Never Do Business With Friends: True or False?

Dear Dr. Hurd,

They say you should never do business with friends, and I guess it’s true. We (my wife and I) did business with a friend in our hometown, and now there are problems with the items we purchased. We like our friend, but the merchandise is faulty and we paid a lot of money for it. We hope she will ‘step up to the plate’ and make it right, but if she doesn’t, it would end our friendship or at least make things awkward. What should we do?  

Dr. Hurd replies,

Let’s walk through this. Why are we friends with people? Usually it has something to do with trust and respect. You don’t call someone a friend unless you have trust and respect for him or her. Correct?

Your friend sold you something that isn’t a good product. If she really deserves your trust and respect, then she will be just as disappointed in herself (or whoever made the product) as you are. For you it’s only one purchase. But for her it’s her livelihood and reputation. All this would still be true whether or not you were her friend.

If something about her made you want to be friends in the first place, then she deserves even more benefit of the doubt than if you weren’t friends. Approach her and simply tell her what happened. If she’s the friend you assume she is, she’ll jump at the chance to show you that she’s worthy of that trust and respect.

I say all this because it sounds like you’re worried about losing the friendship over this. You seem to be saying, ‘If she doesn’t handle this right, that will be the end of our friendship.’

But, wait: If she handles it badly, why would you want to be friends with her? Isn’t it just as likely that she holds your friendship in high enough regard that she’ll do everything possible to make things right? Unless you’re a terrible judge of character, it seems reasonable that she’ll ‘step up to the plate.’

You’ll come out of this with either a stronger friendship or a disappointment deeper than a normal bad business experience. I know that everyone says you should never do business with friends, and that might be true. But I suspect what’s closer to the truth is that doing business with friends is risky. When you’re dealing with money, you learn more about people than you otherwise would. You see their true character and personality for what they really are — or are not. Sure, that’s risky, but not necessarily wrong.


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