Thursday, June 25, 2009

How Do You Deal With a Mooch in NYC?

... Hopefully, better than I am.

The Scenario
The Mooch moved to New York City from Arizona in the last week of December in 2008. The Mooch shares a full-size bed with my roommate, who has been a close friend of hers since high school. The Mooch does not allow my roommate's own dog sit on or sleep in my roommate's own bed in the apartment for which The Mooch does NOT share equal financial responsibility. The Mooch's best friend lives in Harlem, but - regarding location - our Hell's Kitchen apartment is more convenient for The Mooch. The Mooch still lives with us (note the date of this blog post).

The Error
The direct fault I carry in this situation was believing that the best friend of The Mooch - and mutual friend of ours - was completely out of line for initially wanting to charge The Mooch $600/month to share the mutual friend's $1200-studio in Harlem. I wrongfully thought that the mutual friend was trying to take advantage of The Mooch's unstable relocation situation and wanted to profit from having The Mooch stay with her. In all actuality, the mutual friend was fairly requesting upfront that The Mooch assume equal financial responsibility for the space they would have shared. She was well within her rights - as both a New Yorker and as a friend.

However, my roommate and I - initially and foolishly finding it harsh to charge The Mooch immediately upon her arrival in the city (even though millions of other NYC transplants begin paying outrageous amounts for a roof over their heads the moment they change their zip code) - offered to let The Mooch stay in our Midtown apartment under the following conditions:
1) She could stay with us as long as she needed.
2) She could sleep in my roommate's bed (with my roommate) regularly; she and her boyfriend could sleep on my couch whenever he wanted to stay over; she and her boyfriend could use my room whenever I was out of town as long as they washed the sheets before I returned.
3) She should start contributing financially as soon as she could.

Number 3 was where we went wrong. The Mooch moved in the last week of December in 2008. By May 2009, she had still been unable to secure full-time employment, yet refused to consider waitressing, retail or other gigs not befitting "a recent college graduate." By June 2009, she had been living with us rent-free for five months.

Things I Now Know Since The Mooch Moved in Six Months Ago
1) After one month - or even just two weeks of staying in our $2500-month, 600-square foot, two-bedroom apartment in Midtown - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
2) Once she began forwarding her mail and listing our address on West 51st Street as her own - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
3) Once I began overhearing her tell friends on the phone, "I'm back at my apartment now," - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
4) Once she began asking me and my roommate if her out-of-town friends could stay at our apartment during their NYC visit - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
5) Once The Mooch stopped allowing my roommate's own dog into my roommate's own bed - The Mooch was no longer a guest; she was living with us.
6) I should not have assumed that The Mooch would have a personal sense of self-accountability for the space she shared with us.
7) I should not have assumed that this said self-accountability would compel The Mooch to feel responsible for contributing to the rent within 1-2 months (maybe even three, tops).
8) I should have been clear on my expectations instead of assuming that The Mooch had the same sense of personal responsibility that I have (e.g. when I slept on an air mattress for three months in the living room of my best friend's $1000-South Bronx, two-bedroom apartment, I contributed $200/month toward their rent, bringing their equal portions to $400/month each, and I took it upon myself to keep toilet paper, paper towels and other "communal items" fully stocked over the three months I stayed there).
9) The Mooch once tried to pretend that she didn't know we were out of trash bags, even though someone had emptied the trash can half way to make more room instead of buying more trash bags (and my roommate told me that she had not touched the trash). The Mooch also often acted like she didn't have to buy more toilet paper because she bought the "last round". She'd rather substitute travel tissue paper, napkins and paper towels while waiting for me or my roommate to get the next round of TP, which always made me want to scream, "Dude! You live here rent free! We shouldn't be taking turns buying the toilet paper; you should always buy it!" But I didn't.
10) My roommate and I are enabling The Mooch to have no sense of urgency to find permanent, full-time employment, to have no need to pick up a second part-time job after finally obtaining a full-time job with a low salary in late-May, and to take a week of unpaid leave from said low-salary employment to go on vacation with her boyfriend to Aruba in June. Rather than help her develop into a proud, independent New Yorker, we allow her to spend her money frivolously instead of paying a fair portion of the rent. Meanwhile my roommate and I continue to make careful decisions and sacrifices in order to sustain our lives in New York City. We are enabling The Mooch to do things that most middle- and lower-income people cannot do when they first relocate to New York City.
11) The Mooch moved in with my roommate and I just six months after we began our $2500-month lease on West 51st Street. Just like the mutual friend in Harlem was within her rights to expect rent immediately from The Mooch upon her relocation from Arizona, we would have been within our rights to ask her to split our $3000-broker fee three ways and divide the monthly rent fairly between us. If we had known that The Mooch was going to end up staying over half a year (not to mention the $5000-security deposit and first and last month's rent that my roommate and I paid up front), we would have expected an equal contribution.
12) I was wrong for denigrating the mutual friend for wanting to charge The Mooch half the rent on her $1200-Harlem studio.
13) I am a coward for blogging about this instead of telling The Mooch how I really feel.

Things The Mooch Does Not Know That We Know
1) The Mooch, who relocated from Arizona, is using my roommate and I to live closer to her boyfriend, who lives with his parents in Long Island. She doesn't want to contribute financially to our current living situation because she wants to save money while waiting for him to be ready to move into an apartment with her. So she is using us to be closer to him and foster their relationship until he is ready for cohabitation.
2) When The Mooch goes shopping with another mutual friend, that mutual friend reports back that The Mooch throws away her receipts, shopping bags and boxes and hides her new purchases in a large purse or tote bag because she doesn't want my roommate and I to know she has been shopping.
3) After searching craigslist job postings for about 20 minutes a day, she walked leisurely around the city throughout most of the spring months, with Starbucks coffee in hand, accompanied by the same mutual friend mentioned in #2 - instead of visiting more temp agencies, going door to door with her resume, and looking for jobs (however, she knows that we know not to even ask her to consider the food service industry even though we live in the heart of Hell's Kitchen and mere steps from the plethora of restaurants on Ninth Avenue).
4) The Mooch bought her boyfriend a $350-camera for his recent birthday, but led us to believe that she could only afford to bake him a cake.
5) The Mooch had just learned of her boyfriend's disloyal indiscretions a few weeks prior to his birthday - thus proving that she'd rather buy her cheating boyfriend a present than pay rent to her more-than-generous friends.
6) We were willing to do more for The Mooch than her own family was willing (case in point: her own brother and his new wife live on the Upper East Side and would not have allowed her to crash with them for half a year, rent-free).
7) The Mooch doesn't want to live in New York City. She wants to be a merry, little housewife, and her current boyfriend is the best - and maybe only - shot she'll ever have at achieving her marital, baby-making dreams.*
8) People who really want to succeed in New York City are willing to wait tables or fold T-shirts in a GAP or do whatever it takes to be self-sufficient. She is not one of those people. She shamelessly continues to take advantage of a generous living situation despite the fact that I am making it clear that she has worn out her welcome.

To be fair, The Mooch is relatively easy to live with. She is clean, she didn't often leave her stuff all over the apartment (though I often tidy up after her), and she is generally friendly. However, I initially became irritated when my roommate expressed her frustration to me regarding The Mooch's response to a possible receptionist position at the engineering firm where my roommate is an executive assistant: "I didn't move to New York City to be a receptionist." And I further lost my patience with our living arrangement when we asked The Mooch to begin paying $300/month on June 1 and she replied that she would rather pay $200.

To continue fairly noting the occurrence of events, The Mooch did end up taking the receptionist position at the end of May 2009, but not without some strong encouragement from my roommate. And The Mooch did begin paying $300/month on June 1 after I made it clear that it was not negotiable. But to be completely blunt, I don't know how The Mooch failed her NY teacher's licensing exams this month when she has supposedly been studying for the last six months - sans the responsibilities and long hours associated with full-time, or even part-time, employment. Maybe she should have spent less time walking leisurely around the city with Starbucks coffee.

I don't know what to do even though I know what I need to do. But even though she has it in her heart to completely take advantage of our generosity - and potentially permanently tarnish her close friendship with my roommate - I don't have the heart to tell her that I think she's a puerile, manipulative, indolent sloth - to put it lightly.


Dear Abby ... [sigh]

*No offense to current baby-makers; I totally want to be a baby-maker one day, but I refuse to use my current so-called friends in order to achieve my eventual, long-term dream of family life. Or step on my friends for any other reason, for that matter.


Life Through Blue Eyes said...

What a delicate situation. I understand how you feel because a few close friends of mine living in NYC has had to deal with this. The best thing to do, I feel, is to sit down The Mooch-both you and the mutual friend and review the past few months. If you don't mind her living there as long as she pays-tell her she MUST pay $300 a month or find a new place to live within a weeks time. If not, tell her in order to salvage any relationship either with you or mutual friend, it is best she find her own place because it is just not working out. Offer help to find a place or find her a place to stay in for a month(a sublet) while she searches. But definetly not your place. She has been rude and inconsiderate. Think of this, what would you tell your best friend to do?

Best of luck.

Will Hennessy said...

Wow. I'd say you're being kind by designating the title 'mooch.' I'd have probably used 'leach' or 'tick' or something! Aside from putting all her stuff in the hall, leaving a note, and changing the locks, it seems like the only way to change the situation is for you and your roommate to do an intervention--whereby you two give her your terms for staying.

Perhaps give her specific conditions for her to adhere to in order to remain there, how much she will be expected to pay in order to stay for even 1 more week, and most importantly a date that she will need to move. Also, setting expectations on what the consequences will be if those conditions aren't met.

Of course, I suspect that the plan isn't the hard part. Doing it and sticking to your guns will be the key, which may be easier said than done, depending on your personalities...

Best of luck though!

Anonymous said...

It's never too late to get a "postnup."

KJS said...

Thank you for your words of support. I've also received some good advice directly via email.

TC also had a funny comment: "I am impressed you haven't torn her throat open with your teeth yet" ... one of the best responses I've received thus far.


I have been reading your blog for a while, basically ever since I moved to Manhattan last January, but this is the first time I have felt an irrepressible need to comment.

The Mooch is, like I said, awful. Her behavior is despicable and I am impressed you haven't torn her throat open with your teeth yet... I know I would have. That said, by continuing to allow her transgressions to continue you are enabling the aforementioned behavior the same way a parent enables a teenager's irresponsibility by ignoring it. You're refusal to combat the situation head-on (as maturely as possible) isn't good for you OR her. How is she ever going to learn to be responsible if her behavior is permitted to continue?

I know you're trying to be nice but seriously, this girl doesn't need nice, she needs to grow up.

Good luck! I hope things get better for you and TM!


Monique D. said...

Wow. The sad part is that #6 was a clear sign, though we all know hindsight is 20/20! I can't believe this. I mean, who goes to NYC & expects to live for free?! Well kudos to you & your roommate for putting up w/that for so long!

Tricia Hicks said...

Thanks for letting me know how not to act if I ever leave my life in Tennessee to move to NYC. Oh, problem is, I WILL NEVER GET TO DO THAT AND STAY MARRIED! I hope things work out for y'all. Also, YIPEE that you are back!!

New York Travel said...

I lived with one of these once - once they are in and are accustomed to living for free it's basically impossible to get them out(especially if you still want to salvage the friendship). If your friendship is no longer that important to you though, I would just send her a link to your blog post - haha knowing that you're telling the world what an indolent sloth she is might just be the kick in the pants she needs to pay up or find someone else to mooch off of - good luck!