Dear Annie: My uncle has a reputation for being extremely cheap, but he did something recently that has left me fuming.
He called my husband and asked to borrow a pair of acetylene tanks, which are used for welding projects, after he found out we had them in our garage. These tanks belong to my dad, but they have been stored at our house while not in use for a few years. The tanks include a torch, gauges, hoses and other accessories.
When my uncle asked to borrow the tanks, he was very cordial and polite. My husband graciously agreed to let him borrow them and told him to return them when he is finished with his project. About six weeks after he loaned them, my husband reached out to ask that they be returned for a project we would be working on. My uncle responded: “If you want to pick them up, you need to pay me $179 for the gas I needed to fill them up with in order to use them. I have an invoice for you.”
This is infuriating. First of all, he came to our house to borrow them; he needs to return them to us. We shouldn’t have to come to him to get them back. Secondly, and more importantly, we should not have to pay him money to get our belongings back — belongings that he borrowed for free! After some back and forth texting, my uncle said that he needed to exchange the tanks before filling them, which also cost him more money.
My husband made it clear that we had no intention of reimbursing him for the gas he refilled; he can return them empty to us. My husband also told him that he did not have our permission to exchange our tanks anyway. Then, my husband asked when he can expect to have the tanks returned, and my uncle said it could take up to a year for him to use up the gas.
My husband reminded him that we let him borrow the tanks for a short-term project he needed. “I’m not going to wait a year to get my belongings back, and I’m also not going to pay you to get them back.”
My uncle hasn’t told us when he plans on returning them, and we now need them.
This uncle is the pettiest person we’ve ever met, and we don’t care about maintaining any relationship with him. He is a careless, selfish human being. We just want our tanks back! Please suggest how to go about this. — Dealing with a Petty Uncle
Dear Dealing: You could take him to small claims court, and you’d have a good chance of winning. I would consider that option seriously. At the same time, don’t let his pettiness and cruelty drag you down.
Without question, you are right, and he is wrong. You should not have to drive to get them back and pay him money, but if you really want the tanks back, that might be the fastest way to retrieve them. He sounds like a very unhappy person, and when dealing with that type of person, the best way forward is to have compassion for them and focus on your own happiness. But never lend him anything again. Period.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]