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My 'friends' always use me for my money. What do I do?

The question

Having spent a number of months nurturing a new friendship with all the effort this entails, the inevitable always happens to me: My friend invites me to a "wellness seminar." This turns out to be a network marketing scheme (usually involving expensive vitamins and food supplements) that they want me to join as a new customer/salesperson, to claim the rewards of signing me up. I realize these schemes are not necessarily illegal but they are morally repulsive to me so I always decline, politely of course. I simply don't want to join an organization where the product is always secondary to the selling network structure. Anyway, as a result, this causes an awkward situation between us and the friendship is often terminated. I am financially better off than most of my friends, but I don't think this entitles them to use our friendship for their own financial gain. How can I prevent this from happening to me repeatedly?

The answer

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Wait – what? Are you saying every time you make a new friend, they instantly try to sign you up to a "wellness" pyramid scheme, then freak out when you decline and end the friendship? Where are you hanging out and meeting new friends, the Bernie Madoff Supper Club?

Honey, darling, bubeleh, these are not your "friends." They're flimflam artists, charlatans, mountebanks – damn, I spilled my mojito on my thesaurus, but you get the idea. Not friends. Not to be trusted. Certainly not to be given money – and don't sign any papers they hand you, especially not ones that say stuff like "power of attorney." But let's say, for the sake of argument, the question is oddly put and we are indeed talking about less-well-off-than-you "friends" hitting you up for favours and/or, directly or indirectly, cash.

That I can relate to – well, not me personally, I've never had much money or influence or even the ability to get anyone a job. So people tend not to ask me for favours. (They might start, as a reflex, then catch themselves: "Hey, Dave, my cousin just graduated from – oh, uh, never mind." Me: "What? Ask me anything!" Them: "Nah, it's okay.")

But I do have a couple of high-end friends who are in a position to do stuff such as hire people, lend them cash, whisk them off to fabulous cottages – even cast them in TV shows and movies. So they're constantly being asked to do these very things by everyone around them.

Take my friend who vice-presides over a vast retail conglomerate. Every day he gets calls, e-mails, in-person approaches from people asking favours to the effect of: "Hey, my cousin Sherry's 22-year-old daughter is full of vague, entitlement-rich aspirations of getting into fashion and retail, preferably in a senior management position with a large salary and a comprehensive benefits/bonus/travel package. Can she come to your office or ideally your house or even more ideally your cottage for the weekend some time soon to discuss when and where she can start?"

I kid, of course. I exaggerate to amuse and entertain and to make a point. But it's not far off.

But, over time, I've noticed that this friend always does the same thing when faced with these types of requests. You should try it too. Maybe practise in front of a mirror first. Start by opening your mouth slightly, and, pressing your tongue to the top of your soft palate, make a humming sound through your nasal passage, like: "Nnnnnn … Nnnnnn …" Then form your mouth into a circle and push out some air, also with a sort of humming sound: "Ohhhh … Ohhhh …"

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Practise putting these two actions together until you can do them in rapid succession, and it all comes out at once, in a single, short, sharp syllable: "Nnnn … ohhhh. No."

After uttering this syllable, you can add/embellish it with other verbiage of your own devising, e.g. "…thank you," or "It's not a good time" or "I'm just too busy right now." But really, when it comes to so-called friends inviting you to join their poncey Ponzi schemes, and who would "terminate the friendship" if you balk, I think the single syllable should suffice.

(Personally, I would add a couple of other syllables, in the form of a suggestion as to what they could do with their wellness-seminar brochures – but that's just me.)

I think you'll find, with practice, it's a syllable that becomes easier and easier to utter each time and can be both liberating and empowering.

What am I supposed to do now?

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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