Maybe Generousity Isn’t Enough

by admin on October 10, 2011

Background : My brother just celebrated his 50th birthday with a big party on a boat on the New Jersey Shore. It was a fun time but two of his and his wife’s oldest friends ( Bob and Jill) could not go because of a disability. The next day the four met up at one of Atlantic City’s casinos where my brother loves to go and is extremely lucky. He gets comps on rooms, meals and shows constantly and is very generous in sharing. I have spent many a week-end in the casino for only the $5.00 in taxes. End  background.

So Bob and Jill decide they want ice cream at one of the casino’s shops. My brother wanted coffee so he gave them comps for free ice cream and went to another store. My SIL  decided to get some ice cream and went up to Jill and gave her $4.00 . Jill took the money and got my SIL the ice cream. However, the free coupons covered the entire cost so  Jill stole $4.00 from my SIL.

My brother and SIL did not realize this  until much later and were gob smacked ( thanks British  E-hellers) to say the least. This couple has been over their house for more holiday meals that they could count and were  considered close friends. 0713-11

Maybe this was an oversight, a mistake they made.   Could it be possible that Bob conducted the sales transaction after Jill gave him the money so that Jill was unaware that SIL’s $4.00 was unneeded?

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn October 10, 2011 at 5:31 am

Are you sure they stole? I can think of a very easy explanation:

They didn’t realise the coupons covered the ice cream until after they bought it. Jill likely put the money in her wallet and forgot about the loose change. Given they have a loose relationship with money, they didn’t give it a second thought.

Is $4 really something to be gobsmacked about? REALLY? Would this couple have risked ruining a relationship over $4? I’m a bit surprised that this is submitted to E-hell!


Jojo October 10, 2011 at 5:51 am

Sounds silly to be so upset about $4.00? There could be a number of innocent reasons why Jill took the money. I’ve been handed money for something only to realize that I had a voucher in my other hand for it and that I’d momentarily forgotten because my brain was on autopilot. Maybe Jill took the money thinking she would be charged extra for more than two ice creams? Just because she didn’t return the money immediately doesn’t mean she didn’t mean to.
For all the times they’ve done things together, it seems silly to ruin a friendship over the price of an ice cream. If it really is such an issue why can’t they bring it up in a tactful or jokey way? After all, they have been friends for years.
I’d give them a call and ask brightly and teasingly where my money was and suggest that they’d just have to have me over for coffee and cake in re-payment.


Green123 October 10, 2011 at 5:51 am

Wow. Last week we had a story about someone who owed $5 and this week we start with what sounds like a massive fuss over a paltry $4. Is the credit crisis in the US really that bad or are our American cousins just getting more ‘careful’ with their cash?


Elizabeth October 10, 2011 at 5:57 am

This is one of those gray-area situations where it could have been an oversight or these are truly the most selfish people in the world. To bring it up, I think, would be to do some serious harm to the relationship if the former is the case. The couple could also think – we’ve been friends for so long, how could you think we would steal $4 from you on purpose??!

In this case, I think you either have to go on past knowledge (ie. have they pulled this before? Do they express genuine gratitude when they are treated, or do they generally have an entitled air about them? Is this really out of character for them?) or you have to accept that this isn’t a clear enough case for which to destroy a friendship, and keep an eye out for weird behavior in the future.


Mum with 3 kids October 10, 2011 at 6:02 am

No way did they steal those four dollars, it’s obvious they forgot. As to your “generous” brother – makling assumptions over those few bucks weeks after the fact, isn’t really generous in my book. And the fact that he actually TOLD SOMEONE ELSE instead of (if he really felt he needed to) confronting those involved, makes me darn him to e-heck.


Angeldrac October 10, 2011 at 6:12 am

I’m with admin on the “oversight” probability. And given that the two couples are such good, old friends, I am gobsmacked that one could be so petty over a matter of $4.


Susan October 10, 2011 at 6:35 am

I agree with admin on this post. This could easily have been an oversight or miscommunication. Unless there have been other incidents of greediness or dishonesty, $4 is not enough to ruin a friendship over.


Cobbs October 10, 2011 at 6:36 am

I’ll bet this is the first time such old friends cheated SIL. Of course it was an oversight or a mistake. But, the SIL’s not confronting them and gossiping behind their backs with the poster leads me to think Bob and Jill have the shorter end of the stick in this relationship.


MellowedOne October 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

The OP’s brother and sister-in-law severed one of their oldest friendships over $4? Seriously?

I’m glad I don’t have friends like them. My good friends and I forgive each other far greater incidents than this one. It’s necessary, because we all do stupid things at one time or another, and it would be extremely hypocritical to not forgive others yet expect others to extend us that courtesy.


Sarah Jane October 10, 2011 at 7:47 am

Wait…you’re assuming, based on these facts, that she STOLE the $4???

Exactly how did they come to “realize much later” that the coupons covered all the ice cream? There are some facts missing…what happened between the time the ice cream was purchased and the OP’s family realized the coupons should have been sufficient? Did the SIL never inquire as to whether there was any change, or whether the $4 was enough for her share??


Harley Granny October 10, 2011 at 8:23 am

Maybe Jill didn’t know that the comps covered it and though Bob paid for it out of their $$.

Sounds like brother’s generousity has some strings.

All this over $4.00.


Ista October 10, 2011 at 8:25 am

If they were old and dear friends, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt that a) they didn’t know the cost of the final ice cream was covered, or b) they figured the SIL already knew (as she had been to this place before) and assumed she meant the money as a tip for the ice cream servers.


Aje October 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

Even if admin´s supposing is incorrect, an old friendship is a lot to sacrifice for 4 dollars


Margo October 10, 2011 at 8:58 am

Well, yes, it’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that Jill or Bob simply forgot to return the $4 – it’s not a big amount, and I would have thought it would be fairly easy to forget – for instance, if you put the money into a pocket or purse to leave your hands free for carrying ice-cream, intending to return it when you’ve finished eating. Did Jill & Bob pay for other things during the day? They may have felt it wasn’t a bog deal as both coupels were paying some of the time.

How sure are you that the comps covers the cost of all the ice-cream? Is it possible that if Jill or Bob bought the ice cream in two transactions not one, thatthey would actually have to pay forthe second transaction, even if it would have been free had they bought all 3 in one transaction.

It sounds as though this coupel are long term friends of your brother & SIL’s so it seem strange to me that they would leap to the conclusion that they’ve ‘stolen’ the $4. Have they ever taken anything before, or behaved in way which made your Brotheror SIL feel they were not honest?

Unless they have a history of ‘forgetting’ to return change / pay their way I would be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was a simple oversight. Would your brother/SIl be so ‘gobsmacked’ if what had happened was that your SIL went to buy the ice-cream, Jill/Bob said they’d pay her back the $4 for their ice creams, but forgot to hand over the money? I thnk in most cases you’d assume it was an oversight, and either remind them, or wait & let them buy the ice-cream next time you’re out together.

$4 is not a large sum of money (I don’t mean that taking a small sum would be OK, just that it may well be a small enough amount that the person wouldn’t notice they had $4 more in their purse/wallet at the end of the day than they should have, and would not necessarily remember whether they had give it back as they intended or not.)


CaffeineKatie October 10, 2011 at 9:07 am

Stole??? That seems a bit harsh. And although I wouldn’t argue that your brother is nice to share things that don’t cost him anything, as I was reading this I was reminded of my husband’s cousin. He, too, likes to give gifts and do favors, but he can also list everything he has EVER done for people (back to elementary schools days for his cousins) over the last 50+ years. That doesn’t seem really generous to me.


essie October 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

OP, I think your SIL is the one to blame. They didn’t steal the money, she GAVE it to them. Since it’s her own husband who regularly gets the coupons, SHE should have been the one – not them – to realize that her ice cream was comped and not given them the money.

Maybe Bob and Jill should be the ones to re-consider the relationship. If I had a friend who enjoys gambling and can afford a “big [birthday] party on a boat”, but is so quick to accuse me of STEALING such a measly sum when it was clearly GIVEN to me, I’d give them $5 ($4 + interest) and consider it worth the price to lose them.

I agree with some of the other posters: if your brother keeps track of what he gave and to whom and when, etc. that’s not generosity, that’s one-upmanship. One keeps track of only those costs which one expects to be reimbursed.


PNJ October 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

Maybe Jill put the $4 in the tip jar? Maybe she didn’t keeep it at all? Or maybe she used it at some point in the weeks after to buy SIL a coffee or something? I don’t think we can even assume that Jill pocketed that money, intentional or not.


AS October 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

I agree with the admin and other commentators. Unless Bob and Jill has any kind of a history of taking money and not returning, or actually stealing from your brother’s house when they are visiting for one of the “more holiday meals than they could count”, I think accusing them of stealing is too harsh. They might have just forgetten about it. For all you know, Bob and Jill are probably thinking that “OH! No… we forgot to return OP’s SIL $4, but let us return the next time we meet or pick their tab for the next ice cream or something. They are close friends and would understand. It might be too silly to call a 50-year old close friend and bother him about returning $4!”.

I can’t believe that you thought this is really an e-hell material!


Serenity S October 10, 2011 at 10:49 am

I agree that this incident sounds like a misunderstanding. Your brother gave Bob and Jill comps for ice cream. Bob and Jill are two people so I assume that logically your brother gave Bob and Jill two coupons. Then your brother left. Then your sister-in law decided she wanted ice cream as well and gave four dollars cash to Bob and Jill. Bob and Jill only had two coupons so they did need the four dollars for ice cream. It doesn’t make one bit of sense that long time friends would ruin a great friendship just to steal four dollars. Even if the two coupons did cover all three ice creams, Bob and Jill might not have been aware of that, and the clerk did not correct them and took the four dollars as well. I think if your brother and sister-in-law honestly believe that Bob and Jill stole the four dollars they should have asked them about what happened, instead of throwing away a friendship without even bothering to find out what really happened. And I also agree that gossiping about Bob and Jill behind their backs is rude. Bob and Jill probably have no idea what is going on.


Beth Erickson October 10, 2011 at 11:07 am

You’re risking all you have together for $4.00? Gobsmacked is not the word for this.


Margaret October 10, 2011 at 11:22 am

Another alternative — they bought the ice cream and said, “We have a coupon for two of them” and paid the $4, and the clerk either did not check the coupon to see if it covered three OR knew but took the extra $4 anyway. I could see that especially if it was busy in the shop.


Virg October 10, 2011 at 11:32 am

Who gets gobsmacked over $4.00? It could have been an accident or it could have been that they didn’t consider it worth worrying about. Heck, if anyone that I’d regularly invite to my house took four dollars off my counter I’d find myself unable to be concerned over it. Doesnt’ that kind of change get leveled out in the mix?



SV October 10, 2011 at 11:44 am

Are you claiming that neither you nor your brother have never forgotten to give someone their change for their coffee, the $2 for the milk they asked you to pick up, or anything like that? Stealing is a harsh judgement for such a paltry sum, and a terrible thing to suggest of a good friend. Do you really think they went away on this complimentary weekend and then were thrilled that they came out of it $4 to the plus? I can see why this might irk your brother, but the reality is that they likely just forgot. It’s $4, not $400. They would not have forgotten if it was $400, because that is a sum worth being concerned about. $4 is not. And it’s almost too bad they don’t know about all this…you may feel your brother is generous, but I guarantee they would have a completely different view of a man who would tell those around him that his oldest friends stole $4.


Merry Mrs October 10, 2011 at 11:55 am

I’m gobsmacked that the idea of “She stole $4.00” even occurred to your brother and SIL, there are just too many reasonable explanations to think something so terrible of good friends of what 20-30 years? “Stole” means intention and it would be repugnant to steal especially from a friend doubly so while they are treating you for a day/weekend of fun. “Stole” means Jill thought to herself “Score!!! Brother paid for SIL ice cream AND SIL paid for her ice cream , WOOT $4 free money for ME!!!! BWAAAAHAAA(evil laugh).” How do brother and SIL have any friends if they are so suspious of people that $4 could make them conclude their good friends ( possible of decades) are actually this vile? This is a perfect example JUMPING to the worse possible conclusion about someone. Without other significant instances the conclusion is almost paranoid.

Any of the previous posters explanations are just as likely ……Jill gave the $4 as a tip , Jill and Bob never compaired notes , the comp was used for frist transaction of two icecreams and coffee and the $4 was used for a second transaction, Jill put the money in her pocket and forgot it, Jill used the money for SIL behalf later in the evening/weekend and forgot to mention she was using that $4, I’m sure we could come up with a few more. In my opinion most of these are more likely then intentional theft. People who steal from their best friends so cavalierly are unlikely to go unnoticed for years.


Ellen CA October 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

If the friendship is so tenuous that it can be destroyed over the change from an ice cream purchase, they are better not being friends.


NotCinderell October 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I’m not saying that it isn’t possible that they did steal $4, but more that if you really think that they stole it, then this is likely not the first incident of such behavior. Are these people the ones who always let someone else pick up the check, or put in a few dollars less than their share if the bill is split? Then it’s possible that they really did pocket their friend’s money.

Otherwise, it’s not right to make interesting assumptions over $4.


Warholette October 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I think this article is here not to put Bob and Jill to eHell, but the OP. As previously said, keeping track of one’s generosity is not exactly the gracious behavior this site is promoting.


Cat October 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm

As one of my students used to say every time he took one of my tests, “You have got to be kidding me!”


Etta Kett October 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Ah gee, the first rule of etiquette is to assume the best of people unless there’s direct evidence to not do so. And of only four dollars, it’s not worth asking about to find out directly, just assume the best and take the loss if you truly value their friendship.


--E October 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I’ve known people who will deliberately nick off with $4 like this.

However, they usually are like that all the time. They’re the people forever shorting a buck or two on a split restaurant bill, who don’t offer to pay for part of the gas and tolls on a road trip, and who never seem to invite people over but happily accept all invitations from others.

People who are petty-cheap are petty-cheap all the time. If this has never been an obvious habit with Bob and Jill, then it’s almost certainly an innocent mistake. If this sort of thing is indeed a habit but Brother and SIL have never said anything before, I can’t imagine why they would be surprised or care now.


Melissa October 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’ll agree with everyone else. There have been many many many times that close friends and I have forgotten to give change or pay someone the $1.50 for picking up ice on their way to the party or whatever.

If your brother can afford to gamble this often and throw a huge party on a boat, tell him to grow up about $4. I wouldn’t think twice about it with close friends and I definitely cannot afford gambling or boat partying.

True generosity does not come with such stinginess and suspiscion.


princess pudding October 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Was the $4 given for a tip?

Was the couple owed $4 for something else that happened that weekend? Gas?


C.W. October 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm

$4.00?!? Really?!? Seems like a big fuss over very little. My close friends and I pay for things for each other all the time, to the point that we forget who owes who what and call it even. I have to agree with the other commenters that this just seems silly.


Zhoen October 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I can’t imagine taking $4 from a friend who’d been so generous to me, nonetheless taking it and forgetting to return it when it wasn’t needed. I think that is what shocked OP, not for her own sake but for her brother’s. I’d have treated SIL, not taken cash from her. It seems a chiseling, petty way to treat someone who’d given me a comp as well. If I’d done that to someone who considered me a good friend, I’d feel cheap. If I saw someone do that to a beloved brother, I’d probably get my hackles up, too.


Lily G October 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

It’s $4. chill.


Jayne October 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Did anyone pick up on the OP bragging that she only spent $5 out of pocket for the entire weekend?
That means she didn’t pay one penny in tips. And since this is in the US, tipping is
customary and most servers need tips if they want a halfway living wage.

I bet anything that “stolen” $4 ended up in the tip jar.


Angeldrac October 11, 2011 at 2:54 am

Having re-read this story and the comments after the passing of a day, I am asking myself “is this story a joke?”. Do we have a troll or a social experimenter with us who is having a little laugh at all the indignant responses? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced this story is a prank – it’s too ridiculous to be real.


Enna October 11, 2011 at 5:20 am

I agree with Admin it is an oversite. Quite easy to get the money back next time SIL sees Bob and Jill:
SIL: “oh dear need change for the car parking lot”
Bob/Jill: “no worries we got it.”


Enna October 11, 2011 at 5:21 am

that wasn’t well typed sorry SIL “oh dear no change for the car park.”


livvy17 October 11, 2011 at 8:33 am

Why did they even accept the $4 in the first place? If their friends were as generous as the OP makes it sound, and they already had several coupons for free ice cream in their pocket, why didn’t they simply wave the money away? I’m with Zhoen, I think I’d be irritated too. Likely, based on the feelings expressed, this wasn’t the first time they’ve taken advantage. I doubt they’d throw friends away over such an isolated incident. Sounds like they were probably taking advantage for years (note the numerous invitations and things mentioned by the OP.)

Plus, it isn’t explicitly said so above, but IF they were being treated to rooms and other comps as well, they certainly had no business accepting any cash from their hosts.


The Elf October 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

Meh, $4. Accidental oversight, used for tip, or outright theft, it doesn’t matter. It’s $4. I get that for some $4 is a lot, but I doubt brother and SIL are hurting for $4 if they just did a big party boat party and gamble enough to get that level of comps. If brother is so upset about it, he can stop giving Bob and Jill his comps. But, really, is it worth it?


Jay October 11, 2011 at 9:24 am

The shocking part of this is that you and your brother both seem shocked by this. By not even allowing the possibility of a simple oversight, you’re saying far more about yourselves than about these friends. I’m not sure they’re losing much by losing your friendship.


Javin October 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

“I want my two dollars!”


Wink-n-Smile October 11, 2011 at 10:37 am

Speaking as one who is already starting to lose her mental faculties, I blame this on middle-age. It was surely an oversight.


elika326 October 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm


You could just think “Hey, without those comps we would have all paid way more than 4 dollars for our ice cream.” Count your blessings and let it go. SIL, Bob, and Jill all got their ice cream for less than they normally paid. Everyone wins, end of story. There is nothing here to get all in a tizzy about…


Maryann October 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Why are people saying “It’s just $4”? Stealing is stealing. That said, I suspect it probably was accidental, in which case, “Hey, where’s my four bucks?” oughta do the trick with old friends. But my gobsmacking comes from people condoning theft if the amount happens to be small. It’s never okay and anybody who’d steal from you isn’t a friend worth having!


Edhla October 13, 2011 at 3:38 am

Good grief. It’s four dollars.

Most people in my social circle wouldn’t see that as stealing because it’s such a petty small amount of money between friends. Is the relationship worth more than four measly dollars? Then let it go.


Yvaine October 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

And we still don’t know for sure that it wasn’t needed to pay for the third ice cream. The only people who have a leg to stand on in calling Bob and Jill rude, IMO, are the ones that argue that they should have treated the SIL instead of accepting her money–and even then, IMO, a failure to be extra nice is not necessarily rudeness.


Felis October 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Given, I probably would have said something if it was my $4, even if it was to bring it up lightly. Of course, I was raised in a family who watched every penny. I wouldn’t jettison a relationship over $4 (in fact, I’ve let larger sums than that go in the name of friendship), but that’s not to say that it wouldn’t come up if I needed a small amount of change at some point.

@livvy17: “Sounds like they were probably taking advantage for years (note the numerous invitations and things mentioned by the OP.)”

To say that the brother’s friends were “taking advantage” seems a little harsh. It’s clear from what the OP wrote that it was her brother who invited these people for holiday dinners and all those free trips over all these years. She doesn’t say that they invited themselves or that they finangled invitations out of the brother. She doesn’t say that her brother was ever pressured (or felt pressured) into inviting them to come on these trips or to his house for dinner. My impression from her post was that these invitations were freely given because he is a generous person and wanted to share with them.

If I accept freely-given invitations from my friends for dinner or a party at their house, I would hope that they wouldn’t think I was “taking advantage” of them by going. If they did, then I’d definitely stop hanging out with them without making sure that all expenses were firmly divided down the middle!


Etta Kett October 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Maryann, they are not condoning theft. They are suggesting that one should never assume your friends are thieves without reasonable evidence.

Javin: That’s the phrase that immediately leapt to mind when I read this. Funniest bit in that whole movie (“Better off Dead”).


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