Ask Amy

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 10:45pm

DEAR AMY: My husband is a homebuilder and can fix just about anything.

What do I do with female friends who call and ask for free advice — then when they have a big project, they hire a complete stranger who gives them a "better" price until the project starts (then they add in hidden fees)?

This has happened twice with "good" friends who love to call until it is time to hire someone.

It is very hurtful to my husband and me, although I try not to mix friendship and business.

We also have neighbors who call, ask for an estimate and then do the repair themselves, thus making the problem worse! The most recent one called in the middle of the night, panicked because her basement was flooding.

Then she tried to do all the work herself!

When it came time to get a professional, she let the insurance people send someone.

I will be happy when the housing market picks up again so we won't have time for these calls. This free advice is starving us!

It is becoming difficult to maintain friendships when this is how we get treated!

— Not Recession-Proof

DEAR NOT: In the course of doing business, your husband will not get many of the jobs he provides estimates for — whether or not these estimates are for friends.

People who receive an estimate and then make the problem worse by trying to fix it themselves are, like you, affected by the recession — and their cob jobs may create work for your husband down the road.

Your husband can change the dynamic by behaving more professionally. If someone calls for "free advice," he should make an appointment with them during business hours and prepare an estimate. Once he provides an estimate, he can let people know that if they receive a lower estimate, he might be able to cut his price.

If five friends call and your husband can net two paying jobs from these calls, that's a pretty good batting — or business — average.


DEAR AMY: I have been in a four-year relationship that has been a power struggle the entire time.

We both have children from previous relationships and he feels he has to school me on how to raise them. If I don't take his advice, we fight for days.

I have ended the relationship only to have him come back apologizing for his behavior. The thing is, it doesn't stop. After a few weeks, he starts giving his "helpful" advice again.

His children are young and well-behaved but somewhat afraid of him. My children don't like him very much and don't want to spend time with him.

How do I know if I'm just being stubborn (as he says) or if he's wrong and I should end the relationship?

— Confused

DEAR CONFUSED: As parents, your kids will present the greatest challenges to your relationship.

Even if he is correct and you are stubborn and intractable, fighting over one thing for days is an indication that you are locked into an unhealthy dynamic.

It doesn't matter who is right concerning the kids. What matters is the resulting interaction, which according to you has been and continues to be toxic.

If you had a healthy relationship, you would recognize this pattern and find ways to change. You two don't seem capable of this sort of change.


DEAR AMY: I am frankly horrified that so many teachers want to know who contributed to the class gift, and that there are teachers who would make a distinction among their students by sending cards to the children based on whose parents contributed. Then again, I never really liked the idea of teacher gifts to begin with, and I am a teacher.

Anonymous group gifts are the best way to handle the unfortunate expectation that you are required to give a tip to your child's teacher, and the inevitable, disgusting implication that a teacher will give preference to a child whose parents have given a large gift.

— Devoted Teacher

DEAR TEACHER: I appreciate your professional point of view. Thank you.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles