I Don’t Want to Be Your Client. I Don’t Want to Be Your Lender. I Want to Be Your Friend.

Share Button

Let me make it simple.

I do not like mixing financial relationships with friendships.

I do not want to be friends with the person that is selling me a product. I do not want to be friends with my banker. At the same time, I don’t want my friends to be selling me products or asking me for loans. Please, do not put me in a position where I feel obligated to lend money from you or buy something from you because of our friendship, because that question alone adds some poison to that relationship.

Let’s look at it from another angle.

When I go to the bank, I’m not looking for a friend. I’m looking for a business relationship. I’m probably depositing some money or making a withdrawal. I might be taking out a loan. In any case, I’m only in the bank as a necessary step in getting to where I want to be. I don’t want to have to pay them interest and I would love to be able to earn more interest on my savings. If I have an opportunity to jump ship to a better situation, I’ll probably do that. It’s not friendship, it’s business.

When I go to buy something and a salesman approaches me, I know that the person is going to try to sell me a product. That person might be a source of some useful information, but I also know that they’re earning money for the sole purpose of extracting cash from my pocket. Again, it’s not friendship, it’s business.

On the other hand, when I hang out with friends, I’m not looking for a business transaction. I’m looking to spend time with people I trust and value who I can talk to freely about my situation without worrying whether they’re going to sell me something or they’re going to want something from me. Here, it’s not business, it’s friendship.

Every time that line is crossed and I have a friend who wants to sell me a product or wants to borrow some money from me, the dynamic of our relationship changes.

There is an expectation that money will change hands in the future. A salesman expects that you’ll buy a product from them and pay for it. A borrower knows that he or she will have to repay you in the future. A lender knows that you’ll have to repay him in the future.

You can no longer easily talk about things you’ve purchased or other money moves around this person because they’ll wonder, “Why didn’t you buy from me?” or “Why didn’t you pay me back?” or “Why didn’t you lend me as much as I asked for?”

You (and/or the other person) will suddenly feel obligated to make a financial commitment to that other person, one that might not be easy for you to do in the state of your own life. That’s not a situation that results in positive feelings.

Even worse: what if you can’t come through on your end of the arrangement? Are you going to tell your friend, “Well, I’m not going to buy from you like I said I would” or “Guess what? I’m defaulting on that $100 you owed me”?

Because of all of these factors, I make it clear to my friends that I won’t borrow money from them, won’t lend money to them, won’t sell to them, and won’t buy stuff from them. Mixing a financial relationship and a friendship is simply something I do not want to do.

If you feel the same way I do, don’t be afraid. Go out there right now to Facebook or Twitter (or whatever you use to talk to your immediate social circle) and simply add the title of this article as a status update.

I don’t want to be your client. I don’t want to be your lender. I want to be your friend.

If they want to know more, refer them to this article. Or, better yet, spell out the ideas above in your own words.

Share Button
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

32 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Be Your Client. I Don’t Want to Be Your Lender. I Want to Be Your Friend.

  1. When my husband and I got married 20 years ago we decided together that we would never try to sell anything to friends and relatives. We carried through with that plan even with our kids and the numerous fundraisers they are expected to participate in. We thought we would be “leading by example” and others would catch on. Fail. We were and still are constantly bombarded by offers of wrapping paper, magazines, holiday wreaths, buy-an-ad, cookies, etc, etc, etc. At least we can hold our heads high knowing that we never made anyone feel like they needed to buy from us in order to keep the relationship going.

  2. Hooray Trent! Thank you for saying what needs to be said. The ONLY exception I will make to the rule is buying Girl Scout Cookies from your kid. Other than that, no business if we are friends!

    (Is that an exception that many people make?)

  3. I agree about buying (ie: fundraisers – for coworkers kids – AGAIN, etc) and selling to friends (ie: tupperware parties, etc). It gets old after a while – though on a limited basis those parties can be fun.

    But Trent, I like buying from people I know and trust. I LIKE knowing and being friends with the owner of a local consignment or thrift shop. I LIKE knowing that they know me and will keep their eyes open for specific items for me. I LIKE being friends with my primary care physician. I LIKE knowing that they KNOW me and care about how I am.

    I like knowing and being friends with a used car dealership owner. I like knowing I can tell him ‘I am looking for this model vehicle with these features and I can spend X amount’ and knowing he will look for that vehicle for me. I like knowing and trusting the person that fixes my car (selling me a service) or the plumber or electrician I use.

    I like knowing that I can ask these people for their advice or a referral and that I can trust the opinion they give me. I like knowing that it isnt just ‘all about money’ and that I can trust the advice they give me.

    I like knowing my banker/teller/loan manager. I like knowing I can call with a question or a problem with my account and knowing they will make a little more effort because they know and like me and my family.

    I personally think that developing and having these relationships is what it is all about. You meet people at church, through friends, on your own. I would much rather use the services of someone I like and trust and have a friendly relationship with than someone I only know through ‘business’.

  4. I think that if you can compartmentalize, it’s not as terrible a thing to mix friends and business. We lent a friend money and then he had difficulty paying us back, and we managed to stay fine friends through the whole thing. He eventually paid us back and still friends… If I hadn’t known that we could make it through that, though, I wouldn’t have loaned him the money.

  5. @ #4 Trish
    I think there is something to be said for familiarity with people you frequently do business with. But at the same time, you shouldn’t feel obligated to be friends either. Overly personal business people, especially sales people, make me feel uncomfortable. (I’m trying to buy a sofa, I’m not looking for a godparent for my child.) I don’t like being pressured to buy things from friends either, but if I need goods or services and I know someone in the industry who does good work, I’d rather throw my business their way. But at the same time, I expect the same professional attitude and I expect to pay the same fee as everyone else. It’s never worth abusing a friendship to get a discount. We had a friend serve as realtor and while I wouldn’t do it again, it did end OK. On the flip side, we’ve known our financial planner for years, my husband used for work for him. We have a casual friendship separately from business. We don’t talk about business unless we are in his office and we’ve never had a problem, but he is also a man of impeccable quality and integrity. I think I’d rather do business with someone I know and trust than pick someone at random just to avoid personal conflict. Y

  6. Re:#4 I don’t think that being on good terms with the various business people in your life is really being “friends”. It’s being friendly without being friends in the normal sense of the word. These business pwoplw are interested in you and your well being but do you actually socialize with them? If you purchased your next car from some other dealer would they still be your friend?

  7. In theory, I totally agree with Trent’s position on this. In reality, because there are, quite frankly, different “degrees” of friendship (for lack of better way to describe), there are times when a loan (which could, if not be paid back, be considered a gift) have been made. And vice versa.

    I think it is important, when feasible, to develop professional relationships (NOT friendships) with people where you and the other party are known to each other and have a positive history of “interactions” in business. In fact, without those relationships, many people will NOT purchase a product, hire someone, etc.

    The tough part comes when close friends have kids, for example, whose schools are, it seems, always having them sell stuff. Same thing at work. There are co-workers (hopefully, not managers or bosses who should NEVER but NEVER ask anyone under them to buy anything)who are selling stuff for themselves or their kids.

    If we would buy the stuff normally and we think the price is fair, we do purchase on occasion. But I have personally witnessed the end of otherwise close relationships because one party refused, all the time, to purchase, say even girl scout cookies. Now, some could say that is not much of a friendship, but when some people buy three coffees a day at $3 a pop, you can see why someone questions why you can’t spend $4 every now and then to buy cookies.

    It’s a tough call and it really depends on your situation. Those who have no kids and who are never soliciting themselves can get away with it. But once you have kids, and you/your kids are out there selling…well, things are considered different.

    As for buying from those with whom you have developed a professional relationship, you still have to focus on the business. Sometimes somebody you like does not have as good a deal as someone you don’t know. But sometimes, when there is just a bit of difference in cost, I’d rather give the business to someone I know and have a relationship with. (It’s a bit like shopping at local mom/pop stores versus big chains. Very very awkward in a small community where people DO know each other to stop shopping, for money-saving reasons, and still see these folks.

    Of course, the great big irony in all of this, given today’s social media overkill, is that tons of companies are marketing as our “friends” and millions of people ARE buying based on social media “friending.” (In fact, one of the single most annoying things today is companies who are now only offering deals, promotions, etc. IF you friend them on facebook. Talk about it all being about their business. They want to be able to claim so many people like them, but it’s just nonsense. We use a fake name and information to get the deal so as not to miss out. If we could afford to pass up the deals, we’d be thrilled to NEVER do business again with ANY company that only offers deals via facebook or similar situations.

    It’s interesting to read this article when you consider all the faux friending (as I refer to it) online these days, much of it being about getting you to do/buy something but pretending otherwise.

    In real life, I actually respect those who are up front about wanting to do business. If they respect my intelligence, and don’t pressure, I’ll seriously consider their offer without rejecting it outright.

    There’s nothing wrong with selling stuff. Just don’t have the expectation of Yes, whether from a friend or stranger. I think most people wouldn’t mind being approached if friends, co-workers did not take it personally when you say No. and then did not hold it against you (as many do, without acknowledging it)

    Freedom and choice have to be the bedrocks of friendship. Not obligation. Family. Oh, boy that’s another story entirely when it comes to selling stuff.

    Do you say No to family members, too Trent?

  8. I don’t buy products kids try to sell as fund raisers, but I do, from time to time, make a monetary donation instead. That way ALL the money goes to to cause.

  9. This is a timely topic, as I am involved in some non-profit organizations and on a board where there is some expected fundraising. I just got done hitting up people to buy tickets for a lunch/fundraiser. Now, I’ll be trying to raise money for a different group I’m involved with. This is my least favorite aspect of being involved in non-profits that I believe in. I guess how I handle it is I send emails to folks I think might be interested, and ask if they are interested in buying a ticket or giving money. I don’t call (putting them on the spot), and I don’t make them feel like they have to give money because we’re friends. And I don’t hit up the same people for each organization.

  10. On the whole I agree but with a few exceptions. I don’t prefer to mix business and pleasure either, but I remember being a student and the amount of pressure there was to sell stuff to everyone our parents knew.

    People in our office will generally make it known that their child is selling cookies or whatever and leave it at that. I have friends I know who sell Avon, candles, tupperware, and pretty much anything else you could imagine but most of them don’t do anything other than making the fact known. When people ask directly I politely say I’m not interested and I don’t do parties and leave it at that.

    What DOES annoy me is acquaintances who contact me out of the blue when we haven’t spoken in a year to tell me they’ve just started selling whatever.

    The one exception that I make is friends who are raising money for a specific cause. Those friends I will sometimes help privately if I agree with their cause. I had a friend raising money for a wheelchair van for her daughter, and another friend raising money for an adoption. I prefer to purchase something (car wash, bracelet, etc) or contribute to a paypal account in those cases so I’m not handing a friend a check.

  11. The exceptions I make as far as buying, other than friends who are also store owners, are a few of my friends who are talented crafts people. But none of them have ever pressured me to buy.

    I don’t buy from someone just because they randomly (or regularly) show up with a catalog or brochure, unless they are selling something I would buy anyway.

    In our small town, all the school fundraiers never made much sense to me, as it means all the parents are buying from each other. I’m with #9 – even when our kids were expected to sell (which they hated too), I would figure the amount of profit their quota was expected to raise, & then just donate cash in at least that amount.

    The parents at one newly opened school our kids attended voted no fundraising by kids. The PTO would request at the beginning of each year that parents donate toward events & give a suggested but not required amount per child. We usually collected more than we needed because everyone was so grateful not to have to sell.

  12. Twitter/Facebook suggestion is a little passive-aggressive, no? Are so many of your friends trying to pimp time-shares and Amway products to you, or hit you up for a casual loan? Or at least any for whom a personal conversation about your position would not be the most (only?!) appropriate response?

    I have many friends who are in business; sometimes if they’re selling the products I want, I’ll buy from them, if they’re not, I’ll go elsewhere. It has quite honestly never been an issue. And if someone sucked up their dignity and came to me to ask for a loan, I would assume they were in a fairly desperate situation and would consider the request with the compassion it required.

    On the whole, I don’t ‘lend’; I donate an amount that I am okay to never see again, and if they repay me, so much the better.

  13. Trent provides a solid rule of thumb, and I couldn’t agree more with his advice about lending. However, one should always consider the circumstances regarding buying goods or services. Being able to respect boundaries is important, too. For instance, I’ve become friends with the woman who owns the local yarn shop. I recognize that the shop is her livelihood and would never pressure her for a special deal when I buy yarn. Similarly, she is happy to sell me yarn (and patterns, notions, etc.), but would never pressure me into buying anything. Another friend’s husband sells the same make of vehicle (new and used) that I’m likely to buy when I’m ready to replace my current car. I’ll gladly speak with him when I’m ready to start shopping.

    Of course things can go wrong. My BIL & SIL begged my husband to sell them his used all wheel drive car when he was ready to replace it over five years ago and they needed something more reliable than what they had at the time. They have not maintained the car well and now it’s really starting to show its age. After more than five years, *now* they call us to complain about every maintenance issue, as though we sold them a lemon even though the car is 15 years old and had been trouble-free until recently….

  14. I could never make sense of Shakespearean English :-), but the following quote from Hamlet, I always remember.It pretty much sums up what Trent has said above.

    “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry”

  15. Define Friends. Trent you need more social interaction your getting grumpy. True friends understand the situation you are in. If my brother needs a hot water heater replaced and he needs my help do i give it? yep. Does it mean I expect him to help me rebuild my roof. No. It would be nice but I don’t expect it. what is money? a note exchanged for effort what does it matter that it was “earned at a job” or replacing his water heater its the same effort on my part just at different locations. You should never have “bad feelings” at saying no to something you don’t want to do so what does it matter if people ask you to buy stuff or loan them money. If it’s their reactions and actions that you are worried about then its on them. Your internalizing control over other people which doesn’t exist. You’ve got your “no lending policy” but what if it means the difference between life or death. A “friend of yours” kills himself cause he can’t make his mortgage but you would have helped him had you known. Well he won’t ask cause he knows your “no lending policy” You’d rather have him dead than ask you for a loan.. really??? Overly dramatic but not being open to the world really diminishes the world as a whole. I know you’ve worked really hard to get where you are Trent but come on. Everyone needs someone at somepoint and its the hand that helps that makes it a better world.

  16. Everyone needs to conduct themselves however they’re most comfortable. But virtually every friend I have is a craftsperson/small business owner, as am I, and we purchase from each other all the time. Maybe we manage to avoid all the drama Trent is concerned about because we’re all in the same position, operating from the same perspective. None of my friends have ever been pushy with me to buy something, nor do I push my wares on them. We purchase from each other when we like or need something and we go to each other rather than buy mass-market, cheap commercial crap as an ethical and supportive choice. This has been going on for years without an issue.

  17. My office (9 men 1 woman) has a strict policy of no celebrations of any kind and no selling of anything and I love it!

    My wife’s work (7 women 1 man) celebrate everything and buy everything from each other, cookies, candles, sex toys and still have a great relationship.

  18. Thank you for articulating the bounds of these relationships. I completely agree. I think you can have a professional ‘friendship’ based on trust and good service, but that’s not the same as a regular friendship based on mutual interests or personal history. Likewise, I feel very uncomfortable when friends use our relationship as a personal platform to sell to me. Therefore, I like other readers do not ‘sell’ to friends, and I keep my professional relationships clean from the personal.

  19. Most charitable organizations, such as Team in Training, Joints in Motion and Race for the Cure, actively encourage and even train their members to hit up friends and relatives for donations. Just because it’s for charity makes it no less intrusive and annoying.

  20. Personally, I would much rather loan money to someone whom I knew needed it knowing that I probably would never get the money returned than give the money to a charity (in order to get a tax deduction). I do however consider the fact that it may turn out to be a gift. That way, I never feel annoyed or angry if the money is not repaid. In my extended family, we loan money to each other; sometimes it is paid back, sometimes it isn’t. We also help each other in many other ways. I have a DIL who has been very active in avoiding our family (altho, we always invited her to each family gathering) we still all came together to help her when she was needing someone to stay with her in the hospital, take her places and etc. Charity begins at home is our motto.

  21. This is a great topic, and a very complex one. I like all of the responses here. I have had very good experiences trying out a friend’s business, and very bad experiences. The problem is that no one can truly speak for another person’s character.

    I recommended a good friend who was a contractor to another good friend who wanted to have some remodeling done on his house. The contractor had done great work for me, so I introduced them. Well, half way through my other friend’s very complex remodeling job the contractor declared bankruptcy and my friend ended up losing $20,000 in the process. The contractor friend lost his business.

    I ended up losing both friends because there were just too many hard feelings all around to overcome. I was mortified. How I wish I hadn’t put myself in the middle of that business transaction, even though it wasn’t my fault and I made the recommendation in good faith.

  22. I stepped into a virtual “cow pattie” last year when the coach’s wife of my daughter’s soccer team asked if she could put some of my business cards on display at her personal training studio. In return, I took some of her business cards and promised to hand them out to prospective clients I could refer in her direction.

    First of all, the clients I have wouldn’t come to me about personal training, my business has nothing to do with that. And, no one would come looking for my services at her studio, but I did it basically just to get her to stop asking about it.

    To try to make a really long story shorter, I quickly realized that she belongs to a network of people who strongly believe in the “tit for tat” way of life. Something I’m not used to doing, not the way they do it anyway. Let me just outline quickly how it all ended up working:

    Coach’s wife hired me for an assignment that earned me $90. A few months later she approached me and said that even though I hadn’t said how much business she had generated for me, she felt that in return, I should sign up for a year’s worth of personal training from her – to the tune of $800.

    An accountant client of hers said she wanted to hire me. Trying to pin this woman down for an appointment, just to meet, was nearly impossible. I later found out that the woman didn’t really want to do business with me unless I hired her FIRST to do my taxes for me (I do my own).

    A lawyer client of hers hired me and I earned $90. But, somehow there were some ill feelings after the assignment because I hadn’t called the woman to draw up will papers at her office (she’s a probate lawyer). I was told that if I wanted to continue working for the lawyer, I had to let her “handle” my estate matters.

    A judge’s wife client of hers hired me and I earned $20. Even though the woman had said she wanted to hire me on a regular basis to work with her, she hasn’t called me since. Why? Well, first of all, I was supposed to rent office space from her (one of her many ventures, but I don’t need office space), I was supposed to support her adult daughter’s business by going to get a “make over” at the price of $450 (to give me advice on how to improve myself, it’s a consultation thing). And, when she had paid me the measly $20, she invited me to lunch, and I had declined. I didn’t know I was supposed to go to lunch and immediately blow it on a lunch for a price I could feed my whole family for.

    So, I managed to earn $200 from these referrals. But in reality, I was actually supposed to be spending a whole lot of money. I didn’t quite get that at first, but now I do.

    If my suspicions are true, then this woman’s “successful” business is really an elaborate bartering system. She is a client of each of her client’s. They keep each other afloat by “buying” services from each other. It works, if what you give is equitable to what you get. In my case, I would have been out a lot of money to earn very little. I couldn’t possibly offer equivalent service for service trade with these people. I got out of the mess by stopping by her studio, with a homemade fruit basket (she didn’t know!) and retrieving the remaining business cards I had there. My current and new clients hire me for a job, they pay me, and I go on my merry way. It works well that way.

  23. I want to be your friend/brother/sister/parent, etc.
    First – my now X borrowed ALL the time from his grandfather and parents – often w/out clearing it with me (we are talking grad school tuition, car payments, etc) and then felt obligated to do any favor they asked. Did it change our relationship to them? yep. Did it change my relationship to my X? yep (borrowing and putting obligations on me without my permission?).
    With family – give it as a gift or if you must, an early inheritance but never loans. The obligation or unspoken debt remains.
    Second, my brother-in-law – a pediatrician, would never treat family – if something goes wrong, family relations are affected and there are lots of good doctors out there he said. Wise words that work for doing biz with close ones.
    Third, I am in Real Estate and recently a niece asked for help on pricing her home and prepping it. I gave it gladly. I will offer her my services at 50% discount but also offer her a referral to someone else AND help in doing FISBO is she wants. Tough call and while I need the come in this market, I don’t want to be in a position of disappointing family either. Service oriented biz is different than a goods/real cost biz model for this. I would be happy to help an happier if she takes the referral option.
    Fourth, I never ever buy from those friends who have parties, etc. I just don’t. Ever. Don’t ask.
    If the product is good, it will sell on its own and if I only buy coz you are selling? I will resent it.
    As for the comment of someone in suicidal mode – I would hope any of us humans, friend or not, would assist someone in that position with dignity but that is not the same as a loan at all. Someone there is in a deeper crisis and needs far more than money – he needs to know he is not alone.

  24. To me, this post seems too strict. For me, if a coworker is selling something for their son’s school, I will look over the flyer and rarely buy anything. As long as they don’t pressure me, I feel no illwill over them asking. But don’t pressure me and if I tell you my son’s school is selling xyz, please, please, do not fill obligated. If it is junk you don’t want/don’t need, don’t buy it. I wouldn’t buy it from you. But if it is something you need/can use and the price is decent, go for it. I would do the same.

    Do I loan money to a friend? Only when it is for a good cause, and only if they don’t already owe me money. IE once I loan them money, and they don’t pay me back, then I don’t loan them anymore. Do I hold a grudge that they haven’t paid me back? No. At least, I try not to and rarely do. Recently I bought someone something they could not afford to buy, but really needed, with the understanding that the beginning of April, he pays me back. IF he does, great. If he doesn’t, then he is never getting a loan from me, until it is paid. In the past, he has tended to pay me back, slowly, but he has.

  25. I think Trent’s article is about not entering into a true business relationship with friends, not just buying things from their kids.

    You can decide if you want to spend $100 a year buying stuff from friends and coworkers kids, but that is not the business relationship he is talking about.

  26. You never buy from friends. Think about that for a minute. You would rather give your money to someone u don’t know and or care about than to support a friend or family member. Uh… Glad you aren’t a friend or part of my family. What is wrong with people today. We are not corporations we are people. We belong to the same human race. People used to help eachother build their homes plow their fields care for their sick without question. If some one is holding your son for ransom does the money really matter. how much of a price tag do you people put on your family and friends. obviously not much, you care more about the cash than helping out the people you love. huh? I just don’t uderstand it. Its a bunch of little pieces of paper. vs a real live human being. I don’t disagree with saying no if you don’t have it. But just saying don’t even ask cause your putting a burden on me?? Sounds like greedy people trying to justify their selfishness. What about a Dr that won’t treat a family member. I understand hospitals having rules trying to avoid conflicts of interests but for a DR to say go find someone else either he knows he’s incompetent or he knows his family would sue him if anything happened. meaning he knows his family cares more about the cash than him. Not trusting to the fact that he would do everything he could to save a life. Imagine that in-law dr driving by the side of the road and finds a car accident. he sees a body on the ground blood streaming from it starts to go help and realizes it’s his sister-in law. Does he stop and go “alright!” its a family member I don’t treat them and gets in his car and drives away. He’d get ripped for doing that. I can’t think of any DR I’ve ever met that would walk away from that scene. But if its just a stomach ache or cut they won’t treat em. Doesn’t make any sense to me. You either love your family or you don’t. IF cash is more important then do you really love your family and friends? The ties that bind us had better be stronger than cash or we are all up the creek without a paddle.

  27. Wow – I’m an Avon lady and I DON’T push stuff on my friends. I am also friends enough with my hairdresser to attend parties at her house AND refer business to her (she runs her own shop). As I begin this year as a RE Agent (new career), she has told me to go right ahead and bring my business cards to her shop ! My husband’s family has owned a successful business for 30 years – they have “client/friends” – my husband belongs to a bicycling club and rides with them all summer. I do not have kids but, when able, ALWAYS say yes to buying gift wrap, raffle tickets, etc, to help a school. All of this, for me, is just second nature “business karma”. I have never felt pressured or pushed by any of these folks, and in turn, I do not push either. To lump borrowing $ in – not even sure that’s appropriate. My FIL had to loan a small amount to DH’s aunt & uncle once – they are wonderful people, were ashamed to ask for help – point being we know them so well that there was no hesitation whatsoever. Trent – if you were my neighbor and handed me biz cards, and that biz could help my customers, I’d be glad to give you a reference !

  28. Wow.

    This is the most manipulative and ugly way I’ve seen to try to get social media traffic YET. Why can’t you try to convince people to link a *positive* post?

  29. Your presentation advice link didn’t come through in the email I got. Can you post it again? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>