General Question

emjay's avatar

Would you charge someone for a misunderstanding?

Asked by emjay (668 points ) December 9th, 2013

Last Wednesday I wrecked my car.
I have been house sitting for a woman who left me her car keys and said I could drive her car. Typically even when I have permission I do not drive other people’s cars because of liability issues, etc. But because my car was not driveable for a couple of days I went ahead and borrowed her car – she already said I could, so no big deal, right?
Wrong.
Apparently I left some paper or something in the car, and when she got home she noticed I had been in the vehicle and was very upset. She was already in full-on chew out mode so I just listened and remained apologetic. I didn’t bring up the fact that she had told me it was okay. I felt that it would have made things worse in some way, so I just kept my mouth shut about it. When its your word against theirs, what good is it anyway?

She told me that her and her husband decided that they were going to charge me for the “wear and tear” on their vehicle, and took 150 dollars out of my pay for watching their house. I was very thankful for the use of their vehicle. And I feel super bad the wires got crossed somehow about it. If I had known she didn’t want me to drive it at all, I wouldn’t have done it. But I SWEAR she said I could.
I returned it to them in exactly the same condition it was in when I started using it. Same amount of gas and everything. I understand why she would be upset with me, that’s a pretty big misunderstanding. But a misunderstanding worth taking over half of my pay about? I don’t think so. What do you think?

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29 Answers

Judi's avatar

I think all business agreements should be in writing. You just took a $150 class in life.
You could take he to small claims and probably win.
I’m sure she didn’t pay any of the employment taxes or workers comp while you were working for her. How many miles did you put on her car? I’m betting a judge would award her (at max) the maximum miles allowed as deductible by the IRS.

longgone's avatar

No. Unless I had reason to believe you had deliberately lied to me, I would just have told you not to use my car in the future. $150 is way over the top, in my opinion. Jerks.

emjay's avatar

@Judi , I put 500 on it. Which I realize sounds like a LOT, but that was JUST to and from work.

KNOWITALL's avatar

The only mistakes you made was 1) not having it in writing and 2) not immediately calling her out on telling you you could drive it.

That being said, docking you is out of line.

Coloma's avatar

Why wouldn’t you have brought up the fact that she told you that you could use the car?
Unless you are omitting something vital here, yes, as @Judi says, life lesson #1
Get it in writing the next time you house sit.

livelaughlove21's avatar

So you didn’t say that she told you it was okay? I don’t see how this is a misunderstanding. Either she said you could drive it or she didn’t. If she didn’t, I can’t blame her for being upset. If she did, I’d stand up for myself because she might be a bit looney if she forgot she gave you permission. As for the charge, it’s ridiculous – that is, if it’s true that you left it in the same condition. $150 for what? I’d demand to know what “wear and tear” she’s referring to and request to see the bill for the “damage.” I also wouldn’t be house sitting for them ever again.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Woah, hold on. You said you used her car because your was undriveable for “a couple of days.” A couple means two – 500 miles in two days just to and from work? So, you work 125 miles away from home?

Something about that is fishy.

emjay's avatar

@Coloma, I didn’t bring it up because I felt like a cooked goose already. I had to go to her house to pick up my check, and she was like, fuming mad. I had kinda just decided it wasn’t even worth fighting about. In situations where people say one thing and then pretend they never said it I tend to just let myself get walked on because my mom used to do it a lot and fighting about it usually meant getting grounded or spanked or something. My brain is trained that those kind of things are a cant-win-either-way kind of thing.

@livelaughlove21 “a couple of days” was about a week. And I live in alaska, everything is very spread out.

khajuria's avatar

I don’t believe you ended up giving her $150…. You could have talked it through.

emjay's avatar

@khajuria, I was there to pick up my check. She was supposed to pay me $250, she paid me $100.

I have communication issues when it comes to angry moms. I’m realizing now I should have done more than lie down and take it, but in the moment… And especially when I wasnt expecting an argument… I didn’t really know what to say. So I just said nothing.

DWW25921's avatar

This isn’t a reasonable person and I wouldn’t go out of my way to deal with her again. I’m sorry you had a wreck, glad you’re ok.

khajuria's avatar

I hear you but that silly lady must have been dealt with in a better way, I sure hope so.

jca's avatar

I would be regretful that I didn’t stand up for myself if I were you. Other than that, if she wanted to charge you the mileage rate, that would include gas and if you left it with the same amount of gas in it, the mileage rate would not apply. I would just be done with her in the future. No more dealing with her.

emjay's avatar

@jca, I don’t plan on working for her ever again. Though with how mad she was at me, I doubt she’d ever want me to work for her again.

She said they had talked about charging me 50 cents a mile, but since that would have been my whole check decided that wasn’t fair. So basically she set me up to feel like she was doing me a favor.

I feel like life is setting me up to be a real bitch when I get older. I seriously just let myself get had all the time, and one day I’m gonna snap.

ragingloli's avatar

The very least you should have done is tell her that she did gave you permission to drive the car.
Do not just roll over like a beaten dog. You have to defend yourself to at least some extend.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@emjay I was much the same way until I made the decision not to be passive and shy anymore, now you can’t shut me up with my opinions (as I’m sure jellies have noticed!)

Know yourself, your mind, your opinions and don’t let people run you over because they will time and time again. You can be wrong, we all are, but silent – NEVER! :)

glacial's avatar

Five hundred miles is a lot, even if you live in Alaska. If she gave you permission to put 500 miles on her car, then she shouldn’t be this upset.

Here’s what this sounds like to me, and I realize that it might be totally off base. It sounds like you heard “and you can borrow the car occasionally, if you need to” (or however she worded it), and you thought some variant on, “Phew! She gave me permission to use the car, so whatever I choose to do with the car can be justified because of this comment!”

The thing is, you need to put her comment in the context of what she intended when she said it. If there was any doubt in your mind whatsoever that putting 500 miles on the car was what she intended, then you should have asked her before doing it. I have a feeling that you didn’t check with her first because you already knew it wouldn’t be ok. I’m not surprised she’s upset.

The lesson here is not about standing up for yourself by saying “But you said it would be ok!” The lesson is to be up front about what you want. When she gave you permission to use the car, you should have clarified what that meant. Asking explicit questions beforehand will make misunderstandings like this very rare. It’s not about being forceful with people to get what you want, it’s about correctly understanding your agreement with them in the first place.

emjay's avatar

@glacial, I was only going to and from work, not like, joy riding or anything.
Normally I’m pretty good about asking clarifying questions, I just didn’t think it would be an issue at all because normally I don’t use other people’s vehicles, permission or no, because I have my own car and use it. I hadn’t PLANNED on putting that many miles on it – I hadnt planned on putting any miles on it. I realize that is a lot of miles, but I didn’t have much choice given the situation, and because I thought she HAD said I could use it, didn’t think about it.
I feel terrible about the whole thing. It all could have been avoided if I just let her know what was going on before hand so she wasn’t surprised. But like I said, I didn’t think about it because she had already said I could drive it. You’re probably right, though. It meant one thing to her and another to me (especially considering she claims she never said anything of the sort…).

Cupcake's avatar

What would it have cost you to rent a car for a week and drive 500 miles? What would it have cost you to miss those days of work?

Put it in context.

Was she upset about other things as well, or was this all over you driving her car? She clearly was not expecting you to drive 500 miles… even if she did remember that she offered her car to you in her absence.

FYI: The IRS reimburses business mileage at 56.5 cents per mile for 2013.

It doesn’t matter that you “only” drove to work and back. Your commute has nothing to do with her. Personally, I don’t think 500 miles is reasonable unless you clarified the distance to work in advance. She might have meant that you could drive to the store to pick up a loaf of bread.

How much gas did she have in the car when you borrowed it? You should have left the gas tank full.

emjay's avatar

@cupcake, I can’t rent a car. I’m only 21. She had half a tank of gas and I left her with half a tank. Filling up would have cost me almost $100 and my money is tight as it is. I would have liked to have left it completely full.

As far as I know this was only about the car. And as I said before, I didn’t think I would be needing to drive it at all so I didn’t bother to clarify. Had I done that I’m sure none of this would be an issue.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Am I the only one that would never notice an extra 500 miles on my car? I don’t keep that close of an eye on my odometer.

jca's avatar

Many insurance policies (probably most, actually) do not cover drivers under 25. It’s likely if you crashed her car, you would not have been covered. Not only the damages to her car, the damages to your person but whatever damage and injuries you caused someone else would have ended up her responsibility.

She likely intended to mean you can drive to the store if you need to get some food or something. 500 miles to and from work is a lot of driving. It’s what I drive in a week, so I know what it means – it’s a lot.

When you say you didn’t have a choice, what would your options have been if you didn’t have her car available? Probably either you would have had to borrow someone else’s car, get rides from someone else, or not go to work (and lose the pay or get fired for missing work). If you take her car out of the equation, those would have been your choices.

Cupcake's avatar

@emjay That’s my point. If you couldn’t have gotten to work otherwise and would have lost out on pay, then her “fee” isn’t so unreasonable.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca “Many insurance policies (probably most, actually) do not cover drivers under 25.”

My insurance company (and all other insurance companies used by drivers aged 16–24) must not have gotten this memo. I assume you mean that they won’t cover drivers under 25 that are not already on the policy.

Seek's avatar

“Feel free to use the car if you need to”, to me, means “in the capacity of taking care of the house”.

Like, if you’re there to take care of the fish, and you run out of bloodworms, feel free to use the car to nip down to PetSmart.

I don’t think she intended to become an auto rental service during her vacation.

I also don’t see how it never crossed your mind to phone the woman to clarify permission before using her car like you owned it.

Judi's avatar

500 miles times $.50 per mile is $250.00. Sounds to me like you got a bargin.

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove21: Yes, I meant most policies must specify that they cover drivers under 25 and the rates for those drivers are way higher than rates for drivers over 25.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca Ain’t that the truth. One more year until my premium drops. 25 – the first exciting birthday after 21, and for a much different reason. Can’t wait.

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