update: my coworker constantly asks us to loan him money

Remember the letter-writer with a coworker who was constantly hitting up everyone in the office for money? Here’s the update.

I had loaned the man $150 before Christmas last year. He would always have the money “next week.” But he always had money for cigarettes. I told him in the spirit of Christmas I would forgive it but never to ask me again.

In April, I was let go because the business got slow, and I was a recent hire (last in, first out). I have since started my own business doing the work I had been doing in my career.

When I was let go, the money-grubber was public enemy number 1 over there, and owed people collectively more than $2,000 according to office chatter. As soon as he walked into a room, people would say, “Sorry, I have no money for you.” It was the running joke of the entire company.

He had also been taking cash advances from his future paychecks. I know that at least one person in a management position brought up the issue to the boss shortly before I left.

I have not driven by since so I don’t know if this man is still with the company.

I did, and continue to appreciate and absorb the advice from you and others on AskAManager.org. I see a new perspective since starting my own company, and will apply the wisdom as best I can.

{ 63 comments… read them below }

  1. C Average

    The “compromising position” story is awesome. Me and my 12-year-old mind wish that person worked here!

    1. Lily in NYC

      Oh, I think you commented in the wrong spot! I was confused until I just read the Xmas post. I agree – that coworker sounds like my kind of guy.

  2. Cruella Da Boss

    My grandmother always said, “Don’t lend someone more than the amount you’d be willing to lose” and she was always right. With that in mind, I would lend accordingly and on the rare occasion I was paid back, it was a plesant surprise.

    1. Mike

      I was told the same. And at this point I don’t even try to keep track. You buy a coworker lunch and then they buy you lunch. Amount-wise it probably didn’t wash but it isn’t worth tracking it as long as no one is being taken advantage of.

  3. Shay

    We had one person who did the same thing in our office on a regular basis – I loaned her money once, but perhaps because I had a kid and she felt bad she paid me back, though no one else was so lucky. She’d push her luck with one person until they stopped giving her money, then move on to the next one, and so on. I guess because people were too embarrassed (?) no one spoke up, so it went unnoticed until after she was fired for stealing (a significant amount of goods).

    Then it came out that she had borrowed *$35,000* from one of our coworkers. 35 grand of his money he had squirreled away to pay his tax. And I’m fairly certain he never saw that money again. What made it sadder is that she was asking for money because she was tithing to her church and I guess couldn’t afford it, so this was her solution.

    I learned my lesson and have refused to loan money that I wasn’t happy to lose since.

      1. Mister Pickle

        I don’t know but on the face of it, “don’t lend more than $10,000” to anyone you’re not having sex with might be a worthwhile rule to live by. You might still lose your money, but after all is said and done, you’ll look slightly less foolish having wasted your money on hookers than falling for a con.

          1. rdf63

            I wouldn’t loan $1000 to anybody. My father once made a great comment. Do you know why your still friends with same people since grammar school? You’ve never asked them for money.

      2. Shay

        Nope, she definitely wasn’t. He felt pretty foolish, he was a very trusting individual and she just took advantage of that.

        1. Eva

          In that case I’m curious to meet her; I figure someone who can get 35 grand out of a coworker without sleeping with them (as well as the money she loaned from the rest of the office) has to be unusually charismatic in some way. Do you mind elaborating on how you experienced her loaning technique?

        2. Omne

          Unless he’s making in the high 6 figures I’m willing to bet there’s more to that story. I don’t see anyone lending a significant fraction of their annual income to a co-worker just because they are trusting.

          1. Shay

            He was a well paid contractor who was saving away 1/3 of his salary to pay his end of year tax. I don’t think I would have called her terribly charismatic, very sweet though, religious and seemed trustworthy, and he was very trusting and perhaps a bit naive.

            1. Shay

              Sorry just adding that they had agreed she would pay him back before his tax was due, but she didn’t and kept telling him she was almost able to, so he ended up in default to the IRS. It only came out when she was fired and he approached me concerned that she had disappeared.

            2. Dan

              I did some peer-to-peer lending for a stint, and some of the more religious borrowers would always talk about how “god would provide.” As in, they *wanted* to payback the loan, and thought that god would find a means to help them do so. Their default rate was pretty high.

            3. Melissa

              Oh, I can see how this would work. I was employed as a contractor and saved about 20% of my income each year for taxes and sometimes I would lend people small amounts out of it with the promise that they would pay me back before tax season – but it was ALWAYS a small amount and always to a relative I knew I could actually trust to repay me. And even then, it was an amount I knew I could make up without much hardship if I had to.

              $35,000, that’s just crazy.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Tithing to her church? If it’s the usual 10%, she’d have to be making $350,000.
      Sounds like there are several problems running at the same time.

        1. Shay

          Nope, not scientology. This was a few years ago now but I think she might have told him that she needed it to help them save their business or house or something along those lines. I know for a fact that she was tithing though which maybe contributed to her financial situation where she felt it appropriate to take advantage of coworkers.

  4. Mister Pickle

    I look at this as an object lesson in how some people are very different from myself. I don’t mean for that to sound as self-righteous as it likely does. I just mean: this “borrower”‘s personality (internal thoughts and processes, values, attitudes) is extremely alien to me. My main problem working with such a person wouldn’t be his asking for money – it would be that I know how much I don’t understand him. It would be like working with an extraterrestrial.

    1. Artemesia

      Me too. A dollar here and there in the cafeteria line or for bus fare when together– which trades back and forth — but I can’t imagine a co-worker actually asking for significant money — 20$ or for pete’s sake 35K. You have to be seriously clueless to ‘lend’ a moocher that kind of money — or anyone that kind of money without a contract. That kind of money would only go from me to a parent or one of my kids — and I would assume it was a gift.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I think some have disconnect between spending money and paying bills later on. The money just goes and they have no idea where it went.
      But there are other people who are in a truly bad spot and they never explain that they are in serious trouble.
      I have seen people become numb to the constant money crisises they face. I think they privately believe they will have problems for the rest of their lives, they cannot imagine a time without money problems.

    3. fposte

      That’s an interesting point–the “Who *does* that?” question taken non-rhetorically. I suspect also that that’s part of why people manage to be successful at it, since the rest of us may have few guards against such unusual behavior.

      Though a lot of time I suppose there’s an addiction of some kind in the mix, which actually makes it easier for me to understand; in that case it’s basically just grabbing at whatever you can to keep from drowning rather than thinking anything particular about money.

    4. INTP

      I agree. I am someone that will go hungry rather than ask a coworker for $5 for lunch if I forget my wallet. I don’t like asking for money favors and I don’t like to be asked, even if it’s a quarter in the laundry room.

      Also, if you’re asking coworkers, that means you’ve already tapped out any credit you might get from an actual lending institution as well as the kindness of your friends and family. So if someone gets to the point of asking coworkers, that tells you up front that they are either scamming on purpose or they already owe many other people they can’t pay back. To be honest, it’s alien to me that people would even give the money. Give your charity to someone that won’t blow it and then annoy another coworker.

      1. Melissa

        The second part, so much. I’m another person who hates borrowing and would go without lunch before I asked to borrow money, but I do have relatives who are the type to ask friends and family. In my experience, too, if they have come around to coworkers, it is definitely because they have already tapped out with friends and family – either because their family doesn’t have it or, very often, because their family refuses to lend them any money because they don’t repay it, or don’t repay it all, or take forever to do so.

  5. Ann O'Nemity

    One of my co-workers is fairly crafty about getting out of paying for his lunches. Usually, he’ll order and eat, and then later realize he has no money to pay the bill. And of course he never pays anyone back. It’s gotten so bad that groups will sneak around him to go to lunch.

    1. Monodon monoceros

      Had a lab mate in grad school who was super cheap and would either do this or order nothing but sit there and ask everyone if she could “have just one french fry” or “just taste one bite”. In a rare moment of ballsyness (not the Hanukkah kind though) I finally told her we couldn’t afford to feed her anymore and she had to either pay for her own lunch or stop coming. She stopped coming. I felt a little bad, but I was so tired of the sponging.

    2. Episkey

      I used to be friends with a group of people in grad school and we’d often go out to a cheap Mexican restaurant together because none of us had much money. This one person in the group would pay for her food, but she refused to tip. It was so embarrassing! The rest of us would usually put in enough that her portion of the tip was covered, but I always wanted to tell her that if she didn’t want tip, restaurant-dining was not for her.

    3. Artemesia

      Time for aggressively separate checks and then walk off and leave him to figure it out. Do this one and it is fixed.

      1. Cath in Canada

        Yup, that’s what we did when we got sick of tipping extra to cover our cheapskate friend.

        If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal

        (This friend can afford it, he’s just cheap!)

    4. fposte

      I’ve mentioned before my grad school colleague who attempted to pay me back for her pizza share (after lots of nudging) with a handful of tampons.

      1. Chinook

        “attempted to pay me back for her pizza share (after lots of nudging) with a handful of tampons.”

        While I agree that that is cheap and tacky, part of me remembers when I was broke and would have taken that form of repayment, but only if they were the good, not cheapy kind and she was giving me atleast a box worth.

        1. fposte

          The lender is of course free to take anything or nothing as repayment, but it’s not for the borrower to take $10 and decide that they’re repaid it with sanitary supplies.

    5. not my real nickname

      I had two co-workers who would be very open about how they would spend their Friday nights and tell everyone else that they needed to do this too – they would go to the local Tex-Mex hotspot in town and order a soda each and just eat the free chips and salsa and get free refills on soda during their busiest times. Waitresses would cry when they saw these guys come in. Taking up a table for all night when waitstaff make their living off of tips was just mean and cruel. They would stay until the place closed down.

      1. hayling

        Ugh. I think that’s where the phrase “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” comes in to play.

      2. Adam V

        That’s a management failure, though. When you see these guys come in and take advantage more than one, the waitresses should tell a manager, who needs to come over and say “I’m sorry, but you will need to order something right now – or you need to leave and never come back.”

        Yes, they might complain to people around them – but when I heard the story, I’d call them cheap (among other things).

    6. INTP

      One of mine was far less crafty, but it still worked. He would simply lament the fact that he had no money in his account and was so hungry loudly to the office every other Friday before our paychecks cleared. The next Monday, of course, he’d have tales of all his bar hopping and taking dates to nice restaurants. Everyone else excused it because he was “young” and spotted him (we were both 25, younger than the others but old enough to do the basic math necessary to see that just one drink fewer would leave enough money for Friday lunch).

  6. Mister Pickle

    Final thoughts: there’s at least of a bit of an upside to dealing with someone like this “borrower”: Getting burned for $100 or $200 by such a person is like an immunization. It’s easier to say “no” the next time someone tries to pull this kind of thing. I know it has worked like that with myself and with a few friends.

    (What kills me about this guy is that he takes the money and you still see him everyday. Usually you lend a person like this $100 and you never see them again!)

    1. Arjay

      Absolutely true. When I was much younger, I had a casual friend who had what I’ll generously call an entrepreneurial spirit. I loaned him about $300 for some project he was working on. A mutual friend mentioned to me that she thought I was crazy to do that. It’s not even like I trusted him especially; I just trusted everybody in general. (Oh, I was so much younger then!) Anyway, he kept promising to pay me back and kept delaying doing it. Then, before he paid me anything back, he asked to borrow more. And between my friend’s comments and some self-preservation instinct, I told him I couldn’t loan him anything more than I already had until he paid me back. Since he never paid me back, it never came up again. Sadly he died a couple of years later, still owing me the money. In retrospect, that was a fairly painless way to learn that lesson.

    2. Not So NewReader

      My friend routinely has tenants that do not pay the rent.
      Then he will see new furniture or a new car at their home.

      I don’t get it. I guess we are lucky if we are taught to pay our bills on time. And we are lucky again when we chose to live in a manner that we pay our bills on time. It’s a constant reminder to me not to take things for granted.

      1. not my real nickname

        Dave Ramsey’s thought of the day on facebook is “If you haven’t earned it, you don’t deserve it”.

      2. Adam V

        Put a lien on their home to get the rent money? If you’ve got tenants, it’s probably pretty cheap to talk to a lawyer and get him to send a nastygram saying “your money is due right the hell now, and if you have to sell your new car to pay for it, that’s your problem”. If not, then evict them and sue them for the money in small claims court.

        I don’t know why he’d put up with it when it’s his tenant and he’s got actual recourse. That’s the difference I see between him and the OP.

        1. Melissa

          It depends on where the landlord lives. In some localities, the laws are heavily skewed towards the tenant. I know in New York City it’s actually very difficult to evict tenants; it takes months and lots of money on the landlord’s part. My parents had subletters back in the ’80s who stopped paying their rent and they said it took them 6 months to evict them. If “do not pay the rent” really means that they pay it but it’s always late or in smaller increments or less than it’s supposed to be, then it actually might be cheaper for the landlord to deal with the bad tenants than it is for him to try to evict them and then get new, better tenants.

          But yeah, if they are not paying ANY rent at all, then even the process to evict them would be cheaper than letting them live there for free.

        2. Lynn Whitehat

          My husband is a landlord, and that’s what he does. We think these people are always thinking about who is the “softest touch”, and my husband doesn’t want it to be him.

  7. Eva

    An interesting consequence of so many “loans” unfortunately ending up as “gifts” in retrospect is that it can really make a positive impression when you are diligent about repaying a loan.

    Once I was leaving a party in the middle of the night with my SO and a friend. We were getting a cab and heading back to my place to crash. As we left, we came across an acquaintance who was also leaving and who lived in the same distant part of town. He was going to take a bus home, but I encouraged him to share our cab. Once we were on our way in the cab, it occurred to me that the overall ride would be cheaper if the three of us were dropped off at my place first before the cab proceeded to his place. I innocently explained this logic and asked if he would mind paying the total cost of the ride and then I would pay him back for our share. I was oblivious to his face falling as I said this (my SO noticed and informed me later). The next day I contacted him to ask for his bank account information so I could transfer the amount we owed him, and he replied with a bunch of happy smileys because he hadn’t expected to get reimbursed. Ever since then, whenever we met his face would light up into a big smile, and a year or so later he told a mutual acquaintance that I was an awesome person. I’m pretty sure the only thing I did to deserve these warm feelings was pay him back the money I had trapped him into being owed.

  8. HR Manager

    I missed the original thread, but was HR ever alerted to this? Sadly, we had this happen once at a previous company, and we ended up having to discipline and eventually terminate the employee. It was making the employees uncomfortable to be around him. I think his financial problems were real, but it was difficult for our employees to be constantly solicited while they were trying to get work done.

    1. Observer

      Well, it’s hard to know if there was an HR department, as the OP describes a fairly small organization. But someone had to know that there was a problem as he was taking advances against future paychecks.

  9. Adam V

    My now-brother-in-law once borrowed $800 from me when his wallet was stolen. Fortunately I was at a point where lending the money wasn’t a hardship for me, and at this point I considered it a four-years-early wedding present.

    But I only did it because he was “family” – if he had broken up with my sister-in-law at some point, I’ve told myself I would have gone back to him and said “by the way, remember that $800? I need that back now”.

    1. OhNo

      I’ve had similar thoughts when it comes to “lending” money to family – there are certain relatives *coughbrothercough* who I know will never pay me back for any money I lend them, but I sometimes do it anyway because they are family.

      That’s a really tricky one to get out of when you need to. Luckily, I can safely use the “sorry, I’m broke!” response whenever anyone asks me for money now, with no one the wiser.

      1. Judy

        My aunt and uncle lent money to my cousin to help with a move. My aunt was fussing to my mom about it. Mom said, just give $X to cousin’s sister for Christmas and be done with it. (It was enough to be noticeable, but not enough that they couldn’t have given sister the same amount.)

      2. Artemesia

        I had a friend with family that constantly mooched and she was having trouble saying no because she had the money. I suggested that she up her retirement deduction, and that she also set up an account to have most of her money direct deposited so that she only had enough on hand for her bills and needs for the month. That made it easier to say that she didn’t have any cash to spare. She COULD have gone to her bank account and withdrawn it, but it was not in a checking account and it was earmarked as her ’emergency fund.’ It just made it easier for her to say no. Another friend helps manage the money for herself and her husband this way. It it was lying in the checking account, he would impulse spend — but locking it up in retirement accounts and a harder to access savings account made it easier for him to refrain from spending every cent that came in every week.

  10. Blue Dog

    The Blue Dog is turning 50 in a month and I have been religious about NOT lending money to anyone. However, I finally got burned. A friend had a 4-week-old baby (my godson) and was waiting on a consulting contract to be finalized in two weeks. A new landlord bought his rental and gave him 30 days notice and then started stalking them. Cops were called multiple times. He said needed $3000 to help pay for first and last month’s rent, which would be paid back in just two weeks when the contract came through.

    I have received $1300 back and it was like pulling teeth. Oh yeah, we just got an invite to baby’s first birthday party.

    Morale of the Story: If you think your situation is different, it isn’t. People suck. Even your best friends.

  11. Observer

    What really blows me away with this story is that the guy was taking advances against future paychecks. I imagine they figured that he wouldn’t be in a position to not pay back, since they would just take it out of his check, but still! And, I think that deducting loan repayments from a paycheck might be legally tricky, to the best of my knowledge.

    1. sstabeler

      actually, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. If you have a written loan agreement- or can PROVE a verbal agreement- stating that the money owed can be deducted from the paycheck at a rate of $x per paycheck it’s legal. Same for if you sue him, then get an order to garnish his paycheck. What you can’t do is go to whoever does the payroll, and tell them to deduct X amount from an employee’s paycheck without either that employee’s permission, or a court order.

  12. Maggie

    Had a colleague who would always ‘borrow’ money from staff. He would only pay back those he deemed important enough to do so, i.e. pay back his director, not pay back an admin. He left the country with a pile of debts behind him and is now probably leeching off people in some other country. One of a few sociopaths I’ve had the misfortune to work with.

  13. snuck

    I’ve had people over the years ask for money. Most have paid me back, I generally have only lent what I could afford to lose, and then only to people who I genuinely thought we repay it.

    The icing on the cake guy was the one who showed up to my birthday dinner (a large group of friends in a restaurant, it was a semi regular thing with this group, and a ‘buy your own meal and eat or share as you please’ where I’d buy the general rice and dessert and such, but people would order their own mains curry/meal and pay for that themselves). He hit me up outside for $20 to buy his own dinner at my birthday dinner. In front of friends. It was awkward (he wasn’t someone who was a close friend either! Just hopped onto the group invite really). I lent it to him and he avoided me for over a year before one day showing back up on the social scene I was in suddenly. It was weird. He asked several more times and was politely declined each time. Sometimes I wonder if he forgot about the $20

  14. sparkwoodand21

    Counter opinion to #1: I sometimes Google phone numbers when I know the person’s number but not much is coming up on Google for their name. Or when all I know is the number and I’m trying to figure out to whom it belongs (i.e. when I miss a phone call from an unfamiliar number). But maybe I’m just weird and creepy. (I’m also not a hiring manager, and can’t really see someone who is one doing that in a professional context.)

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