Money Manners

If you don’t like the string, then don’t take the gift

DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: Isn’t it wrong to attach a condition to a gift? When my elderly aunt decided to stop driving recently, she gave my wife and me her beautiful old Mercedes, which we can really use. But as she handed us the keys, she insisted that in return we promise to each lose 30 pounds in the next year or give the car back.

We made the promise, but my wife and I are wounded and furious. We’re not children (we’re in our 40s), and we think it’s completely inappropriate for her to be telling us what to do. Now as it happens, my wife and I are starting a diet. But what right does my aunt have to tell us how much weight we need to lose? — J.T.

A DEAR J.T.: Of course your aunt has no right to tell you how much weight to lose or to butt into your life generally. But to answer your initial question, she has every right to attach a string to her gift. That’s because you have a right you seem to have forgotten — namely, the right to refuse the gift if you don’t care for the string.

So if you disapprove of your aunt using the Mercedes to encourage you to lose weight — if you think she’s being manipulative — then by all means return it. But what you can’t do is keep the car and disregard the terms under which you accepted it. After all, your aunt didn’t hold a gun to your head and make you take the keys.

Splitting a hotel bill

DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: What is the proper way to split a hotel bill when three gay men share the room? Specifically, when two of the guys are a couple and the other guy has a bed to himself, should the couple pay one-half or two-thirds of the cost? — Uncertain

A DEAR UNCERTAIN: It depends on who took the most from the minibar.

Seriously, unless the couple normally would sleep in separate beds and are sharing a bed only to accommodate their friend, there is no reason they shouldn’t pay two-thirds of the bill. They are, after all, getting two-thirds of the benefit of the room.

Inconsiderate about stamps

DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: I’m a middle-aged, recently divorced man with a roommate problem. I’m sharing an apartment with a guy, also recently divorced, who’s always taking my stamps. I know this seems small, but whenever I need a stamp, I inevitably find instead a little cash and a scrap of paper on which he has written “for the stamps.”

At first he left two quarters whenever he took one, but then I pointed out that quarters weren’t of any use when I had bills to mail. So he needled me about my not paying my bills online, then started leaving a dollar each time he took a stamp. He thinks that by leaving a buck he’s overpaying and that I’ve got nothing to complain about. But his selfish and inconsiderate behavior is driving me nuts. How do I get him to cut it out? — Thomas

A DEAR THOMAS: Hide your stamps. And the next time your roommate is going away for a few nights, surreptitiously replace the toothpaste, soap and deodorant in his bag with a couple of bucks clipped to a note that says “for the toiletries.”

Or you can look for a new roommate. Because, kidding aside, this guy doesn’t get it, doesn’t want to get it and isn’t going to change. Good luck to his next spouse who gets him for a permanent roommate.

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| King Features Syndicate