Archive for the ‘Dear Shabby’ Category

Matt Foley[Dear Shabby is an advice periodical dedicated to unraveling the deeper issues in life.  While the situations may not necessarily be real, the psycho-babble is.]



Dear Shabby,

I recently went to lunch with my mother- and two sisters-in-law to celebrate the birthday of one of the sisters-in-law.  The lunch was great, although a little pricey for just a sandwich, and the company was fun as well.  We each paid for our spearate meals (mine cost $8) on top of which I gave a $2 tip.  However, when I later saw the cost of the meal appear on my credit card statement, I noticed that I was charged an additional $2 for a total tip of $4, or 50%.  Although I don’t necessarily want to raise a fuss, I do want to call the restaurant to get back my $2.  What should I do?

Sincerely, Paper boy from “Better Off Dead”


Dear Paper boy from “Better Off Dead,”

While I agree that it is annoying to be charged more than you had originally paid for anything, I think that unless you are Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David, you need to pause and take a step back to look at the bigger picture in this particular situation.  There are times when it’s appropriate to seek recourse for something such as an overcharge, but in a case like this, you may want to rethink the $2 and just let it go.  However, if it had been $3, I might suggest that a phone call to the restaurant is in order.

As Always, Shabby


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Matt Foley

[Dear Shabby is an advice periodical dedicated to understanding the deeper issues in life.  While the situations may not necessarily be real, the psycho-babble is.]



Dear Shabby,

Have you ever seen the movie “Office Space?”  Similarly, I too have several bosses who don’t communicate among themselves and, consequently, feel the need to each talk with me about “forgetting to put the cover sheet on all TPS Reports.”  Obviously, it can be very confusing when one boss says one thing while the other(s) contradict(s) him.  Moreover, it’s disconcerting, to say the least, when one boss tells me that I’m not working hard enough and I need to start coming in on Fridays rather than working from home, while another boss mentions that I need to start taking time off to use up my overtime (true story).  Frankly, I don’t have much confidence in their managing abilities and am disheartened that it seems like no one has any trust in me to manage myself or my time. 

When I first began working for the company five years ago, because of the organizational structure, I had one boss.  But with the new structure that was devised and implemented by an outside consultant about a year ago, veiled chaos has ensued.  To put it bluntly, I’m not quite sure what I have done since I began working there to make them think I need a babysitter.  I am self-motivated and always one of the highest billable employees with a good client track record, but sometimes logic seems to escape their thinking and they fall back on what the consultant said rather than what logic would dictate.  I’m not thinking about leaving and don’t believe that a career change would be a wise move for me or my family, but I would like to improve the situation.  What would you do?

Sincerely, Mismanaged


Dear Mismanaged,

I have a sneaking suspicion that you, like most people, are not apt to change.  But don’t worry.  Millions of others also become comfortable with their own life, whether it’s ideal or could use a makeover, and become resistant to change.  However, while reticence isn’t necessarily a negative, it only increases as you get older.

Regardless, it’s important that your boss(es) know how you feel.  In my experience, miscommunication is far more damaging than mismanagement, misperception, or misunderstandings.  An open and honest line of communication can clear up these other “miss-es” easily if both parties are willing to look at the situation as objectively as possible. 

Unfortunately, objectivity is certainly easier said than done when regarding our own lives.  Because you must represent yourself in this situation, gather your facts to cover your argument.  The things you mentioned—self-motivated, highly billable—are excellent arguing points that can gain you advances within your company.  But be prepared for good counterpoints as well and be willing to accept them even if you might not necessarily see the logic in them.  You don’t have to be a “yes” man, but just don’t be confrontational.  Afterall, a conflict avoided is a conflict won.  Moreover, it’s also good to retain a job, especially in this economy.

As always, Shabby

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Dear Shabby—Simple Honesty

Matt Foley[Dear Shabby is an advice periodical dedicated to explaining the deeper issues in life.  While the situations may not necessarily be real, the psycho-babble is.]



Dear Shabby,

I am a long-time caterer with lots of experience.  Throughout my career, I have spent a great deal of my time and effort above and beyond what was requested without asking to be additionally compensated.  Gratuities are commonplace in the food-service industry; however, they are generally smaller than the supplemental time invested in the event.  I’m not complaining, I’m just commenting.

I recently had a gig at a local university where the service rendered was high quality as usual.  After the event, the university gave me a very generous gratuity of $29,000.  While this was a substantial amount, I thought that all my endeavors had finally paid off and I gratefully accepted the large tip.  Upon not hearing back from the school after trying to call three times, I spent the money on a much-needed car and some bills.

The university is now suing me to return the money, claiming that it was a clerical error and the gratuity should have been for $29.  Because they are ones who made the mistake, shouldn’t I be entitled to keep the money?

P.S.  If this lawsuit results in a negative judgment, I may need future catering events to pay off the debt.  I would be happy to service your next Shabby event.

Sincerely, Tipped Off in South Bend


Dear Tipped Off in South Bend,

This is a very intriguing situation and poses questions on various levels.  While on the surface it looks like you should not necessarily be held responsible for someone else’s mistake, I think we need to look closer at the circumstances that led to the result to see it more clearly.

First, you mentioned that you have spent your own time and effort “above and beyond what was requested” in order to provide the service and fulfill your contractual obligation.  I refer to this type of fact as “fluff” that doesn’t really attribute much to the end result other than clouding up the important facts.

Second, you claim that the $29,000 was “substantial” and, with your vast experience, you would probably know that better than anyone, including the school.  Third, you claim that you unsuccessfully tried to contact the school three times to notify them of the unusual amount.  And fourth, upon not hearing back from the university, you spent the money on personal things.

I agree that generally no one should have to pay for the someone else’s error, this wasn’t really just a mistake.  However, when you look right at the issue, you took that which was not rightfully yours, which I believe, in other words, is called stealing. 

Even though you tried to call the school, which was the right thing to do, you concluded that a phone call was sufficient and decided that you would not only keep the money but spend it, which was the wrong thing to do.  When someone makes as an egregious error as giving you roughly 1,000 times more than what was considered normal, you should have walked over the to university, knocked on the door, and even if they didn’t answer, you should have left the check on the doormat with a note stating “I think you made a mistake.”

This reminds me of a parallel dilemma I was once faced with.  I had signed up for cable but hadn’t been receiving any bills for it.  I didn’t realize the cable company’s oversight until several months later but just assumed that it was part of their limited-time promotion (e.g. no payments for 1,000 months).  However, I eventually received a bill for not only the current month’s cable service but also the prior months’.  I was a little chagrined and felt much like you did “Why should I have to pay for someone else’s mistake.”  But once it dawned on me that I had been unfairly receiving free cable and that I actually did owe them for those months, I willingly paid the invoice in full.

I admit that I am not perfect and should have called the cable company at least once.  However, I believe that although we are not always liable for others’ clerical mistakes, we were both wrong and should be accountable for our judgmental mistakes.  Even though we can dillude the facts with random “fluff,” I think it all boils down to simple honesty.

As Always, Shabby

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Matt Foley[Dear Shabby is an advice periodical dedicated to exploring the deeper issues in life.  While the situations may not necessarily be real, the psycho-babble is.]




Dear Shabby,

I recently turned down an opportunity that may or may not have strengthened my self-confidence and possible outlook on life.  Because I have often thought about but never actually turned down a like-opportunity before, I sweated throughout the process.  However, afterwards I felt an immense sense of relief rather than the guilt I was anticipating.  What could this be attributed to?

Sincerely, Opportunity Gone


Dear Opportunity Gone,

Without getting too psycho-analytical, the word “opportunity” can be interpreted many different ways.  While an optimist may look at a situation as an “opportunity” as you described it, a pessimist would in fact view the situation entirely different and would probably describe it as an “inconvenience.”   The fact that you labeled it an “opportunity” and that you were anticipating guilt after turning it down tells me that you are generally a glass-is-half-full kind of person.

Because I also believe that I am an optimist, I will also continue to label it as an opportunity.  However, it should be understood that every opportunity, whether taken or not, is met with good or bad consequences.  We often attribute the good consequences as an “opportunity of a lifetime” and the bad consequences as an “opportunity missed.” 

While not every opportunity must be accepted just because it is presented to us, we must each individually consider our options before making a choice.  As the great Yogi Berra once said, “When I come to a fork in the road, I take it.”  Perhaps we will feel guilty if we don’t take the opportuinity, and therefore we should take it just to maintain our sanity.  Or perhaps we are not prepared for the challenge and accepting the opportunity might lead to failure and a possible negative outcome for others as well.

In any case, hesitation is not necessarily a bad thing.  Oftentimes the biggest challenge we incur when faced with an opportunity is not allowing it to breathe.  A quick answer can be more suffocating than a wrong decision.  No matter the direction taken, not properly weighing the consequences can blur our judgment.

As for the relief you felt afterwards, it’s difficult for me to answer the reasoning behind it other than stating that you are the best judge of yourself.  And if you felt that this opportunity was not worth taking for whatever reason, then you are probably correct that it was not.

As Always, Shabby

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