouldering all the responsibility for washing it afterward, at least in my moral book.

If you're doing laundry for someone else, you're assuming ALL aspects of that task, because it's all one thing. Again, even wearing the clothes puts you under obligation to take care of them and everything in them. If you're taking off your pants and you want your pedometer to be where you can find it in the morning, take it out. That's "laundry" too. If you don't, it's your fault, especially if you know someone else is going to do the laundry...you dirtied the clothes, you put stuff in the pocket that could break, and that's half the job. And if you're the one at the washing machine bottleneck, you check your own pockets, right? That's part of the task of laundry too, a crucial one, and it needs to be executed with all the gravity owing to so important a bottleneck. That's customs for the clothes, man! You gotta check for contraband.

Clothing care is a comprehensive task, and even if someone else is helping you, you should always act as if you're going to wash it, dry it, fold it, and store it yourself. If you don't, you're doing a halfass job. Because a $40 pedometer, actually, costs less than most clothes, and a pedometer is an investment a lot less maleable than clothing; how long your clothes last, how well they fit, how clean they are, all depend completely on how well you take care of them.

So, both of you, get serious about this. Are we doing laundry or are we doing laundry?
posted by saysthis at 12:27 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

^ hee!

I'm going to go with neither of you were at fault... until it became an argument. At which point it seems both of you were wrong.

I do the laundry all the time, because if my husband did it, white clothes would be washed with colored clothes, cats would lie down with dogs, and bleach would be spilled. I turn out pockets and check things pretty well, but with 2,000-pocket cargo pants all with velcro fasteners... eh. Sometimes I miss something. Sometimes I pat them down and miss a slip of paper or other small item. Am I at fault? No. He's lucky to have his beautiful launderette, and should be grateful. Is he at fault? No. Half the time I'm wandering around the house picking up his clothes and eyeballing/sniffing them to see if they need washing... if it's a critical thing, he needs to put it somewhere safer than the pocket of discarded pants, but he's not at fault.

Afterwards, however, whoever wants to put all the blame on the other is at fault. So kiss and make up.
posted by taz at 4:29 AM on October 1, 2007

Person A is at fault, because Person B was doing you him a favor by doing his laundry. Person A needs to be more careful next time and had better not give Person B any crap about it if they ever want Person B to do the laundry again.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:57 AM on October 1, 2007

One of my friends says marriage is abut giving up my right to be right even when I am right. Right?

Ok, I added that last right. Right-o!
posted by Jacen at 10:11 AM on October 1, 2007

You're an adult. Check your own pockets.
posted by phritosan at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

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