Dear Amy: I am a people pleaser, volunteering at a nonprofit that helps Afghan refugee women. We provide fabric and a space with sewing machines where they can come and work. Lately, these women are making items that they may be able to sell.
Recently, “Kara” contacted us and asked us to create a copy of a dress she had.
She told me that if we figured out how to make this, we could let the Afghan women make and sell them. She provided fabric for the copy.
I spent six hours figuring out how to make the item and documenting it with photos and instructions. I then made a sample.
I have been a professional seamstress, but I’m also a soft touch. I never charge as much as the work is worth.
In this case, I intended to ask Kara to give a donation to the charity so we could purchase more fabric. One hundred dollars didn’t seem out of line.
As it turns out, Kara loved what I did and wore the sample out the door.
I gave her instructions and the pattern pieces, and she gave me $20 to donate to the charity.
She also told me that she and a friend might make these dresses and sell them.
(I did tell her that I thought the project was not going to work for the Afghan women.)
After she left, I felt used, so I called her and told her that she needed to pay me for my time if she was going to sell this dress design for a profit.
However, now I feel guilty! I hate myself for calling her.
Was I wrong to call her? Or am I wrong to feel guilty?
– In Stitches
Dear In Stitches: People often ask if they are “wrong” to feel a particular way. And my answer is always the same: Your feelings are your feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. They simply are. Your job is to let your feelings guide you toward understanding and (possibly) change.
Your initial choices prevented you – and the organization you support – from receiving a justified compensation.
I suggest that your chronic undercharging is more a reflection of your confidence in the worth of your work than your desire to please.
“Kara” swanned out the door wearing a custom-made dress (as well as the pattern and instructions) for $20.
If you don’t set your price and state it clearly before doing the work, then you leave it up to the buyer to guess a fair compensation – or to gently rip you off.
I give your choice to follow up with Kara a “five star” rating.
I hope you will take this episode as an opportunity to adjust your business model.
Dear Amy: Over the years my brother and I have stopped communicating. He is toxic, bossy and creates problems among family members. As a result, we siblings don’t really communicate with him.
We are now all elders – with him being the eldest.
I assume I will out-live him as I am the youngest. As we age, I often wonder what I will do when he passes. Should I go to the funeral of an estranged brother if I have fond memories of our relationship from my childhood and I still have a good relationship with his son? (He also has a daughter who has removed herself from all family communication. No one knows why, but our niece’s silence occurred long before we stopped communicating with our brother.)
I would want to do the right thing by my nephew by supporting him, but I also wouldn’t want to create any problems within my brother’s family.
I and my other siblings and all our children all remain on good terms with family gatherings and communications. I believe I am the only one that attempts to stay in touch with my nephew.
Dear Anticipating: Unless you strongly suspect that your presence would make things harder for your brother’s family and other survivors, then yes – you should attend his funeral. Be discreet, express your condolences, and do your best to read the room.
Dear Amy: I thought you went way too easy responding to the question from “Worried,” the waitress whose fellow waitress was smoking cigarettes and pot while pregnant. This is child abuse!
Dear Upset: While this is definitely unhealthy for both mother and child, I stand by my advice for this co-worker to be nonjudgmental and to try to influence this pregnant woman toward better choices.
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