What do you do when people take advantage of your generosity? Is there a polite way to extricate yourself from an offer when it’s been stretched beyond your intent?

Is there anyone who enjoys being taken advantage of? Do you remember a time when you found yourself feeling resentful because someone turned a kind invitation into an extended vacation . . . at your expense? Or maybe you didn’t feel resentful but you found yourself in a hopeless situation of trying to be accommodating and not getting much cooperation in return.

Someone asked me about this recently and I’ve been giving it some thought. If you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful spot, on a lake, a golf course, in the mountains, in warm weather, in a tourist destination, in a wonderful city or a desert oasis, chances are you’ve had friends and distant relatives you didn’t know you had express a strong desire to visit.  And not just for lunch or dinner.  We’re talking about an extended stay which amounts to spending their vacation at your house on their schedule.

I haven’t had this happen but I’ve heard horror stories from people who have.

Please don’t misunderstand. I think I speak for everyone when I say we love to share the beauty and uniqueness of wherever we live. It’s almost magical when you see your special place through the eyes of someone who’s never seen it before. Things you take for granted look brand new when you hear the oohs and aaahs of a guest. It makes everything new again.

But there are people . . . thankfully not many . . . who figure out a way to take advantage of a situation. And when that happens the magic quickly wears off.

I have a friend who is as southern as the day is long. She is one of the most hospitable people I know. But I laughed out loud when she told me this. “I love having guests but I have a life beyond entertaining my friends and relatives from out of town. There’s a little sign in the guest bath sitting on top of the extra roll of toilet paper. It reads, “When this is gone, you should be too.”

But when you find yourself in a dilemma, how do you politely resolve the problem?

When A Thoughtful Gift Becomes a Curse

Here’s the situation and letter that led to this post:

Dear Linda,

Is there a way to get myself out of the situation I’ve created?

When the daughter of a close friend of ours was married, I offered the newlyweds a week at our summer home as a wedding gift. They were thrilled! Another friend with another wedding followed soon after and I made the same offer to that couple.

It’s been three years and several children later and now the couples are wanting to make this a “family” vacation by bringing their toddlers and babies. It’s become a nightmare to schedule and I’m not sure I really want toddlers and babies roaming around my house.

This started out to be a nice, simple, yet generous wedding gift and it’s become a source of stress and irritation for me and my husband. We are having to work our own family’s visits around someone else’s schedule.

To make matters worse there are more weddings on the horizon and I’m afraid those couples are going to expect the same type of gift.

What do I do?

Too Nice!


Dear Too Nice,

Ouch!  This sounds like the gift that keeps on giving and what it’s giving is a headache to YOU.

Hmmmm . . . if wedding gifts don’t have to be acknowledged for a year, I wonder if after a year the statute of limitations runs out on a gift such as yours? I don’t think this is covered in the etiquette books so you’ll have to take matters into your own hands.

You offered these young people an absolutely generous, unique, and thoughtful gift. However, I don’t think your intent was to have them turn it into a family vacation three years later, was it?

I absolutely hate being taken advantage of. And I hate seeing it happen to someone else. So the only way I know of not having it happen is to refuse to allow it to happen.

The minute I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach . . . the one where my gut is telling me what my mind hasn’t quite figured out . . . I know something’s gotta give. And it’s not going to be me.

Granted, some compromise is in order but it’s not going to be at the expense of my blood pressure, my schedule, or especially my family. Besides, I’m a terrible grump when I’m feeling put upon.

How to Draw the Line

Here’s the hard line but fair approach. Simply say that after three years, this has become too difficult to plan and unfortunately will not work out as you’d hoped.

It has. It won’t.

My pat line is, “I’m so sorry but this just isn’t working for me. Here’s what will work though. I’m going to __________________.” And then I state clearly and concisely exactly what I’m willing to do. End of story.

In your situation, I would take pen in hand and write the not-so-newlyweds something like this:

Dear Kate and William,

It’s hard to believe you’ve been married three years already! And yet I know it’s all of that when I see you with those beautiful children. You have a lovely, lovely family.

Unfortunately we haven’t had any luck scheduling your time in Idaho which has turned out to be more complicated than I anticipated. Charles and I feel terrible that you haven’t been able to enjoy our offer of hospitality and yet we understand how busy life becomes with families and little ones.

It’s still our wish for you to have a romantic getaway whenever it suits you so we’ve amended our original wedding gift.  Enclosed is a gift certificate for a lovely weekend at the No-Tell Motel to be scheduled at your convenience. We hope you will use it to celebrate your marriage and the life you began on June 27, 2012.

We look forward to catching up with you soon.  

With continued best wishes for happiness,
Chuck and Camilla

The only way to be taken advantage of is to allow it.  Be generous.  By all means be nice!  But don’t allow someone to use those wonderful traits to your disadvantage.

Have you ever felt that your kindness was being taken advantage of? How did you handle it? How would you react in this situation? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.