I am disappointed to have to write this, but here is the story of living with Deborah Thompson. She’s left town, leaving nearly $500 in debt to me, even though I’d tried to work that out with her. She’s also left a great deal of stuff behind, so I guess if anyone wants furniture or other stuff, shoot me a message. To be fair to her, she had scheduled a pickup with Salvation Army, but since she left town before the pickup and didn’t bother to move any of it out of her living area, and also didn’t bother to coordinate with any of her remaining roommates, I’ll be cancelling that pickup until I can be home to receive them.
Debbie needed a place to go in very short order when I had a room in my house open up. It seemed like it would work out reasonably well for her: we were already free-leasing her horse back for a year (she purchased the mare from us previously, but after she broke up with her long-time partner, she could not afford to keep the horse and was in danger of having her taken to pay back board).
She misrepresented the number of pets she had from the beginning. She said she had one dog, her French bulldog. When she arrived with her moving van, she not only had that dog, but also an elderly Bull Terrier in bad enough shape that it looked like it belonged on Animal Cops. Seriously, Sarah McLachlan was playing in my head when I saw him. She also had multiple birds and a lizard. To be fair to Debbie again, I was aware that she had those animals at the time my sister and I had driven down to Brookings to pick up the horse. Even at that time the Bull Terrier looked like death warmed over, so since she didn’t mention him when we were talking pets and pet deposit, I wrongly assumed she had done the right thing and had put him down, or he had keeled over on his own. I also would have figured she would have sold the other pets since there was absolutely no mention of those either.
If anything, this experience has taught me not to be a complete Pollyanna. So, I guess I’ll thank you, Debbie, for curing me of being a hopeless optimist. I will own to all the fault I have in this saga of letting myself be cheated and walked over. Be that as it may, shame on you for stealing on me.
She also did not have enough to cover her first and last months’ rent upon move-in. Her son very kindly helped her as much as possible, I covered the rest, figuring once she was employed she’d pay me back promptly. Unfortunately in these first few weeks, her little Frenchie became very ill as well. I paid to have both dogs put down for her, and buried them in the back field of the farm for her. My sister, being the extremely generous person that she is, agreed to help Debbie buy a car with the understanding that Debbie would buy the car back from her. She also put an additional phone on her call plan so Debbie would have a phone, since hers had been shut off from non-payment.
Gail helped her find a very nice little affordable car that Debbie picked out. As we know can happen with higher mileage cars, it had a few issues. Gail very helpfully covered the costs of repairs on it. Unfortunately, Debbie encountered a small problem with the transmission, and rather than communicate with either Gail or I, chose to park the car and go out and finance a much more expensive car on her own. This is an example of how very short-sighted Debbie can be. At most, the repair on the used car would have cost $700. The new car I’m guessing was $15,000 at minimum, not counting tax and licensing fees, also she would have had to go into the sale with zero down and financed. Also keep in mind that Gail had offered to trade Debbie the car straight across for the mare we were still free leasing back plus some of her tack. Debbie could have owned a nice car completely free and clear. Debbie chose to go behind the backs of the people that were helping her and create a larger financial burden on herself, while she still owed me money for last month’s rent plus vet bills.
Speaking of the horse, while Debbie paid a lot of lip-service to apparently loving the horse and how she’d helped her through the hard time she had had in Brookings, she did not follow that up with any actions whatsoever. I live a field away from where the horse is kept. Debbie could easily walk to see her, or drive the car that Gail provided her. Debbie very rarely if ever visited the horse, citing being tired from working the jobs she had at the time. Gail, on the other hand, can work 70+ hours per week and still managed to see Debbie’s horse at least twice per day. I saw quite a bit more of the mare than she did as well.
After we helped Debbie put her dogs down, she was very distraught, and understandably so. I would be extremely upset if I had to let Violet go. Unfortunately, Debbie thought that she should go get herself another dog again in very short order. Keep in mind that Debbie had only just started working a minimum wage job, had STILL not paid me back for last month’s rent or vet bills. She showed up with a small dog she’d gotten from a breeder, and couldn’t quite understand why I was not happy about that. For a start, if she was able to afford the $200 pet deposit (and she couldn’t) she should have been paying me back what she owed. If she couldn’t afford the pet deposit, she’d be putting me and the rest of our roommates in a bad position where we would be hiding a dog from our landlady. I was not willing to be put in a position that could all of us evicted. Finally, since she couldn’t afford either the $500+ she owed me at the time, nor could she afford the $200 pet deposit, she had no business affording a dog, period. I feel very strongly that the animals in our care deserve to have the best shot at a good life as possible. That includes me being a responsible person who can afford quality food, regular vet care, and have funds available in case of an emergency. Gail can attest to that last point, as her seemingly healthy dog Leeloo got very sick very quickly, and has now cost her quite a bit in vet bills to help her get better. It took Gail being extremely firm with her to take the dog back, as she wasn’t listening to me giving her all those extremely sensible reasons to not keep the dog. Fortunately I have a good big sister who looks out for me.
After that, Debbie decided she didn’t much like the phone Gail had provided her, and went out and got herself a new one with a new number. A number she didn’t bother to give to me or Gail. This is problematic as I tend to communicate by text quite a bit, including letting roommates know how much utilities are each month. The only reason I found out she got a new phone with a new number is that one of the other roommates sent out a group text to us all including Debbie’s new number. She also didn’t bother to give Gail back the other phone until we pressed her to do so, nor did she notify her that she could take Debbie off the phone plan, costing Gail extra money that she didn’t need to pay each month.
After Gail regained possession of the phone and the car (which Debbie had not reimbursed her for at all, including the cost of insurance), she sent Debbie a bill for the cost of rental of the car for all the months Debbie had had it. You see, they had had a verbal agreement which they had intended to put in writing that Debbie would buy the car from Gail. For all the months Debbie had it, she did not pay Gail a dime towards the car. She was basically getting a free rental. Gail is much better at protecting her interests than I am fortunately. The contents of the bill included $50 per month rental on the car, costs of tax and license of the car upon purchase, and the cost of insurance. She left out the cost of the repairs to the vehicle. She gave Debbie until January first to pay what she owed, and if she did not, then Gail would take her saddle in lieu of payment. January first came and went, and nothing was forthcoming of Debbie, so the saddle was taken as promised. Gail was fortunately able to sell both the car and saddle, so was able to recoup at least part of what Debbie had cost her.
At this point in the tale, Debbie still had ownership of the mare. The free lease was going to expire December 1st, and at that point Debbie was going to be responsible for board and care of her horse again. Fortunately, she finally saw the wisdom of selling the horse that she never came to visit, much less ride. Gail and I managed to arrange a buyer for her in a few short weeks: something almost unheard of in this market. We got her more than fair price for the mare, and guaranteed the sale to the new owner, as the mare had developed a slight lameness from going into work suddenly after having sat for a long time.
Debbie now had enough money to pay me back, had no strings here keeping her in Oregon, and could have paid me and left with a clean conscience. She did put in her 30 days’ notice for December, and at least paid me the $300 for last month’s rent. I was resigning myself to eating the remainder of the vet bills, but was mentally ok with that. Debbie dropped her jobs and drove down to California to scope out places to live with her son. Upon return, she informed me she’d have to stay a few weeks extra. OK, fine. I told her that if she paid me January’s rent up front, I’d prorate any back if she left sooner than January first. She never paid me for December’s utilities. She got yet another new job (?!) for the month, then dropped it to fly to Mississippi. I don’t know if anyone’s priced out plane tickets for a day’s notice from PDX to the south, but they’re over $1000.
Finally Debbie started packing her stuff. I provided her with boxes from work to help her out. I offered her my help if she wanted to make any dump runs or take stuff to Goodwill. I was not taken up on this offer. She mentioned that she wanted to go over to the farm and collect her tack. I told her I’d be happy to help her with that too, we discussed going on Saturday. Midday Friday, while I was at work while we were a tech short and were extremely busy, I get a call from her wanting me to give her the code to the tack room. I declined, as we now have other boarders and I wanted to be respectful of their equipment by not granting access to a person that they didn’t know without me or another family member present. I again offered to help her after I ended my shift. I met her at the farm, and gathered up her equipment we’d stored for her for free. I also offered her a deal to take a work bridle that she didn’t even particularly like plus her used saddle pad in exchange for the vet bills, utilities, and cost of heating oil I’d bought over the winter. She claimed that she had not agreed to pay for heating oil, and anyways she wasn’t home a lot and I kept the house too cold for her liking. I pointed out to her that heating was a utility to be paid, just like electric, TV, and internet. Apparently she didn’t agree, because she took her stuff and left. She was also upset that her saddle was not included with the rest of it, even though she’d been provided ample notice that the saddle would be forfeited for non-payment to Gail. She threatened to call the cops.
Later that evening, Gail came over after working a 14 hour shift, and we went up to her room together to talk to her about the incident in the barn to make sure everyone was on the same page. She left us waiting in the hall for 15 minutes while we could hear her bad-mouthing us over the phone. When she finally came out, we did our best to remind her about all the many things we’d done for her, and that there probably wasn’t anyone else on the planet that would have done what we had for her. Unfortunately she decided to overlook all that in favor for being upset with us that we hadn’t let her keep the dog, and refusing to understand why that wouldn’t have been in anyone’s best interest, including the dog’s. We left her that evening on as best of terms as we could, considering. I gave her an invoice detailing what she’d paid me in the last few months, and what she owed me. I also reiterated to her that I’d be willing to take the tack in trade, not because I needed tack, but because it would rid her of extra stuff she didn’t need and would allow her to keep as much liquid cash as possible for her next journey.
That was the last I’ve seen of her. She left the next day; apparently she’s on the road now. She won’t respond to me, even though I’ve been nothing but reasonable. She had the opportunity to do the right thing, she chose not to. She’s also left a lot of stuff behind for me to deal with. I will admit that as roommates go, I may not be the tidiest, apparently that was a beef she had with me although she never brought it up. However, until the boys moved in, I was the only one cleaning common areas at all.
What lessons did I learn through this experience? I have learned to be significantly more choosy about who I help out. I’ve also learned to be very thankful for the fact that I’m now surrounded by sane, good, sensible people who know how to pay their bills and actually have the good sense to feel bad if they can’t pay me right away. I hope that Debbie at least picked up a few lessons from me along the way, mostly how to manage money better and plan ahead, but I suspect not. I hope for her sake that she will learn how to be more up front and open with people and herself. I hope she learns to better live within her means. I hope she will continue to work towards becoming a better person. For anyone reading this, I’m not saying to not help her along her life’s journey, but if you do, be sure to protect your own interests.