Advice Column: Response to Binx

Dear Hailey,

A person I know who is more of an acquaintance than a close friend is giving away items that she owns. She plans to move to a smaller place and wants to downsize. She had many boxes of books that she didn’t want anymore. I told her I like a certain genre of books and asked if she would put some aside for me. So she gave me a box of books, mostly paperbacks. She took other boxes of books to the curb so the trash collectors could pick them up.

The problem is that the box she gave me contains a set of old magazines and some of them are rather valuable. I didn’t know much about them, but I looked online and it turns out that a very famous author published his first story in one of the magazines. A later issue contained the second story he published. I called her and told her that the magazines were a pretty big deal, and now she would like them back. I don’t feel like giving them back, since she was probably going to throw them out anyway. If I hadn’t investigated, she would never have known their true worth.

My attitude is that it’s finders, keepers, and if she was willing to give them to me, tough luck. The most I would be willing to share with her is half of the proceeds, if I can sell them. I won’t reveal the name of the author, but you would probably recognize his name. He is very famous and so the magazines are collectors’ items. 

I guess what I am asking is whether it is fair for me to keep the magazines for myself. When she gave me the box of books, there was no contingency specified. She didn’t say that she wanted them back.

I should also add that she is quite affluent, compared to me. Earning a few hundred dollars from the sale would be a Godsend, if the magazines are worth that much, and I think they are. 

So what should I do? Give them back, sell them and split the money 50:50, or give her a smaller share of the profits? I feel like I am entitled to something, because I spent a few hours on research and I should at least get a finder’s fee. Keeping them for myself would probably end our friendship.

Binx

Dear Binx,

She gave them to you, and like you said she would have likely tossed them. It’s absolutely not fair of her to ask you to give them back when you spent hours researching them and she didn’t value them enough to keep them when she was downsizing. 

I like your list of options, and I can tell it is very well thought out. What you do next should be determined by the nature of your friendship or acquaintanceship, and how much you value it. Is there a history of her being unfair and selfish? Is this one instance of her acting this way, or one out of many? If she has a history of being toxic, I would honestly just sell the magazines and keep all of the money. Cut your losses and move forward. Life’s too short to keep people happy who don’t care about your well-being.

I do not think that you should simply return them to her. I think (if she is a person that you would like to keep in your life) you should explain how much time you spent researching the magazines. Remind her that she was going to throw them away, and offer her a smaller portion of the profits. It’s not as fair was the first option of you keeping all of the money, but it will preserve your friendship. 

Situations with involving friends and money are difficult and uncomfortable. I wish you luck. 

Hailey 

Posted in Q&A

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