Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Can I still socialise with my virus-denying friends?

24 October 2020

9:00 AM

24 October 2020

9:00 AM

Q. An old friend offered to treat me to a birthday lunch, provided I choose and book the restaurant myself. (He has always hated admin.) On booking, the restaurant asked me for a £50 deposit — this to deter no-shows — and I was told this would be refundable on our arrival.

When the bill was presented my friend characteristically just handed over his card without even glancing at it. The next day, on noting that my deposit had not been refunded, I rang up this agreeable local restaurant. It turned out there had been a misunderstanding. They had not refunded my account but had instead reduced my friend’s bill by £50. It’s not that I want the £50 back. I can afford that — but it is somehow unsatisfactory that my friend thinks he treated me to lunch, when in effect I paid for myself and, as the total bill was around £75, subsidised around a third of his. How can I convey this info without seeming petty, not least to teach him a lesson that he should be more careful about grandly paying bills without looking at them?
— S.M.G., Upavon, Wilts

A. Ring the friend to thank him again for lunch. Act daft as you enlarge that, however good the food was, you suspect that you were both charged a £50 deposit, so before you make enemies at this agreeable local restaurant by ringing to challenge them, can he bear to glance at his own statement to see how much he paid himself? In this way you can retain the financial high ground but also teach your admin-phobic friend a lesson about bill checking.


Q. I am keen to spend more time socialising with very fun neighbours but I am vulnerable and they are virus-deniers. Although they have bought outdoor heaters, last time I went they soon tired of being in the garden and moved us all inside saying it would be fine as long as we sat far apart. Then we all had to shout, thus increasing the potential for aerosol spreading. I would like to give them a second chance but don’t want to be in the position of having to flounce out.
— Name and address withheld

A. Next time you go to them, explain that, annoyingly, you are expecting a delivery and there is a small chance you might have to rush back to your own house. If they do move you inside, pretend you have just had a text announcing the delivery.

Q. A simple and sustainable alternative to your ‘napkin lid’ suggestion to the reader who resents being handed a takeaway coffee by someone who has ‘put their hands all over the lid’ (1 October) could be to use a reusable coffee cup. First remove and withhold the lid, offer the cup for filling, then simply refit the lid yourself once you receive your drink.
— M. Tomkins, Sussex

A. Thank you for this helpful contribution.

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