DEAR MARY ANN: I have a very long-term relationship with an old roommate, Jane. Through the years we have always stayed in touch but recently we find ourselves going to the occasional movie or dinner sometimes with another mutual friend. I enjoy her company and we have a lot in common.
Problem is that Jane is into Groupon, the Internet service that charges you a nominal fee to get large discounts on services and products bought in large quantities. In Jane's case she buys a $10 coupon and if she can get a group (myself and Joe) to spend $100 at a certain restaurant we get 50 percent off. Trouble is Jane takes the majority of the discount. First of all in our case we had to over order, then all gratuities are added as if the bill were $100. When the bill arrives Jane takes $10 off her order and then somehow (I still can't totally figure it out) gets the biggest discount of the three of us. I tried to suggest another place the last time, but Joe still hadn't picked up on the fact that we were paying more than Jane. These relationships are important to me and though mainly social we share business contacts and have worked with each other in the past so it is always good as far as keeping in the loop when I go out with Jane and Joe. How should I handle this? I am not cheap. I don't mind treating but in this case I feel like Joe and I are being kind of used.
-- GROUPONED BY A FRIEND
DEAR GROUPONED: No one wants to feel like a chump or sense they have been duped by a friend who takes the larger share of a discounted value. Groupon coupons offer greatly reduced prices to restaurants and other services that might not normally be on your radar. Thousands of people use these offers and love them. The Groupon restaurant coupons, however, are not beneficial to you if you feel you are over ordering to meet a minimum or paying more than you normally would spend for your meal. Whipping out a calculator to determine or debate how much each person in your party owes seems to negate the ambiance of a shared evening with old friends. Food isn't as tasty during dinner if you are thinking about dollar signs with each bite.
The next time you make dinner plans with Jane and Joe suggest that you will make a reservation at one of your favorite restaurants where separate checks are the norm. If Jane insists on taking advantage of a Groupon restaurant coupon, make sure you understand the fine print before you accept her invitation.
DEAR MARY ANN: I am a longtime renter and have always maintained a good business relationship with my landlord. My building has 60 apartments, and my landlord owns several other buildings so it is a big business. Recently several of my neighbors have established a tenant's association. They have been unfairly treated both in service and in illegal rent increases. They have asked that I join them and perhaps even hold an office in the organization. They are my neighbors and friends, and I believe that their gripes are valid. So far I have had no problem, but that is not a guarantee that I won't in the future. I could promote solidarity by joining this group or I might be earmarked by the landlord as a troublemaker. We have a doorman, and he reports all goings-on to management. I feel a bit stuck. What should I do ?
-- WORRIED RENTER
DEAR RENTER: Think logically before you commit to participate in the new tenant association. Right now your relationship with your landlord is positive. The negative things you are hearing from your friends in the building may be legitimate or they may be exaggerated hearsay. While injustices can be corrected when the oppressed join forces, your tenant friends may be a disgruntled few who like having things done their own way. By uniting with them in a solidarity move against management, you very well may end up out in the cold, and a new tenant will love living in your apartment.
Deliberately alienating your landlord in anticipation of a problem or because you heard about another person's dilemma seems counterproductive. If you assume the role of a ringleader in this fledging group your good intentions could backfire dramatically. It is very important to understand the landlord-tenant laws in your city before you make a decision. You should consult with an attorney for a legal opinion and take your time while you thoroughly investigate your options. Remember to always be friendly with the doorman but limit your conversations with him to the weather and sports.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.