I’m stuck with kan­joos friends

If your best friend mag­i­cally van­ishes to use the loo when it’s time to pay the bill, read on

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - TIME OUT - SONAL KALRA

Last week’s col­umn over­whelmed me with the re­sponse. Hun­dreds of emails poured in from doc­tors from all over. Mat­lab itni khushi hui ki mann kiya 2-3 surg­eries free mein karwa loon. Jokes apart, the feed­back gave me such mov­ing in­sight into the kind of stress­ful con­di­tions our docs work un­der. We can’t re­spect them more. Bask­ing in all the love from the docs also made me dig out some pieces from the past that a lot of you re­lated to — some on more se­ri­ous is­sues and some that sim­ply whined about an­noy­ing hu­man be­hav­iour. And one such piece is this, which I wrote in re­sponse to a rant I re­ceived from Ak­shay who lives in Chandigarh.

‘Bas, enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of pay­ing for ev­ery­thing, ev­ery time. My ‘best’ friend con­ve­niently for­gets his wal­let each time we eat out. And then, of course, equally con­ve­niently for­gets to pay me back even later. I feel like such a damn fool,’ cried out Ak­shay, in a re­cent, and ex­cru­ci­at­ingly long mail to me.

Oho Ak­shay, id­har aao. Lemme give you an un­der­stand­ing hug from some­one who went through sim­i­lar help­less­ness dur­ing the grow­ing-up phases. A lot of us have. In ev­ery group of friends, there are moochers. Peo­ple who will ei­ther — dodge pay­ing their share of the meal by say­ing they are not car­ry­ing enough cash, or — will try and make an is­sue out of how they only ate only one piece of the Pa­neer Tikka while some­one else or­dered a Fresh Lime too, or — if noth­ing else, won’t cal­cu­late the tax or the waiter’s tip in the amount to be di­vided among ev­ery­one so that this falls as a bur­den on some­one else who’ll ei­ther be nice enough to stay quiet or would have failed in math in school.

So how many times have you lent money to a friend, ei­ther at the movies or in a group out­ing, never to see it again? If you are one of those gen­uinely gen­er­ous peo­ple who love treat­ing oth­ers, it’s a great thing and I would like you to mail me your mo­bile num­ber for my se­cure fu­ture.

But if you’re be­ing nice and would silently stress later when you’ll no­tice the same friend splurge on some­thing per­sonal, you gotta prob­lem.

Let’s try and re­solve that, be­cause you see, tumhaari lot­tery toh nikli nahi hai that you’ll hap­pily as­sume the bur­den of pay­ing at group out­ings all your life.

When a group of friends de­cides to eat out, one of the two things must hap­pen. Ei­ther each per­son should con­trib­ute a fair and equal share of the bill. But hang on, if you are go­ing to make a com­edy scene by col­lect­ing ~57.675 from nine friends and giv­ing all that chillar to the amused waiter, please avoid, for the sake of san­ity and man­ners.

The other way is for each friend to pick the tab ev­ery time, on ro­ta­tion. Vaise us­mey bhi panga hai. Be­cause some out­ings may hap­pen at McDon­alds while some at Gur­preet Singh Wang ka road­side chowmein stall.

So what the hell do you do? Here’s what…

1 Set the rules, be­fore­hand: Trust me, noth­ing ce­ments a friend­ship more than set­ting some straight rules of be­hav­iour up­front. Es­pe­cially when it comes to money. Be­cause money also has the po­ten­tial to kill a friend­ship al­most as quickly as the class hot­tie you and your friend may have a col­lec­tive crush on. De­cide, to mu­tual con­sent, a pat­tern of pay­ment be­fore you start go­ing out. If there is a friend in the group who is a known moocher and will try and wrig­gle out of pay­ing, it’s best to ca­su­ally men­tion on your way out that you only brought enough money to pay for your­self. Or say when you’re plan­ning the out­ing that ev­ery­one will be pay­ing for them­selves. Make sure you stick to this when the bill comes! May sound blunt but bet­ter than crib­bing and fret­ting about it later.

2 Make the moocher re­spon­si­ble: You know in col­leges or of­fices when col­lec­tive treats are planned, the per­son who de­serves the most sym­pa­thy is the one who has the task to do the ‘col­lec­tion’. It’s any­way not a very pleas­ant task to go up to ev­ery­one and ask to pay up for some­thing that they did, or will en­joy. And then this per­son faces the ad­di­tional trauma of lis­ten­ing to cribs who’ll ques­tion how their share came upto what it did. And more of­ten than not, this poor soul also ends up pay­ing for many oth­ers who say they’ll pay later, know­ing that ‘later’ never comes. A sug­ges­tion: Make such a per­son the col­lec­tion in­charge. Pay your fair share, turn around and get vig­or­ously busy in a fake phone call. Let him or her also get a taste of ‘I’ll pay later’ looks.

3 Tech­nol­ogy to the res­cue: In ear­lier days, ev­ery­one would carry cash and it was dif­fi­cult to wrig­gle out of a pay­ment sit­u­a­tion when it was time to pay the bill. But now with credit cards re­plac­ing cash in our wal­lets, the eas­i­est vic­tim be­comes the one whose credit card gets swapped, as he has to de­pend on the hope that oth­ers will pay him later. Ten­sion not. There are mo­bile apps now that help you solve this prob­lem. I’m yet to try them out here but saw some friends in the US use these ex­ten­sively.

One such app is Venmo, which not only al­lows your friends to e-pay you back there and then, but also sends them po­lite re­minders of pay­ment later if they haven’t. An­other called Square turns your phone into a mini credit card ma­chine and you can ac­cept debit or credit card pay­ments from your friends for free.

Ba­hana hi nahi bacha ji ab toh. Try them.

An­cient wis­dom says that lend only that much money to a friend which you can af­ford to lose. But I would say that if spend­ing on friends stresses you out like it does Ak­shay, then los­ing the friend is a big­ger po­ten­tial prob­lem than los­ing the money. Ei­ther change your mind­set, or change your friends. And a piece of ad­vice to ha­bit­ual moochers. Dekho yaar, you may be gen­uinely short of money and not do­ing this out of fun, in which case it’s way bet­ter to hon­estly de­cline a treat say­ing ‘I can’t af­ford it right now’, than suf­fer the ten­sion of mak­ing ex­cuses.

If, af­ter know­ing that, a friend de­cides to hap­pily pay for you, at least you would know that your com­pany is val­ued. Achha lagega. Don’t for­get to do the same for some­one else, some­day. Sonal Kalra only preaches, but is an ex­pert in tim­ing her loo visit per­fectly with the ar­rival of the bill. It’s a fine art she can teach you at a restau­rant, if you’ll agree to foot the bill. Mail her at [email protected]­dus­tan­times.com or face­book.com/ son­al­kalraof­fi­cial. Fol­low on Twit­ter @son­al­kalra

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