Monday, May 6, 2013

A Dilemma

Note: This is based on a true situation; names and the item in question have been changed. Please also note that there are a lot of emotions involved in this, but I have chosen to omit them.

Amy and Andrew: Camera owners.
Joe and his wife Jessica: Currently borrowing Amy and Andrew's; were told that they could borrow the camera for 2-3 years from March 2011; Amy and Andrew pay all associated costs with the camera.
Mark and his wife Mandy: Currently renting a camera from someone else other than Amy and Andrew since March 2012; Mark and Mandy pay associated costs with the rental camera. Mark was told by Amy that he and Mandy could borrow Amy's camera beginning June or July 2013-- a month or two before they had to return the camera they were currently renting.

Potential Mitigating Factors:
Joe is a full-time student and working part-time (approx. 3-5 shifts/week), and Jessica is studying full-time. They have savings that they are refusing to use to pay for rental of another camera. They state that they cannot afford to rent a camera, and they are not interested in paying Amy (and Andrew) for the use of their camera. They are in their early 20's and have been married since April 2011.
Mark is a full-time student and working part-time (2 shifts/week), and Mandy is a part-time student and working part-time (4 days/week). They have used up one of their savings accounts paying to rent a camera from March 2012-July 2013, and will have to use up another if they are unable to borrow Amy [and Andrew]'s camera. They are expecting a child in September 2013. They state that they cannot afford to rent a camera without using up another of their savings account; they have offered to pay something for the use of Amy (and Andrew's camera), however Amy has refused it. They are in their middle-late 20's and have been married since March 2012.

The Dilemma:
Amy and Andrew jointly own a camera; Andrew prefers to have Amy deal with the camera. The camera was very dirty and needed to be cleaned before use, but Joe wanted to use the camera so he cleaned it (with Amy's permission); Mark helped Joe a little to clean it, and helped him to set it up and get it (the camera) into working order.

When Amy lent Joe (and his wife Jessica) the camera, she told him that he (and she) could use it for 2-3 years (unknown if Joe told Jessica that there was a time limit on the borrowing of the camera, but Joe definitely knew) from when he got it (from March 2011 to somewhere between March 2013-March 2014); there was no written agreement, only a verbal one. Amy and Joe both acknowledge this, and Andrew was not involved in this part. In March 2012, Mark and Mandy rented a different camera from someone else until August 2013.

Fast forward to December 2012. Mark asked Amy if he could borrow her camera when his rental was up. Amy said yes, and she thought Mark could have it starting around early April 2013, which was later changed to June 2013 (verbal agreement, not written). By this point (December 2012), Joe had been borrowing the camera from Amy for 1 year and 9 months, and in June 2013 it would be 2 years and 4 months since Joe received the camera from Amy, putting it in the 2 to 3 year time frame that he was told he would get. If Mark wanted to renew the rental for his camera he would have to do so two months before his rental expired (rental expires July 2013, so Mark would have to let the person from whom he was renting know by May 2013).

A week before Mark had to contact the person he was renting the camera from he spoke to Amy to make sure that he and Mandy would be able to have the camera when she (Amy) had said they would. Amy said that she needed to talk to Joe.

Fast forward two weeks to the end of the first week in May 2013, during which time it has come out that Joe didn't tell Jessica that they were supposed to return the camera in June, and in which time Mark and Mandy have lost their chance to renew their rental.

Mark asked Amy what he is supposed to do, because he counted on her [and Andrew's] camera. Amy said that the soonest she thinks she could get the camera back from Joe would be in June 2014, aka 3 years and 3 or 4 months from the time that Joe initially borrowed the camera.

Joe says that he is not giving up the camera because he was told he could borrow it for 2-3 years and it hasn't been 3 years yet, and the only reason Amy is asking for the camera back is to give it to Mark, and therefore refuses to give back the camera.
Mark says that Joe got what he (Joe) was promised he would get, and now it's his turn to borrow the camera like Amy committed to him.
Amy told Mark to look for another camera to rent, because in any case two cameras will be needed. Amy says that she is not going to make Joe give back the camera and she is sorry that she said anything to Mark. Also, she does not owe Mark the camera.

Now, reader, what do you think? (And, yes, I really do want to hear opinions and potential solutions, because this is a real dilemma.)


  1. Seems Amy is at fault for promising it to Mark and then reneging on that promise simply because Joe wanted to keep it for longer than he was promised. Seems Joe is being unfair for assuming that he is entitled to the upper limit of the range given, rather than a general halfway in the middle (which is close to what he'd have gotten if it were taken from him now). However, despite the others not behaving appropriately, there isn't really much that Mark can do to change whether he can borrow it or not. Is there perhaps a "camera" gemach somewhere that can be borrowed from instead? If that won't work, perhaps they can find one to rent and agree to chip in equally for the rented one? (It doesn't sound like people would be very open to that idea either, but at least it's a thought.)

  2. This is just my analysis, based on what's written above. If there is any incorrect/missing information from this analysis, let me know:

    1. Joe and Jessica
    From what Amy told Joe & Jessica (the 2-3 year camera rental), it is now just over the 2-year mark. So I can see why, from that perspective, they may feel entitled to more time; the real issue is when they were informed of the proposed change in renter status and if they agreed to it (or not) back in December 2012. If they were informed and agreed to it, they bear as much responsibility as Amy for this situation and should return the camera. If they did not agree to that change, then why were Mark/Mandy told the camera would be available?

    *Side note 1: the "3 years and 3-4 months" does go over the "3 year" time frame. However, since this was an informal agreement, and they are technically still within the bounds, there is no basis to make them return the camera at this time (next year, at the 3 year mark, Amy would have a basis for taking her camera back).

    *Side note 2: if Amy was going to get rental money from Mark/Mandy and is now losing that as a result of Joe/Jessica's refusal to hand over the camera, then they should at least begin paying so that Amy does not lose money.


    2. Amy
    From the above information, I don't know when Joe/Jessica were told that Amy wanted her camera back and they'd have to find a new one. Right now, there seems to be a big disconnect between what Amy discussed with Mark and what she discussed with Joe/Jessica. Did Joe confirm to Amy that he'd return the camera by June 2013? Ultimately, it's Amy's camera and her responsibility to communicate with all interested parties (and to make sure that what she is saying actually got through).

    And since Mark/Mandy needed to know about renewing their camera rental by May 2013, Amy needed to to confirm that right away, or at least let them know her camera was not available. Taking two weeks resulted in Mark/Mandy's losing the opportunity to renew their current camera rental, and thus have a big problem now.

    I don't understand why Amy promised Mark/Mandy the camera if she was not sure of its availability. I do not think Amy acted with any bad intent, but nevertheless her actions have led to a tenuous situation for Mark/Mandy. Since she has had the biggest impact in causing this situation, I think it's Amy's responsibility to do whatever she can to help Mark/Mandy find a new camera for the price she was going to rent hers at.


    3. Mark and Mandy
    Since everything was in the form of informal/verbal agreements, Mark/Mandy do not have power to force Joe/Jessica to give up the camera, nor the power to force Amy to deliver on her promise or help them find a new camera. I think that Amy should help them, but there is no way to enforce that.

    In dealing with Amy in the future, I would suggest a written agreement. That way, dates and terms of would have to be hashed out when a promise is made. And all of the issues that are coming up now- when there's no time to negotiate- would have to come up earlier. I'm sorry this is not helpful for the current situation, but it's something to keep in mind for the future.