DAME’s Friendkeeper advises a woman whose BFFs have priced her out of group activities and helps a businesswoman negotiate with a pal involved in a Ponzi scheme.
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I own my own small business. I make and sell a consumable product. An acquaintance, let’s call her Shannon, frequently purchases my product at local farmers markets. Shannon now sells an anti-aging product through a tiered sales model (i.e., Ponzi scheme.) Shannon has invited me to several of her sales nights (think Tupperware party) and I have always had other obligations. Recently Shannon has asked me to meet with her to give her advice on owning a small business—and, oh, P.S., would I like to buy anti-aging products? 1.) I don’t need or want anti-aging products. 2.) She doesn’t own a small business. She is part of a Ponzi scheme. 3.) I don’t wanna: I don’t want the product, don’t want to support a Ponzi scheme, don’t want to give advice. So, here is my question: Am I obligated, because of girlfriend code, to buy something from her because she has supported my business for years?
Perfect Skin, Aging Gracefully
First of all, I think rather than calling her Shannon, we should call her Bernie Madoff, so there’s no confusion.
I feel like this is a little bit more of a business question than a friendship question and lucky for you, I’m also an expert in that category. As you may know, for the past 47 years I’ve owned and operated Bullshit, Inc. I’ve taken it from one of the smallest Bullshit-shovelers to one of the largest on the Eastern Seaboard. So, here is what I think.
You operate a small business at a farmers market (for the sake of argument, I’m going to say you sell apple-cider doughnuts because Mmmmmm). This acquaintance frequently purchases your product, so, for all intents and purposes, she is a “client” or a “customer” or a “patient.” And she probably spreads the word about it, too. Even if she’s just eating it on the phone and someone says, “Bernie Madoff, it’s rude to eat on the phone,” and she says, “OH I CAN’T HELP IT, THESE DOUGHNUTS ARE SO DELICIOUS,” word literally has been spread! And because of that, I do think you should meet with her. You can give her an hour, tell her what you think in a nice way, and if you aren’t going to buy anything, give her a half a dozen cinnamon doughnuts as a gesture of good faith. It isn’t like she is asking you to support the NRA, at the least you’ll spend an hour keeping the customer happy.
I have a close group of girlfriends. There are four of us. Every year we go on a girls trip together—this started in college when we did spa weekends in our dorm rooms. Then it was a weekend at one of the girls’ mom’s ski house—like that. But in the last five years, it has turned into MAJOR trips. Like Mallorca, St.-Tropez, Rio… So I haven’t gone. I’m a single parent of two small children and I’m lucky if we can go to a movie on Saturday, let alone a vacation. Also it would be really hard for me to get away. My ex is totally out of the picture (financially and otherwise). My friends are all well off and this is nothing to them. I don’t like saying I can’t afford it, so I usually just say I can’t leave my kids, which is true. But honestly if weren’t so expensive and long I’d try to figure it out. It is becoming that I dread the months of planning, the week they are gone, and the postmortem so much that I pretty much avoid them all the time. But I miss them! What do I do?
Cinderella After Midnight
Wow, I certainly understand your feelings. It’s one thing to miss an occasional high-end dinner, but this feels ongoing and significant. Would it be possible to talk to them about switching off one year in the Alps for a four-day weekend in the Poconos? Or somewhere that doesn’t require airfare?
I think we all have to make accommodations for friends with different situations. When I got my dog, Otto, I had to go to work during the day, so in the evening, I wanted to be home with him. It was a little hard for some people to understand so I pretended my studio apartment was like a really great club with an awesome bartender who always wore a tuxedo and a whiff of farts. I think I would talk to one friend about it, whomever you are closest to. It’s got to have occurred to them, too, unless they are really dense.
I have to say, I’ve never done a girls vacation. I think an evening with a bunch of gals is about all I can handle (and I love my women … but I want to go home to my own bed). I do happen to really like the people I live with (two- and four-legged). But money aside, it is extremely difficult for any parent to go away and arrange life for children and animals while they are gone. A weekend is manageable but beyond that unless you have a staff, is quite challenging. And adding money to it makes this a super valid issue.
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