They promised the moon, delivered a crescent. What do?

So this is probably going to sound incredibly whiny, as it’s hard to write about this sort of stuff without coming off as an entitled brat. Please read charitably. :slight_smile:

I’ll set up a theoretical case to work with. Say you took your car in for repairs, and in the course of fixing the known problem your mechanic found a serious issue that needs to be dealt with ASAP, with an estimated additional cost of $1500. This is going to hurt pretty bad financially, but it’s not going to be disastrous.

At a family gathering, you mention the car situation but–having learned from past experience–you do not mention or even allude to the financial implications. Your wealthy uncle overhears and, having some idea of your money problems, immediately jumps in and volunteers to cover the unexpected $1500 fully. You decline, uncle insists, and in a moment of greed and weakness you accept his offer to help. (That charitable reading I asked for? This paragraph requires a ton of it. Please assume there was no fishing for charity or pity intended, and that the “you” of this story would have kept schtum if you’d known Rich Uncle Pennybags was listening in.)

Uncle writes a check for $1000 and says he’ll cover the rest after the work is done. Awfully nice of him, you’re pretty much in tears, and you try to ignore the voices whispering “this won’t end well” in your head.

The check clears, a month passes, and the repairs are completed for a total of $1507. Pretty good estimate! Your uncle has gotten really invested in following the repairs, and he asked you to call him as soon as you get the final total. So you do, and he says, “Ah, yeah. Little cash flow hiccup right now, heading out for my spring vacation and all, but I’ll get you in a couple of months. That OK?”

The little whispering voices are starting their “told you so” chorus, but you ignore them. You tell uncle he’s already done more than enough, you don’t expect anything else, he’s already gone above and beyond, etc. But he insists, and insists some more, and you acquiesce.

It should go without saying that you never get the $507 from your uncle, although you do get to spend Christmas hearing about the diamond studded beds he bought for his dogs. OK, that last bit is mean, but it’s a surprisingly slight exaggeration over the real situation. Let’s just say Unc likes making it clear he has money to burn, and all signs point to him having the cattle to back up his hat.

So after that long setup, the actual questions:

  1. How do you describe the situation between yourself and your uncle at this point? It’s completely wrong to say he owes you $507, but there seems to be some sort of unfulfilled commitment. On the other hand, these are the kinds of commitments–at least in my family–one doesn’t fully expect to be fulfilled when they’re entered into, so calling them “commitments” in the first place seems a little off. (Charitable reading time again: I’m not looking for an excuse to feel resentment here, although it’s easy to read it that way. It’s more that I’m genuinely uncertain about the status of promises of aid within a family, and what vocabulary can be used to describe them.)

  2. Assuming there is some sort of commitment, can you ever say, “Hey Unc, remember that $507 you said you were going to give me? What’s up with that?” Would it be acceptable–if crass!–to even mention it after, say, six months? Or is it something you let go immediately as soon as he postpones it the first time?

  3. What do you do when, inevitably, Unc starts lording his generosity over you? Some people seem to engage in giving only as an excuse to express resentment toward the recipients of their charity; assume your uncle is that kind of person, but also assume you knew that going in. What’s the best way to navigate between “You gave me a huge amount of money for no good reason, so you’re right that you are amazing and I kind of suck” and “You only gave me 2/3 of what you promised, which is kind of sucky”?

  4. Kind of a tie-in to 3: You really are grateful! And you express that gratitude both to Uncle and to the rest of your family. But, even though you don’t (or try not to) let it show, that gratitude is tempered a little bit by the $507. Which is maybe crazy, since if Unc had said “Here’s $1000 to help out” you’d think he was the greatest guy since the inventor of sliced bread, but as it actually played out…it sort of niggles. Is this an overly entitled feeling or is it acceptable to be annoyed that the reality fell short of the promise?

Say nothing more about it. Repay the $1000 in one lump sum by putting away a little at a time until you have the entire amount to give to him (giving him installements will just propmpt conversations you want to avoid having with him). Learn never to talk about, much less accept money from him in the future.

Look at the bright side, at least your hypothetical uncle isn’t parading his generosity around like he’s Mother Theresa, while in fact the money’s actually coming out of your own inheritance or college fund. :mad:

That is a fantastic idea! Thanks.

Oh, criminy, I’m sorry to hear that!

Wait - so 1) your uncle gave you $1000, no strings attached. 2) Then he promised another $507, but didn’t deliver. 3) But that was a promise you didn’t “fully expect to be fulfilled” anyway.

So everything played out as you expected, and you’re $1000 richer. Where’s the problem here?

ETA: And how would paying your uncle back help this situation? He still can say he gave you money; it’s just that you can then say you gave it back. So… you win something something? I guess?

He lent you $1000.00 at zero interest. Be grateful.
Handle the rest, pay it back, and make damn sure your face shows a smile when you do. He got his dogs diamonds? How goofy.
He gave You an interest free loan when you badly needed it. Citi won’t do that. BoA won’t do that. CrapitalOne won’t do that.

“Thanks, Uncle Mattwan…!” - wouldn’t kill you either.

Wait, was the 1000 a loan or a gift?

If you had to spend the $1,500 no matter what, and he helped with $1,000, I think you should simply be thrilled at what you got, and accept the fact that you have a rich relative who is willing to help you out, but is kind of flaky.

OTOH, if you had a plan to avoid spending the $1,500 and he said “get it done the right way, I’ll cover the money” and then didn’t, I’d be a bit more pissed off.

WRT family, the easiest rule is that money promised doesn’t exist. I’ll pay back that loan, not going to happen. I’ll send you a check, not going to happen. If you start from there, anything you do get is more than you expected.

First of all, what he spends his money on, (dog beds, hookers, blow) has no bearing on any of this and makes you sound incredibly petty and immature for bringing it into the conversation. Ditto for his crowing on his wealth. His business, his right, not pertinent to your issue. His being as rich as Bill Gates doesn’t mean you should get this, that or anything. It has no bearing on anything, stop thinking it does?

No, he doesn’t owe you $507 by any stretch of the imagination. Be enormously grateful for the financial assistance offered. And no, you shouldn’t ask for the rest. If he asks, tell him, otherwise keep quiet and be thankful for his generosity.

If you took the money, with the knowledge that he’ll be bragging on it or lording it over you in some way, in the future, then you’re kinda obligated to suck it up, in my book. Mentioning, ‘Hey, but you didn’t come through completely!’, will move you, from a tad petty, up to douchebag in most people’s eyes, I think.

To allow your gratitude to be ‘slightly tempered’, because you only got $1000, is completely entitled, and unbecoming behaviour, to my mind.

I’m pretty sure your Mama raised you better than this. Of course, I could be wrong. Why not phone her up and ask? I’m pretty sure she’ll set you straight and clear up any confusion you’re experiencing, pretty fast! :smiley:

Be grateful for the $1000 that he gave, take it for what it is a free gift. Be accepting and he is human and perhaps offered more then he is willing or able to give, and needed to scale back. Forgive in your heart the extra $500 and thank him for the help in paying that bill, do not do this with sarcasm but do it as if he only offered you $1000 and came through - this should bring closure to the issue on your end, while also allowing him the opportunity to speak on it.

  1. Anyone who says “pay it back” is wrong. It was a gift. Paying it back says, “your gift is meaningless to me, and I wish I had never taken it.” Unless you want to start a fight with your uncle, don’t do this.

  2. I think some people are missing the problem here. It’s not the money, it’s that there’s an awkward “unfulfilled promise white elephant” in the room. I think you should take the initiative to say to your uncle, “hey, unc! Thanks again for the $1000 towards my car repair, it was really helpful. And never mind about the rest of the repair bill; I’ve got it covered, and the first part of the gift was generous enough.” Then, you don’t have to think about it again, he doesn’t have to think about it again, and there’s none of that unspoken awkwardness, real or imaginary, on either end.

Taking the facts in the OP as written, Uncle is probably legally obligated to pony up the remainder of the money under a promissory estoppel theory. That said, I agree that you should probably just accept that you got a $1k gift and be happy.

I think you grok what I was trying to get at, even though I was muddied by lack of coffee and sleep. Thanks!

I can see now that my OP was way too murky, but I think Cheesesteak cut through the murk with the quoted piece; my questions sort of fall apart when you accept the premise that, within family, promises of money (or whatever) don’t actually create an obligation for the person making the promise. That’s really the central issue I was wondering about.

As to the suggestions I haven’t shown gratitude towards Uncle, I apologize for giving that impression. I’m terribly grateful! And Uncle certainly doesn’t think otherwise. But I also have these weird feelings of…disappointment, I guess? that apparently aren’t socially acceptable, which is good to know! (No sarcasm there, honest. The whole reason that I asked in the first place is that the last couple of generations of my family have been, let’s say, oddly socialized.)

Strangely, a close friend recently had an exactly identical issue, also regarding a car (except that the amount promised was higher, and what was delivered much lower which adversely affected her).
And my opinions :

  1. It’s an unfulfilled commitment.

  2. Nope, don’t mention it again.

  3. You never accept anything again from him, unless you’re homeless and starving.

4)It’s normal to be both annoyed and grateful.

I’d be grateful that I had 2/3 of the bill covered and never speak of the $500 I had to cover myself. If he brings it up, great, otherwise I’d keep my mouth shut.

If he truly considered the $1000 a gift then he probably doesn’t expect you to pay him back. That said, if you are able to save $1000 to repay him then I’d probably just use it to buy him a very nice and expensive gift and a card thanking him for his generous gift when he gave you the money to begin with. The gift route takes away the awkwardness of paying him back and puts you back on equal footing.

The additional $507 was just so much hot air. What you’ve learned – or already knew – is that what might have sounded to you like a promise was, from his perspective, just thinking out loud. When the thinking finally crystalized, it was at $1000 rather than at $1507. So you know for future reference not to rely on such pronouncements. While it’s natural to be annoyed at the defaulted $507, it does you no good to obsess on it – concentrate on the gift that was given and try to take the rest with a grain of salt.

If, per your #3, it is being lorded over you to the point where that you wish you hadn’t taken the $1000, you can refuse such offers in the future.

+1 to all of the above. Again, if it was money you wouldn’t have spent without his promise, that’s different, and I’d probably be gently reminding Uncle about the unfulfilled part of the obligation. But if you were doing the repair anyway, you’re $1,000 better off (or the interest on $1000), so be grateful.

The answers here are good. i just wanted to say that I don’t think accepting gifts from other people is greedy, and your disappointment in not getting the full bill covered, after that was promised to you, is a normal human reaction.

That said, there’s really no graceful way to badger your uncle into giving you the rest of the money. It is best that you accept his gift and move on. And if you think he’s going to lord it over you, I’d seriously consider paying him back.

I bought my mom a used car to replace her totaled one.

Several family members indicated they would help with the cost so I spent about $1000 more than I would have done alone.

Never got a penny or a peep out of any of them after she got the car. C’est la vie. I get to take all the credit.