A weekly series in which our expert in all things everything solves life’s conundrums, big and small. Got a problem that could use a no-nonsense perspective? Tell it to the Co-It-All at firstname.lastname@example.org
A friend of mine has a phone that doesn’t support the Uber app. Whenever we need to go anywhere, she’s always like, “Will you get us an Uber?” She acts like it’s free or something, and I’m not sure how to tell her that our one-sided transportation arrangement is getting costly for me (and super annoying!!)
Picture it: Friday night, 2015. Two gal pals walk into the latest hipster Izakaya, for a night of Japanese pub grub and overpriced craft cocktails. Is your friend the one who suddenly realizes that she “forgot” her wallet at home when the bill comes? I ask because it’s important to know whether we’re dealing with A) a habitual mooch or B) more isolated behavior relating strictly to the situation you describe.
Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and start with B. Have you tried the most obvious solution, which is telling your friend how you’re feeling? Back in university, I spent a lot of time at a friend’s place who always had Tropicana in the fridge. My own beverage budget didn’t allow for such luxuries, and every time I visited, I would pour a big glass of OJ and chug it down, like Homer Simpson at the DUFF factory. This went on for a while until one day my friend pointed out that she and her roommates spent money on their OJ, and that oranges don’t grow on trees—which they actually do, but you get the point. It’s possible that your friend is unaware of how she is taking advantage, and fixing this behavior is as simple as bringing it up.
If, on the other hand, we’re dealing with scenario A (the dedicated freeloader), then it may be time to cut this no good baciagaloop loose. You don’t mention whether you two are BFFs or just frequent party friends, so hard to tell whether friendship termination is an option. I can tell you that in my experience, mooching isn’t an automatic deal breaker (it’s not like your friend is a Nazi sympathizer, or an un-ironic Kardashian fan). I can also tell you that reforming your mooch will mean some discomfort on your end.
Let me explain: I’m guessing that part of the problem with your Uber situation is that cab rides frequently run in the $10-$20 range. Perhaps you think that shaking your friend down for seven bucks is embarrassing—the sort of nickel-and-diming we outgrow around the time our milk crate coffee tables get replaced by actual furniture. That may be true, but know that your instinct towards social propriety is your mooch’s lifeblood. If you want to preserve the friendship while protecting your bank account, it’s time to be more explicit.
Next time she suggests an Uber, respond by saying, “Okay, cool. Then you can pick up the drinks/snacks/movie tickets.” Humour is a good way to defuse awkwardness. Try, “Who do I look like, your Fairy God Driver?” or “Why don’t you try getting a cell phone that came out after the Y2K scare?”
I mean honestly—what kind of cell phone doesn’t support Uber? Blackberry does. Android does. Does your friend not have a credit card? If that’s not it, I’m willing to bet that she’s just technologically challenged, and could get the app if someone would show her how. You know what they say: Give a friend an Uber, and she rides for a day. Teach a friend to Uber, and she can start paying her way.