#1089: When people want you to do complicated & unethical things, it’s okay to say no!

Dear Captain Awkward,

Here’s an awkward situation for you.


My acquaintance gave me a mattress in the summer, because it wasn’t working for her back.

I paid $260 for the movers. Unfortunately, they turned out to be creepy and unprofessional.

She’s convinced they stole things from her. At first I believed her, but now I doubt. They allegedly took a hard drive she had in storage, as well as her car keys. She’s sure they took more, but “can’t remember what.” She claims that she saw them come back 4 months after the move to attempt to go through her car…hmm. A great number of her complaints were regarding the fact that they didn’t speak English in front of her, so I had kinda been thinking she was having challenges with racism.

Current situation:

She contacted me a week ago, convinced that they swapped out the mattress in transit. I reassured her that this was not so.

Unfortunately, this opened conversation. Since giving me the mattress, she has discovered that she has stain protection insurance. She is having back issues again, and doesn’t like the new mattress she purchased.

She wants me to stain this mattress, have it cleaned, “discover” that the stain won’t come out, then have insurance replace it so that she can have the new one and I can get the one she’s using now.

It’s a completely different firmness. I’ve researched what she’s offering, and it’s entirely unsuitable for people of my weight and sleeping style.

Although she has assured me that she doesn’t blame me for the mover situation, she’s now exerting some significant pressure on me. She’s outlined in great detail how much money the situation has cost her, and has told me that the reason she’s pushing me is that she’s “fighting for her health.”

I feel sympathetic to her back issues, and I want to be a good human in this scenario.

But I’m currently unemployed and can’t afford to purchase another mattress if the one she’s offering doesn’t work. And I’d rather not commit insurance fraud.

We have many mutual friends. I feel like I’m stuck with her plan if I don’t want her to badmouth me.

More importantly, I don’t know the right thing to do.

No Such Thing As Free

(she/her pronouns)

Hi No Such Thing As Free,

Thank you for this oddly specific question!

If the movers last summer stole this person’s stuff last summer she had options, from filing a police report and making a claim against renter’s insurance to leaving the company a bad Yelp review. I agree with you that something smells about her claims as to what the movers supposedly stole (what is the black market resale value of a random hard drive, exactly?) and something definitely smells about her suspicion that these movers somehow “swapped out” the mattress for another one (what is the black market resale value of a random used mattress, exactly?)

Now you are supposed to “stain” the mattress, return it to her house  somehow, and then…profit? I can’t even follow this.

Her problem is that she picked out a mattress for herself and doesn’t like it 7 or 8 months later, and she has decided that it’s also your problem, so she wants to use the sketchy movers to pressure you into doing something unethical and weird.

If this person wants her old mattress back from you, she can ask for it back. You can decide if you want to give it back to her, or you can decide if you want to keep it. Either way, you should not do weird stain stuff to it, and either way you probably are done with this friendship. She’s not going to look kindly on you for not helping her out with the Great Mattress Stain Caper of 2018, you’re not going to look kindly on her for demanding her mattress back after giving it to you as a gift. In your shoes I’d assume the friendship is done and proceed accordingly, like, “Hey, I’m sorry your new mattress sucks, but I don’t feel comfortable with any of this. I hope you figure out how to get a mattress that you like better.” 

Repeat as necessary. “Hey, this is too weird for me, sorry. I can’t help you out.” 

If she makes trouble with your mutual friends, you can say “She did me this really nice favor one time, but it had all these weird strings attached, like the time she wanted me to purposely stain my mattress so she could get a replacement for it. Too weird.” You’re right to be wary, because she’s shown you that she’s very manipulative and okay with lying about stuff, and I suspect that she *might* twist the story so that *you* are supposedly the one who stole something from her. But also, there is no part of this story that makes her look good, and I bet your mutual friends have their own “hrmmm, this doesn’t add up” stories about her.

This friendship is done. Don’t commit mattress stain protection fraud with her. Thanks for this reminder that sometimes the cheapest way to pay for things is with money.


340 thoughts on “#1089: When people want you to do complicated & unethical things, it’s okay to say no!

  1. I have so many questions and yet none of them are burning enough for me to pressure you towards the “participate to see what happens” option.
    LW, you deserve a new lovely friend who will do nice things for you WITHOUT asking you to commit crimes with them. You are not Mae Borowski, and your life does not need to be a Night in the Woods fanfiction.

  2. I 100% agree with the advice on this and think your friend is a for-sure unreliable narrator, but I actually DID have movers swap out my mattress and deliver a new one to me a few months ago. The best they could tell me was that they do delivery for Serta, my mattress was a Serta, they mixed it up with another delivery and gave me this other one and threw mine away. The new one was like the world’s cheapest so I think they were trying to pull a fast one after losing/destroying my mattress.

    Anyway don’t tell your “friend” this tale obviously, just putting it out there that this is a real possibility because it was a new experience for me and a warning to fellow Awkwardeers to label your mattresses next time you move!

    1. I almost hope this is true for the comedic ridiculousness of it. Like, where is your existing mattress? Is it in a ravine? Did it fall off the truck into a ravine?

      And then the prospect of the movers sitting in the cab of the truck, ashen-faced, pooling their ready money and finding the nearest mattress store. My god.

      1. Or the alternative possibility of extensive, wide-ranging mattress-swapping grift – to what end, you ask? Have you ever heard the story of the Princess and the Pea?

      2. I’m guessing it’s on that mattress planet that Douglas Adams invented, where it gets to be content and flollop. One of my favorite quotes is, “”Voon,” said the mattress.”

    2. Well your story may be true but why would the woman be in a position to know what mattress got delivered? I mean was she there? Bc it sounds like she’s on drugs or something. Not in touch with reality. Or else just a pathological liar.

    3. We had a similar experience with a TV set. We sent it in for repairs and it was supposedly ‘stolen’ from the shop, who offered us a replacement set which was only half as good. We didn’t feel we had any alternative so we accepted, but it left a bad taste ever afterwards.

      1. Umm I hate to say but those guys stole your tv. That shop has insurance to cover theft. If you are still within the statute of limitations and you did not consult with a catty you may still be able to recover your costs by sending a letter of intent to sue for the remainder of the value. And sue. No court in the country would find in their favor.

        1. Love the atty –> catty autocorrect. Hello, I am your cattorney. Please to pay me in catnip and small treats. Also, I may be watching Animal Planet on your old TV.

  3. Ethical issues and something-isnt-quite-right-here issues aside, I don’t get why the “friend” needs to involve LW in her fraud. Why doesn’t she just stain her current mattress (which isn’t working for her), collect the insurance money for it, then get a new one?

    (I suspect it’s because she won’t have a mattress to sleep on during the whole thing. But if she gets LW involved, the LW won’t have a mattress to sleep on!)

    1. Now that you point that out I have a nasty suspicion, based on the way the scam was supposed to work, that Friend wanted LW to do it so that if the insurance company caught on to the fraud Friend could leave LW carrying the can for it.

      1. I think you’re both correct about the friend’s plan—she gets to keep her mattress in case the insurance company need it sent somewhere and have a potential fall-guy if the insurance company catches on—but I also think it wouldn’t work. I can’t see how the friend’s stain insurance would apply to a mattress she gave to someone else, so she’d be stuck having to claim it as her own. If the insurance company found out about the LW, they’d almost certainly cancel the friend’s claim and maybe even apply penalties for the false claim.

        1. Well, I don’t think anyone here is arguing that Friend’s plan is actually *competent*. Moriarty they ain’t.

          I’m willing to assume both incompetence and malevolence because, again, a stated willingness to lie to and defraud people for material gain = honking great red flag, especially if you don’t know where they draw the line on that shit.

      2. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, just because the stain insurance is still in Friend’s name. Friend would have to persuade LW to buy their own insurance and then commit the fraud in order to leave LW completely holding the bag for it. At worst, they’d be in it together.

        I agree with Kingderella, it’s probably because “I need my mattress (even though I hate it) because I have a bad back! You’re young, you can spare it!”

        As an aside, I wonder if Friend is still paying for the stain insurance on the LW’s mattress, like an insurance plan (versus a warranty, which I think of as a one-shot purchase with a defined life). If she’s still paying some monthly fee for the coverage even though she doesn’t own the mattress anymore, that could be why she still regards it as “hers” enough to drag LW into it.

        1. “You’re young, you can spare it!’
          Tangentially, we don’t know if the mattress giver is old or young, it’s not mentioned in the letter. (I am young with a back injury and get a lot of ‘but you’re too young for that!’ so I freely admit this is a thing I am sensitive about.)

          1. I am in my 30s and herniated a disc a few days ago. Did you know that there is back pain so severe that they send you to the ER for it? Because there is! (Also I just dropped something, stared at it sadly for 10 seconds, and then had to call my partner to come pick it up for me. On the plus side my pain is now actually managed.)

          2. Stellanor – off topic, but I’ve heard it said that barbecue tongs are popular with wheelchair users who need to extend their reach. Would they help you? (Apologies if this is the hundredth time you’ve heard this idea!)

          3. Ice and Indigo, ohhh wow.. saw your comment to stellanor and am going to try it. Huge thanks!

          4. (Out of threading~)

            They make reachers specifically for people who need a little extra, well, reach! I’ve found them at Lowe’s. They’re basically a long handle with a pronged grippy bit on the end and a trigger you squeeze to close the prongs of the grippy bit. About oh three feet long perhaps? Very handy.

          5. My father-in-law is in a wheelchair and there is an enormous variety of reachers/grippers/tools for people who need help with their reach. Just google ‘grabbers for disabled’ and literally thousands of them will pop up. He is forever trying new ones and, to be honest, they’re pretty much all the same, but he can’t resist the lure of a new handle or whatever.
            PS This comment is supposed to be for Stellanor but the indenting looks weird and I have no idea where it will end up.

          6. Grabbers are great, but if you’re in a pinch in your kitchen, barbecue tongs totally work.

            (I am Short. When I decluttered my kitchen, I literally kept a long pair of tongs solely to be my “grabbing tongs” for things on high shelves, lol.)

      3. I suspect it’s giving “Friend” too much credit to think she is deliberately setting up LW to be the fall guy. The “plan” is so ridiculously certain to fail that I’m going with the incompetence-before-malevolence rule.

    2. I was thinking they bought it on the first one but not the second. Most times those protections don’t transfer with a change of ownership so Mattress Fraud Friend needs LW to stain and return their mattress while MFF pretends she still had it all along.

      But the terms of the insurance don’t change the fact such a request is friendship ending keep the mattress and don’t look back behavior.

      1. Yep, that’s how I was reading it: the stain insurance is only on LW’s mattress. For the Great Mattress Caper to work, LW must stain her mattress, return it to the company, receive a new one, give the new one to MFF, and take MFF’s current mattress. Ridiculously convoluted.

    3. Wait…are you serious? You can actually buy insurance against mattress stains?

      What am I saying, of course you can. Soon we’ll be selling insurance for pocket lint, or for bread going stale. Gotta love America.

      1. Well, a decent mattress costs close to a thousand dollars, so why not fold it into whatever insurance you’ve got for your stove, fridge, etc.?

        1. I did not know there was such thing as fridge or stoge insurance either.

          Unless it’s another name for an extended warranty? I.e., when they tell you you can pay a little extra for a longer warranty?

          1. There’s that, but also homeowner’s (and renter’s) insurance policies with which I am familiar include a provision for replacing your expensive stuff enumerated hereunder. Including, for example, a mattress that is still intact but was stained from flooding/smoke/bear got into the house/whatever.

      2. My mattress warranty included stain coverage, without buying anything extra.

      3. I’m not sure its any commentary on America. Mattresses have one of the highest profit margins in retail, so sellers can offer “extras” like stain protection and still make plenty of money.

      4. When I got a mattress about 2 years ago, they did mention some kind of coverage for stains came with the price. It wasn’t an ongoing payment. My understanding is it was basically part of the generic “quality guarantee” that the mattress won’t sag, etc in 5 years 10 years, whatever. It was actually quite a long time. I was kind of surprised and curious and asked a lot of questions about it; part of the reason was that stains can mean stuff has gotten in and damaged the foam inside, etc. The coverage was also predicated on using the mattress protector cover. I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than just “there is a stain” – I got the impression they would refuse if they thought you weren’t using the mattress protection cover and I think the person indicated that they can tell; honestly no idea what criteria they use to judge a legit stain but there ya go. Of course it may vary from store to store. We also ended up getting a pretty expensive mattress so maybe it came with more reassurances.

    4. because she’d get the same exact mattress back, and she wants a different one.

      She wants to return the FIRST mattress and get a new one of it back, I’m guessing. In which case, she could ask for the old one back, period, and just stop there. Which is a shitty thing to do to the OP.

      And yes, the cheapest way to pay for things is with money–I think one big takeaway is to insist that, whenever a friend wants to “hand-me-down” you something of theirs, that you pay some nominal amount, and maybe even draw up a bill of sale. (there is some contract law that requires “real consideration,” i.e. actual cash, and it’s $1).

      So just say, in future, “I want the ownership to be really clear, so how about if I actually buy it from you?” and name an amount that will be substantial enough that they won’t later say, ‘It wasn’t enough!'” Base the amount on the person–the smaller their character, the larger the amount.

      1. Actually, there’s a common law principle that can more or less be distilled down to no take-backs. So getting a writing from a friend saying tha they intend to give you the thing is probably enough CYA in most cases. (Depending where you are, obviously.)

        That being said, I agree that offering to buy instead of accept as a gift is great for future conflict avoidance — pick an amount that isn’t nominal but is still steeply discounted (e.g. 20-50 bucks for something like a mattress), and boom, situations such as these are less likely to occur.

  4. So you’re saying if you don’t commit an actual crime you might lose friends? Sorry but sounds like you need better friends. This chick is insane. Entitled. I’d tell her that it’s YOUR mattress now. End of discussion. You might try public FB shaming as well. solves 2 problems: lets her know where you stand and anyone who is unhappy with you after it is not your friend. What a jerk she is.

    1. Yes. I am usually against escalating social conflict publically, but you might want to get your “side” of the story out there first. Especially if she might try to paint you as ablist because you’re not helping her “fight for her health.”

      Sadly, I’ve lost friendships I really valued when a friend believed a lie about me. Unfortunately, people are sometimes naive and don’t have good bs detectors. I don’t blame my former friend at all, because the liar preyed on her trust. I don’t miss the liar, but I miss the friends she fooled.

      1. I second the idea of “confiding in” or “seeking advice/validation” from some of the people in your social circle.

      2. I had this happen with an ex once. He spread an insane rumor about me that was believed. Was so upsetting bc he agreed to the breakup it’s not like I broke his heart. Not that it would excuse him anyway. But was just really vindictive. Taught me a lot about who he was, too late unfortunately

    2. Yeah I struggle sometimes to find Less Problematic ways to describe when someone is being, ur, okay, let’s say it like this: is behaving unusually, disproportionately, manipulatively, like they live in a land where earth logic does not apply, and like the behavior you’re seeing is probably the tip of the iceberg with their Whole Thing.

      LW, your friend is a whole lot of Hoo Buddy. My two cents: hard boundaries, maybe a book on boundaries with people who stomp them, and then remove your energy from the situation as much as possible. If mutuals want to know why there’s a situation with Friend, describe it clinically and clearly, based on facts that exist, like SHE TRIED TO GET YOU TO COMMIT A COMPLEX MATTRESS STAIN SWITCHAROO TO GET A FREE MATTRESS and it made you uncomfortable. “It didn’t make a lot of sense to me and I was really uncomfortable, so I told her no and I got angry” is a pretty delicate and de-escalated way to describe this.

      1. My sister likes the term cray-cray as a Less Problematic term.

        I, for one, am immediately adopting Hoo Buddy as my official Less Problematic term for this type of……..decision making.

        1. Oh! And I have an aunt who uses the term “tetched”

          As in, this girl is tetched in the head. I honestly don’t know if that’s related to any real world thing or just a made up family kind of word.

          1. Tetched comes from “touched in the head” as in “by some higher power”. Also it, and cray-cray, are still ableist, so you’ll have to suss out your own level of comfort with that one.

          2. @aris
            See that’s interesting, I’ve never heard that before. It sounds like it would be a good thing though. Like, it would apply to people super-good at math or something. Do you know anything about the etymology? Because I wonder if it wasn’t originally meant as a compliment. (Like touched by God to see angels/prophecize) And if so, does that change its problematic-ness? Or no?

          3. Dopameanie: I don’t know much about the etymology, but I’ve seen it used in older English sources for people who are mentally disabled or otherwise what we’d now call neurodiverse–and it was generally used in a condescendingly positive way (“Oh, our little childlike relative who can’t take care of herself because she’s a little touched in the head!”) or a truly negative way. I’ve never seen it used for “gifted” unless it’s explicitly linked to disability.

            The problematic-ness really just comes from reinforcing our perception of linking bad behavior (and only bad behavior) to mental illness. Or mental impairment. Like I said, you have to find your own level of comfort with that, but it’s there.

          4. Calling someone ‘tetched’ comes from being touched in the head by a higher power, yes, but what you’re missing is that the higher power was the fairies. It’s Irish or British expression and a holdover from when the Good Neighbors were blamed for a lot. Kind of like how ‘elf shot’ was an explaination for sudden strokes or heart attacks. There was nothing positive implied in calling someone ‘tetched.’

        2. As am mentally ill person I’m kinda sideeying “cray-cray” though… Like people know that stands for “crazy”, which isn’t good.. Hmm.

          1. Same. Cray-cray isn’t the explanation for what’s going on here; if you say she’s behaving this way because she’s crazy, you’re saying that this is how crazy people behave. Which, nope. This is how dishonest and manipulative people behave.

        3. How about “round the bend,” “bananas/batshit,” “lost touch with reality,” or “bonkers”?
          Disclaimer: I am mentally ill and don’t personally have a problem with “crazy” (misusing the names of actual mental illnesses and linking personality disorders with being a bad person, on the other hand…) but I understand many people do, and for perfectly legitimate reasons. However, I do think we need concise terms for “acting erratically and on no visible logic, often to the detriment of others”.

          1. Personally I hate all of those terms. And any like them. Because all these terms are because people want a word to use that stands in for a derogatory use of “mentally ill” and that’s never going to be okay to me.

          2. I’ve had mental health issues and don’t mind any of these terms, but if you want to be particularly careful, I’d go with ‘weird’, ‘silly’ or ‘being ridiculous’.

          3. I really dislike use of inappropriate mental health terms, for obvious reasons.

            Irrational is fine; illogical is fine. Any suggestion of crazy, insane, round the bend unless used self referentially in defence, not so much. Reading or hearing words like that is like receiving an actual, physical blow. I reel from them in real pain. Because I am as nutty as a fruit cake.

          4. Perhaps amusingly, I am autistic and was shamed by some other autistic people for describing something as “silly”. Because apparently some autistic people have been called “silly” and the word is upsetting and derogatory to them.

            Which is to say, I think in cases like this, I don’t think there is a way to describe it that will not upset or offend someone. I do think that the LW’s friend sounds crazy; she’s not just irrational, she’s also paranoid, manipulative, and willing to be dishonest. It’s a combination of something wrong mentally AND morally. I think people forget where the word “crazy” comes from, but it’s perfectly applicable here.

          5. Coming in here with a question for everyone upthread. What’s the right word for what we’re trying to describe? I understand that using “crazy” or “mentally ill” to mean “bad” is offensive. What’s the short term for someone who is acting in an inethical manner possibly because they haven’t thought through the implications, for someone who’s not thinking clearly in one instance and possibly others? I often search for a word to describe this particular sort of illogic.

          6. Ms. Pris, if a few people ask for a word not to be used, obvs don’t use it around them. If a lot of people ask not for a word not to be used, maybe an overall vocabulary change is in order.

            And crazy is NOT applicable here because GUESS WHAT, we don’t know if she is mentally ill, and even if she were, the polite word is not crazy.

            Clarry, what’s wrong with “irrationally immoral” / “immorally irrational”? Is two words too much for you?

            If I sound ticked off here, it’s because I am. Marginalized people are more important than word economy, and don’t deserve harmful stereotypes and people going “well no actually y’all ARE morally bankrupt on account of your illness”.

          7. “Absurd” or “ridiculous” are applicable. Of course, someone will always be offended somewhere because you’re not being Nice. You can’t make everyone happy.

          8. I am a huge fan of being really specific when describing aberrant behavior; I may have said this elsewhere on the internet, but I think what we are really missing is a term for “acting irrationally or with wanton cruelty, despite appearing to be without mental illness or impairment.”

            I end up with terms like, “willfully ignorant”, “cruel”, “selfish”, “bizarre”, “willing to sacrifice others for their own ends”, “acting inexplicably” etc. and I think it actually can draw a clearer picture of what is going on. If we dismiss someone as crazy (whether they are mentally ill or not) we are ignoring the fine points of what they are actually doing-and generally, it’s more useful to consider what someone does, then their potential motivation for doing it.

            In this case, the LW’s friend is asking the LW to go to a lot of trouble by staining a mattress, attempting to have it cleaned, etc., in a scheme that benefits the friend a lot and the LW not at all. She’s willing to sacrifice the LW’s time, energy, and legal culpability so she can get a free mattress. That’s not crazy, that’s the rational action of a very selfish, somewhat cruel person.

            Also, just a side note: there is a super easy way that the friend could get what she wanted-she could ask the LW to give the mattress back, perhaps offering her current one in trade, and then *she* could do the stain scam. Leaving aside the fact that it’s not super cool to give someone something, then ask for it back, she could easily leave the LW out of all the shady parts of this complex scheme. Why isn’t she doing that? I wonder…

          9. My ex has “mental health issues”: she has a personality disorder, she’s paranoid, and she hoards.
            The Friend here asked you to do something unethical, and that’s both different and possibly a sufficient description.

          10. I am also mentally ill/highly neurodivergant, and completely agree that we need concise terms for “acting irrationally and on no visible logic, often to the detriment of others (and I would add”whether intentional or not.”)

            There really needs to be precise words for when people behave in 1. Bizarre ways 2. that may or may not be out of character for them 3. that may or may not be malicious/harmful to others 4. that do resemble some symptoms of some mental illnesses 5. but may or may not be caused by any specific mental or physical illness, injury, or organic defect.

            AND those words should not be insulting, to anyone-the person they are describing, the mentally ill, anyone.

            For what I’ve described, irrational and illogical do not have the right connotation, and neither does “irrationally immoral” or “immorally irrational”, because the harm they cause may be unintentional, they may not see the potential for harm because they are temporarily or on that one subject engaged in denial or delusional thinking, they may end up harming themselves as much as others.
            The problem is not that using two words is too much, but that those two words are not *right*.
            Silly, weird, ridiculous, even bizarre also do not hold the right connotations.

            There is a serious dearth in our language in this respect.

        4. Any word that originates in the description of mental illness/impairment is problematic, even if it’s quite far removed from its origin. There are options, though. Speaking of this woman, I would say “She’s a piece of work.” Because she really, really is.

          1. I have a related question to the one I asked upthread, or maybe it’s the same question. What’s the word when you want (need) to blurt that someone is acting offensively in the moment? The classic example where someone touches inappropriately when in a large group. You want to call attention by saying loudly “What are you CRAZY?!” Except “crazy” has the potential to be offensive. “Don’t be ridiculous” doesn’t have the right strength to me. “Don’t be illogical” is even worse when you want to make a scene. “Have you lost touch with reality?” “Are you DAFT?” None of these are working for me. It would seem that the association between criminal /socially inappropriate behavior and mental illness run so deep in the society that it’s hard for me to talk about without needing whole paragraphs and examples to describe the distinction– a distinction, by the way, that I do get. My question is only about the quick words used to describe what I mean.

          2. This isn’t meant specifically as a reply to Clorinda (I can’t figure out where to comment so that it’s generically “part of above discussion”)

            I just wanted to mention that this is a bit of a sticky issue for me because my opinion seems to be a minority one (at least in spaces like this one) but…I also don’t think it’s entirely invalid? In any case, as a person with multiple diagnosed mental illnesses that have had a significant impact on my life and functioning, I’m actually much more offended that anyone would imply that the word “crazy” has anything whatsoever to do with my mental illness. I’m fully on board with finding it offensive to use the word “crazy” to describe a person with a mental illness or behavior related to that illness’s symptoms, but (in my opinion, of course), the problem is that it was never appropriate for there to be a link between the word “crazy” and mental illness.

            I guess what I’m trying to say is I know that it’s been used as a slur for mental illness, but the problem for me is using the word to devalue someone with a mental illness, not the word itself. Just like I’d find it unbelievably offensive to use the word “stupid” to describe someone with a developmental disability, but don’t find it offensive if a friend says “I just realized I left my wallet at home – what a stupid thing to do!”
            That feels very different to me then, for example, saying “Oh, so-and-so is so bipolar” to mean “so-and-so is moody or unpredictable”, which I DO find very offensive. But when someone (well-meaning and trying to be a good ally, I assume) says “Donald Trump’s latest proposal is crazy” and then glances at me and looks uncomfortable and apologizes for using the word crazy, I kind of want to reply with “Why are you apologizing to me? What does “crazy” have anything at all to do with me?” To me, Donald Trump may or may not have a diagnosable mental health condition, but many of the things he says are crazy. I DO have a serious mental health condition, and I am not crazy. And people being hyper-careful not to use the word makes me feel like they think I should find it relevant to me.

            I’m not trying to argue with anyone who feels differently, and I’m certainly not trying to invalidate anyone else’s experiences or feelings. “This word is hurtful to me” is all the reason anyone ever needs, and I do my best to avoid the word in casual speech because I’m aware that people may feel that way even if they haven’t told me so particularly. I’m just not at all sure how to resolve that with my own feeling of “Actually, people tip-toeing around that word is what feels hurtful to me.” I guess I just wanted to put my own feeling out there SOMEWHERE because I don’t feel like it’s a point of view I ever see represented. For the purposes of actual practical advice, I like Clorinda’s suggestion of “a piece of work” – safer and still satisfyingly pithy and descriptive.

          3. @Clarry – in times when I’m not sure what word to use, I think about what the problem actually is and go from there. In the case you’re talking about the reason your other options are falling flat is that “illogical” etc don’t actually describe the behavior – disrespectful, creepy, inappropriate, unacceptable do!

            Depending on how comfortable you are swearing, “What the FUCK?” could be a nice, catch-all replacement. The one my mother always recommended if I needed to make a scene like that was to use a loud, firm voice and say “don’t touch me!”

          4. @Clarry, i have usually found “DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH ME” or “GET AWAY FROM ME” or “what is WRONG w/ you?” to work just fine in those circumstances. you don’t actually *need* any variant on “crazy.”

          5. @Clarry you could demand, “What are you THINKING?!” or “Where do you get off ____?!” Or “What the hell?” or “You did NOT just ___!”

            For the other query I love EllenS’s “chronically sketchy.” And “shady” comes to mind. Perhaps “throwing scruples to the wind” or “doesn’t let common sense hold her back.” “Never met a compelling reason she couldn’t ignore.” Or malevolent, socially corrupt, ludicrous, risible, imprudent?

        5. Honestly, “cray-cray” seems worse, since it’s both ableist (being derived from “crazy”) and, when used by white people, always feels like a co-opting of AAE slang/speaking style.

          1. Anonymous on March 18, 2018 at 8:01 am, I’m late to post but just wanted to thank you for a brilliant and thought provoking post. As someone with a mental illness I agree entirely but never formulated these points so eloquently in my own mind. Thank you.

      2. I think “chronically sketchy” is a fine term.

        There are plenty of folks out there who have been playing it crooked so long, they see the whole world that way. I don’t think they’re detatched from reality at all. They usually have a very good sense of who they can push and how far.

        For example, Friend has been grooming LW for quite some time with these stories. Now it’s time for the Big Ask. Some people with different temperament or experiences would have laughed in Friend’s face, or immediately cut Friend off, or gotten angry.

        But LW is in a place of uncertainty about how to discern the truth from bias or intent from misunderstanding; personal ethics vs friendship, obligation, and reputation. Friend very ably created – or exploited- an opportunity here.

        1. ooh, yeah–good on you for pointing out this “grooming,” and this long, actually strategic and manipulative tactic.

          And the OP described several of her ow reactions that indicate that she’s never really been dismissive, so the Friend thinks it’s time now.

          1. Because, OP, I hope this makes you angry, and that it steels you to look out for yourself and do the legal and moral thing.

            She’s been deliberately manipulating you. (It may be more instinctual than maliciously and carefully plotted, but it’s still deliberate manipulation.)

          2. Yes, and also “she has assured me that she doesn’t blame me for the mover situation”-WHY WOULD SHE??? Say we’re in a universe where everything she said about the movers is true: how on earth would that be the LW’s fault?

            She is assuring you that she doesn’t blame you, so that some part of you will believe she has something to blame you for.

        1. I would like to submit votes for ‘piece of work’ ‘Hoo Buddy’ and also ‘Matress Friend’ in the expectation that her infamy will live on a la ‘house of bees’ and Darth Vader boyfriend.

          1. I’m seconding the vote for “Hoo Buddy.” Like “house of (angry) bees” and “Darth Vader boyfriend,” a newcomer to the term wouldn’t need any explanation of the term to get the idea. “Mattress friend” wouldn’t make sense without an explanation, so it’s less useful.

          2. I would like to suggest “spidering” for what mattress friend is doing: creating thin and tenuous (but strong for their size) connections between things related only by proximity, for her own benefit.

        2. Another vote of love for “Hoo Buddy” both for this specific situation and for a general, non-mental-health-related way to say that nope, what this person is currently doing is not normal or reasonable. Blurt it out as-is and you’ve got a concise way to express your taken-aback skepticism and start the conversation about how just no.

      3. My husband and I immediately (while reading letter) were describing Mattress Fraud Woman as “Minor Villain”, you know, not a _supervillain_ like Livewire or Dragonfly, but a third-stringer like Clash from “Jem and the Holograms”. She’s here as a plot device for one issue of OP’s entire comic run, and down the road she might appear as part of a subplot, but that’s really it.

  5. I have no idea what the black market resale value is of a random hard drive, but I can guess at the rough black market value of a random used mattress; it’d be about the same as the extremely similar mattress which these master criminals supposedly swapped the original mattress with.

    Friend’s story is clearly nonsense. There’s many reasons why people tell you a story that doesn’t make any sense, ranging from the wholly sympathetic to the unpleasantly malicious, but in general the combo of “stories which don’t make sense” and “urging you to commit a crime with her” puts up all the red flags for me.

    LW, your friend has literally just told you that she is willing to lie for material benefit; that’s what this whole insurance scam she’s trying to involve you in comes down to. Apply that to the rest of your interactions with her. If she’s willing to lie in this area of her life, what else is she willing to lie about? If the story she told about the mattress doesn’t hold up, doesn’t that suggest a certain level of dishonesty there too?

    I mean, look at the context: she calls you up, she tries the “oh noes, they swapped the mattress” story, and when you didn’t bite she starts in by attempting to make you an *accomplice to a crime*. What would she have done had you bought the Philip K. Dick version of the story where a sinister conspiracy replaces one mattress with a replicant mattress for diabolical ends? Probably she’d have tried to convince you to send the mattress back to her.

    Heck, at this point I’d ponder how you actually know she has back issues. It’s usually best to believe people when they talk about their invisible disabilities, but once someone reveals a willingness to lie and defraud then it’s not wrong to question their honesty in general, and whether they’d abuse your trust. Again: she’s willing to lie to and defraud an insurance company. Where does she draw the line there?

    The line about “fighting for her health”, in particular, sounds like the sort of thing which someone in a genuine bind *might* say… but it’s also exactly the sort of thing someone trying to abusively guilt trip and deceive you into putting yourself into harms way for them would say too. And let’s be clear, by asking you to be an accomplice to a crime she is asking you to put yourself in harm’s way for her.

    I appreciate that you want to be a good person and do the right thing, LW, but part of that is not going along with it when someone wants you to do the wrong thing. Even if your friend’s need is genuine and she’s in a tight spot, there’s options available which don’t involve being deceptive to you or to others (a hail mary GoFundMe, for instance). But she went for what sounds for all the world like a bungled attempt at gaslighting, followed by a direct attempt to make you party to a criminal enterprise. The Captain is right: break it off, draw a line under it, and sleep soundly on your mattress knowing that you have kept an abusively manipulative personality out of your life. (I’m sounding harsh here, but I cannot see “You need to commit a crime with me, my health counts on it” as being anything other than “abusively manipulative”.)

    1. It’s also worth pointing out, LW, that going along with this isn’t going to make life easier for you. You’re not going to do this one illegal thing for her and then she’ll drop it forever. She’ll just have MORE strings to try to trap you into doing things for her, and more things for you to worry about her badmouthing you to your mutual friends about, with various shades of truth.

      1. Such a good point. Even if LW were to go along with this terrible plan and somehow manage to get everyone a new fancy mattress, this person will undoubtedly have new schemes and new lies in the future. So it’s probably worth dealing with the fallout now (by being honest, maybe proactively cluing some friends in about what’s going on, and building up team LW) rather than getting through with this crazy scheme, only for the next one to be even bigger/weirder/worse.

      2. Bingo! There is an age-old saying dating back to when viking raiders were heading down into France and demanding ransom payments to leave towns alone: “Once you pay the danegeld, you’re never free of the Dane”, the danegeld (lit. “Dane money” in German) was the name for such protection money. Once you pay up, they know you’re good for money and things don’t get easier on you.

        LW, this person has revealed that they’re willing to emotionally blackmail you into something sketchy with potential life-changing consequences for you (it’s not super-likely you’d face felony insurance fraud charges here, but you MIGHT)… you want to make a very serious wager that they won’t resort to *literal* blackmail once they have evidence you’ve committed a crime with them?

        1. This, exactly. “She might badmouth me to all of our friends” stings, but it’s a heck of a lot better than “She’s threatening to tell everyone under the sun that I committed insurance fraud”, should you go along with this scheme of hers. I’m sorry that this has turned into a lose-lose situation for you, as I don’t see this relationship improving any time in the near future regardless of what you do. Take care of yourself, LW.

        2. It’s Kipling:

          It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
          To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
          “We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
          Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

          And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
          And the people who ask it explain
          That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
          And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

          It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
          To puff and look important and to say: —
          “Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
          We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

          And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
          But we’ve proved it again and again,
          That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
          You never get rid of the Dane.

          It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
          For fear they should succumb and go astray;
          So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
          You will find it better policy to say: —

          “We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
          No matter how trifling the cost;
          For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
          And the nation that pays it is lost!”

        3. Did you know that there was moment when there were no silver coins to be found in Europe because the Vikings had extorted them all? My ancestors, ladies and gentlemen, A-1 at extortion and murder and rape and selling people off into slavery and…okay, so we’d call them a bit “problematic” nowadays.

          They were, however, really good looking, so…there’s that?

    2. I wholly agree, but wanted to add, that if she is willing to lie to the insurance people, (people who have far more legal weight and authority than you), she certainly is not going to have a problem lying to you.

      All you can do is top being her friend, but they can send her to jail, and she seems unafraid about defrauding them…\except for the part where she is actually asking you to do the defrauding. If she is going to lie to the insurance company, what makes you think she won’t hang the entire thing around your neck.

      Please don’t be her patsy. There are people whose lives are ruined right now because they thought someone was their friend, who absolutely was not.

      1. Not defending the situation at all, but a LOT of people will lie to insurance companie, but would never lie to a friend. Just like a lot of people will shoplift from wal-mart but would never steal from a friend. Many people don’t apply the same morality to large businesses as they do to people.

        The scheme is still sketchy and LW still should not participate.

        1. Absolutely; Friend lying to LW isn’t an inevitability (unless, of course, all these stories that Friend tells that don’t seem to make much sense or line up with the facts are attempts at lying… hmmmm).

          At the same time, we don’t know where Friend draws the line and there is no reason why LW is morally obligated to be the canary in the coal mine.

          Betting that the overtly dishonest person will stay honest with you doesn’t exactly sound like a winning prospect, yaknow?

        2. There’s a great scene in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch where Earnest Borgnine (playing the heavy) is arguing with gang leader William Holden, who promised the gang would do something dangerous for pay. Holden says well I gave my word. Borgnine scoffs, “To a railroad (sneer)” Holden says “Doesn’t matter! It’s my WORD, isn’t it?!!” Borgnine says “It’s who you give it TO!”

          People make all sorts of excuses for their own lies/frauds and people are often quick to make excuses for them. “Oh, sure he steals, but only from Wal-mart”, OK my BFF cheats insurance companies—but she’s totally good people!”. IMO this is completely denigrating ethics. When someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE THEM!

          On top of this, in this particular instance it is apparent that the Great Mattress Conspirator HAS been lying to the LW.

          In closing, don’t be Earnest Borgnine.

      2. Ugh, yes. Not the same, but similar: my sister had a friend who was smart enough to think up shady schemes but not smart enough to see the flaws in them. This lady persuaded my sister to let her prepare her taxes. Long story short, my sister spent FOUR YEARS and LOTS OF MONEY getting out of the very real trouble she got in with the IRS. Shady Lady never even apologized, let alone offering to help with the fines and fees. Obviously, the responsibility was my sister’s–she signed the *very obviously fake* return–but she got into this trouble because she felt pressured and she didn’t know how to say “no.” LW, this person is trying to make you feel like if you don’t go along with this, her continuing back pain becomes your fault. This is nonsense. DO NOT GET DRAWN INTO SHADY-ASS SCHEMES. Lots of people have back pain but somehow manage not to draw their friends into lives of crime. I agree with the idea of protecting yourself socially: I might go to one of the friends you have in common–a social leader if you can manage it–and ask for advice with this weird problem. Tell this friend the whole story and let them know how uncomfortable you are. Be prepared to show texts or emails or whatever if you have them. Good luck, LW. You got this.

        1. Plus, I mean, not for nothing, but if you’re gonna get drawn into a life of crime, at least get drawn in by someone who’s good at criming.

        2. This happened to me, too. I trusted a friend to prepare my taxes, and he forgot (or “forgot”) one of my W-2 forms. (I’d worked three jobs in three different parts of the country that year.) TWENTY YEARS LATER I am still trying to unwind this issue, and the original shortfall owed o the IRS was probably less than 75 bucks. Thousands of dollars later, they still aren’t happy. They will be auditing me until the day I die. Do not let friends (or “friends”) do your taxes unless they are certified public accountants.

        1. Off-topic drive-by book recommendation:

          The Android’s Dream, by John Scalzi. (It’s a very special kind of sheep. You’re welcome.)

      1. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. SleepNumbers on fire off the shoulder of Morpheus. I watched dust mites glitter in the dark near the Mattress World gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like memory foam in rain. Time to nap.”

      2. Y’know, after a mattress store opened up in a strip mall across from another mattress store, with an additional mattress store outlet in the same strip mall and a big box store right across the street, my friends and I came up with an idea for a sitcom called “To The Mattresses” about the feuding between stores (one store takes the feuding super seriously, the other store barely notices but constantly does better, the outlet is full of easy-going stoners who help out either side, and everyone hates the big box store and views it as the Ultimate Enemy).

        I feel like this could easily be an episode, where the scammer goes from store to store…

    3. I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the whole “she’s willing to lie for material gain which means she will lie to you” slant.

      The fact that her plan is… “incompetent” at best…many, many financially disadvantaged folx “work the system” in order to survive. This does *not* mean that they scam their friends & loved ones.

      I’m not saying that this person is financially disadvantaged. I’m not saying that LW doesn’t needs to throw an African Violet at her while booking it in the opposite direction. It’s not that “friend” is trying to scam a faceless insurance company, it’s that she’s trying to get LW involved and in a way that’s going to create extra burden for the LW (no mattress, out more money, potentially legally liable) in a situation that 1) offers absolutely no benefit to LW & 2) won’t work & 3) is to rectify a situation that is wholly & completely the “friend’s” fault/responsibility.

      1. MF is trying to drag the LW into her “working the system” and is gaslighting and guilt tripping her to disadvantage herself. This really isn’t anything like if Mattresss Friend claimed to be single on a form so she could get an extra WIC check.

      2. yeah, she wants the LW to do that actual staining, etc. That’s being dishonorable TOWARD the LW, so I am totally comfortable with believing, and saying, that the Friend is very likely to lie to the LW.

        Also–honestly, once you’re in the habit of “gaming the system,” it’s very, very easy to “game” your friends. You just start looking at the world that way.

        So sure, maybe people who game the system won’t take money out of their friend’s wallet. But this woman is “gaming” the LW, absolutely. And I personally would assume that it’s likely most “system gamers” will similarly “game” their friends (“I don’t have money; will you buy?” etc.)

        1. And I personally would assume that it’s likely most “system gamers” will similarly “game” their friends (“I don’t have money; will you buy?” etc.)

          I’m not super comfortable with conflating “gaming the system” with “manipulating the people close to oneself.”

          I’m disabled, and thus I have next to no money. And yes, I have learned how to work within the system that exists so that I can get the things I literally need to survive (shelter, food, medical care/medications); some people would say that I’ve gamed the system.

          Sometimes my parents help me out by buying or paying for things I can’t afford at the moment, and I generally pay them back, sometimes gradually over a few months, particularly if it’s an unusual expense. (Like, in December, my cardiologist wanted me to have an imaging test that my insurance wouldn’t cover, but the out-of-pocket expense was $75, not nearly as costly as a lot of imaging tests are. My mom paid the $75 for the test, and I’ve been repaying her gradually starting in January.)

          For a less convoluted example, sometimes my folks help me out with groceries if I run out of money and food before I run out of month.

          I live in housing for disabled people, and basically everyone I live near has to do similar things to get the medical care they need or enough food to eat. If that’s what you class as “gaming” our families/friends/etc., that sounds like it’s at best coming from a place of privilege (possibly an intersection of class privilege and abled privilege) and at worst like you have contempt for people who are doing the best they can within a system that would really rather we all just die rather than continue to exist after we’ve outlived our usefulness to the workforce.

          (To be clear, I’m not actually talking about the LW’s situation with Mattress Acquaintance. I’m specifically addressing the quoted part of the comment above.)

          1. Forgive my ignorance, but I don’t see how receiving gifts/loans from family and friends could be considered “gaming the system”. You’re not lying or exploiting some loophole to get extra benefits from said system.

          2. Yeah, I agree with whingedrinking. And I’ve gamed the system harder than this without getting anywhere close to mattress switcheroo insurance fraud. Is your qualm that you didn’t declare familial support as income because you were concerned about losing benefits and were going to pay it back? That’s the only way I could imagine this as “gaming” in any sense of the word, and frankly speaking as a bureaucratic fussbudget I think it’s fine. SSDI is a s. On the other side, I had to scramble this last year to round up enough income to get over the poverty cutoff for Obamacare because I’m not in a Medicaid expansion state, but I wouldn’t that as “gaming”.

          3. @ whingedrinking, I can’t speak for Desert Rose and I have to qualify that I know about this secondhand from friends and relatives, but the restrictions for SSI/disability in the US are incredibly strict: in addition to only being able to earn a very small amount of money without being disqualified from the program, there are things like, you can only have $2,000 in assets at any time. There are also rules about what counts on support from family, what counts as income, and other things all of which can disqualify you from receiving benefits.

            Basically the system is really strict, and doesn’t always allow for the fact that life is unpredictable. Allowing people to build savings, for example, would allow for better emergency cushioning; allowing ups and downs in income would let someone work as they were able to, instead of what is now a zero-sum game of either you can work all the time to support yourself, or you are restricted from working at all. I know folks who do intermittent freelance work and have to ask to be paid less than the standard for their work so they won’t lose their benefits, which they need, because they can only work intermittently. It’s a really screwed up, restrictive system, and the kinds of things Desert Rose talks about above are how people survive.

          4. boo! did a good job of explaining it.

            Technically, any help I receive from family (or friends; even if a friend covers my meal in a restaurant!) is “income” as far as the Social Security Administration and a number of other government agencies are concerned. The fact that a) it’s not a consistent amount of money (it’s not like my parents just hand me $X every month; it depends on what’s going on, and life is unpredictable) and b) that the help I get from my family is literally for food to eat or needed medical care is immaterial as far as the agencies’ standards go.

            Basically, disabled people in the USA are in a hell of a Catch-22; if we play exactly by the rules, we either don’t eat or go without medical care, or we try to figure out how to report the help we’re getting and lose at least part of the benefits we need to stay alive. Most of us do things that definitely violate the letter of the laws/policies, because otherwise we’ll quite seriously die.

            It sucks, and I don’t particularly like doing it, but it is, no exaggeration, life or death.

          5. Gaming the system is when you use trickery and shenanigans to grab up stuff you’re not actually entitled to. People who try to game the system think they’re smarter than everyone else–including family, acquaintances, the government, insurance companies, casinos, the general public, etc.–and look for ways to exploit what they see as others’ ignorance and naivete, and it’s almost always done to get stuff they *could* pay for but feel entitled to have for free. It’s different from outright theft only in that, instead of taking stuff secretly, they trick their victims into handing the stuff over themselves. DesertRose, what you’re doing is the opposite of gaming the system. You are asking people who care about you to help you within their means to get things you actually need, and you pay them back as best you can. You are behaving with integrity. From the tone of your comment, it seems like you feel guilty about receiving help–like you are taking a “hand-out” or something. You are not. You are entitled to enough food, decent, comfortable clothing, meaningful social opportunities, appropriate medical care, and a clean, safe home. The fact that so many people view these things as “luxuries” that people need to “earn” and “deserve” is deeply unjust, and the fact that this view operates via internalized classism and ableism is just about the biggest con going.

          6. Whingedrinking, I think most of us would agree that that’s in the “morally permissable strategy within an unjust system”. I’m not trying to tell you how to feel about your own life, but to me this situation has a series of characteristics that make it really different, at least as told? For instance, if Mattress Friend was asking LW to lend her the money to buy a new mattress (without declaring it as income) it would be a big ask depending on their financial circumstances, but I don’t think it would be ethically comparable. There’s an element of asking someone else to play a long con here that seems really specific.

            I’m not trying to diminish how shitty the SSI savings limits are, either. I can’t believe they haven’t increased since 1989. That’s criminal.

          7. Out of nesting, but what you’re describing sounds very different from trying to get a friend to essentially steal a mattress for you because you decided you want a different mattress.

            There’s breaking some of the messed up, unethical rules in a messed up, unethical system that is set up to starve you, and then there’s this.

            There is nothing inherently unjust about a mattress company not giving someone a free new mattress.

          8. Thanks for the explanation; I didn’t know how screwed up that particular system was. That said, I agree with purps – there’s a pretty big difference between accepting twenty dollars worth of groceries as a gift, and actively recruiting someone to help you commit fraud in a scheme that’s unlikely to work anyway.
            (My morbid curiosity is now wondering how far the folks in charge of this program expect to push this whole thing. If you go to a friend’s house for a dinner party and they feed you, are you supposed to report that? What about accepting a free sample at the grocery store?)

          9. No, I never meant to imply that what I and other disabled people have to do to stay alive is the same as Mattress Acquaintance’s insurance-fraud scheme.

            And thank you all for being supportive and lovely.

            But the comment to which I was replying in my first comment in this line of discussion suggested that people who “game the system” (with no qualifications) will also game their families, friends, and other people, which is the point with which I took issue.

            I would not (and I don’t know any of my neighbors who would) even think of trying a stunt like this mattress mess that LW’s acquaintance is trying to strong-arm LW into, but I and my neighbors as a matter of course disobey the letter of the laws and policies governing disability benefits (in the USA; I can’t speak to other nations, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the case for disabled citizens of other countries as well), because to play by the rules as written would entail going without food/medical care/clothing/toiletries (and I’m not talking expensive makeup; I’m talking soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper and the like).

    4. I wish you had questioned her honesty in a less specific fashion. Just saying hey maybe question what else she is lying about, leaving the specifics up to LW to determine, would have avoided catching people in the crossfire who have invisible disabilities and are often doubted, leading to harm for them. Especially since you seem to be aware of it being best to believe people.

    5. My longer comment got eaten, so I’ll just say :

      “It’s usually best to believe people when they talk about their invisible disabilities”
      Let’s do, then.

      1. Well yes but this person has already demonstrated a tendency to lie and an expectation of others to lie and commit crimes. And people DO lie about disabilities. The commenter isn’t out of the way in this case. He/she is being quite fair.

        1. We can do both: accept that Mattress Friend has a disability, but ALSO validate LW if s/he wishes to think skeptically about it. This is literally “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” scenario. Mattress Friend has been dishonest or told sketchy tales often enough that doubt is a reasonable thing to feel. Mattress Friend chose to be sketchy. GIven the most benefit of the doubt, I know that life is weird and weird things do happen for illogical reasons because people are also weird and do unpredictable things, but its unlikely that this sort of scenario happens anywhere near as often as Mattress Friend seems to want LW to believe.

          So, sure, believe Mattress Friend when she says her back hurts. I have a bad back (and a few other invisible issues) and it can be frustrating to feel waves of doubt from loved ones when your back craps out on you at a bad time and leaves you bedridden with a heating pad or ice pack. But if you are starting to think that Mattress Friend is exaggerating her disability to be manipulative and get you to do something illegal and sketchy, it’s OK to doubt how much the inappropriate request is motivated by the actual disability and how much is motivated by a desire to get someone else to handle a problem in her life.

          P.S. If it is too hard, tell her to get a foam mattress topper. If it is too soft, go to a lumberyard and get a sheet of plywood thick enough not to bend, flip the mattress top to bottom and left to right, and put the plywood between the mattress and the boxspring. But do not let Mattress Friend guilt you into getting involved with fraud. “I don’t feel comfortable with that,” should be enough.

      2. Can we accept the disability as it is discussed but express a little curiosity that this person has now purchased and been unsatisfied with two mattresses to the point of wanting to commit a scam to get a brand new version of the first (unacceptable) mattress? I don’t doubt that the friend has back pain and I know it can be difficult to manage with a bad mattress. But LW has had this mattress for several months which means that friend has had the 2nd mattress for several months and is just now mentioning the dissatisfaction. At that point, a good friend might be inclined to be supportive but….I mean…..life kinda happens? And becoming dissatisfied with a mattress after several months of using it just sounds like maybe this friend is looking for a place to sow some chaos.

        Maybe there isn’t one perfect mattress out there that will alleviate the back pain. That sucks. I feel bad for the friend (even as my skin is crawling with a feeling like there are lots of hidden bees here) but sometimes there just isn’t a magical, back-pain-relieving mattress out there. I admit, I might be biased as I was once married to someone who had legitimate pain, but he would use his pain to financially and emotionally abuse the other members of the household because he saw that as payback for his having to suffer physically. Everything had to stop while he pursued expensive and time-consuming methods of alleviating his pain (none of which ever worked or were ever likely to work in the first place). And no one else’s physical pain ever “counted” either, even natural childbirth and postpartum healing. So I’m a little wary of the behavior, even if I can accept that the invisible disability is exactly as described.

  6. LW, you would not be doing your “friend” nor yourself any favors by participating in fraud. Nothing good could come of it. I agree with the Captain. This friendship is dead. Do Not Resucitate.

  7. +1,000 to the LW for providing one of the very weirdest situations ever seen on this blog, featuring some of the most bizarre and inexplicable behavior ever described in a Dear Captain Awkward letter. LW, rest in the knowledge that you are doing nothing wrong and you owe this person nothing. I have a feeling that there is nothing you *could* do to solve this situation in a way that satisfies your “friend.” She keeps moving the goalposts. Even if you comply now, your friend will probably come back with more odd requests and demands. If you comply and it goes badly she will blame you, if you comply and it goes well she will find something else to harp on, and if you don’t comply it will be uncomfortable for a while and then your life will be free of a crazy-making person. Choose your own adventure.

  8. Not that this matters, but just wanted to add, if she is convinced (I don’t buy it) that they swapped mattresses, yours is not the one covered in the policy anyway.

    This is not the type of person you want in your life. I am sure all mutual friends may probably feel similarly and have the same fears.

    Either way, you do not have to be friends with anyone. Period.

    Best of luck, LW.

    1. Yeah, because the insurance company doesn’t care which mattress it is, as long as it’s not stain-proof, right? And the insurance probably isn’t limited to the original owner of the mattress, right?

      Plus, LW she wants you to stain the mattress in such a way that the stain won’t come out. Of a mattress that a company is betting real money is stain-proof. Because you know the insurance company is just going to say, “oh a stain didn’t come out? our bad. here, have a new mattress. and a pony.”
      And funny how she wants you to have it cleaned – which ain’t cheap – so she not only wants you to commit insurance fraud, she wants you to pay for it.
      So in the end, you will be busted for insurance fraud, out the cost of cleaning the mattress, and have a stained mattress.

      That’s not a friend.
      If she tries to badmouth you, your mutual friends either already know she’s sketchy AF or they’ll figure it out when she pulls something on them. Or they’re not your friends either.

      You do know the right thing to do: back away from this toxic mess. You’re just such a kind person you don’t want to disappoint/anger someone who’s not worth your friendship.

      ps- if her car keys had been stolen, they wouldn’t have waited four months and they wouldn’t have “gone through” her car. Her car would have been in a chop shop that night.

      1. I completely agree with BigDogLittleCat: even if they did cover the stained mattress, they would probably just swap it into a new similar one, which, according to your friend, is no good for her back. None of this makes any kind of sense.

        This may sound manipulative and cold but I have been in bad situations with people I thought were my friends (nothing criminal, though!) and I have learned a bit from my mistakes. So, if you and this Mattress Stain friend share a common group of good friends I would proceed like this:

        First, if you have any kind of proof of these weird discussions with her, I would screencap them and save them in case you might need them.

        Second, I would pick a friend or two from the common group of friends and confide in them about this truly weird incident. It will probably help if she begins to badmouth you. Also, readiness to commit an insurance fraud is alarming.

        And third, under no circumstance commit any kind of fraud. Like several commenters have pointed out, it will just lead to a truly destructive spiral of evil things and nothing good comes out of it.

        The mattress she gave you is now yours. Take care of your boundaries!

        The more I think of this, the less I understand it. I am absolutely uncapbable to steal anything but I have always loved stories of cons so I have read quite a lot about the subject – and I find it really hard to think of anything less worth of stealing than a used mattress. It is a big, clumsy and heavy object – and at worst you get bed bugs with it.

        Try to minimize the damage and follow the advice of The Captain. Still, I cannot help wondering if everything is alright with your friend. Of course, it is not up to you to deal with her – but has she behaved like this previously?

      2. She sounds like a typical paranoid person. They don’t think logically, trying to figure it out their reasoning will just take you down a rabbit hole.

      3. AND, nobody has mentioned that LW spent $260 to have the mattress moved to her house. Is she supposed to pony up another $260 to have it moved back again?

        1. I’m wondering who arranged the movers.
          Maybe the friend did and ripped LW off?

    2. Omigosh that’s hilarious! Yes! Tell her you agree it’s not the same mattress so…. No insurance! Watch the smoke emanate from her ears while she works around the lies she’s told

  9. I would say no because it’s unethical but also “she wants me to stain this mattress, have it cleaned, “discover” that the stain won’t come out, then have insurance replace it” is just SO MUCH WORK for a creepy unethical favor!

    I am busy and lazy and I do not have the time to do nice things for myself, let alone get involved in really complicated scams that will only benefit other people.

      1. I am starting to think the elaborate nature of the ask was to test LW’s boundaries. Like, if s/he is willing to do this, Mattress Friend will start asking for other, bigger favors. And the weirdness factors in too, because so many of us are just scratching our heads, but LW is asking “is it ok to say no to this?” This might be a test MF is performing, which makes me very wary indeed.

    1. And the LW will almost definitely end up with a cleaning bill and a stained mattress that insurance will not replace. I highly doubt the ‘friend’ will reimburse her for either.

  10. Yeah, no no nono. There’s no way this ends well for you, your friend has set it up so that every fall is yours to take and you are surrounded by a fog of guilt for…nothing in particular you actually did except take her old mattress. I don’t think you owe your friend the mattress back, but if you feel the situation would be improved if you gave it back, I would suggest that you take no action or expense towards returning it, as those should be on her. After all, you already paid 260$ to remove a mattress from her home she no longer wanted.

  11. +100 on this

    LW, it’s not a good sign that the reason you’re even considering going along is that your friend is making you feel guilty/worried about retaliation via your wider social circle. Disengage (with compassion). It’s for the best.

    I’m also going to add that this person doesn’t seem to care much about your comfort or wellbeing. She wants you to go through a lot of expense and commit fraud because it’s more convenient for her than to replace her current mattress. That’s not appropriate. You are well within your right to say no, and no amount of guilt-tripping can change that. (Assume for a second that those movers did steal stuff from your friend – how were you to know when you hired them? And weren’t you in just as much danger for having them in your space? Possibly giving them your credit card details? It makes no sense.)

    It’s okay to have compassion for her back problems. It’s understandable that she may not have the money to replace her new new mattress. That doesn’t mean you have to do what she asks. You don’t owe her anything.

  12. I have a general rule that I don’t worry too much about how I might look in a story where, if the other person tells their point of view in a remotely truthful way, I come out looking okay. I can’t imagine a conversation with an acquaintance that doesn’t go something like:

    “OP is ruining my health by not helping me with the money I need to get a new mattress after I gave her one!”
    “Wow, that’s terrible, she’s not paying what you agreed for her mattress?!”
    “No, I gave it to her because I would never charge a friend. But my new mattress sucks, and I can get money for the other one if she would just be half the friend I’ve been.”
    “Wait, so are you asking her to sell the mattress or something?”
    “No, blah blah blah, red wine, movers, insurance fraud….”
    “… Okay then.”

    1. I wouldn’t put it past someone willing to commit insurance fraud, to lie about whether the LW was supposed to pay for the mattress.

      1. I mean yeah, for sure, but at that point you’re dealing with somebody who’s got such a casual relationship with the truth that you need to write “she is going to slander me” off as a sunk cost. Even if you acquiesce now, she’ll find a reason at some point.

        1. And it’s even “she is going to slander me by telling people I’m a jerk for not helping her commit insurance fraud.”

      2. Well, that’s kind of the point. You can’t control what a liar is going to say about you, but you can keep your side clean. It definitely doesn’t make any sense to do something unethical in the hope that it will prevent her from telling your friends that you did some different unethical thing.

  13. Yeah, just say no. She gave you the mattress, you aren’t going to give it back because you are now sleeping on it, and you aren’t going to have insurance replace it. She gave it to you, you are using it now, that is the end of that. She will need to solve her mattress problems in some way that doesn’t involve you.

  14. >> Sometimes the cheapest way to pay for things is with money.

    Other issues aside, if you have to pay $260 to get a present transported to your home, it is not a good present. You could have gotten another mattress for half that price. How is this a good decision if you’re unemployed and short on funds? I get the impression your acquaintance pressured you into taking her mattress and you didn’t dare to refuse her offer.

    1. IDK, I think that’s making a lot of assumptions about mattress prices and the LW’s budget and priorities (even when you’re short on money, improving the quality of your sleep may be a priority for spending). And “you can have this thing I no longer want, but I can’t pay to transport it to you, so you’re going to have to figure out how to get it to your house” isn’t unreasonable to say. I think the LW’s friend is being weird about this, but not by offering the mattress but not paying for moving it.

    2. Yes, that’s my big question, too. $260 for mattress movers? When we got married and combined households, I sold my husband’s relatively new, slightly used mattress for $50 cash. I mostly just wanted it out of the house and probably would have given it away to anyone who would have taken it and I would have helped them tie it to the roof of their car late in the evening for them to carefully drive it home on empty-ish roads. Or I would have helped them load it into a $19.95 pickup truck from U-Haul.

      Friend is a jerk. Once you give a gift, you don’t get to ask for it back.

      1. Well, people charge more for going up and down stairs.

        More to the point, at the time LW got the mattress, it seemed like a good deal.

    3. I think it could be a good deal. I paid quite a bit to have a giveaway piano moved to my house. Worth every penny — I’d never have purchased a piano otherwise. If LW’s friend paid like $1500 for a fancy mattress, then the $260 could be well-spent compared to the quality of a $100 mattress.

      The swap part I find odd. Like: why does LW’s friend care if the mattress was swapped? If LW is happy with it, it makes no difference if it was swapped or not.

      1. And what was the swap supposed to accomplish? Swapping like for like yields no profit, swapping unlike for like is too easy to spot, and in general it reeks of “shit that didn’t happen”.

      2. Yeah that part was off the rails. I mean first of all how would she be in a position to know anyway? And why would it remotely be her business? I think she made up the home thefts to make LW feel obligated to help in fraud. To make her feel responsible bc they were her movers. It’s stupid bc she could have chosen to keep an eye on them and I’m sure she did but she wants LW to feel an obligation.
        And ‘fighting for my health’. That one made me lol. if that’s her fighting plan I’d say toss health out the window

    4. >> You could have gotten another mattress for half that price

      A good mattress costs a HELL of a lot more than $130. A good mattress is one of the more expensive things you will buy for your house! My husband and I spent about $600 for a pillow top floor model and were THRILLED at the deal! (Even better? We were given free delivery!). Three years later and it still provides us with juuuuuust the right amount of sink-into-it softness and support. And that’s why a quality mattress is expensive: you’re buying something that will last years.

      And the OP waaaaay overpaid for delivery: she could have rented a little U Haul and gotten it done for about $50, even less if she had a friend with a van or a pickup truck.

      1. “And the OP waaaaay overpaid for delivery: she could have rented a little U Haul and gotten it done for about $50, even less if she had a friend with a van or a pickup truck.”

        This is not an option for everyone:

        1) not everyone has a driver’s licence;

        2) many people cannot drive due to issues like:
        chronic pain;
        panic attacks;
        mental fatigue/brain fog;
        taking medication that impairs driving.

        3) not everyone can physically lift and move a mattress, especially if stairs are involved.

      2. ‘And the OP waaaaay overpaid for delivery: she could have rented a little U Haul and gotten it done for about $50, even less if she had a friend with a van or a pickup truck.’

        This is assuming that OP or OP’s available friends are able-bodied enough to get the mattress in question into her apartment. Say it again: Sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.

      3. I mean sure, but there are people without drivers’ licenses. Especially in big cities. Or…that price still sounds steep…but the money could be worth it if it’s just less trouble than the process of getting a rental van, dealing with traffic, getting a mattress down stairs yourself, etc.

      4. Some of us are not physically strong enough to move a mattress by yourself with a U-Haul, and it’s not always easy to find people to help you.

      5. I mean, she still paid less, total, by getting a free mattress with possibly-overpriced delivery than you did for your mattress with free delivery that you’re thrilled at the price of. More importantly, I don’t see the point of litigating whether she paid too much, not enough, or just right at this point — it’s done! (I think maybe some people are digging in thinking “see, this is another way that your friend scammed you, she told you you were getting a great deal when actually you were overpaying to take something she didn’t even want anymore off her hands,” but I don’t see where the friend profited off that transaction in any way, so… whether it was objectively A Great Deal or not, it at least doesn’t sound like it was a scam.)

    5. I don’t understand this thread. LW isn’t on trial for buying the optimal mattress or getting the optimal delivery. Why are people even discussing this?

      1. The money is spent and the mattress is moved. It’s completely pointless to faux comparison-shop. Anyone doing a “well Letter Writer, what you shoulda done is ____” thing is being a jerk.

        1. I think the price paid may be relevant if the sketchy friend handled paying the movers and LW took them at their word for what it cost. The price is so high that I wonder if LW has already been scammed for money by Sketchy Friend and just doesn’t know it yet.

  15. Wait. Your friend bought herself a new mattress, “let” you pay two hundred and sixty dollars in delivery to take the old one off her hands for “free,” now she is asking you to commit fraud because she is dissatisfied with her months-ago purchase, and is using her back pain as a guilt-cudgel to extract your cooperation?

    100% with the Captain here.

    Do not conspire to commit fraud in order to try and keep someone dishonest from bad mouthing you to your friend group.

    I have further concerns that your friend is misrepresenting the terms of her stain protection contract. From what I could quickly google, that kind of warranty doesn’t seem to transfer when the mattress leaves the hands of the purchaser, nor will it cover stains which occurred when the mattress wasn’t used in tandem with a mattress protector purchased from the manufacturer. Stain protection contracts seem to be in and of themselves very difficult to collect on, which if you did commit fraud could very well leave you with a ruined mattress and out the $$ (appears to be around a hundred bucks?) of paying for a company inspector to come declare your mattress “not covered,” all so you can potentially get a different mattress that won’t work for you and keep the fear of retributional rumormongering at bay.


    (IANA lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I do however have back problems and while I can sympathize with that, shady manipulative friend is shady and manipulative)

    1. I mean, even if the Letter Writer did want to do crime, this is hardly the right accomplice. Or crime.

      1. It’s an awful lot of risk, effort, and uncertainty for the best case scenario outcome of a less satisfactory sleeping surface.

      2. This is the kind of crime where if you went to jail, the other prisoners would just look at you with bemused pity and probably gently escort you to the showers and chow line because they’d be afraid you’d get lost.

          1. …and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, “And creating a nuisance.”

            I didn’t expect to see an Arlo reference today. This pleases me!

          2. “And then I added ‘And creating a public nuisance’ and they all came back.”

    2. Hey wait I AM a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer in fact, and I 100% can confirm this is a very absurd crime that will not be successful but IS a very bad idea! Depending on your state (assuming you’re in the us), and the the value of the mattress Friend is trying to scam, this could be a felony. Additionally if you’ve communicated about her scheme with her electronically (via apps, texting, email, the ways we all talk to each other nowadays that are so easily screenshottable) and agree to it, that’s also conspiracy. So I agree with what everyone said, that you should run far and fast from this person who is Bad At Criming.

      1. Sidenote, there is NOTHING like working in litigation at a law firm to get you to reassess your electronic communication habits REALLLLLLL fast. I still send Sexty Things and stuff, but I am now super aware from seeing it that the things you think are safe, are only one discovery motion away from being in front of SOMEONE’s eyes, even if the item in question doesn’t relate/isn’t criminal/won’t be admissible because it’s irrelevant.

        1. Friend of mine is traveling for a deposition and stops in at a bar to eat because it’s the only thing open at the time. She pulls out her work phone and checks email, then pulls out her personal phone and starts checking texts. The bartender eyeballs her and asks “Drug dealer or lawyer? Sorry, just nobody else carries two phones.”

          1. ^^yep! Makes me laugh every time but I tell you, when people go “I’m thinking about just using one phone now that Job is providing PhoneTheyLike” I now say “ok…just…there are benefits to keeping them separate”. And I now think of that Designing Women episode where Suzanne freaks out about having to share her diary entries on the witness stand (hers had vital info but also unavoidable personal notes) allllllll the time.

          2. Separation is good. The bizarro converse of having two phones is not having just *one*, but having *half* a phone.

            I only found out about my ex-husband’s two-year-long affair because he was SO cheap that he wanted me to share *his* phone as a contact point for the on-call work I was about to start. His logic was that I would *naturally* only be working when he wasn’t working or on call himself. Thinking things through was not his strong point. Being a lying cheating controlling asshole definitely was.

          3. Ah ha ha!!! I have 2 phones, one is work. Bc our company insisted that we could not access email without allowing a backdoor into the phone. They put in software that allows them to access the phones data without permission from user. So no one would put it on their personal phone. We all have iPhones for work. Scientist.

          4. …I wonder what the bartender expected her to say if she had in fact been a drug dealer.

          5. Bartender: Drug dealer or lawyer?
            Patron: I feel more secure not answering that question
            Bartender: You know, I feel like that answer should have cleared it up for me but somehow it didn’t.


      2. I am not a lawyer but I have been raised by several lawyers and one insurance inspector so I cannot avoid thinking the legal side of things. Skirt’s comment is excellent, I just wanted to add that in case your communication of this truly weird insurance scam plan took place on an electronic platform I would suggest that you also state your disinterest to participate clearly on the same platform (and screencap the discussion!). It would probably also not hurt if you warned your friend against doing the scam, telling her that it is illegal. If worst comes to worst, this might help you.

        1. I, also, am a criminal defense attorney.
          Without intending for this to be legal advice, but rather as a point of general knowledge…
          In some jurisdictions, not only could this be a felony or several, in mine, the maximum (however improbable) punishment would be at least 20 years in prison.

          Whether that’s in any way sensible is left as an exercise for the reader.

    3. Yeah absolutely. If LW hadn’t moved it, the mistress of mattress schemes would have had to pay to dispose of it. LW saved her money and this is the thanks she gets?!. Friend still would have had to have removal/delivery guys in her home to get rid of the old mattress. Though would the imaginary thefts have still occurred? Without a LW to manipulate, I think very possibly not.

  16. LW, unless you have some supremely turdish mutual friends, I think truthfully explaining to them what happened in plain English will suffice as an explanation. Sometimes just describing the weird behavior is enough when it’s that sketchy. The weird thing is definitely weird and if these are reasonable folks chances are pretty good that they won’t find you at fault for not cooperating with this person’s shitty little scheme.

    1. And so easy to do! ‘She wanted me to commit insurance fraud to get a mattress, then swap mattresses with her’. I think few people would find LW at fault at that point.

      1. “‘She wanted me to commit insurance fraud to get a mattress, then swap mattresses with her’. I think few people would find LW at fault at that point.” This assumes that the LW will ever have an opportunity of stating her case/explaining what happened. Unfortunately my experience with the sort of person who could come up with a scam like this is that they’re very expert at getting their story in first; LW may find simply herself ostracized from her friend group with nobody interested in hearing her side. This makes them friends not worth having, of course, but that knowledge doesn’t make the process any more comfortable. LW should absolutely stick to her guns and refuse to get involved, but I can’t help thinking that there will be fallout from this somewhere along the line.

        1. There will be fallout no matter what.

          If something goes wrong, MFF will blame LW to mutual friends. If LW fails to dance to her tune in some future issue, she will blame LW. Basically, LW has no control over the fact that this person is a walking Etch-A-Sketch and will turn on her to mutual friends eventually. So might as well skip the committing fraud part.

        2. “This assumes that the LW will ever have an opportunity of stating her case/explaining what happened. Unfortunately my experience with the sort of person who could come up with a scam like this is that they’re very expert at getting their story in first; ”

          I agree–but the LW can start now by asking for advice or validation from the most sensible and powerful members of the group.

      2. also be sure to always say, “I took her old mattress off her hands, since she’d bought a new one and had to get rid of it.”

        Don’t say “she gave me her old mattress.” Just frame it to place the “favor/burden” ratio in YOUR favor, not hers.

        Make words work for you. (She’s doing it to you now, with her “fighting for my health” phrase, and she will certainly do it when she complains to others, so you should fight with the same weapons.)

        and get there first.

  17. She sounds very fun.

    Refuse. You can do it gently “I am concerned about the legal aspects of the fraud you want me to participate in, so I must decline” or not “Nope”, but either way you should definitely refuse.

    Do not worry about the “making you look bad” thing. No truthful recitation of these events could make you look bad, and no version that makes you look bad could be truthful. You accepted and had professionally removed from her residence a free mattress. These are your sole actions in the chain of events. She doesn’t like her new mattress. Well–tough boots. These things happen.

  18. BACK ISSUES!! SPECIAL MATTRESSES!! This is my chance to shine!!

    Hi, hello, my name is Ana. I have had back issues my entire life and have been through more mattresses than I want to count. Please cut all contact with this person and run because this is banana nut butters.

    I know how painful it is to sleep on a bad mattress. Because of that, I would NEVER try to “un-gift” a mattress I sold or gave away to my friend–which is what she’s doing. In return, she’s offering you the shitty mattress that doesn’t work for you OR her?! How generous!! Even if her mattress were great (and it’s not!), that doesn’t make what she’s doing any less un-gifting entitlement garbage. She SOLD you a mattress and it’s working for you and now she wants it back? NO. She of all people should understand that your back and health matter too.

    Do not commit insurance fraud with this person and do NOT lose a wink of sleep over it. This is not your fault and you’re not doing anything wrong. I promise you she has more options here than “pressure a friend into giving up her comfortable mattress + have her commit a crime on my behalf.” Disability isn’t a free pass to pull this shit.

    Be safe, LW! ❤

      1. Honestly anyone who hauls away a mattress from your home at no cost to you is kinda doing you a favor. Where I live, if you buy a new mattress and have it delivered the delivery people will take the old one away for an additional $60-90 charge. I could theoretically rent a truck for $30ish but because I have a bad back I can’t move a mattress myself, and it costs money to leave it at the dump too. I just have to hope the good old “Mattress, saggy but clean, free to whoever will haul it out of my house” Freecycle ad keeps working.

        1. yes! the LW should point this out to herself, and then use that phrasing (“I took it off her hands so she didn’t have to pay to have it hauled away”).

    1. anamardoll, what a great comment! I love “banana nut butters”! Also, I sincerely hope you best of luck with your back problems. I have them, too.

      Also, this just seemed like a good place to share with you an old Scandinavian saying. In the original language it sort of rhymes, but sounds just as weird when translated: “A person who gives a gift and then takes it back should carry chicken shit.”

      So, dear LW, let the “friend” be the one carrying the poultry excrement.

        1. That is a good one – thank you for teaching it! I hade never heard of this one before and I love learning new proverbs.

          I believe this principle, to honor one’s promise when giving gifts, can be found in many cultures, at least in ones with a concept of owning property.

          Now I can only think of the poor mattresses of Sqornshellous Zeta in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series. I bet the LW’s mattress is pretty relieved to escape its previous owner.

  19. “sometimes the best way to pay for things is with money” My kids are 3 and 4 but I am going to file this life advice gem away for them.

    This story immediately made me think of a friends SIL who drove school busses for a living and had to take a drug test. She was a routine pot smoker and knew she’d fail the test so she was asking all the female family members to urinate in a vial which she planned to insert into her nether regions and pull out in the stall to “submit” for the test. Gross right? Point is, there are some people who have zero shame about asking friends and family to do gross, unethical, morally questionable things for their own gain. Your friend is one of those people. Say no. I agree with Captain’s hunch that many in your circle probably have similar stories and suspicions about her.

    If she makes a scene in public, you might respond by looking shocked, laugh a little and say, “Oh gosh! When you asked me to do that, I totally thought you were joking because, of course, you’d never actually ask a friend to do something illegal like that, would you?” She can either take the opportunity to save face and leave you alone…..or admit to the whole group that, indeed, she’s a fraudster that tried to rope you in.

    1. I do think asking for a friend to help you pass an unethical, unnecessary drug test is a bit different from this scheme (and I do believe urine testing in this case is unnecessary because it doesn’t say anything about whether she’s ever been high while actually driving a school bus – the only time it should matter in terms of employment).

      1. No it is literally ‘taking the piss’. What we say in the UK when someone’s requests have gone too far.

        You can decide that your employers requirements are overly invasive but you don’t get to up that ante by asking for people’s urine.

      2. There’s a lot of jobs where I think drug tests are unnecessary and unethical.

        …I can’t say I believe one where you drive children around is one of them.

        1. Sorry for going off-topic, but… I’m not a marijuana user (maybe I should be; I hear it’s good for anxiety, and I should probably prioritize the effects of my lack of mental health on others over my selfish and prissy distaste for the idea of illegal drug use. Nevertheless, my work [booking hotel reservations] does forbid it, so… shrugs. Putting off that decision for another job, because I am a coward), but I’m fine with drivers using marijuana, so long as they do not do so impaired,share with or proselytize to school-age persons, or involve their work in procurement drama. In fact, given that most regular users of marijuana seem to do so in order to combat insomnia, I would MUCH rather have a well-rested driver on the road than a sleep-deprived one.

      3. The urine test is detecting active metabolites. It just takes a long time for those to leave the body for cannabis. I can’t comment at what level driving is truly “impaired” but I think it’s extremely questionable that it should be “ok”, too. It’s really unknown.

        1. Since we’re on the topic, any normal urine test is detecting an inactive metabolite, THC-COOH. (The polar -COOH is what lets the kidney pull it from blood into urine — essentially zero THC will be found in urine. Active THC tests need blood draws.)

          Fancy lab equipment can detect very low levels of THC, and those do occur for a week-plus of abstinence in chronic users (see publications by Eustis). These are trace levels. Dosing THC to match these trace levels has no detectable psychomotor effects. There’s postulated to be a follow-on effect from heavy use, I’m not up on that research, but if it exists it’s not a direct THC dosing effect.

          So the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration says: “Thus, while THC can be detected in the blood long after ingestion, the acute psychoactive effects of marijuana ingestion last for mere hours, not days or weeks.”

    2. I had a close family member ask me to do this, I didn’t do it but I’ve always wondered if it would actually work, if you know can you post what happened?

      1. Having worked for the people who organized the legally prescripted version of these tests, no it won’t work.

        1. Yeah, I have a family member who worked for one of the Navy’s drug screening labs, and at least if you’re in the Navy or the Marine Corps (USA), I understand the test is administered with someone watching you pee in the cup. Does tend to put a damper on any thought of pulling a switcheroo.

      2. Used to work intake at a drug treatment facility. I had to watch the urine being collected, and then check the temperature and some other stuff. If the pee didn’t come from where it’s supposed to, it will be too cold. More often I saw people drink loads of water to try to dilute their urine. That also shows up when we’d measure specific gravity and we’d just come back and do the test again later.

        Honestly, most stuff is going to be out of your system in a few days, so stalling is the best bet. (Unless the person is a heavy marijuana user. But a spliff every now and then? A week and you’re probably good.)

  20. LW, it’s hard to say no. But it gets easier with practice. This is a super good place to start.

      1. yes!

        Consider this a junior lesson, and pay attention to yourself as you do it, so you can see what thoughts or concepts make you feel stronger, and what “buttons” or “triggers” make you feel weaker.

        Then you can “install” the proper “controls,” mentally, the next time.

        Basketball players practice; musicians practice. This is your practice run.

  21. Wow LW, what a weird place to be in. I’d echo the Captain’s advice against, um, committing fraud?

    I do get you are in an awkward position, with mutual friends and fear of ‘badmouthing’ and what not.

    However, personally I doubt this will become a topic of conversation in your social group! I mean, is Suspect Friend going to start talking about, “I gave a mattress to LW last year and I thought the movers switched the mattresses and she should help me replace the new one I bought and and and….”?

    Even if she does start raking muck (again, what is she going to say?), you have two options.

    First, you reply to others with something along the lines of, “Yes, she gave me a mattress and I had it delivered to me. Can’t speak to what’s up with the new one she bought. [shrug] + [new subject]”

    Second, if she pushes and makes it somehow your fault/problem for not ‘helping’ her with her fraud and TALKS about it…The truth is a complete defense. Don’t lie, don’t embellish, don’t pass or even imply judgement: “She asked me to stain this mattress, have it cleaned, discover that the stain won’t come out, then have insurance replace it. I said No.[shrug] + [new subject]”

    I had a very unfortunate situation a little like yours. A good friend of mine and me and my parents jointly bought a vacation property. From Day One, she bogarted the design, the renovations, the furnishings (and just sent us bills with no input from us) and then controlled access. When she vetoed my parents using it over Labor Day (coming up from Texas to the house in Washington State) because a friend of her cousin wanted it, that was it. We decided to sell our interest – to her, so she could own it outright (and not lose it), for a reasonable price. Well, she did not set a reasonable price. She had a realtor friend low-ball the estimated worth of the home, and basically pushed us to sell for about 30 grand LESS than it was worth to get out of the partnership. Due to her lack of integrity, we lost about 40,000 on that house.

    This former friend is a certified financial planner. She is fairly well known in the PNW. Whenever anyone asks me about her – and it does happen on occasion – I say, “We jointly invested in a vacation property. When her use scheduling became unworkable for me, I had no choice but to sell my share to her for significantly less than my equity. She made – and I lost – about $40,000 dollars off the transaction.”

    That is completely true, and it speaks to her actions, not mine.

    Bringing it back around … let your friend’s actions speak for themselves.

  22. LW, if your acquaintance is enacting this weirdness with you, she’s either done this in the past, or will do it again in the future. It may be hard to accept that if she bad mouths you to mutual friends now, some people might think you’re the unreasonable one in this situation. But those mutual friends will, at some point, have an a-ha moment with her, and realize you did the best thing possible by avoiding her and her fraudulent shenanigans.

  23. It gets weirder. I had never heard of mattress stain insurance so, being curious, I googled. I won’t pretend I understand how it works exactly, but apparently it’s something you buy along with your NEW mattress. Staining the old one, no matter who does it, won’t work.

    1. According to the letter, the insurance was purchased (and has always existed) on the old mattress, but no such insurance exists on the new mattress. That part actually makes sense. I gave my daughter my old mattress which still has a stain insurance policy, but didn’t buy a stain insurance policy for myself.

      What I don’t understand is why the “friend” wants a duplicate of LW’s mattress instead of just asking LW to trade matttesses.

      1. I should note that I didn’t buy insurance for the new mattress precisely because I never used it on the first one so decides I didn’t need it. Ultimately, a stained (but clean) mattress still gets covered with mattress pads and sheets.

      2. Now I wonder if she is going to keep her 2nd mattress, take the original mattress, and just return it to the company for credit or cash back. Leaving LW with no mattress at all. And if LW complained, I wouldn’t be surprised if she told mutual friends that LW was borrowing it and she took it back when LW stained it.

    2. I think the idea is that the friend found out she got the stain insurance when she bought the mattress. I know ours was included. She may have found paperwork for it.

  24. Stay strong, Letter Writer. She is behaving bizarrely and you super duper do not owe her the strange assistance/complicity she’s requesting.

  25. Sleep deprivation brings out the worst in people. Your friend may have excellent qualities, but right now she is acting like she can’t think straight, which is how I act when I haven’t slept properly for several weeks running (I also have serious chronic back trouble). You get desperate, and if you get an idea for how to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll obsessively pursue it.
    It sucks for your friend, but you don’t want to be complicit in her committing fraud. Assuming she is at heart a decent person, she won’t be happy with herself or you if you helped her to commit this bizarre form of fraud.

    1. Sounds like there’s MUCH more than sleep deprivation involved here, IMHO.

      1. I would have agreed with you Judas until I was with my beloved husband for awhile. His insomnia got really bad for awhile and he started telling me about a conspiracy against him at his workplace. Then he was sure the mail lady was secretly opening our mail. Then it was something else. He started having visual hallucinations after 3-4 days of zero sleep.

        Long term sleep deprivation does weird things to your mind.


  26. This is weird. Like, this whole situation is WEIRD. As a rule of thumb, when people start spinning bizarre stories and end with an attempt to get you to do something unethical and something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s time to bail. BAIL, LW, BAIL

  27. Someone who asks you to commit insurance fraud (or any other crime) is not your friend.

    “She asked me to help her commit insurance fraud, I declined, so we are no longer friends,” is a perfectly good explanation that any reasonable person will accept.

    Having a bad back is no excuse for being shady, manipulative, and trying to get your friends commit ridiculous, badly planned crimes for you.

    1. Ahh that reminds me of that particular physical therapist friend of mine who did me the “favor” of massaging my hurt shoulder – which I was super grateful for, and intended to pay for when I got insurance.

      When I did get insurance, I asked him for the necessary paperwork and he then asked me how much I was insured for. He then proceeded to tell me that I should file claims for that maximal amount and gave me receipts for consultations that never happened, some on dates prior to my actual injury!

      When I pointed out that this was fucking sketchy and actually insurance fraud, he just said that “everyone in the field does it”.

      We still see each other in group activities but yeahh I can’t say I really like him anymore (for that and a thousand other reasons, all pertaining to the fact that he’s untrustworthy in general). I’ve been seeing another physical therapist, and oddly enough, that one doesn’t ask me to commit insurance fraud.

      1. Physical therapist here, just for the record: I do not do that. Nor does any of my physio friends. I´ve come across physios who do; they tend to be unpleasant people.

      2. It depends on the terms of the insurance policy, but I’ve never heard of one that allows backdating for treatment anyway. So even if the physical therapist friend had only billed for the single treatment of the massage, the fact that the treatment was given before there was an insurance policy when the patient was uninsured, that’s fraud right there– albeit a lesser one. The friend might have thought he was just jumping on board what was already started. Bottom line is that when accepting services from a friend, it’s still best to find out ahead of time how much one will be charged and agree to those charges and terms.

        1. You are absolutely right and I realize my initial post was a bit misleading – a more exact version would have been “and intended to pay for when I got actual access to the insurance I had”. I was insured at the time, but could not file claims until I received a card with my employee number, and due to my last name having been incorrectly entered in the employee database initially, that took months.

          You could still be right about my friend thinking he was just jumping on board with me though, because he might not have understood the situation clearly even though I tried explaining it to him. We did have an agreement regarding the exact price I should pay too, which is why I was kind of suprised when he tried pulling that shit.

          1. Thanks for the clarification. I had something similar. When I went to the doctor and presented my insurance card, it turned out not to work. I promised to find out the problem and got treatment. Later when I found out the red tape problem (after hours on the phone), neither I nor the doctor thought it unethical to say the treatment happened at a later time when the insurance company said I had insurance.

  28. It definitely seems weird that she wants YOU to go to all this effort to get the mattress back to her. I understand why she’d have you pay for moving the mattress the first time, but I’d think that if she’s changed her mind and wants it back that SHE should be the one to pay for the move (and then if she really wants to stain and clean it and all that mess, it’s TOTALLY ON HER!).

  29. Even if everything she says is true, there is still zero obligation to participate in this weird and complicated plan.

  30. Oh wow, LW, what a ucked fup situation. Say NO, and hold firm. Friends don’t ask friends to commit fraud for them. That’s such a big ask that it should never be on the table unless life is at stake. And if she badmouths you – it’s your friend (or “friend” – really, she strikes me as a user) who wants to commit fraud, so I think it will make her look bad and not you.

    If Mattress Lady is really in a position to turn everyone against you, keep holding firm and get some new friends. You don’t want your social life to be at the whims of someone who asks her friends to commit fraud for her – especially if the friends will be left holding the bag for her. Sometimes a charismatic and amoral person really does hold a social group in their sway, in which case the only solution is to find another circle of friends. Thankfully, this almost always has a shelf life and Charismatic Person wears out their welcome and the rest of the group wonders “wtf was I thinking?” (IME)

    1. Sometimes a charismatic and amoral person really does hold a social group in their sway, in which case the only solution is to find another circle of friends. Thankfully, this almost always has a shelf life and Charismatic Person wears out their welcome and the rest of the group wonders “wtf was I thinking?”

      Just quoting this bit because it is so perfect. I have been in that position. I was put through the wringer by that charismatic, amoral person, and watched several other people go from “she’s amazing and my whole life is dedicated to her!” to “what was I thinking?” It’s not pretty, but it is predictable.

  31. Dear LW/OP,

    Your “free” mattress has already cost you $260. The previous owner wants you to now pay more by sacrificing your honesty and self respect for her benefit. I would just say “I am unable to comply with your request” and move on to other potential friends, while comfortably sleeping the sleep of the innocent and just on your mattress. Meanwhile, save your reciept for the moving and take a picture of the mattress. Preventative/defensive chats with your mutual acquaintences (in person, not via e-mail, social media) may be in order.

  32. You know, your “friend” could get more than a new mattress if she would upgrade her grifting ways from insurance fraud to arson….she could blame the fire that destroyed all of her possessions on the shifty movers. IOW, this woman is CRAZY. Run away, run away, run away….

  33. I had to read this twice to get all the moving parts here.

    Having a mattress removed from your house is generally a favor in itself, especially if you’re ordering a mattress via mail and can’t have the delivery company take the old one.

    As others have said — unless she makes up a totally new lie (like she sold the mattress to you and you didn’t pay for it — although why would she let it arrive at your house and wait for money later?!?), telling this story is going to make her look like the weird one.

    Say the mattress stain fraud works — who is going to pay for the new/bad mattress to appear at your house (even if you wanted it)? Certainly you are not going to pay for a second “free” mattress to move your house. This goes nowhere good.

    P.S. I’m really glad this didn’t include bed bugs.

    1. It doesn’t include bed bugs THAT WE KNOW OF. Maybe Mattress Friend has omitted to discuss a few other details of her grand plan with LW.

  34. LW, your friend is acting like a gross scumbag, and I feel for you. None of your options are appealing, but allow me to offer some perspective.

    The momentary discomfort of telling Mattress Friend, “No, I will not join in your scumbag scheme,” and some potential awkwardness with your mutual friends, pales in comparison to the awkwardness of being indicted and arrested for insurance fraud (which this is), to say nothing of the crazy expense of hiring a lawyer to negotiate your plea deal, and paying restitution to the insurance company. Oh! And the awkwardness of having to explain your insurance fraud arrest every time you go in for a job interview.

    I, for one, would pick a few weeks of minor to moderate social awkwardness over blowing up my entire life for years. (And honestly, it’s pretty gross that your friend would ask you to do something with these kinds of consequences.)

    I hope this makes your choice easier and helps you get through the awkward parts.

  35. When you give something to someone, it is theirs and they can do as they please with it. They can break it, sell it, give it away, throw it away, anything. You no longer have any claim on it. The mattress now belongs to OP and no-one gets to tell her what to do with it.

    OP already paid $260 for this ‘gift’ from someone who wanted to get rid of a used mattress. Her intention was to get rid of an unsuitable mattress, not to give OP a nice present. The acquaintance’s buyer’s remorse with mattress No. 2 has nothing to do with OP and she should not get involved in the insurance fraud.

  36. As an insurance claim rep, I implore you not to get caught up in her scheme. Trying to preserve a friendship with this person won’t be worth the headaches and hassles.

  37. I have had a similar thing happen to me. A friend gave me his old refrigerator when he got a new one. He decided that he would like it back and wanted me to deliver it. Ya, not going to fit in my Toyota. No scam, just making things weird. He also told friends he hadn’t agreed to give it to me, but that he was storing it with me and that now I was making it weird and wouldn’t let him have it back. Two of our friends had helped move it in the first place, so his lie didn’t hold up. Ultimately as I really didn’t want this hanging over my head I decided to let him have it. But….he had to come get it when I was home. It never happened because it involved him doing something, but he could no longer hold it over my head.

    You don’t owe her anything and I’m guessing your friends are already on to her. As an alternative to just saying no, you could tell her she could come get it. Do you think she really would? I don’t. I hope this resolves quickly for you so this stress is gone.

    Oh and this dude wasn’t part of my friend group much longer after this drama (along with other).

    1. Come and get it, and give lw $260 and the cost of a new mattress, as the LW presumably got rid of her own old one.
      It friend wants to return to the old state, she is the one who should bear the cost of a situation that she created.

    2. I was thinking of something along these lines too. Ideally, stick with the Captain’s script, but if there’s really a worry that mutual friends believe the friend, LW could tell her “I don’t mind if you reimburse me the $260 I paid to have it moved originally and pick it up yourself. Then if friends as what’s up, it’s a simple matter of saying “I still don’t mind if she reimburses me the $260 I paid to have it moved originally and picks it up herself.” I believe it highly unlikely that she’d act on this, but it’s an honest way to come out looking good.

      1. I agree with this. Even if LW is clearly in the right and Mattress Friend is clearly in the wrong (which I think we’re all in agreement on!), I think we can all agree our brains can sometimes be our worst enemies and guilt isn’t always logical or rational. LW, if it will let you sleep better at night (no pun intended? maybe a little pun intended), offer exactly what Clarry suggests. Chances are, she’s not going to go to so much effort to get her mattress back. And if she does happen to agree to these terms, use that $260 to buy yourself a new mattress.

  38. I think that it might be helpful to you to assume that this person is – and always has been – talking about you to mutuals in the same way she talks about the movers. Not just on that topic. She does blame you for the mover situation. Blames! I can say this because she sounds like someone who doesn’t own stuff that happens (and “assures me” yeah). I think once you realise that rather than trying to manage what someone who is a liar says about you (impossible, crazy making, not ok) you are better to focus on giving that person clear messages such as suggested by Cap and others and let mutuals decide who they like and trust – you will feel stronger. From a position of strength will come respect.

    1. I agree–I think she has already been doing the same sort of low-level crabbing about YOU that she’s been doing about the movers. She probably blames you for the very presence of the movers, and anything she’s said to you on that topic, she is already saying to everyone else.

      Few people tailor their grousing to be “one topic for Person A; a different topic for Person B.”

      So…she already looks as wonky to your mutual friends as she does to you. So the “bullet” has already been fired.

      Live honorably and strong. Let the fallout fall where it may. At least you will be strong–and don’t assume that the fallout will be what you predict!

  39. I think it’s helpful to focus on you, too. Her mental and emotional state – not helpful. It’s part of a messed up interaction. That you need to get some space from. Redraw boundaries – see what she does … **Then** decide whether shes in need of suggesting a sleep clinic or trauma counsellor or you going a no contact policy.

  40. What’s she going to do to badmouth you? “LW is such a jerk! She won’t help me commit insurance fraud.” I’m guessing she would probably spin the story in such away that it made you look like the bad guy, like you somehow intentionally hired sketchy movers to steal random items from her or something. This whole thing seems really weird and fishy. Trust your gut and tell her you’re keeping the mattress and you won’t help her commit fraud.

  41. This is my SIL to a tee. She loves cooking up these amazingly complicated schemes in which other people jump through flaming hoops and use up vast amounts of their time, energy and resources so that she can save a quarter. They’re not unethical…they’re just consistently difficult, expensive and painful for everyone but her.

    Learning to say “no” to her requests was one of the most freeing experiences of my life.

    1. This may not matter much, or at all, but it does occur to me that irrational friend probably does this “sort” of thing with some regularity. Not necessarily illegal things, but complicated dramatic things that fill her life with some kind of odd excitement. That she is picking now on LW is probably because she sees LW as someone who may not push back. As evidenced by the responses here, the vast majority of people would have simply looked at irrational friend with astonishment and said a loud “no.” LW is/was probably hoping to salvage the friendship and was a bit hesitant.

      I think this is less about the mattress and health problems than about something to fill up irrational friend’s days and thoughts. I agree that the main issue here is boundaries. Get them up as soon as possible, LW, because dramatic irrationality might be this woman’s stock in trade.

    2. My mother (a narcissist) LOVES volunteering other people’s time and labor and then just announcing that an event is going to happen (“movers you don’t know, and which are random acquaintances I also don’t know who are willing to work for $10 and a KFC lunch, are going to show up at your house and move your stuff on the same Saturday you’d planned four months in advance to be the Saturday you were going to take a trip out of town” being a recent example, end result being a lot of my stuff was broken or damaged, liquor was stolen, things that were not supposed to be stored were, and things that were actually supposed to be stored weren’t) and expecting you to be there for said event you just found out about less than 12 hours in advance. Yay? No, not yay. Opposite of yay.

      What did she do, you may wonder? She sat in a comfy chair inside with the air conditioning, drank a cold drink and barked orders at everyone while doing suduko puzzles. Everyone else had to change their weekend plans at the last minute and everyone but her got hot, sweaty and banged-up doing heavy labor for pennies. All because she couldn’t accept the possibility of being told “no” or paying professional (bonded & insured) movers a fair rate to move stuff, and clearly she certainly didn’t want to actually do any labor herself.

      Reducing my interactions with her to the bare minimum necessary has greatly improved my mental health.

        1. Yeah, I know we’re all relieved to have a letter where we’re all agreed that Friend’s behavior is beyond the pale, but can we can it with the ableism? The suggestion about sleep deprivation being a cause was legitimately pause for thought but the rest has been pretty grating with no better purpose.

  42. Here’s the key sentence in this whole thing for me:

    “My acquaintance gave me a mattress in the summer, because it wasn’t working for her back.”

    Key word: “gave”.

    As in, transferred ownership, in the form of a gift. The mattress in question is now your mattress. It is no longer her mattress, and she no longer has any rights over the thing. As such, any stain protection insurance on the wretched thing would presumably now be yours, just like the mattress.

    Really, that’s pretty much where it stops. The mattress you are sleeping on is yours now. It doesn’t matter whether the movers “replaced” it in transit. You have a mattress, on which you are sleeping; it is your mattress. It is not her mattress any more. It stopped being her mattress when she offered it to you and you accepted the offer, and it certainly stopped being her mattress once it left her property (regardless of whether or not the movers “replaced” it in transit[1]). As such, she’s asking you to attempt to defraud an insurance company for her benefit using your property.

    To which the clear answer is either “no” or “hell, no!”, depending on how vehement you want to become.

    If your mutual friends are such that they would defend the idea you ought to be attempting to take on the risk of defrauding an insurance company using property which was yours in order to allow her to benefit, then quite frankly, you need new friends. (The “theft” by the movers is a red herring, thrown in there to confuse things and create a sense of obligation on your part).

    [1] Seriously, this one is weird. I mean, even if it did happen, the person who potentially gets hurt by the substitution is you, not her.

    1. Megpie71 has a key point:

      —even if the mattress switch did happen, the person who potentially gets hurt by the substitution is you, not her.”

      Why would she potentially blame you for the mattress being switched?

      She would not have been affected at all by that. She gave you a gift and someone switched it out on its way to you? So?

      Please find a way to tell her you don’t feel comfortable participating in this. Please don’t let the potential of losing friends prevent you from doing what you know is right for you (and what keeps you on the right side of the law).

      The way I see this is, if you participate in her scheme, you will regret it. It will not have any positive outcomes and will only have negative consequences – some of which are easy to predict.

      If you do not participate, you may possibly experience some negative outcomes (the discomfort of having to tell her no, the worry about your mutual friends’ opinions, the concern about loss of friends) but those pale in comparison to getting stuck in this manipulative dynamic with her, and risking serious legal troubles.

    2. Also, if the mattress switch did happen, wouldn’t the stain insurance be for the original mattress which would now be somewhere else.

  43. People who aren’t sleeping well can fixate on weird (sleep related) things. I once lost the favorite pillow of a friend, in the process of doing him a large favor (getting his stuff into storage for him while he caught a plane). He returned after the summer away, and was upset about it, and I apologized and offered to buy him a new pillow.

    Last time I heard from him (some 15 years after the original event) he was still periodically cursing my name, buying new pillows, and as each new pillow didn’t work out, cursing me again. His new circle of friends knew me by name as “the person who lost his favorite pillow freshman year” and were somewhat intrigued to find out that I was not overtly monstrous in my pillow losing nature.

    I don’t have any help for you, except that I suspect that the mattress is taking the blame for something else, and the elaborate scheme to replace the mattress is a diversion from the real problem.

    1. Aren’t you supposed to replace pillows fairly regularly? Mine go every couple of years, when they lose their oomph. So, really, he’d have needed a new pillow at some point anyway.

      1. Yeah, exactly. That sucker would be flat as a pancake in a few years at most, so…definitely not an issue with the pillow itself.

        Oh dear god: IT’S AN ALLEGORY OF LOST YOUTH, ISN’T IT?!

      2. My husband has an expensive tempurpedic type pillow that he’s had for 10+ years. Foam pillows like that don’t really lose their oomph, or at least his hasn’t. He’d also be annoyed if someone lost his pillow, but he loves it so much he saved the model number for it.

    2. Hopefully in 15 years, this friend will be out of LW’s life and all of her friends, old and new, will know her by name as “the friend who wanted me to commit mattress fraud”, heh.

  44. Friends who ask you to commit bizarrely complicated insurance fraud which doesn’t benefit you and involves doing a lot of work for a potential felony are not your friends.

  45. You are 100 percent correct, LW. This whole situation is sketchy, and the Cap is quite right that when a friend – or someone you thought of as a friend – decides to turn their sketchiness on you, you can presume the friendship is pretty well done.

    I’ve had several folks reveal their sketchy side once they got comfy with me. And when I declined to participate, not a single one of them ever said, “Oh you’re right! That’s really not appropriate. Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.”

    The upside is, I can’t remember a single one who tried to badmouth me, either. I mean, people who are trying to run scams, or bum controlled prescriptions off you, or get you to lie or embezzle for them, or whatever…they know it’s wrong. They know that if they told the story to someone else, the other person will see how sketchy it is, too.

    Small-time operators actually depend on having a network of “legit” friends and acquaintances, people who will help them (at least once).

    If they blow their cover to the friend network, they’ll have a harder time finding the next “helper.”

    Once you say, “Nope, not gonna lie,” you probably won’t hear much out of her, and the chances of badmouthing are very slim. I find the Pollyanna reaction to be most effective: “But…but…that would be *dishonest*!” Followed by a long, long, long silence. Letting them talk themselves out, and then some more silence.
    Then the “No, I’m not gonna do that” is extremely effective.

    Geez, now that I write it out, I feel the need to examine my life choices. How have I encountered this enough to have a *system*? Ugh.

    1. “Fun” anecdote about the whole bumming controlled prescriptions thing: I once had an ex text me to ask if he could have “those pills [I] said [I] would give him”. Having never offered him any of my meds, I asked him what the fuck he was on about, and he insisted I had once said he could have some. When I said, “That’s not true, so no”, he for some reason decided that it would be more convincing if he said, “Oh, but they’re not for me, I have this new friend who’s really cool and I said I could hook her up, and I think you’d like her, so yeah?” I pointed out that if I wouldn’t give him a controlled substance for his own use, I was very unlikely to give them to a total stranger (likely to the end of helping him get laid).
      He called me a bitch and I deleted his number from my phone. Isn’t it nice when people give you solid-gold proof that you shouldn’t waste your time on them any more?

  46. If the mattress was ‘switched in transit’ (by movers presumably unconnected to the mattress manufacturer), why would it even be covered by this person’s stain insurance any more than her current new mattress is?? This whole thing makes no sense and I’m sure that unless you completely shut it down with a ‘no way, the discussion is over’, she will find even weirder, loophole- ridden Reasons why you have to comply with saving her from her bad decisions.
    Run far and fast.

  47. LW, I am sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    Fighting for one’s health is hard and can lead to a lot of desperation. But pressuring you because of that isn’t fair. “Good humanness” encompasses understanding of other’s health problems, which you show, but also not compromising morals. And not pressuring others to compromise their morals. Her health situation isn’t carte blanche to do or ask you to do whatever, and you don’t need to do whatever in order to be a good human.

  48. There’s a lot of weird complications to this person’s schemes, so LW, my advice is to avoid getting entangled in them. If you argue small details, I foresee endless haggling, shifting definitions and major headaches.

    I’d keep it simple.

    ‘Sorry, but that’s illegal. I don’t break the law like that.’

    ‘But I’m fighting for my health!’

    ‘Yeah, I’m sorry you’re having problems, but I just can’t commit fraud.’

    ‘But you cost me all this money and involved me with criminal movers!’

    ‘I’m sorry, I’m just not going to break the law.’

    And if she tries some kind of mattress swap, the same tactic:

    ‘You can have my new mattress.’

    ‘Sorry, no, it’s bad for my back. I wouldn’t have taken it if you offered it first time round because it’s the wrong mattress for me.’

    ‘But it’s wrong for me!’

    ‘Sorry about that, but I can’t use it.’

    ‘But you caused me all this trouble!’

    ‘Sorry you’re having trouble, but the mattress you want me to take is one I’d never have taken if you offered it first time round. It’ll mess up my back.’

    All that stuff about the movers suggests that she may be a difficult person, but it’s not really the issue as far as you’re concerned, so don’t get into it. Just stick to the basics: you can’t use the new mattress and you don’t commit fraud.

    And if you have to explain it to third parties, you can just say that she asked you to get involved with some insurance fraud and you decided that was the point where you needed to draw a line and consider the business closed before it got any more complicated. If she just asked for her old mattress back, that might be another question, but since she wanted you to do something elaborate and illegal, it’s fair enough to say that you figured that if you didn’t call a halt, you might end up involved in a scheme for the perfect mattress that went on for ever, and you just needed a mattress that didn’t hurt. You spent money on the strength of her original promise, so it’s fair enough to consider it a done deal even if she did later regret it.

    1. I think your scripts offer too many reasons.

      Something simpler may work better:

      “Sorry, can’t do that.”
      “I’m sorry about your back problems and I can’t get involved.”
      “That sounds sketchy. I can’t do it.”
      “I don’t want to.”
      “I can’t.”

      Reasons are for reasonable people.

      1. Yes, those may work too. I was just thinking that LW is afraid of consequences in their social circle, and ‘LW never even gave me a reason!’ is something that could be used against her.

        Friend certainly seems unreasonable, but may badmouth LW to third parties who are actually reasonable. Such people may be used to being given reasons when people turn down their requests, because being reasonable, they accept them. If LW can accurately be quoted as having given a flat ‘no’ with no explanation, they may very well think, ‘Well, that’s weirdly rude,’ because nobody nice has ever talked to them that way (because they never made it necessary).

        Hence, if LW gives just enough of a reason that, if Friend complains to third parties, LW can accurately say ‘I gave the following reasons’, then she’s more covered socially. The relationship with Friend is pretty much done, I think, but saving face with mutual friends is a higher priority, so giving at least one or two reasons could help on that score. And she can then always fall back to a flat ‘no’ if (when?) Friend refuses to accept the reasons.

        1. I don’t think giving Friend reasons will help though.

          If LW is talking to the common acquaintances, she can tell them what happened. Refusing to engage in a fraud doesn’t require reasons.

          If the Friend bad mouths LW, “She didn’t give me a reeeeeason” will be the least of it.

          If Friend lies about the situation (as she will) then she’d misrepresent the reasons anyway.

          LW gains very little (except more argument) by coming up with justifications for refusing this very odd request.

          I think giving reasons is bad tactics.

  49. Thanks to the lawyers and insurance pros for weighing in on the serious consequences of committing fraud. I just recently filed a (successful) claim for some damages to my house, and one result of the process was the DEEP THOUGHT of, “DAMN, I would never try to defraud these people; they are on top of it, and they check EVERYTHING.”

    1. Yup! My neighbors insurance agent was here today at 9 am, on a Saturday to check out some fence damage from one of the recent storms. She needed to see it because the estimate he got seemed high to her. She is making him get another estimate for the file to show that it will actually cost $3k to fix our fences. Insurance companies are not in the business of giving money away!

  50. I kinda think this woman doesn’t even expect you to do the whole pretend mattress staining thing. I mean, I may be wrong, but it is just so ridiculous that only a real nut would think that that would be a surefire way to get you both new mattresses.

    What I think is that she wants to ask you to do this thing, and she wants you to say no. She is then counting on you to feel so guilty for not cooperating with her plan that you give her back her mattress anyway. She doesn’t want to be the one who says “give back this gift I gave you” so she has instead come up with a convoluted way for you to do her bidding and thinking you did it out of your own sense of right and wrong.

    Either way, she is manipulative and dishonest. You’re right that she may speak ill of you to others (probably also counting on the fact that YOU may feel badly speaking ill of her back, so her narrative will be the one to be heard). There’s not really a lot you can do about that, because someone like this is likely to go down that road eventually anyway. It will always be something unless you always do whatever she wants you to do. So you might as well pull off the bandaid now while you still have a mattress to sleep on.

    1. In sales this is called the door-in-the-face technique. Ask for something huge, and when they say no, ask them for something small so they will agree more easily. I hadn’t considered that possibility, but it seems plausible here. Huh. Doesn’t change the advice though. Say no to this, and probably EVERY thing she requests, forever.

  51. I have a not that bad but similar problem: I’m soon part of a controlled profession (medical professional) and my otherwise great parents want me to essentially forge prescriptions for the business one of them works for. It’s not for some controlled substance, mind you, it’s “only” for some paperwork (Think: “We need X prescriptions of Y (Y= totally harmless substance) to be legally allowed to have Z amount of Y on store). It’s not exactly fraud of anyone, and it’s pretty unlikely that anyone would ever discover it, and even then there would likely be no recourse against me. I still don’t want to do it.
    The bad parts are:
    – they essentially just saved me from unexpected homelessness and now I live with them for the next time.
    – the company treats my parent terribly.
    – it’s not their terrible boss who asks for it, but a rather well-liked colleague.
    Right now I’m telling them the paperwork hasn’t arrived yet but that won’t work forever. And while they won’t throw me out, they will make a big stink of “unhelpful daughter, won’t ever do stuff for us” if I refuse.

    1. One script you could use is “I am not comfortable with that.” Or “As part of my profession, I am expected to avoid ALL fraudulent prescriptions, even harmless ones. It sucks that you’re in an uncomfortable position, and it’s not logical that you can’t keep Z amount of X on hand anyway, but I can’t help you.”

      1. Or, “I could lose my license for that. If all the prescriptions for X are coming from me it could raise a flag. And I could lose my license.”

        Because, you could lose your license. I wouldn’t soften it at all-do they want you to literally lose your ability to practice in your profession?

          1. Well, it may be unlikely in this instance that you would get caught, and they might be fixated on that aspect of things, but they are still asking you to violate your professional code of ethics, and that’s super not cool. Anyway, strength to you, that’s a rough situation!

          2. @boo! I know it’s uncool.

            On the other hand, I’m rather frustrated because it doesn’t surprise me that they pressure me to violate my profession’s ethics, even to my disservice, and that’s a depressing thing to know about a parent.

          3. They have a rather ancient understanding of the family as one unit and everyone works to the benefit of the family and of course they know best what is good for the family… and they resent that I won’t follow this rule and occasionally refuse to do stuff on their demand.

    2. I want to reassure you that being grateful for having a roof over your head can be sufficiently shown by being a good house guest. It does not mean getting involved in questionable activities. More so because it could fall back on your professional reputation.

      I also have to say that people who have your best interest at heart shouldn’t ask you for this. They are adults and they can look after themselves. There are myriad options that do not include “Ask my child to do sketchy stuff.” That’s just the path of least resistance.

      My idea would be to give vague answers promising nothing while you live there and going hard no as soon as you have moved out. Of course that will be harder if there’s a considerable overlap between living with them and already having your license.

      1. Update: Other Parent seems to have my back, sort of. They don’t take it seriously and think that it is just some not well thought-out idea of First Parent that will pass so they don’t see a problem but they agree that I shouldn’t do it. So if shit hits the van, Other Parent will be on my side.
        I don’t agree at all – First Parent *will* start to pressure me again when my license arrives which will be in the next days – but at least someone seems to be on my side.

        In the meantime, I try to embrace the role of the Unhelpful Daughter.

        1. Good. Yes, as a physician I would say /do not fraud/. Not even a little. Slippery slope argument applies well; many, MANY people will be happy to use your reputation and license to their advantage. With varying degrees of shadiness. Your integrity is one of the most valuable things you have.

  52. Lily, that SUCKS; but I hope this comment thread is the inspiration to you as well to start practicing the Art of No!

  53. If you go along with any plan to defraud the mattress company, that will be in direct conflict with your desire to be a good human.

    1. The mattress company aren’t the ones putting a concerted effort into making her feel like a bad person.

      Which is why that particular feeling sets off my ‘bad friend’ alarm.

  54. Regarding the sleep deprivation angle: It’s possible that’s what’s behind the story about hard drive theft and mattress switching, yeah. I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelmingly more likely than other possibilities, including that the stories are really weird because she sees you aren’t taking one angle and tries another in the hopes of confusing you, but it’s not an unreasonable suggestion.

    However, as a person who has a psychotic disorder, made a lot worse by sleep deprivation, who also has chronic insomnia – I mean, I’ve said and done some pretty strange things in the course of sleep deprivation, like, hysterically going on to my then-fiancee about demons in the dark outside my bedroom trying to get in level delusional. None of those things included “You must help me with this convoluted fraud scheme + [GUIILT TRIP].” People who are delusional don’t stop acting like themselves; they just act like themselves in the middle of whatever situation they incorrectly believe is happening.

    (To elaborate on that last bit on two scenarios that tend to come up: what people will do when they sincerely, wholeheartedly believe someone is trying to kill them is often very different from how they behave in other situations; and more related to the situation at hand, sometimes, people don’t change in moral behavior, but confusion and memory problems can change a lot in their ability to hide the wrongdoing they were already committing.)

    So, even if she is in fact delusional from sleep deprivation and incorrectly believes the weird stories she’s told you, she’s still the sort of person who finds out she has been inconvenienced and responds to that by trying to get random innocent people to participate in fraud to make up for it (and then some; a hard drive costs a lot less than a mattress, and the mattress switching would have caused no problems for her except possible moral offense at being scammed), at considerable effort and risk and no benefit to them, and then becomes difficult when they refuse her. (And like, the actual inconvenience she is trying to make you help with – the mattress she ordered doesn’t work for her and she doesn’t want to pay for a replacement – has nothing to do with the weird, paranoid-sounding stories.)

    I have met other people who think that when they are wronged in any way, the entire world owes them fivefold recompense, regardless of who the individual bits of the world actually are and whether they have anything to do with it, and regardless of whether providing it would cause problems for those bits of the world. (Was raised by one, actually). They were not nice people. I would not describe them as valuable friends.

  55. This could definitely go under the “forced teaming” tag. OP has been tricked into thinking that every single one of her friend’s problems — her bad mattress, back pain, supposed thefts from her apartment, and apparent financial issues — are all her responsibility to solve. Some people are oddly good at luring their friends into their tremendous, complicated, unsolvable issues and tangling them so tightly that they can’t get out without feeling like they’ve dropped the ball.

    My grandmother is a bit like this: promising to give people stuff or pay them this or that, promising person X’s time and effort to person Y, getting people (her family, her landlord) to feel an increasing sense of obligation to her. Once you say “yes” once, it’s hard to say “no, not today” later. Her latest scheme is to have have my mother paid by Medicaid to be a family caregiver for her, which some states allow. I think the plan was for my mom to give her some of the money, but to falsify the times she was doing the caregiving…or something? It’s so dumb and complicated that I can’t keep it straight. My mom has never learned not to get sucked into these things, even though she hates going along with it. Therapy doesn’t seem to have helped. At least I’ve seen so much of this garbage that I’ve learned how to avoid it. Someone on Grailed (kind of like Poshmark for men) asked me to do a transaction outside the app. I’m actually pretty confident he wasn’t trying to scam me, but I felt no qualms turning him down anyway! Doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it is for me because I had such a hard time saying no for so long.

  56. All I can say is that I have bought good used mattresses several times, great condition, no stains, mildly used, cheaper delivery. For instance, from a rarely used guest room. You might tell her she can arrange to have the mattress picked up at her convenience, and get a replacement either before (you might end up with two mattresses) or after (you might end up sleeping on the floor for a while). Good luck with whatever solution you choose!

    1. Or OP could just say “no”.

      They were given a gift. They didn’t borrow something, or rent it. They were given it, and they own it now, and they have every right to keep it, and not sleep on the freaking floor.

      1. Of course. LW has no responsibilities toward the mattress giver. As LW seemed very uncomfortable with the idea of flatly refusing, I offered an alternative I had not seen in other posts. As a person who has spent time sleeping on the freaking floor while waiting for a mattress, it seems viable to me, but not better than other solutions.

  57. The first thing that strikes me is that $260 seems like a lot of money to move just one mattress.
    Secondly, LW should consider moving this person from the “friend” list to the “acquaintance that I smile and nod to in passing” list. I grew up in a rough neighbourhood and knew many people growing up who frequently tried these sorts of petty scams on. Trust me LW, she wouldn’t hesitate to throw you under the bus if it went badly and she got caught out.

    1. Ah, I’ve just realized that LW doesn’t consider this person a friend but has many mutual friends. They probably know what she’s like from past experience and won’t believe her if she does badmouth you.

  58. “I’m actually pretty sure that’s illegal! That would make me way too nervous, so I can’t help. Sorry to hear about your back–I hope you find another solution soon!”

    That’s a wholly reasonable, friendly, civil response, one that no one could reasonably find fault with. Your friend is not reasonable, as their entire plan demonstrates. I’m guessing they will do one or more of the following:
    1) Push you to do it anyways. Keep repeating the same answer, don’t explain or justify further, walk away if she doesn’t drop it after a bit.
    2) Demand the mattress back. Do what you want–it was a gift so you don’t have to return it but it might be easier to just buy a new one than to keep putting up with the demand. If you do decide to give it back, ask her when she wants to pick it up; do NOT offer to arrange or pay for transport.
    (2a) Alternately, she might demand that you pay some large amount for the mattress retroactively, or buy her a new one, or some such. These kinds of demands would be unreasonable and unenforceable, so feel free to say no.)
    3) Badmouth you to mutual friends. Try not to worry about this too much; mutual friends are probably aware of her tendencies, and anyways “I wasn’t comfortable committing insurance fraud” is a very good reason not to help someone with their plan. Anyone who cuts you out on her word alone without getting your side of the story probably wasn’t much of a friend to you anyways.

  59. For describing the behavior of LW friend without using a phrase that is derogatory to people with mental illness, I found the phrase “I am uncomfortable with her behavior” to work well. Also works well when speaking directly to the person you are having problems with “I am uncomfortable with your request and am unwilling to do it”.

  60. I’m pretty sure even mild insurance fraud is still a felony so, ixnay on the attressmay ainstaying.

    What I would do – tell her she can have the mattress but she has to come and get it at her expense. You can try for the $260 if you like but you’ll probably never get it. Assume she is badmouthing you to litererally anyone who comes within 5 feet of her. I have known several people like this person and she is not mentally ill, she probably has some personality disorder that manifests in weird ways. For extra laughs you can always tell her that sleeping on the floor is good for bad backs, that might shut her up. She is not your friend, she is attemping to get you to perpetrate fraud to benefit you and at your potential criminal liability.

  61. If you feel like you can’t just say no, allow me to suggest a counteroffer:

    She gives you $260 in cash and takes away the mattress and stains her own damn mattress.
    You take the $260 and go to IKEA, where you can use that $260 to purchase an alternate mattress.

    Probably she will not be happy about this and will insist on her original harebrained scheme, at which point you tell her “Sorry, that doesn’t work for me” and then chat with your mutual friends to find out if being a less-competent Snidely Whiplash has always been her hobby or if this is a new thing.

  62. This is not about the mattress, about the theft or about insurance scam. She wants you to stress about this situation, to never not think about her.

    Two options:
    -Tell her ONCE to pick up the mattress from your place, however she sees fit, and move on with your life. My guess is that she will actually never pick it up. Once you refuse to actively participate on this shenanigans, when she actually needs to do stuff to make all this happen (as opposed to have you do it) it suddenly will be not an urgent matter for her anymore.
    -Tell her that you truly don’t have time to think about this right now since all your bandwidth is occupied job searching. Feel free to ignore further messages about this or any other subject.

    Free yourself from the burden of this woman’s “friendship” by ignoring all her demands, and once you do, you will not be as important to her since you don’t provide her with a reaction to her actions, she will move on.

    If you do end up sleeping on the floor, let me know and I can pitch in for your future mattress.

  63. “You want me to commit a *felony*? Haha… Oh! You’re *serious*? Ummm hard pass but thanks anyway.”

Comments are closed.