Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a close friend who has asked me a favor I am not comfortable
granting. We refer to ourselves as “twin sisters separated at birth”
even though we are twelve years different in age, and equally so in
size and coloring. We do favors for one another all the time. For
examples, she does my taxes and I edit her son’s scholarship essays. I
am single and pay (through the nose!!!) for upscale cable stations.
She and her husband both earn four times what I do in retirement

They have decided to drop their cable subscription. She
offered me $100 (not even a month’s cost to me) for me to give her
my login and password info so they can log in to see favorite shows.
Note: my password is lost but everything works!! I hate calling to
change because it takes forever to set things up again. I resent paying
the same that a family of five might, so I am not concerned with the
financial ethics and the company allows more simultaneous use than I
could do. But I hate the hassle of password changes and this kind of
technological hassle. What should I say?


Dear Luddite:

I will suspend judgment on the moral and legal elasticity of your
financial ethics and focus on the relationship between you and your
friend. You need the transaction to feel fair for you, not just to be left
feeling that you are being used for her benefit. That’s fair to ask. Yes,
friends help friends. But if it occurs in a way that feels unbalanced, the
friendship could erode later. Even sisters fight and disagree.

Tell her you have two conditions for helping her. The first is simple.
She has to come to your house and be the person on the
speakerphone (so you can answer things she might not know) when
you call customer service for the password. That alone could take an
hour. If it changes she needs to do all the techno work on your tv’s
and devices so they all work as well after the password change as they
did before. Second, she needs to pay you a monthly amount that
seems fair to you, perhaps half the TV portion of your bill. The details
don’t matter as much as avoiding a lingering sense of financial inequity
between you. Good friends can talk about money. Friends that don’t
might not stay as close.