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by Abigail Van Buren

Frank Talk Should End Free Ride for Freeloading Friend

DEAR ABBY: I was surprised at your response to "Used in the Northwest," whose college friend and family visited without offering to defray expenses. Your response, to charge $60 a day, seemed harsh. "Used" may lose a friend.

I would suggest a few alternatives:

1. "Used" and her family could reciprocate by visiting her college friend's family;

2. "Used" could suggest that the two families meet someplace where each would pay their own way;

3. "Used" could level with her friend, saying that the visits had become a financial strain, but that the visits might continue if they could agree on how to resolve this. -- PHYLLIS STAHL, COLUMBUS, IND.

DEAR PHYLLIS: Your suggestions are good ones. However, "Used" stated that after 15 years, she and her husband felt taken advantage of, that the visits were no longer enjoyable, and she and her husband had dropped countless "hints" that were ignored. Therefore, I concluded that her college chum had the hide of a rhino and knew full well that she was taking advantage.

You are not the only reader who felt that my answer was too harsh. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Your suggestion that "Used" charge her friend $60 a day to "cover the cost of feeding them, the additional water, electricity and telephone charges" is guaranteed to cost her the relationship with her friend. I'm from the Southeast, and such a demand would be considered extremely rude.

Why didn't you suggest that "Used" simply talk to her friend? She could inform her that the annual visit makes it difficult for her family to maintain their somewhat strained weekly budget. She could suggest that, perhaps, they go grocery shopping together and then simply ask her friend to pay for part. If they run out of milk or need a video, she could ask her friend to go to the store for it. By being up-front with her friend, she may appear to be struggling financially, but her friend should appreciate her honesty. Following your advice, she will appear rude and cheap. -- USED TO SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

DEAR USED TO SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: Please re-read my answer to Phyllis (see above). Read on:

DEAR ABBY: After 15 years of silently taking the abuse from her visitors, the chances of "Used" being able to say that she is going to charge them is slim to none. I suggest she send the following note to her friend:

"Dear Jane and Family: We're delighted to hear that you and your family are once again going to be in our area. As you know, our little home gets really crowded and uncomfortable with so many of us under one roof. But I'm delighted to tell you that I have found a delightful motel close by that is very reasonable and comfortable. It is the Cozy Inn on Main Street.

"We know that you'll find it to be the best place in town for only $60 a night for you and your family. Since it's so close, we'll be able to spend all the time together that you're able to give us. Looking forward to seeing you again." -- JOANN MABEL, BROOKLYN CENTER, MINN.

DEAR JOANN: I like your style. You have a deft touch. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Your advice was good, but I'd go still further. How about informing this "friend" that since she is jobless, she has started a "bed and breakfast" business and that her rates are $100 a day for four persons, with a maximum of six days? This would shorten or eliminate the stay and/or recoup the previous losses to a small degree.

I'm amazed that "Used" and her family would tolerate such an imposition for 15 years. If I were her husband, this deal would have stopped years ago with a frank discussion and a firm goodbye! -- JOHN LANDFRIED, ROCKWALL, TEXAS

DEAR JOHN: I agree!

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