How to deal with a mooch

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You know the guy. He's always a quarter short for bus fare, didn't bring a lunch. The book store was out of copies of the book he needed for the course; can he borrow yours? He lost his umbrella, or his lawnmower is broken, or the carryout was closed, so he'll drink yours. Surely you don't mind, old buddy?

I do mind. Mooching is a behavior that should be left behind when one leaves home, and the moocher is taking advantage of our natural instinct to help others. Are you inflicted with a moocher? Here are some suggestions for your consideration.

  • Is the moocher really your friend? Often, the answer is no. You're merely a soft touch. Facing up to this fact can help you build up the moxie to tell the mooch to put the touch on someone else, thank you very much. In doubt? Try mooching something from the mooch. Moochers never willingly allow others to mooch off of them.
  • Be prepared for drama. Mooches love to play the part of the aggrieved, as though refusing them the right to mooch is denying them an inalienable right. Recruit a real friend to witness the mooch's protest with you, to help you keep perpective.

  • If he isn't really a friend, let caller I.D. handle your problem. And just because someone rings your doorbell, you aren't required to answer. The ring is a request for your time, and you have every right to decline.
  • Keep a written record of the mooch's touches. Let him see that you're writing each down. If he cavils, tell him you're tracking expenses to control your spending. He MIGHT get the message.
  • Give him back tit for tat. If his mower is broken, so is yours. If he needs a quarter, you do too. The beer in the fridge? Belongs to a neighbor whose fridge is out, and you can't touch it. Whatever he needs, you don't have. The more absurd your denial, the faster he'll get the message.
  • Set expectations. Before you go out, get agreement on the ground rules. We're splitting the check and the tip, right? You're buying $10 of gas if I drive, right?
  • Find others similarly tormented by the mooch, and use some group intervention tactics. The ridicule of peers is a painful way to learn a lesson, but mooches are not subtle people.

Homer Simpson said, "It takes two people to lie; one to lie, and one to listen." It also takes two people to mooch -- the one that asks for a little something something, and one that gives it up. In the end, you can't change the moocher. You can only change the moochee.

While you're working up the gumption to do so, may I borrow your car?

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